Few SEOs would disagree that link building is still a fundamental part of getting a site ranked well in Google and other search engines. Google’s own webmaster guidelines confirm that you should ‘make sure all the sites that should know about your pages are aware your site is online’ (read my article on ‘Link Building Post PANDA‘ for more thoughts).
Here’s a whole list of places you can get links from, of varying value.
Are low value links worthless (or dangerous) post PANDA?
Imagine you had a site with no links vs. a site with some low-value links (and the sites are on a par, content-wise) – which would do better? The one with some links will likely do better because links help search engines to find the content. It’s important to build a diverse, natural-looking link profile, which means having a mix of links from different sources and of different qualities. Even links often considered low value (like forum links) can sometimes be powerful, as I’ve explained below.
What about really spammy links? Here’s a great article from Rand Fishkin on that topic (opens in a new window). Google’s official webmaster blog advises that when you have some spammy links, they may end up distrusting those links to your site. This would be where the site is “mostly good” but might have “widgetbait” (widgets you allow people to put on their site with a link back to your site that has fixed keyword anchor text), paid links, blog spam, guestbook spam, excessive article directory submissions, excessive link exchanges, other types of linkspam, etc. While your site’s overall rankings might not drop directly, likewise the site might not be able to rank for some phrases.
In short, don’t go after spammy links but if you get some to your site, it’s unlikely to do you any harm as long as you’re doing everything else right.
The very first thing to do is to look at your competitors’ link profiles using a tool like Open Site Explorer (Google it). Your competitors are the sites that are already ranking in the top spots for the keywords you’re targetting, in the search engines you want to rank in. Looking at their link profiles gives you loads of ideas for sites that might give you a link.
Building a blog from scratch and getting it to the stage where it has enough link juice to be of any benefit to your main site is a lot of work. There’s a strong argument for putting all your best content on your main site instead (and perhaps having a self-hosted installation of WordPress in a subfolder for blog posts). However, there are many sites that offer you a free blog which creates a subdomain of their (sometimes highly authoritative) site. For example, My Telegraph. Here are some sites that offer free blogs:
- Blog Rating: 85/100
- Blogger Rating: 97/100
- LiveJournal Rating: 97/100
- My Opera Rating: 99/100
- My Telegraph Rating: 97/100
- On Sugar Rating: 91/100
- Tumblr Rating: 98/100
- Typepad (paid) Rating: 96/100
- Weebly Rating: 96/100
- WordPress Rating: 100/100
If you would rather have a blog on your site, consider using a subdomain, especially for business/sales focused sites. There are many benefits – for example, it avoids diluting the value of your sales terms on your main site, and it saves you having to work to design, optimise and maintain two separate sites.
Lesson plan sites
Whatever business you’re in, I’d bet you could write a lesson plan for some school kids that’s close to your industry area. Google ‘lesson plans’ and you’ll find hundreds of sites that offer free resources and lesson plans – these are easy link building targets if you have content that is useful to their users. Home schooling sites are another good link target. Some sites even let you add the plans yourself.
Answer questions on Answers websites
Yahoo Answers pages get indexed quickly and some hold high positions in the search results. Links are ‘no follow’ but I’m with the crowd that believes no follow links do have some value. There are more answers sites besides Yahoo Answers but it’s Yahoo that I use most.
You’ll need to get to Level 2 before the links you post are live, but once you’re there, all the links you’ve ever posted suddenly become live. I recommend you don’t spam but answer questions in different subject areas to those you’re trying to promote and don’t just link to your own site. Try and give really good answers as you’ll get picked for ‘best answer’ and you’ll get to Level 2 a lot quicker.
Just signing up to Scribd, the document sharing site, allows you to add a profile link (and there are plenty of other doc sharing sites – try DocStoc, Google Docs, MS Office Online, Gazhoo.com). As well as profile links, doc sharing sites often let you put links in your documents – okay, not great for SEO but great for driving traffic if you get a popular article (I released one on tips for taking your GCSE exams around exam time and I’ve been really happy with the number of views – it includes a little promotion and a lot of good content).
Wikipedia and Wiki sites
Wikipedia lets you have a user page where you can stick some no follow links. I’m told they will be deleted if they are viewed as spam – so interact with Wikipedia, add some value to the community and you’ll likely keep your user page complete with links which I have. Don’t add promotion-type links to Wikipedia’s pages themselves – they’ll be deleted as spam and you’ll lose your account with it, plus you just junk up what is a valuable resource for everyone else.
Since Google’s PANDA update, there’s been a lot of talk about article websites being of less value. This may be the case, but it’s hard to ignore that Ezine still has a PR of 6 and there are plenty of article websites that still have high PRs. Look at their traffic rank too.
To date, I’ve had 39,476 views on Ezine with 14,846 of those on a single article entitled ‘Separate Legal Personality of a Company’. Traffic from the 35 articles I have live (linking to various different sites) has been at around 600 visits a month although you can see from the graph below that this has decreased more recently. Even if my links are worth nothing, I’m happy with that stream of traffic for the little bit of effort I’ve put in, in creating the articles.
I’ve had my best results with article marketing using Ezine articles so far. Here’s a list of other article websites you can try, with ratings:
- Amazines Rating: 79/100
- Article Alley Rating: 71/100
- Articles Base Rating: 97/100
- Article Blast Rating: 72/100
- Article City Rating: 79/100
- Article Click Rating: 63/100
- Article Compilation Rating: 57/100
- Article Dashboard Rating:
- Article King Pro (Zimbio) Rating: 93/100
- Article Rich Rating: 70/100
- Article Sphere Rating: 60/100
- Best Management Articles Rating: 52/100
- Buzzle Rating: 87/100
- Ezine articles Rating: 95/100
- Go Articles Rating: 90/100
- Qwesz Rating: 50/100
- Xomba Rating: 65/100
Note the comments on Google’s Webmaster Blog about excessive article site links. Article sites should be just a part of your overall campaign.
TIP: If you already use article marketing, check back over your old articles and make sure all your resource links point to sites you’re actually promoting.
Social networking sites
There’s plenty of social sites where you can get a link – Facebook pages/groups, Bebo, MySpace – these sites often allow you a link back to your website. You can use a service like Onlywire to update them all at once.
Photo sharing sites often let you have a profile link too – do upload a few decent pics as a minimum to make your account worthwhile though.
Here’s a list of social and micro blogging sites with ratings:
- AOL lifestream Rating: 99/100
- Bebo Rating: 96/100
- Bentio Rating: 57/100
- Facebook Rating: 100/100
- Friendfeed Rating: 95/100
- Google+ Rating: 100/100
- Hi5 Rating: 89/100
- Identi.ca Rating: 93/100
- LinkedIn Rating: 100/100
- Multiply Rating: 88/100
- MySpace Rating: 100/100
- Netlog Rating: 84/100
- Newsvine Rating: 95/100
- Plurk Rating: 91/100
- Posterous Rating: 95/100
- Redgage Rating: 53/100
- Serpd Rating: 43/100
- Sonico Rating: 81/100
- Tagged Rating: 87/100
- Twitter Rating: 100/100
People often say forum links are low value. Sure, they can be – but I still see forum threads appearing high in Google’s search results for some topics. It’s like anything else – post up quality content – answers to questions, helpful information – and the thread may well get noticed.
There are two ways to get links in forums – the first is easy, sign up, create a profile and add your website link. It’s a little naughty but you can get stacks of links just doing this, albeit low value ones, without interacting in the forum itself, although if you never post up you sometimes see the account being deleted. Another thing to watch is that those profiles aren’t always visible if you’re not logged in, in which case they have no search engine value.
The second way is through signature links – you’ll often find restrictions on these, like you can’t have one until you’ve made 50 or so decent posts.
Don’t spam forums with links though – you’ll lose your account and lose all the links you’ve built on there with it.
You can get high value links posting comments on decent blogs. Again, don’t be tempted to spam them, it’ll just get removed. If you offer a sincere comment of value, it’s less likely to be deleted.
Industry specific sites
Search for industry-specific sites that allow you to register as most will let you pop a link in your profile! You can then of course create further links by submitting articles/press releases, contributing in the forum, and creating quality content just for them (guides, reviews, etc).
If you’re not already on Google+, get your business (or your client’s business) a page on there, along with the website link it gives you.
You’ll find plenty of these online – search for business associations in your local area that work to promote local businesses. They often let you have a listing, with a link back to your website. Some of these you have to pay for so consider the value of the site (link profile, traffic) before you shell out the annual membership.
FreeIndex and TouchLocal are two examples of business directories where you can have a link to your website. FreeIndex lets you build deep links to product landing pages which is handy. If you can get customers reviewing your site, you’ll get bumped up the listings. Yell also offers a listing with a website link.
There are thousands of other ‘business directories’ but these are frequently very low value. The links will be more valuable if they’re relevant to your business so search for terms like ‘keyword’ + ‘add URL’, ‘keyword’ + ‘add website’, and so on, to find relevant directories which will be worth more. Stay away from paid directories unless the payment is genuinely to consider to be included (not guaranteed) – Google’s advice is not to buy a link unless it’s no follow, and I’d stick to that.
Here’s a list of business directories – yes I’ve included the elusive Dmoz, although it’s unlikely you’ll get a link there nowadays:
- Business Directory UK Rating: 77/100
- Business Magnet Rating: 69/100
- Dmoz (good luck with this…) Rating: 99/100
- Free Index Rating: 86/100
- JoeAnt Rating: 69/100
- UK Small Business Directory Rating: 75/100
Lenses and hub sites
Squidoo still has an awesome domain authority and I’ve seen lenses we’ve created get very good rankings and decent traffic as a result. Build a decent quality lens and get people to ‘like’ it to get it climbing up the rankings. You can also use HTML to drop a website link into the profile section on the right hand side of every lens. Sadly, Squidoo have made sections of the lenses ‘no follow’ – but not all of them.
More and more sites like Squidoo are springing up all the time. Here’s a list of sites with ratings:
- Squidoo Rating: 96/100
- Hubpages Rating: 92/100
- Wikinut Rating: 49/100
- Wizzley Rating: 58/100
- Zujava Rating: 47/100
Once you’ve created your lens/wiki/etc you can give it a little boost by using these sites which are for linking to/bookmarking your lenses, hubs and wiki pages.
People like it when you review their products or services. If you write a good review about a product, service, article or website, there’s a good chance that the company/person will link to you. Don’t forget to let them know!
It’s great to get external feedback on your website and one way of doing this is through sponsored reviews. A review on a high profile website (sponsored or otherwise) can bring you recognition and traffic from both search engines and readers. Sponsored reviews, such as those offered by SponsoredReviews.com, are a bit of a grey area in SEO and if you want to go down this route, you’d do well to follow Google’s guidelines on paid links. If you pay someone to review your website, product or service, you can:
- Insist that they add rel=”nofollow” to any link they make to your site – instantly, this is okay with Google.
- Ask that any links are redirected to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file.
These measures are taken directly from Google’s webmaster guidelines. If you purchase reviews that include a link and these guidelines aren’t followed, you risk a penalty.
Create a good enough article or something valuable to people and they WILL link to it, saving you the trouble of running round searching for links yourself. Link bait can include videos, articles, games, scripts, widgets, free stuff like website templates and graphics. Try and keep what you’re giving away relevant to your website – for example, if you’re a coffee shop and you want to give away a website template with a link back to your site in the footer, at least make it a coffee themed template!
When it comes to creating content, you need to put stuff together that isn’t available elsewhere, or create a sort of ‘101’ that pools lots of ideas together (rather like this one!), giving due credit for any brilliant ideas you include that come from other people. Being provocative, controversial or a contrarian about a particular topic can also get you attention. Here’s 50 more ideas for content.
I’m not suggesting you create these just for links but if your business (or your client’s business) sells stuff on eBay, make sure you link back to your main website. The same goes for job advertisements and any other online advert. It all counts.
Running an affiliate program means not only do you get other people promoting your site for you but you also get affiliates linking to your site from theirs. Sometimes these have a value with link juice, not always – otherwise, they drive traffic to your site.
Some press release sites will allow you to pop links in your articles (although often you can’t specify the anchor text) – you usually have to pay to post a release or for an annual account. Some of these sites have a high PR – journalism.co.uk for example has a PR of 6. I’ve noticed Nexis news feed pick up content from Instablogs before (free to create an account and post) currently with a PR of 5. Other sites for submitting press releases include: http://wn.com/ and http://www.pressonshd.com. Here’s a list of rated sites:
- PR Log Rating: 91/100
- Digital Media Online Rating: 56/100
- Free Press Index Rating: 53/100
- E Boom News Rating: 48/100
- Thomas Net Rating: 88/100
- Press About Rating: 48/100
- PR GB Rating: 57/100
- PR Mac Rating: 63/100
- 1888 press release Rating: 78/100
- 24 7 press release Rating: 84/100
- Add PR Rating: 52/100
- Afly.com Rating: 43/100
- AFreeGo Rating: 58/100
- BetaNews Rating: 88/100
- CGI Dir Rating: 58/100
- ClickPress Rating: 63/100
- Directions Mag Rating: 80/100
- Download Junction Rating: 55/100
- File Cluster Rating: 65/100
- Free Press Release Rating: 46/100
- Free Press Release.com Rating: 85/100
- Free Press Release Distribution Rating: 54/100
- Free Press Releases (now paid!) Rating: 52/100
- I newswire Rating: 86/100
Don’t make the mistake of distributing the same news article all over the web as well as putting it on your client’s site. I’m currently looking after a client who does this (they simply don’t have the time or budget to rewrite) and their articles are ranked higher on other sites than the news section of their website. I worry that one day Google will give them a penalty for having duplicate content on their site – even though it’s actually theirs!
Although not strictly linking, bookmarks do draw attention to the content of your sites – getting Google and the other engines to index it quicker. It also has the potential to drive some nice traffic your way. Look out for those cheeky profile links – Clipmarks for example allow you to pop a link in your profile. Don’t spam – bookmark other sites too, or you may find your account is deleted. Here’s some to try: Stumbleupon, Digg, Reddit, Tagza, Bibsonomy, Buddymarks, Folkd, Mylinkvault, Jumptag, a1 webmarks, Delicious, Faves, Diigo, Clipmarks. I’ve had some fair traffic from Stumbleupon with 400 or so daily uniques from this source for some of our articles.
Here’s a list of bookmarking sites with ratings:
- A1 webmarks Rating: 66/100
- Bibsonomy Rating: 80/100
- Buddymarks Rating: 70/100
- Bumpzee Rating: 65/100
- Connotea Rating: 88/100
- Delicious Rating: 98/100
- Digg Rating: 100/100
- Diigo Rating: 97/100
- Faves Rating: 84/100
- Folkd Rating: 91/100
- Jumptags Rating: 82/100
- Kabdoodle Rating: 87/100
- Karmalynx Rating: 43/100
- LinkaGoGo Rating: 82/100
- Mister Wong Rating: 87/100
- My Link Vault Rating: 73/100
- Oyax Rating: 63/100
- Reddit Rating: 100/100
- StumbleUpon Rating: 100/100
- Tagza Rating: 75/100
If you can create even a single video, you can get links from all over the place including YouTube and Vimeo. You can make videos of your screen (for example to demo how software works) using free software like CamStudio if you don’t have a video camera. Mark your videos up using something like RDFa and use video sitemaps for extra exposure. Don’t forget to set up your profile links on any sites you submit your video to.
Some sites welcome guest posts as they benefit from fresh original content, and they allow you to add a link or two within the post or in an author box at the bottom. My favourite service is Blogger Link Up. Update: here’s a cool search tool from Paddy Moogan – just pop in a word (e.g. “travel”) and you’ll get a list of sites that are accepting guest posts. There’s about 1,500 in there to date! Brilliant.
If you have some great info – a popular article, an infographic – cut it up, create a presentation and submit it to slide share type sites. Here’s a list of 10 sites like Slideshare.net (and don’t forget to submit to Slideshare itself!). For each site check to see if you can also add a link to your profile when you register.
Create a smart infographic covering a recent topic within your industry and submit it to infographic sites. Here’s a huge list of infographic sites to try. As always, check when you register to see if you can also add a profile link. If you’re not great with graphics, go to Shutterstock and search for ‘infographic’. You’ll find loads of pre-made bits and bobs you can use to make yours pretty, mostly in vector format.
Create a Pinterest board around a recent subject related to your industry. You can pin:
- Videos – Youtube videos work well
- Audio – check out Soundcloud
Although not strictly links, these can drive traffic to your site. Provide useful and interesting information, and don’t forget to give your site a mention. Google ‘podcast directories’ for places to distribute, and don’t forget to fill out your profile with a website link when you register.
Here are some extra places you can get a link that didn’t fall into any of the above!
You may also like my article on ‘Link Building Post PANDA‘ for more ideas. Happy link building!
Jen Wiss is Angel's Inbound Marketing Consultant. Bringing over 10 years' experience in marketing to Angel, through the years she has helped hundreds of companies achieve the results they want. She is an all-rounder, assisting our clients with her design, SEO and consultancy skills.