Link Building Basics

Apr 11, 2007 - 11:56 am 13 by

This session is Link Building: The Basics, and is presented by Debra Mastaler of Alliance-Link and Detlev Johnson, who will be assisting Debra because Eric Ward's wife is giving birth this morning! (Congratulations Eric!) Mike Grehan, who was supposed to attend, is also not here because of a loss in his immediate family. You can send condolences through his website at

This session covers: why links are valuable (definitions and concepts), link spam and what to avoid, and link tools and tactics.

As visitors, we need links to go from one page to another. Links are used for traffic and organic results. All of the search engines have the same function - you type in a term and you get a relevant query. The algorithm that returns the results uses a variety of components. Link popularity is one of the largest factors in determining rank. Link popularity = measure of quantity and quality of links. All the major search engines use link popularity in some format. It's considered an off-page factor because the value is determined by another page. If the link sits on your page, it's content.

Link popularity: quantity of links, quality/authority, relevance of linking sites, and anchor text.

What is quantity factor? It's not necessarily about quantity anymore. It's more about quality. You need a lot of links from quality sites to rank well. What is an authority site? It is a site that ranks well. They are linked to by other quality sites, they are well-known in their circle, etc. This happens for a reason - co-citation process that exists on the web. They typically have higher PageRank scores. (Disclaimer: This isn't definitively the way it has to be. It changes all the time.)

PageRank is a link analysis algorithm written by Larry Page as a way to get Google to improve the rankings. When it was created initially in 98, it was based on the quantity of links. The PR algorithm has changed significantly since it was written. Pages that ranked well also had higher PR scores back in the day, but this is no longer the case. Higher PR pages don't rank well necessarily. PR is not used as strongly as it has been in the past.

The relevance factor behind link popularity - search engines read words around anchor text and throughout the page looking for on-topic and subject relevance. They want sites relevant to the query and thematically related.

Anchor text indicates the subject page that the link is pointing to. A link that says "Click Here" does not help as much as "Click here for Snow Tires." People and search engines read the words in the link.

Tip: I have found that I rank higher when anchor text links that are used on other sites linked to my sites that use the same text as titles or file names.

PageRank is dead, Long Live Anchor Text

Does Google still use PageRank? Yes. It's still a part of the algorithm but is not as heavily emphasized. Should I use PR as a linking criteria? Pages with higher PR scores are crawled more frequently. The info in the PR toolbar is probably 6-8 months old. I would not use this as the only indicator.

Link popularity measures quality and quantity. You need links from authority sites. Anchor text should highlighy on page keyword phrases. PR has little effect on rank. Look for links from contextually relevant sites.

Are there links that you should avoid? Yes. If you're looking to build for rank, avoid the following: - links that use rel="nofollow" (use Firefox SearchStatus tool to point out pink links = - other links that don't count: links in Javascript code, image links, redirected links through 3rd party sites - affiliate links and tracking codes. However, if you're an affiliate marketer, you can still pass link popularity through tools - search for Naked Links. - It's not a good idea to be involved in a link farm. These are sites that are set up and have been developed to purposely manipulate rank. Some of the most valuable links don't appear on websites. They appear in email-based communication (emails with over 100k subscribers). You won't get link popularity but you will get the residual effect. Don't overlook these opportunities.

Outbound links - should you link out? The only thing you lose if you don't link out is opportunity. Link out to people who mentioned you. Link back to similar industries and established sites.

TouchGraph offers a tool where you can pop in a keyword and find out who has been linking to you by term. It points out topically relevant websites.

Link out to press releases, directories, award sites, affiliation listings, associations, articles. Regarding directories - if your directory is topically relevant, link to yourself in the directory.

Linking Tools and Tactics

If you are getting links, make sure that these pages have been indexed by the search engines.

Link building takes a ton of time. Make sure you have your tactics prioritized and budget for them. Then have your resources organized.

Some of my favorite tools are: www.marketleapcom/publinkpop - down, dirty, and quick comparison tool - brings back all links. The links that come back are typically brought back in the order of importance as seen by Yahoo. Yahoo has Trust Rank (whereas Google has PageRank). Bottom line is to understand that Yahoo acknowledges that there is a seed set of authority sites out there. - brings back anchor text, unique domains. You can save the results to Excel spreadsheet and it's free. - takes multiple sites and looks for recurring backlinks. It's another free site that allows you to export the results to Excel. - both paid and free options. It brings back all the information about a site - Alexa, how many links, pages in, and what category in DMOZ the page is listed. Use it to see where your competitors are listed.

There are some paid tools: SEOElite ($170) Caphyon Advance Link Manager ($149) - - 30 day free trial. They do a lot of compare and contrast, they do rank checks for you, etc.

You can set traps with RSS - use Google News, Yahoo News, and type in keywords. The point of this is that if you have a competitor that is in a news publication, you could always go to the news source and perhaps get the same coverage.

Tactics - Basic, tried, and true linking tactics that produce consistent and solid results: trust links, directory links, reclaimed links, reciprocal links, credibility links, just ask links, elbow grease links (time consuming that nets very solid links), article writing, press release.

Consider your tactics. Press releases don't always have lasting effects. Do foundation linking on the right sites.

People don't have a page that asks for links - "Just Ask." Debra mentions that she created a page for a client that asks for links. So far, in four years, there are 365 links. You could also offer an incentive (freebies). Requesting that people link using code specified helps too. (Tip: Give out free T-Shirts.)

Credibility Links - you can secure links from industry credible sources, such as the [virtual] chamber of commerce or associations ( The Internet Public Library links clubs, military organizations, etc.). You can join these offline and online.

Elbow Grease Links -

Directories - general and niche, RSS, article, podcast, blogs, wikis. - breaks down the general directories

Debra says that she has been asked whether the Yahoo! Directory is worth the link but says that it is completely credible. It is $300/year. It is a good link especially if you're relatively new to this.

Is DMOZ worth the trouble? Yes. They are an AOL search partner, Google gets its directory results. You can get a lot of different relevant page links using DMOZ.

Other notes about directories - Avoid directories hosting excessive search engine ads. Check robots.txt and nofollow links.

Reclaiming links - there's a thought process that links that have been around for quite some time could be revised wordwise. It can work better for you to reword some of these anchor text links after a good amount of time.

Finding authority sites - Using a specific term, you can see the top links on Google and Yahoo and how they are ranking. If there is commonality between the two, you will want to have the link from it.

Reciprocal links - do search engines devalue this tactic? Yes and no. If you only use reciprocal linking (exclusively) in link building, you may not be successful. Avoid excessive reciprocal links. Swapping links is great because you control what the link says. Not all sites have the opportunity to swap links.

Press Release Submission Services - These are sites that take a press release that you have written and send these to other publication online. They are all paid services (which can help - there is tracking capability in some of these press releases).

Media contacts in your niche - traditional venues: Gebbie Press and Burrelles Luce. You can also go to, which breaks down sources into category and geographic location. It pulls up all of the sites that have press information in them. Another one is and Yahoo news.

Article Writing - become an authority. Everyone is looking for content. This is why this is a very popular tactic. If you are a specialist in a specific area, people will come after you for information. There is a list of article directories at Other tips include: creating a lens on Squidoo and link out to the article resource center on your site.

Buying Links - there are two ways to buy links. You can go through brokers or do it yourself. Make sure that your link stands out. Try to stay out of paid links where "paid links" is obvious. Search for blogs (which can be less expensive for you). - use social site icons and add these to your articles.


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