A Beginners Guide To Link Building

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Link building is an essential ingredient in ranking your website highly on the major search engines. 

There, now that we’ve got that brilliant grasp of the obvious out of the way let’s move on to what you can do to actually create them.  Before we launch into the nitty-gritty of link building, no beginners guide would be complete without a brief explanation as to why links are important and the different elements of them.  Being a beginners guide this won’t be an entirely complete list but it will be enough to get you going on the right path.  Understanding what you’re trying to do will help you do it better and more importantly, understanding the “why” of the situation will help you stretch your tactics outside of this and other articles on link building.

Why Are Links Important?

To put it simply: a link is a vote.  Every link pointing to your site from another website tells the search engines that the other site finds your resource valuable and thus, the engines read this as a vote for your site.  So it must be about getting tons of links and you’re done right?  Wrong.  This is incorrect as …

Not All Votes Are Created Equal

Unlike your own vote in an election, some votes are worth more than others and some votes are worth SIGNIFICANTLY more than yours (unless of course you’re a content writer for the Google.com domain in which case you obviously have the top vote).  The basic factors that affect a link’s value to your website are:

The site strength – the strength of the site that is pointing to yours is a significant (and historically abused) factor in the valuation of links.  In the absence of other easily-visible criteria let’s look at PageRank as a key valuation of a site’s strength.  If a site with a PageRank 8 links to your site, this vote is worth significantly more than a link from a PageRank 3 site.  This is because a PageRank 8 site is, in Google’s eyes, a more important site than the PageRank 3 site.

Relevance – the relevance of a site linking to you is, if anything, more important than a site’s strength. If you run a bed a breakfast in Utah a link from a PageRank 3 bed and breakfast will be worth more than a link from a PageRank 5 web design site.  This area is a bit grey in that it relies on the engine’s ability to determine what is relevant and what is not however we’ve seen evidence that this area is strong at this stage in the game and is only becoming more important over time.

Anchor text – the actual text used to link to your site is extremely important.  I’ve seen extremely strong sites get beaten out by weak ones simply due to the poor use of anchor test.  If you’re building links to your site be sure to include your keywords in the text that links back and, if possible, the exact phrase you are trying to rank for.  At the same time, you can’t make all your anchor text exactly the same – how can that possibly look natural?

Position – the position of a link on a page and the number of other links on that page impacts the value of a link.  A link in the footer of a page is given less weight than a link near the top, a link in the content of a page is given more weight than a link in a list of links and a link on a page with 50 other links is given less weight than a link on a page with only a few other links.  If we think about it – this makes sense.  All of these things indicate whether the site with the outbound links actually intends for one of their visitors to click the link or not.  From an engine’s perspective – the more it appears that a site wants a link to be clicked on, the higher the weight that link (or vote) is given.

Admittedly there are a number of other factors but this is a beginners guide.  Following the considerations above will insure that as you make each link decision – you’re odds of making the right choices will be significantly higher than if you ignore them.  Ignoring them may not get you penalized or banned but it will make your task far more time consuming as you secure less valuable links and thus need to build far more than following he right methods.

So far we’ve covered briefly the why of link building, now let’s get into the real-life, here’s-how-to-do-it side of things.  Below I’m going to cover three of my favorite link building tactics.  These are tactics that apply to virtually every scenario.  The number of ways to build links is only limited by your imagination however and this should not be viewed as a comprehensive list.  This is, after all, a beginners guide and I’m trying to list the tactics that apply to virtually every scenario.

Side Note: Reciprocal Link Building

I’m not going to count this as one of my favorite and so it won’t count as one of the three noted above and I’ll only touch on it briefly.  There have been a number of assertions that reciprocal link building is dead.  This is simply not the case.  I have seen and competed against sites that were very successful with reciprocal links as their primary link source.

The problem with reciprocal links isn’t so much in their value which does seem to be a bit lower than non-reciprocal links however often more easily attained.  No, my problem with reciprocal links is in the management.  Unethical webmasters’ removing links after you’ve put the link up to them, sites expiring and not being renewed, sites getting penalties of their own due to their bad tactics are all inconveniences the reciprocal link manager must deal with.

As an SEO company, a huge issue we faced was leaving our clients with this task after a campaign was over if they decided not to go on a maintenance package.  Non-reciprocal links may be a bit harder to attain in some cases however that issue is much easier to overcome than the sum of all these issues.

And now on to the top three …


If you’re paying attention as you read this you’ll probably have guessed that I’m a fan of article writing as a link building method.  If you look to the “about the author” section you’ll notice a link to the Beanstalk site (and if you don’t, well … let me know as somebody’s stealing it without permission).  While I genuinely enjoy writing and sharing my experiences with others – the purpose of getting the article distributed is primarily as a link building tactic, secondarily as a great source of qualified traffic and thirdly for my own enjoyment.

You are an expert in your field.  Who knows more about your business than you?  So share.  Writing an article may not be easy but it is rewarding.  If you can’t think of a topic, think of what you get asked.  If you’re asked common questions repeatedly then chances are, it’s a good topic for an article.  I often get asked about link building, and you’re reading the result.

Once the article is completed you need to get it syndicated.  Using an article submission service is a simple way to get your article out to a large number of publishers quickly.  On top of this you’d do well to seek out specific sites in your field using one or all of the major search engines to find highly relevant sites that accept articles and submit to them.

And oh, don’t forget an “about the author” section. :)

Directory Submissions

Directory submissions are likely the most painful of the link building tactics you’ll employ. Why?  Because it’s tedious and time-consuming work.

To be done right directory submissions must be done manually, the titles and descriptions must be tailored to the specifications of the directory in question and often, you’ll have to decide if a review fee is worth it.

While there are a good many directories that accept free submissions there are also a large number that’s require a review fee.  The fee can range from a  few dollars to a few hundred.  If you see that a directory has a low PageRank, is general in it’s nature (i.e. it isn’t about your specific field) then it likely isn’t worth more than a couple dollars if that.  If the site is strong, and strongly related to your site then it’s obviously worth more.

There is no hard-and-fast set of rules for how much a listing is worth.  I’d recommend to start your hunt for directories (don’t forget the topic and/or region specific ones), submit to all the free ones and make a list of all the ones that require a fee.  After you’ve gotten a solid number in you “needs to be paid list” you can get a general idea as to what’s out there and what you can get and for how much.  This will enable you to make solid choices knowing what all your options are.

Forum Posting

I just know I’m going to get a couple comments and/or emails for listing this as a link building tactic but if it’s done right there’s nothing wrong with it.  Forum and blog posting got a bad reputation as a link building tactic when it came under huge abuse by unethical webmasters spamming forums with useless garbage just for a link.  They even went so far (and still do) as sending out spiders to automatically submit posts.  To this end, I have to agree that it’s a bad tactic however …

If you’re seeking out forums related to your site, reading the threads and responding with solid advice or with questions and not just firing off some sales-pitch then you’re doing what you’re supposed to be.  Another perk to this is that, like articles, if you do this right you’re gong to see traffic as well and what more can you ask from a link building tactic than traffic as well as links.


Above we’ve covered the basics of link building.  As I’ve noted repeatedly, once you’re done reading this and applying some of what you’ve read you’d do well to read other articles, forums and blogs.  This isn’t a complete breakdown of everything link-related (that would be a full book) but it will keep you out of trouble and save you countless hours of wasted time getting poor links that haven’t held value since 2003.


A Beginners Guide To Link Building
About Dave Davies
Dave Davies is the CEO of Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization, Inc. Beanstalk's SEO services include full-services SEO packages, consulting, training, copywriting and link building. Dave has been involved in SEO since 2001, co-authored SitePoint's SEM Kit, has spoken at SES and SMX events and hosts a weekly radio show on WebmasterRadio.fm. WebProNews Writer
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  • http://hypotheek.informationeel.nl hypotheek

    I certainly agree on the last point of link building on forums. This tactic is often forgotten by most webmasters. Great benefits can be achieved with forums.

    Nice "summary". I really liked it, because it covered almost all aspects of linkbuilding. I will be sending this out to some friends!

  • http://www.torontoSEOfirm.com SEO in Toronto

    I think forum link building used to be good when signature links counted but it seems Google has decided to discount these.

  • http://feedoor.com Mamod

    Well, I think post comments on other’s blogs maybe not that good for search engines but other readers who read your comment and like it may visit your site, which I do all the time. Maybe some will visit me through this coment :)

    I agree with the first point to be the best, writing articles is the way to get good linking reputation

    Thanks for this great informative resource

  • eswar

    No Mamod, actually commenting on other blogs and websites do really help with the search engines, the way you comment( on that topic not an ordinary one) as you said will certainly bring the viewer to your blog or website if he feels the content on the blog and the gets impressed certainly he is going to link your blog or website. So we can’t even neglect commenting on other blogs and websites, this has worked good with me.

  • http://www.keymultimedia.co.uk David Lakins

    I would totally agree with article writing as a method of link building. We have used it for a lot of clients with great success. Admittedly, it takes time and effort to carefully craft each one (not forgetting the resource box) but it is worth the effort. Great article.

  • http://www.cool-designs.org ???? ?????

    When submitting to article it’s a good advice to do it manually and change the sentences so it won’t be seen as a duplicate content for the crawlers

  • http://www.valorgear.com Police Equipment

    I have to agree that what you said works.  As a client of SEO, I also agree that link exchanging does get forgotten when the work is handed over from the SEO.  This can be very challenging if your client is not actively managing their site and links.  I have contacted many sites to exchange links and it would seem that only the ones have a SEO still engaged are the ones that actually exchnge links.

    Once again, great tips.

  • http://www.seowebdesignfirm.com/seo-company.htm seo company in boston

    Great stuff. I would add that in my experience niche directories and niche sites that pertain to the page that is being linked to hold alot of value with ranking.

  • http://thelwsealsshow.blogspot.com/ LW

    I have been going back and forth on this issue for it seems like years.  I used to write hundreds and hundreds of articles regarding my topics of discussion. Even though it was extremely time consuming, I did it anyway, thinking that it would pay off.  One thing that I noticed, was that even though I had a ton of articles, as most of us have experienced, the results have not been close to the same as a couple of years ago.  Even worse is that the articles that do give us credit for our links, are usually gone supplemental.  This removes any real value from even using article marketing as a method of getting exposure for your site.  This brings me to this article.  I have been reading up on blog and forum comments, which I usually never do.  Mostly because of the bad reputation that it gives the commenters and the blog itself.  Could contributing to meaningful discussions, and leaving statements such as: for more information on my company, see:  < a href="thelwsealsshow.blogspot.com/2008/05/satellite-tv-1999-entertain-everyone.html"><strong>www.Mysite.com?</font></strong></a> Would this actually work more than writing articles?  I see that articles is your favorite method of linkbuilding, but is forum/blog commenting perhaps more effective given that it’s not spam?

  • http://thelwsealsshow.blogspot.com/ Satellite TV From The LW Seals Show

    Oops! Sorry about the screwed up HTML code in the last comment.  I was trying to create the anchor text for my site, but I did not realize that WebProNews did not support that.  Anyway, for anyone who has had an experience similar to the one that I described below, any input regarding methods of site promotion would be greatly appreciated.  EG. Article marketing vs. forum/blog commenting vs. directory submissions, (which I consider to be sort of outdated)…

  • http://www.freewarebb.com Freeware Software

    Our site has been up and running for just under a year and I personally have went to great lengths in ensuring our SEO efforts and link building have been worth it although one thing I have realised is that it doesn’t necessarily matter if the search engines don’t count things like signature’s in forums etc etc because it all counts towards exposure, possibly not the level of exposure you would like, but nevertheless exposure.   The more times your site appears on the net the more likely you are to attract attention, and if this is done over a prolonged period of time and your site is indeed worthy then the backlinks will begin to build, it’s as simple as that.

    Like everyone else starting out, I thought there was a magic wand to help rankings and so forth, although there quite obviously isn’t and it doesn’t take a bill of £900 from an SEO company to get one – what it takes is time, patience, determination and common sense.   Stay focused on keeping your site attractive, current and desirable as well as linking to sites that put your back-links on a page which is already pageranked (or at the very least indexed) but ensure these sites are 1. relevant and 2. do not themselves link to inappropriate sites.

  • http://www.cfr-cluj.info Guest

    Blog comments is a good link building ?

  • http://brucewblog.blogspot.com/ Bruce W. Coffman

    Thank you for a truly great article that those of us who aren’t SEO experts can actually understand and utilize.

    As someone who is still learning my way around the mechanics of SEO and who has to do it all on my own, this article is a fantastic resource.


  • http://www.leerwiki.nl/Hoe_kan_je_geld_lenen_met_BKR_registratie Geld lenen

    there is a lot discussion going on about linkbuilding on the blog of Matt Cutts. Many people say linkbuilding should be banned from the algoritm, but I dont see that going to happen. Google created an economy, an spam is an important part of that.



  • http://www.iwanted.ca Internet Marketing Website SEO

    This is a great summary of many of the effective mechanisms of link building.  I have written about many of these in an ebook that is being developed for several clients.

  • http://www.greenfintech.com SEO – greenfin

    I want to know that whether we should exchange links with low PR sites as compared to our site’s PR. I have a confusion in my mind when i was submitting my site in Directories.should i only consider high PR or both. Is there any benefit of submitting on Low Rank Directories, article submitting sites or forums etc.



  • Guest

    hello to all this is brad and i am new for this forum i certainly agree with this forum that. This tactic is most often forgotten by webmasters.




    Link Building

    • sonny ratliff

      This is great for those of us just getting in and trying to figure this stuff out, you made it real simple to understand.


  • http://sexprivates.com Girl

    Is true that you need to have less outbound links than indexed pages in google for your site?

  • http://www.tampaweddingofficiants.com Rev. Dr. Ronald Turcot

    I am seeking help in finding ways to achieve “reverse” link building for my website. I am not very knowledgeable in doing this, at all. I really enjoyed reading the SEO Link Building ideas in this posting. It was concise and easy to understand. I built my site from a template through Register.com, which also hosts their sites. This site is aimed at engaged – Brides to be, as it offers my wedding ceremonies services, in the grater Tampa Florida area. It took me months to get it up & running and I don’t see any PR for it. Any comments will be greatly appreciated. My e-mail adress is: rev.ronaldturcot@yahoo.com. Thank you & God Bless you.

    Rev. Ron

  • http://www.ghchealth.com/liver-and-gallbladder-cleanse.html Liver Cleanse

    Thanks for the link building tips. It is definitely a tedious process, but one that will payoff in the longrun.

  • http://www.nadir.fr/ Consultant referencement

    I don’t think Google has totally discounted the value of forum links yet, I still see many sites ranking well while most of their links are from signatures

  • http://www.netrelief.ca/ SEO web design company

    Well done Dave. This article serves well for a basics on link building. I agree that forum link building is still a viable tactic. While the links may not carry the weight they used to they are not discredited alltogether. I also wholly appreciate your point of view on reciprocal link building. A tough, but not lost method of linking.

  • http://wowbutuan.com Wow Butuan

    nice one! it helps me a lot reading your article since am new to SEO. well done!

  • http://www.investingincanada.info Investing In Canada

    Nice Article Dave

    I have just been researching some basics because I would like to get into the industry. Currenlty, I am employed in a very analytical job that pays well, but does not provide the excitement I crave from a career. SEO seems like an interesting field and I hope to get more involved.


  • http://www.homesteadusers.com Homestead Website Help

    This is a really good article for beginners. As the Internet continues to explode so do the secret methods for link building.

    This list is a great starting point for beginners. My experience online has been that if you really want to learn professional tips that bring big results, you are going to have to pay something for it.

    In addition, the new wave of social media and rss feeds has added a pile full advanced backlink building methods.

  • http://www.low-carb-diet-planner.com/ Diet Planner

    It is true that forums are great as link builders. I still use them and give seen good results from them.

    But the bottom line is we should use all forms of link building to see good search engine results.

  • http://www.low-carb-diet-planner.com Low Carb Diet Planner

    I do agree with you on this article, although I read from another blog something different from what you are saying.

    Anyway thank you for your review on link building.

    All the best!

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    This lessons are very useful to me. Thank you.Nifty future trading tips free

  • http://www.bestfuturetips.in Balakrishnan AT

    I certainly agree on the last point of link building on forums. This tactic is often forgotten by most webmasters. Great benefits can be achieved with forums.

    Nice “summary”. I really liked it, because it covered almost all aspects of linkbuilding. I will be sending this out to some friends!

    Share market tips free

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