Artificial Link Building

The idea behind including back links as part of the page ranking algorithms is that if a page is good people will start linking to it. In reality, however, a new site cannot always rely on the fact that, if its content is good, people will find it and link to it – at least not in the quality and quantity of back links that you may need to reach your traffic and income goals.

This is where artificial link building comes in – going out there and increasing your back links one link at a time. While this may seem like a daunting task, keep in mind that the time investment is up to you. The steps for manually building quality links are simple enough:

  • Desired back link list – Compile a list of quality sites related to your site’s niche from which you want back links.
  • Adding links – Add a back link on each of these sites either through a comment, message, guest post or by asking the webmaster to include one.

The first step is to compile a list of high ranking, quality sites in your niche – sites that are authoritative and which would be really valuable to add to your link profile. These are websites that should be worth putting in some extra effort for. There are a couple of ways to find these sites.

  • Competitor analysis – Check where your competitors have received their most valuable back links from.
  • Searching for back links – Search Google to discover quality sites relevant to yours.
  • Back link tools – Use an online tool to discover potential back link sites.

Competitor Analysis

Sites that link to your competitors are probably interested in linking to your site as well. To identify your competitors, enter your site’s niche into Google Search and review the links of the top sites that appear. Then you can use the TouchGraph Google Browser to get a good overview of their back links. This is the link neighborhood you want to be in to rank as well as they do. It is also a good way to get natural traffic, as these are the links and sites that send your competitors much of their traffic.

TouchGraph Google browser example
The TouchGraph Google Browser in action.

An alternative way to mine the back links of your competitors is to perform a search with Seomoz’s Open Site Explorer. Simply type in the URL of a competitor and you will be able to find the inbound links that Seomoz knows about.

You may also want to include the top Google search results on your desired back link list. If a page ranks particularly well for search phrases that you are targeting, a link from that page will be very valuable.

Another quick way to find related sites where you can place back links is to search for them on Google using the right keyword combination. Below are a number of such keywords to get you started.

  • Add/Submit/Suggest/Recommend/Nominate +
  • Link/Site/Page/URL/Article/Profile/Resource/Directory +
  • Your keywords

Simply type in a combination of these keywords together with one of your site’s keywords. For example, if you are trying to market a website selling golf clubs you could search for: “add site” “golf clubs”.

There are a variety of free tools available that can help you acquire quality back links. One such tool is Webconfs’s Backlink Builder Tool. When you enter the keywords of your choice, the Backlink Builder gives you a list of related sites where you can post a comment, article, message or simply a back link to your site. Some other tools you may want to try out are: Hub Finder and Link Suggestion Tool.

At this stage you should have built a large list of sites from which you want to acquire back links. However, different site types will require different strategies for getting these links. The following strategies will be looked at in turn.

  • Profile – On any site where you can register for an account, you can usually also add a back link in your profile.
  • Posts – Community sites can be a good place to post messages containing relevant back links.
  • Comments – Blog sites often allow visitors to add comments with links.
  • Guest posts – All Content sites need content, which you can provide in exchange for back links.
  • Link exchanges – On any site you can contact the webmaster and ask to exchange links.

Profile

Sites allowing user registration often give their members access to a profile page that is under their control to some extent. You want to make full use of this page on any and all sites related to your niche that allow a profile. Most importantly, include one or even a couple of back links to your site.

Profile links will often be nofollow. However, they can provide some traffic, particularly on sites where you are an active contributor. On such sites users may click through from one of your contributions to your profile to learn more about you. Take this chance to sell them on the idea of clicking through to your site as well, through a short yet interesting description of your site.

Posts

Participating in community sites can be a great way to acquire quality back links. Discover sites that have an established community in your niche and start contributing. Focus on being more helpful than promotional, but when you find a topic directly related to a page on your site be sure to include a direct link to that page. There are various types of community sites on the web:

  • Forums – Participate in discussion boards related to your site’s niche. Make sure to include a back link in your signature line.
  • Groups – Online discussion groups, such as Google groups.
  • Q&A – Answer questions related to your niche and refer people to your site for additional information – for example, Yahoo Answers, Answers.com and Mahalo provide such a service.
  • Social bookmarking – Submit link bait and comment on submitted articles related to your site on, for example, Digg.
  • Social media sites – Comment on user submitted content, such as relevant YouTube videos.
  • Social networking – Join active groups related to your niche on sites like Facebook.

Comments

You can post legitimately useful comments on high traffic blogs that are similarly-themed with your site. Be sure to actually read the article and offer, for example, some additional information or insight on what they have written. You want to make it apparent that you are an expert in the field, but do not openly confront the author, since he might just remove your comment.

Blogs often allow you to include a web address along with your name and reply. Use this to link to your front page. When you have a page of your own closely related to the subject of the blog post, you can also include a direct link to that page. Keep in mind that spamming blogs with irrelevant links will make your site look bad. Although links in blog comments are often nofollow, many people will read the comments. Some will also click through to your site to read more of what you have to say, particularly if you leave a relevant, interesting and useful comment.

Guest Posts

Content sites all have something in common – they need content. If you offer your free services as a guest writer or content producer for high-ranking content sites in your niche, they are likely to accept. You provide them for free with something they need – content – and in return they give you what you want – a quality back link included in your content. It is a fair trade.

Guest posts can also be exchanged with other sites. You create a piece of content for their site – such as an article – and they create one back for you. This way, regular visitors to one site can become aware of the other site in the same niche, and they may decide to become a regular visitor to that site as well.

In a link exchange, one webmaster places a dofollow link on his website that points to another webmaster’s site and vice versa. Such reciprocal links from related sites are ranked lower by search engines than one way links. However, it may still be valuable, in terms of SEO, to pursue such links for sites that are highly relevant to yours. The traffic increase from exposing your site to their visitors can also be worth a lot.

When you contact a webmaster to ask for a link exchange, make sure your email is polite and appears personal. This will greatly enhance your chances of success and prevent the recipient from sending the mail straight to the trash bin. In your email, address the webmaster by his or her name if you can find it. Then clearly explain that you want to exchange links and describe how you believe a link to your site would benefit their visitors, and vice versa. Make your offer sound appealing and also tell them briefly about your website.

In the email, you can add your direct contact information – full name, company name, address and phone number – to increase your perceived credibility. Make it easy for them to link to you by including the standard link exchange information: the link title, URL and a short site description. Alternatively, you can link to a page on your site offering a variety of link alternatives – such as banners, buttons and text links.

Give a suggestion as to where the links will be placed. Typically, you do not want your exchanged links to show up on the front page of the site you are promoting. Although that is where the link will provide the most referral traffic and search ranking, it is a limited space that can easily become cluttered. It is more common either to place the links on a separate link page, or to perform a three-way link exchange. In contrast to the regular two-way exchange, a three-way exchange is where you let another site under your control perform your part of the link exchange. This allows you to link from a site that more closely matches the PageRank and Alexa rank of the site you want to link exchange with, so as to ensure a more equal trade. It can also be used to make the link look more natural to search engines, because your second site can be one that appears to be completely unaffiliated with your main site.

Some webmasters may not want to exchange links with you, particularly if their website far outranks yours. Plan to offer an incentive to such webmasters, in addition to the back link. For example, you could offer to do a review of one of their products on your site, or to create a piece of content for their site. Be generous with your incentive and you will gain more links.

Username and Reputation

While you are link building, you can at the same time work on building a strong professional reputation. Begin by choosing a distinct and memorable username that you will use on all sites within your niche. You may want to consider a name that includes keywords related to your site. This is because your name will often appear next to your website link, giving your link a higher relevance for those terms. Additionally, the name you choose will become the anchor text for your site on some blogging systems.

By entering the same username and using the same voice, each time you make a quality contribution to a site within your niche, you will start to build reputation and recognition. Since the people interested in your niche will often visit the same sites that you are link building on, they may come to see your contributions on multiple sites as well, further boosting your authority. This reputation will work in your favor. People recognizing you as an authority in the field are more likely to click through to your site, trust its content, link to the content and even buy from you.

Search engines do not like manipulation of their search results through too much artificial link building, or link spamming. A site found guilty of this can be penalized and have its search rankings reduced, or it may even be banned completely. Getting banned from search engines because of artificial link building is a subject of much debate, however. It happens, but only in extreme cases. For example, a brand new site over-promoting itself using an automated tool to generate 1000’s of links from low quality sites with the same anchor text is begging to be banned.

Using manual methods, it is exceedingly rare to be penalized. Still, it can pay off to put some effort into making your links appear as natural as possible, if only to make sure that they are not devalued. So what is the difference between a natural link and an artificial one? Simply speaking, a natural back link is made by others while an artificial link is made by you, in order to boost your search rankings and traffic. However, Google cannot know who posts a link, so it has to look for other attributes. Below is a summary of these attributes and how you can adjust them to make your links appear more natural.

  • Anchor text – Avoid repetitive anchor text. Very important.
  • Link acquisition rate – Build links at a consistent rate.
  • Link source – Avoid acquiring links from low quality sites and link farms. Such links are devalued anyway.
  • Deep links – Acquire links to all your important pages, not just your front page.
  • Different tactics – Avoid using the same link building tactic repetitively, for example by only getting back links from forum signatures.

The link acquisition rate warrants some additional explanation. Getting 1000 links one month and 10 the next will not appear natural and may raise a red flag for search engines. You should instead try to build a consistent amount of links every couple of days until you reach your traffic goals. Note that web crawlers do not search all sites on the web at all times, so links will not be indexed immediately after you make them. Some may take a day, while others may take several weeks to be indexed, depending on the reputation and update frequency of the site hosting the link. Therefore, you may not have to build a consistent amount of links on a daily basis, but more on a weekly basis.

The average daily number of links you want to acquire for your site during your link building campaign is up to you. Rather than trying to build as many links as possible in this time, you should aim only for quality links. Finding and acquiring these quality links will of course require more time and effort than finding just any link. For example, 5 or 10 quality links per day may be a good place to start. Increase it gradually as you become more proficient at finding these links. Towards the end of your campaign you can gradually decrease your artificial link acquisition rate. By then, you should hopefully have attracted enough traffic so that your visitors contribute back links to your site at a faster rate than you did through your own link building efforts.

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