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This article provides a checklist of actions you can take to rapidly increase the link popularity of your Web site. In my humble opinion, 80% of free traffic is generated by just two activities:

  • Regularly adding great-quality, highly focused content to your Web site
  • Getting inbound links from well-ranked, reputable, and relevant sites

If you do theses two things really well, your Web site will receive good rankings and a lot of free traffic.

What Is Link Building? Why Is it So Important?

Link building is the tactic of getting other Web sites to link to your Web site. This is a crucial part of online marketing for three main reasons:

  • When the search engines are indexing and ranking your Web site to decide how high up to place it on the search results pages, they look at how many Web sites link to yours. They also look at the quality of the linking site (its "PageRank") and at how relevant the content is to your content.
  • Links from other sites generate traffic directly to your Web site, and if they are good links on relevant sites, the traffic should be well targeted.
  • Links build your online reputation and authority. If readers in your industry keep finding references to you and your Web site on a lot of the sites they visit, it builds their trust in you, and trust builds traffic.

Sources

I would like to acknowledge the following sources, which were used to help build this list:

114 Ways to Build Links

Article Syndication

Whenever you provide free articles, news, or other content, ALWAYS ensure that your name and web address are provided.

1. Give articles away via one of the many article distribution services, such as EzineArticles (www.ezinearticles.com), iSnare (www.isnare.com) or GoArticles (www.goarticles.com). Or pay to join a service like SubmitYourArticle (www.submityourarticle.com), which will submit your article to dozens of distribution sites.

2. Write articles for your industry's sites; e.g., Internet marketers could write for ClickZ (www.clickz.com), MarketingProfs (www.marketingprofs.com), and SiteProNews (www.sitepronews.com).

3. Watch for who uses your articles and contact them directly to see whether you can provide any additional material.

4. Write press releases and distribute them through services such as PRWeb (www.prweb.com), PRNewswire (www.prnewswire.com), or PRLeap (www.prleap.com).

5. Write a press release and offer it to a journalist as an exclusive.

6. Swap articles with other sites in your sector.

7. Look for sites in your sector that have "In The News," "News," or "What People Are Saying" pages. Write a flattering (but honest) article about a site, product, or company and then let them know the article is on your Web site. Chances are they will link to it. Do a search on "[your sector]" + "in the news" to find relevant sites.

8. Run surveys on your site and then publish the results. Good surveys can generate a lot of links.

Articles That Attract Links

Some types of articles attract more links than others.

9. Say something controversial (but constructive and factual).

10. Create lists that recommend, such as "Top 10...," "Best of...," and "10 Tips to..." These attract inbound links.

11. Create lists that debunk, such as "Top 10 Myths..." or "Top 10 Mistakes..."

12. Create lists of resources that are useful for people within your sector.

13. Create a directory of gurus or experts in your industry. With luck, they will be vain enough to link to your complimentary references.

14. Study what articles are being dugg on Digg (www.digg.com) and other aggregation sites—and think about how you can write similar stuff.

15. Support a cause. In the US, the "Free Martha Stewart" campaign generated huge interest. In the UK, the campaign against charging for road usage gained massive support.

Become a Guru

16. Position yourself as an industry guru and get yourself on journalists' and bloggers' Rolodexes. Always make yourself available for comment. Get your name and Web site into press articles.

17. Read the book The Obvious Expert, by Elsom and Mark Eldridge (ISBN 0-9720941-6-4). It provides a lot of great ideas about how to become an industry guru.

18. Offer to speak at industry events. This has a few potential link-generating benefits. First, the event should have a Web page introducing the speakers. Second, some of the event attendees may have blogs where they will write about you. Third, you can post your slides, notes and podcast on your site and encourage event attendees to visit.

19. Create your own list of recommended articles by tagging and bookmarking on one of the many bookmarking Web sites. If people like your lists, they often track back to your Web site to read about who you are... or they link to your bookmark list. The biggest bookmarking site is del.icio.us (http://del.icio.us/).

20. Write in an accessible style. You want as broad an audience as possible to read and link to your site.

21. Put a bio and photo of yourself on your site for other webmasters, bloggers, and journalists to download and use when they write about you.

22. Make your Web site easy to navigate so people can find the content they are looking for.

23. Make sure your Web site looks good. No one wants to link to an ugly site, even if the articles are good. Invest in design.

Best Directories

24. List your Web site on DMOZ (www.dmoz.org). This directory is used by Google for its directory and to support page rankings. DMOZ is a human-edited directory which is tough to get into.

25. You have to pay to get in the best directories, but it is worth it to do so because most people don't. The ones I recommend are Yahoo Directory (http://dir.yahoo.com), Business.com (www.business.com) and Best of the Web (www.botw.org).

26. Make sure you get listed in the specialist directories for your industry. (For example, in SubHub's industry, Go2Web20 (www.go2web20.net) drives a lot of traffic to our site.)

27. If there are no directories for your sector, create your own. It's one way to be sure you get listed!

Easy Free Links

28. Think of something you can advertise on Craigslist (www.craigslist.com). For example: "For free information about publishing on the Internet for profit, go to www.subhub.com."

29. Ask and answer questions on Yahoo Answers (http://answers.yahoo.com/). In your answers, you can point people to online resources, which of course could be an article on your Web site!

30. Join relevant Google Groups. Ask and answer questions, referring to an article on your site in the answers.

31. If you or your site has established a reputation, create an entry on Wikipedia. If you can't justify an entry, try adding links to other entries, but be sure they really add value and are not just wikispam!

32. Set up a MySpace page (www.myspace.com) for your site.

33. Set up a Facebook page (www.facebook.com).

34. Create a page on Squidoo (www.squidoo.com). Make it about your sector, with links to lots of resources (including your own site). This will help you build a reputation as an industry expert.

35. Make sure you have an RSS feed on your site. Publish good content regularly and drive readers back to your site to view the whole article. People will often put your RSS feed directly onto their web page.

36. Participate in industry forums and be sure to you include your domain name in your signature (where possible).

37. Add comments to blogs and reference your Web site. Make only sensible and relevant contributions.

38. Submit a story to Digg that references your site.

Free, Free, Free

Everyone likes to tell their friends where to get something for free. Offer something of real value on your site and it will generate good links.

39. Write a downloadable e-book and give it away for free on your Web site.

40. Write a whitepaper about your industry and give it away for free. An easy way to do this is to run a survey on your site and create a whitepaper from the results.

41. Offer a free podcast.

42. Offer free downloadable templates, images, and screensavers with links attributing them to your site.

43. Offer a free application which is useful to people in your sector. DigitalPoint (www.digitalpoint.com/tools/) has lots of free tools that help with SEO. Its site has hundreds of thousands of inbound links (including this one!).

44. Have a competition on your site that requires no entry fee. To generate a good number of leads, make the prize worthwhile.

45. Release a free Firefox extension, Google widget, Facebook application, or other plug-in to one of the many social networking sites.

46. If you have a physical product, trade samples for links and/or reviews.

Social Bookmarking

47. Many Internet users now have one or more bookmarking accounts they use. Make sure it is easy for them to add your Web site to the bookmarked list. The easiest way to do this is to include an "Add This" (www.addthis.com) icon to every page.

48. Ask your friends to digg a particular article. If you write a great article, ask your friends to vote for it on Digg (www.digg.com). If you get a front-page listing, it can drive thousands of visitors to your site, some of whom may create direct links to the article.

49. Vote on StumbleUpon (www.stumbleupon.com). Ask your friends to give your site a thumbs up.

50. Look at meme trackers to see what stories are hot at the moment. Write a relevant article—opposing view, new evidence, case study, etc. For an example of a meme, take a look at Techmeme (www.techmeme.com).

51. If you sell something, start your own affiliate program. Make sure that all the affiliate links and display ads link back to your Web site.

Industry, Supplier and Local Links

52. Join online schemes like the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).

53. See if your local chamber of commerce or other business support group (Business Link in the UK) has a Web site where you can get listed.

54. Identify local directories. Often they have a free listing section for local businesses.

55. Does your local newspaper have a Web site? There may be a link section. If not, contact one of the journalists to write an article about your site. They're always looking for good local stories.

56. Ask any suppliers you use to put links on their sites to yours. In return, offer to write a testimonial or be a case study.

57. Get your site listed on the local library Web site.

58. Strike up relationships with non-competing businesses in your sector and come to an agreement about recommending one another's services via links on your sites.

59. Write testimonials about other products or services in your sector. Endorse only stuff that you genuinely believe is good. Remember, your credibility is at stake.

Reviews Help You

60. Publish reviews of other Web sites. Let the webmasters of the reviewed sites know; you may get links in return.

61. Review new products as soon as they reach the market (or before, if possible). If yours is the first review, it will get a good search engine ranking.

62. Build a reputation as someone who writes honest and factual reviews. People will start to look out for what you have to say about new products and services.

63. Write reviews about books and products on Amazon (www.amazon.com, www.amazon.co.uk).

64. Also create a list of your recommended or favorite books on Amazon. Keep the list focused on your subject area. Remember to create a bio (with a link!).

65. Send your Web site to be reviewed by sites like Webagogo (www.webagogo.be).

66. If your Web site is new, submit it to KillerStartups (www.killerstartups.com).

67. Review products relevant to your audience on Epinions (www.epinions.com) and, in the UK, Revoo (www.revoo.com).

68. Find specialist review sites focused on your sector. One example is PhotographyREVIEW (www.photographyreview.com).

69. If your online business has an offline counterpart, make sure you add a review at Yelp (www.yelp.com).

The Blogosphere

70. Start your own blog related to your specialist subject area. Keep the content relevant, timely, personalized, interesting. Get links to the blog and create links from the blog.

71. Link to influential blogs. Any pro blogger will be keeping a close eye on who is linking to them, and they may well link back if they like what they read.

72. Post comments on other blogs linking to your blog. You want to attract the attention of the blogger and the readers, so make the post thought-provoking, relevant, precise, etc.

73. Speed is crucial in the blogosphere. Whether writing on your own site or commenting on someone else's, act quickly. Twenty-four hours in blog-land is like a week in print-land!

74. Tag your blog articles in Technorati (www.technorati.com).

75. Use Technorati (www.technorati.com) to find other blogs in your sector.

Offline Links

Offline links may not help with search engine ranking, but they still build traffic.

76. Make sure you have your domain name on all your stationery, including business cards and letterhead.

77. Try to get interviews and mentions in the print media. Always provide your domain name to the journalist: "Miles Galliford from SubHub.com."

78. Create some marketing material (e.g. postcards) that you can leave in relevant places such as industry conferences.

79. When you go to conferences, take photos and notes and post them on your site.

Reciprocal Links

Providing links on your site in exchange for your links on another site is still OK. The search engines don't give reciprocal links as high a rating as inbound links, but it doesn't do any harm.

80. Link only to sites that you know. Ensure that they are relevant and similar in quality to yours.

81. If you have two sites, place the reciprocal link on the site that is not being linked to by the exchange partner (if this is possible).

82. Ask to have the link placed in the context of a relevant article rather than stuck on a "Links" page.

83. Better still, ask the reciprocal site to write an article recommending your Web site with the link at the end.

84. When choosing sites to trade links with, think about audiences. For example, if you run a Web site about retiring early, links from a Web site offering cruise holidays could be relevant.

85. Phone rather than email webmasters to exchange links. The conversion rate is much higher.

Paying for Links

86. Many Web sites, particularly blogs, allow you to pay for text links on their site. You can often deal directly with the site owner.

87. Some companies aggregate lists of sites that sell links. Prices vary from $10 a month up to $1,000+. Check out Text Link Ads (www.text-link-ads.com) to understand more.

88. Run a Google AdWords or similar campaign. The links in the text ads can appear on a lot of sites, but you do end up paying for the click-throughs, which can be expensive. This is usually worth doing only if your site makes money from the traffic created by the ads.

89. Pay bloggers to mention your product, service, or Web site in their posts. Try Pay Per Post (www.payperpost.com).

90. Sponsor a Web site. Some Web sites would bite your hand off if you offered to sponsor them. Try charities, blogs, and associations.

91. Sell products on eBay and give the money to charity. Ask the charity to link to your site. Obviously, picking a big and relevant charity will provide the maximum benefit.

92. Consider buying established (but neglected) sites and using them to link to your site. This is an effective marketing and business-building technique to create a network of specialist information sites. The search engines like sites that have been live for a long time.

93. Hire a consultant to build links for you. This can be expensive. Try WeBuildPages (www.webuildpages.com) or Andy Hagans (www.andyhagans.com), or for an offshore option try www.bdseo.com.

Techie Bits

94. If you have a choice about how your link appears on another site, always use a text description for the link. That is, make the link a keyword to your site. For example, if your site is about designer handbags, make the link "Article by Peter Pan, editor of a specialist blog about designer handbags." Don't ever allow "To read Peter Pan's blog on designer handbags, click here." The search engines use the link text or anchor text as a way of determining relevance.

95. Make sure that you assign alt-tags with real descriptions to all your images so they can be found by Google Image Search.

19 Ways NOT to Build Links

Rubbish Web Sites

96. People won't link to a poorly designed site with difficult navigation and no information about who runs it. Their credibility is at stake.

97. Make sure that your articles are factually and grammatically correct. No one wants to link to poorly written articles.

Link Farms and Dodgy Directories

98. Don't list your site in free link farms. At best, the search engines ignore them; at worst, they have a negative impact on your site's ranking.

99. Don't allow reciprocal links with sites that are not relevant to your subject. For example, Google would frown upon an organic food site that has links from a poker site.

100. Never use an automated link generation service that offers to create hundreds of links for $20. The quality of links are usually very poor (lots of adult, pharmacy, and gambling sites), which will get your site penalized or even blacklisted by the search engines.

101. Don't send automated link requests using programs like IBP.

102. Don't link from sites that list pages of links, even if they have relevant content.

Forum Spam

103. Don't spam forums by making comments just to get your link on the site. The worst is just posting comments like "I agree," "Me too," or "Ditto" with a long signature file.

104. Don't list lots of domain names in your signature file on blogs and forums.

105. Don't create an alias so you can write posts recommending your site, services, or products. If you get found out, the negative impact could be far worse than any benefits.

106. Don't ask the same question on lots of forums on the same day, just to get your link posted.

107. Don't create profiles on forums that you don't intend to post on.

108. Don't post comments on threads that are out of date just to get your link on the site.

Blog Spam

109. Don't spam blogs by adding comments to just get your link on their sites.

110. Don't market your site or services in the comments section unless invited to do so.

111. Be careful about criticizing competitors in comments. It can backfire with negative comments about your own Web site and services.

112. Post only if you have something worthwhile to say.

Pester Power Doesn't Work

113. Don't pester webmasters. If they say no, write a polite note thanking them for considering your site.

114. If someone asks to be taken off your email list, do it. It's the law.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Miles Galliford is a co-founder of SubHub (www.subhub.com), a company set up to help bloggers, writers, and publishers commercialize their content on the Internet.