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February 21, 2009

SES London 2009 - Link Building Basics

By SEOidiot

This session is in the fundamentals track so a lot of the content may not be suited to people at a more advanced level already

Kevin Newcomb, Managing Editor, Search Engine Watch

Peter van der Graaf, Advanced Search Specialist, Netsociety
Debra Mastaler, President, Alliance-Link
Jonathan Stewart, Head of Natural Search, iCrossing UK
Brian Turner, Offpage Optimisation Specialist, Propero Digital

Debra Mastaler of Alliance Link:

Links are the soul of the web, sites that have a lot of links rank well.
Before we can do that we need to understand where this all came from.
Back in the 50's with the launch of sputnik the world realised that they needed a network that would survive if nuclear war happened and this eventually lead to the creation of the internet. Once the amount of pages on the net increased the search engines became the way to find information.

Google started with the view of course that the links between these sites were citations as sites voted for each other.

Link Popularity

Link quantity - Number of links
Link quality - The authority that is passed through the link
Anchor text - The text used in inbound links
Anchor text is most effective when these links point at pages optimised for that term.
Link relevance - establishes where your site is in the neighbourhood of links.

Authority sites
Sites that rank well and have strong positions within their niche and have quality inbound links that support that.

Avoid when link building: -

Try to build slow and steady to avoid sending a signal to the engines that this isnt normal
Repetitive anchor text - try to avoid just using one term and link deeply into the site rather than just to the homepage.
Reciprocal links - dont get stuck just using reciprocals
Links in the content rather than the navigation as these can appear to be potentially paid or out of full context.
Links that nofollow or are affected by robots.txt wont help you with your link popularity
Make sure the pages you are trying to get links from are indexed as a guide that it should pass at least some value.

Jonathan Stewart of iCrossing UK:

Links - its all about quality

  • Trust
  • Dofollow
  • Age of links
  • Page Rank
  • Content
  • Anchor text
  • Position
  • Relevance

Tools for link analysis

  • Google webmaster tools
  • Yahoo site explorer
  • SEO Elite
  • Linkscape

How to get links

  • Directories
  • Had a tough time of late (Google have even removed it from their guidlines)

Dont use to focus on big money terms (Better used for long tail)
Make sure the directory has good editorial and that the page you want is indexed and has a cache in google

Link reconfiguration

  • Approach webmasters already identified as linking to you and ask them to change the link to something more optimised or even add further links to additional content.
  • Agencies - use the clients email address to ask and be personal (phone, manual email etc)
  • Identify sites linking to a 404 page on your site and ask them to correct

Press Releases

  • PR Web
  • Response Source
  • Source Wire
  • 27-7 Press release

Embed links in the release
Google only takes the anchor text from the first link. So if three links in your release all point to the home page the first found is the one that google uses.

Creating great content

  • For a recent toyota blog campaign they looked at the fact that the car was aimed at people who are looking for fuel efficiency
  • They decided to do some hypermiling where they tested how efficient you could get the car to act.
  • Flickr photos
  • Twitter
  • Blog posts
  • Picked up and linked from some highly valuable sites.

Peter van der Graaf of Netsociety

Just sending mass emails isn't that effective
Stages of link building

  • What do i have and where do i want links from (Inc competitor link analysis)
  • Link bait creation
  • Distribution
  • Continue the relationship with people who link to you


  • How natural and full is my current link profile
  • Do i have good links?
  • Do I have links that could appear paid
  • How does this appear in relation to your competition
  • Which possible link partners would help bridge that gap?
  • Can these possible link partners be grouped into possible approaches ?

Link Bait Creation

  • You have to match the content that you create that match the approaches that you identified in the previous stage. Do some research on a topic and create content based on that research.
  • Contribute to websites, content, providing tools, guest post, reward their visitors (discounts perhaps?)
    Linker rewards - reviews, testimonials, link trades (knowing the down sides of that now)
    Must see - shocking, funny, hot topics


  • Email, as personally as possible. The more personal the better the results.
  • Take personal control of the most important targets to ensure the best chance of success.
  • Distribute through sites that already have some authority. Press releases, social, news etc
    Spread virally
  • Continue relations
  • Link value keeps building up so don't lose them.
  • Makes it easier for ongoing projects.

Brian Turner of Propero Digital

A lot of people misunderstand link building as they often look at links in isolation as a way to manipulate the results rather than making it part of the overall marketing process.

  • Link buying is a good example of an area that if focussed on getting links can cause you problems.
  • Google is developing newer methods than just links as signals. Human traffic values for example.
  • Link building therefore has to be part of a wider communications strategy.
  • By entering into conversations with people in your industry you are naturally inviting links
  • The internet is a social web run by people for people so engaging in conversations is a natural way to invite links as part of that conversation.

Q & A

1 link building tactic that works right now

  • Jonathan - Link reconfiguration
  • Peter - Reduce branding - people are far more likely to respond without a prominant brand
  • Brian - be newsworthy


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nice ones .. i think this is good enough for ranking in the top 10 of google for less competitive keywords .. .

I am always amazed that few people ever recommend picking up the phone when targeting sites. Mass emails rarely work but even personalised ones are often missed. When requesting a link from a particular site you are effectively pitching. It's virtually sales. You need to be able to convince and incentivise a site owner to link to you. I always find this is much more likely by picking up the phone and seeking to develop a relationship between two companies who complement one another.

This post is a bit old but very in depth. I do believe that google is constantly changing how it ranks sites and while buying links may be effective now, your suggestions are for long term link building. Google and search engines keep changing trying to keep up with people abusing techniques.

Great post

A very informative post but still the SEO trend still changing.We need to find an effective Link building techniques that help us to stay on top and compete well to our competitors.It is good to know some tips and techniques.

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