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Building Links in a Competitive Space

John Doherty —  April 26, 2011
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Linkbuilding is a notoriously difficult task. Think about all of the sessions that take place at advanced seminars and you can easily tell that we all need new tactics and ideas for building links. In the past 2 months, I have gone to a conference dedicated to linkbuilding (#Linklove London), an event in Philadelphia put on by the SEER crew Wil, Adam, and Napoleon, and listened to a webinar on linkbuilding on SEOmoz about building whitehat links using SEOmoz Tools.

Linkbuilding is hard in any niche, but what about in very competitive markets that do not have a squeaky clean and reputable reputation online? How do we build links to these sites?

Let me offer an example of a denial of a link, and then give some insights into strategies that have worked on the site in particular.

Denial of Listing

We all get denied listings from webmasters and directories, but usually this comes in the form of being ignored. Today I received an email that gave me some insight into how some directories and webmasters view the site:

Denial of Directory Link

Ouch.

Obviously this contact/directory is burned for the site in the future, but what can we learn, and how can we earn the needed links?

Lessons Learned

1) Not everyone is going to link to you. Deal with it. Move on. If it’s a high level link, go create the content to get that link (or be very very crafty like this guy):

2) Cold emails and free directories are not an effective way to scale linkbuilding. Outsource these when possible to focus on high quality links (thanks to Paddy Moogan for this tip).

A Few Ideas

  • Awards: The site used to run awards for bloggers. We would identify 300+ sites and bloggers, and in the end we would pick 50-75 to win the award. They would embed the badges on their sites.
  • Reach out to bloggers: If someone has written a blog post about you (many wrote them about the awards listed above), reach back out and be nice. Compliment them on their blog post, thank them, and then make a nice request. I like to include the code for the link to change their text to what we would like, with targeted anchor text.
  • Crowdsource: Rand Fishkin talks about crowdsourcing for ideas here. I also did this on this site when testing the page title issue. This can provide you whatever feedback you need, whether it is advice or opinions on site designs. If you listen to what people say…maybe they’ll throw you a link. If they don’t, ask them nicely. Of course, you should have your site set up so that people can easily share your stuff online (Facebook, Twitter, the usual suspects).
  • Create content and don’t hide it: Today’s world is about transparency and being helpful. So try to create good content and show it in a prominent place on your site. I would even guess that this would increase conversion rates as well, and links could come organically.
  • Press Releases: Is your company doing cool things? Are you writing good content? Embed links in your profiles, your “About” sections, and even into your press releases if you want people to post them around the Internet. Easy targeted links if you have the crowd.
  • Guest posts: This one takes a good bit of work, because creating a quality blog post can take a lot of time. You have to find the site to guest post on, contact the site owner with an idea (check out Paddy’s tips from London on how to do this effectively). It’s a time consuming process, but if you don’t have other legs to stand on, it can work. You can also outsource this pretty easily to places like TextBroker.
  • Blogs and ego bait: You do have a blog on your own site, right? “Top” lists are money and usually garner links. Make contact with those you mention on Twitter, promote the list online, and if you have done a good job and added value, I hope you get links, and at least social shares.

What Would You Add?

I know there are a lot of ideas floating around about how to get links. Feel free to share your most effective in the comments.

John Doherty

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I'm the new (as of October 2013) Online Marketing Manager of Hotpads.com, soon to be based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, explore new and interesting food in New York, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

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