10 Years of Link Building Advice

23 Feb

This is a guest post by Melissa Campbell, Content Manager at Distilled.

Link building has been as essential part of search engine optimisation since practically before search engine optimisation was even a thing. A lot of the advice has stayed the same all this time (we’ve all known for ages that the easiest way to get people to link to something is to create great content).

But some of the advice – on whether or not you should have a blog or if getting links is worth the effort – has shifted over the years. So I thought it would be fun to look over some of the best link building advice over the last 10 years.


Jill Whalen – Link Popularity and PageRank (2001)

Jill answered a query from a reader who asked if she could write a more up-to-date post on link popularity. The other posts, he said, were all at least a year old and all said that links were helpful for higher rankings, but that we shouldn’t spend too much time or effort getting links to our sites (!). Jill did some research, trying to get her site to rank higher for ‘search engine optimization’, and after explaining what PageRank and backward links were, she announced her findings.

Top tip: The words used in the hyperlinks that link to your site have a big influence on what you rank for and how high you rank for it.


Robin Nobles, et al. – 131 (Legitimate) Link Building Strategies (2002)

This comprehensive post outlines what was essentially all the link building expertise at that time. They discussed swapping reciprocal links with other site owners, (Rocky Rawstern of 7th Wave in particular felt blogs would become link farms that Google would eventually ignore), and building links to parts of your site besides the home page.

Top tip: Become a content provider. That gives people a reason to link to you.


Aaron Wall – Hubs & Authorities: Local Community Link Structure (2003)

By the time Aaron was writing this post, search engines tried to minimise the effects of the link exchanges so beloved by SEOs in previous years. So he set out to show what else a local business could do to get some of the ‘good’ links to their site.

Top tip: Check where your competitors’ backward links come from, and try to get those links, too.


Garrett French – SES London: Link Building and Domain Name Issues (2004)

Garrett wrote a round-up of Alan Webb’s Search Engine Strategies London conference posts, pulling out the most useful SEO tips. It had become a largely accepted tenet that search engines looked at links to determine the relevancy of sites for certain key phrases. Matt Cutts (then described as “a Google developer”) insisted that the quality of the links was the important thing, but SEOs were seeing evidence that quantity counted as well.

Top tip: Identical anchor text looks like (and usually is) an attempt to game the system. If you are going to buy links, make sure your anchor text alternates through a few phrases.


Darren Rowse – Linkbaiting with Attack (2005)

Darren used a post by Nick Wilson on the Performancing blog as the inspiration for his own post. Nick had advised on using one of five linkbait hooks he had identified. These were the news hook, the contrary hook, the attack hook, the resource hook and the humour hook. Darren (perhaps knowingly) used the contrary hook to advise against using the contrary and the attack hooks as the main way you build links and increase traffic to your site.

Top tip: Use the attack and contrary hooks like pepper. Put a dash here and a pinch there to spice up your blog, but don’t rely on it to build up your professional reputation.


Chris Bennett – Not Another Directory Submission Post! (2006)

Chris wrote a post, not about how you should submit your site to directories, but how to make sure you’ve got the strongest link from the directory as you can. He suggested starting, like with any link building campaign, with your site’s keywords and target anchor text in mind. Then you can find relevant pages on directories through certain searches. He then includes a list of some of his favourite directories.

Top tip: Search Google for [directory name] and [your keyword] to find the relevant pages for your site. This will ensure your directory link indicates to Google that you are relevant to your target keyword.


Eric Ward – Are You in the Circle of Link Trust? (2007)

Eric used the film Meet the Parents as a metaphor for Google’s algorithmic trust. Because his site, ericward.com, is relatively old and well-known to Google, because it had never been in trouble for doing black or greyhat SEO and because it had a load of links to other pages, Google ranked him in the first SERP for ‘linkbait strategies’, which at the time was a pretty new search query. His site is in Google’s circle of trust, unlike Ben Stiller’s character at the beginning of Meet the Parents. So the new pages on his site will rank higher immediately, all because Google know that ericward.com is a trustworthy, strong site.

Top tip: If you have an older, more trusted site, rely on the trust you’ve built up to buoy your newer pages, and if you have a newer site, try to build up Google’s trust. Your new pages will be stronger if you’re more trustworthy.


Tom Critchlow – A Linkbuilding Method so Effective I Can’t Believe it’s not Blackhat (2008)

Back in the day, Tom discovered that he could find pages on sites that no longer offer the content or service they once did. He could then get in touch with that site and ask them to link to his page. Alternatively, he could run an analysis to find out which sites were linking to that page, get in touch with those sites and explain the situation and ask the sites to link to his site.

Top tip: The whole post is one giant top tip, but Tom also listed phrases that you could search for to find the pages that no longer have content on them. These included “service no longer available” [keyword], “stopped selling [keyword]” and “site has been taken down”.


Wil Reynolds – Using Twitter for Linkbuilding in SEO (2009)

In this video, Wil detailed some amazing ways to use Twitter to build links. In his example, he used a company that fixed air conditioners. The owners could search Twitter for ‘broken a/c’, ‘my ac broke’ and the like, then contact the most influential Tweeters, inviting them to tell their story in a blog post, then add a widget (which linked back to the air conditioner company’s website) to that post so their friends and readers could vote for their story. The story that got the most votes would win an air conditioner.

Top tip: Build an API or use a tool like Twitter Grader to determine who has the most followers. That way, you’re not contacting people who do not have a lot of influence in your target niche.


Rand Fishkin – Link Building Tips for Personal Blogs (2010)

Rand outlined what in his opinion were the most effective ways to build links to a personal blog. He assumed that someone with a personal blog probably doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on link building but probably does have some time and a lot of passion to devote to link building efforts.

Top tip: Answer questions in online forums and Q&A sites. This can lead to a lot of relevant traffic as other visitors to the forums and Q&A sites check out your blog to see who you are.


Paddy Moogan – Getting Links and SEO Value From Your YouTube Videos (2011)

Paddy worked with Distilled’s web developer Andy to create an embed code for YouTube videos that would include a followed back link to the video creator’s site. The code puts a line after the video crediting its creator.

Top tip: Again, this entire post is a top tip, but it inspired Sean Lind to build a page that automatically generates the code for you. That way, you don’t have to worry about unclosed tags or an errant comma breaking the code.

>> Melissa Campbell is the Content Manager at Distilled, an internet marketing agency based in London. To bring you the latest and best link building advice, Distilled are hosting the Link Building Seminar 2011 in both London, UK, on 18 March and in New Orleans, Louisiana, on 25 March. You can find more information and buy tickets here.

11 Responses to “10 Years of Link Building Advice”

  1. KevinPike February 24, 2011 at 1:05 am #

    Thanks for compiling these. When I have time I’ll have to check these out.

    How could you leave out Google’s 2010 organic link building strategies video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkLFlaWxgJA

  2. KevinPike February 24, 2011 at 1:06 am #

    LOL, my <sarcasm tags were removed on the second part of my comment :)

  3. Jill Whalen February 24, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

    Nice! Cool to have the oldest article here on the subject, and funny how little has changed.

    Thanks for the mention!

  4. Eldar Gaziev February 24, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    Great compilation. Thanks for the tips!

  5. Kristoffer February 24, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    Great little collection. Now I just have to read all this :)


  6. Andrew Richards February 25, 2011 at 6:07 am #

    Very interesting article. I bookmarked some of these, especially Chris Bennett. I want to go back and implement what has been suggested. I think the majority of people on the web have no clue about how to build links. I was one of them, but plan to learn from some of these masters.

  7. Ron March 6, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    Great article, Melissa. It’s like a link building time machine. :)

  8. Cale Pissarra April 19, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    I always like blogs like the ones you have in your list and know you have created a list of great lists, great. I have read most of them and they helped me a lot when I was just getting started out.

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