How To Build Links

  • 1
  • June 9, 2008
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

Since I published the How to Build a $1 Million Site in 4 Months article we have had a number of emails and comments wanting to know exactly how to build the sort of links that really help with search engine rankings.

In the past thousands of people have published articles on linkbuilding and I haven’t read one that really stands out. At Branded3 we do things a bit differently to most SEO companies and linkbuilding is no exception.

The sort of links we build are not only links that Google loves but links that Google loves to love. They are links that Matt Cutts would place a big red tick next to if he was our teacher.

Added Value

E-commerce sites are always hard to linkbuild for because most of them have done the bare minimum of uploading their products into some shopping cart software and paying for a nice design. In order to make our linkbuilding campaign efficient we need to add some value to the site.

Here are the best ways to add value:

  • Write lengthy unique product descriptions
  • Use high quality product images & let people zoom in
  • Add tutorials
  • Create a blog on the site
  • Add things like suppliers directories

Competitor Analysis

The first task when building links is to replicate the best links that your competitors have. To do this we make a list of the top 20 competing websites and use Yahoo Site Explorer to find the first 1000 links to each of those sites.

Next we need to manually evaluate all 20,000 of these links and ask ourselves three questions:

  1. Is this link high quality?
  2. Can we get a link from this page too?
  3. Can we replicate this link in some other way?

The aim is to build a master list of link targets – places that link to our competitors already and might be persuaded to link to our site too.

By evaluating the links using the questions above we can eliminate the links we don’t want and the links we can’t get and the ones that are left go into our list of link targets.

For example we might find a link that was from a scraper site and decide that it was low quality so we can safely ignore that. Another link might come from our competitors own network so it would be impossible for us to get a link from that site.

Sometimes we might see that a big blog has written about our competitor, if this happens it is usually impossible to get a link from the same page but you can replicate the link by getting another blog to write the same story but about your site instead. For example if you sell really cool kettles you might find that Gizmodo wrote about your competitors cool kettle last year but that Engadget has yet to cover it. A quick email to Engadget might get you a killer link.

Once we have our list of link targets the next step is to figure out ways to get links from them. This process will be different for every site and there is no secret – just email, phone or write to them until you speak to the right person.

Links From Blogs

One of the best sources of links is from blogs. Blogs are frequently updated with topical news stories and there are millions of them to choose from so getting links this way is quite straightforward.

The key is to make sure the blog post looks 100% natural. Millions of free links are given out each month by bloggers and making your unnatural links blend into these is the holy grail of linkbuilding.

Widgets, Sponsored Themes & Other Risky Links

Building links from widgets and sponsored blog themes can take your linkbuilding into a grey area unless you take some precautions. The key is to firstly try to make the links look as un-spammy as possible and secondly to make sure you have an escape strategy to burn the links if they get out of control.

  • Never use keywords in the anchor text of the links
  • Always point the links to an internal page so you can block with robots.txt
  • Never use hidden links
  • Links from widgets should point at the widgets homepage not a commercial page


Submitting a site to directories is a good way to show Google your site is reputable. Very few low quality sites have the money to invest in paid directory submissions. Launching a new site usually requires submission to at least the sites below:

This isn’t rocket science but how many sites spend thousands on design and then think twice about $1000 on getting some nice links in the first week.


You are probably thinking that all the methods above are quite straightforward and easy (although a bit labour intensive) and you would be right. Once you have got all the links your competitors have, submitted to the best directories and got loads of links from blogs what do you do next?

The next part is the hard part – building the sort of links that none of your competitors have. Thinking of an amazing new idea that will get you mind blowing links for years to come.

There really is no way to write this down in a blog post because it takes months of planning for each client and each project. The reason these links work so well is that they are so amazingly hard to get that Google just has to love them.