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Link Building - Tips For Backlinks

Link Building 101 - The How To of “Self Service" Links

Links Diagrammed
3-ways (& Other Link Schemes)
Article Directories
Directory Listings
Press Releases
Link & Article Exchanges

If webmasters concentrated on building unique content that attracts links naturally, there might be no need for what I’ve come to call “self service” links – that is links that we create ourselves through such methods as off site blogging, article placement, press releases, and commenting on forums and blogs.

But we can’t always control the content of the sites we work on, and sometimes, finding ways to obtain backlinks means building content off site and linking back to our main site, hoping to drive traffic and increase the link popularity of a website.

Anatomy of a Backlink – Backlinks Defined and Examined

Backlinks – hyperlinks to your website from another website – are the backbone of the Internet and for many sites, a significant source of traffic beyond search traffic. Backlinks are also a large part of the way many search engines determine the importance and relevance of a web page. Starting with the search engine Inktomi, which may have been the first index to take link popularity into account, search engines have made link popularity an important factor in their algorithm.

Search engines take into account the content (relevance) and quality of the page linking to yours. The anchor text – that is, the words used to link to another page. Anchor text is often underlined or appears in a color different than the text to indicate the presence of a link. For example, a link to this page, link building 101, uses ‘link building 101’ as the anchor text. And search engines see that as an indication of the content of the page it links to.

Which Way Is The Backlink?

If you’ve been around SEO for a couple of days, you probably have heard of reciprocal links, one way links and three way links. Which way to turn?

One way links are the most valued. They are an indication that a webmaster has found content of such value on your site that they wanted to share it with others. In the simplest terms, another website is linking to yours and you have not linked back.

one way link

Reciprocal links – I scratch your back, you scratch mine. In this scheme, webmasters agree to trade links. When this is done between relevant sites, it is a useful practice. It can be a terrific source of targeted traffic if the sites are highly relevant. Reciprocal links no longer have the significant impact on SERPs they once had, but they are still valuable for SEO.

reciprocal link

Three-way and other dubious link schemes. In a 3 way link, Site A agrees to link to Site B, and Site C links “back” to Site A. This scheme is intended to give the search engines the impression of one-way links for each site. Does it work? There are plenty of people around to tell you how it worked – and to tell you how it resulted in problems when discovered by the search engines.

3 way link scheme

Watchword Number 1
– No matter what you do to create links, keep the user in mind. If the development of a backlink truly offers nothing to a human user, you are spamming. On the other hand if you are providing useful tools or content that have the added benefit of a positive SEO impact for your site, you will be within the search engine guidelines that define White Hat or Best SEO Practices.

Strategies for Off Site Development of Backlinks

Article Directories

Do you like to write? Article directories are a terrific way to add useful content to the web while obtaining a link or two back to your site. The best article directories have standards that ensure your articles are original and well written.

Of course, if it’s a well written article, chock full of information, you should probably consider posting it on your own site before you submit it elsewhere.

Writing articles for directories is more than just creating unique content. You need to have a grasp of SEO – for example, you need to have done your keyword research. And you need to know how to place those keywords within your article to maximize its SEO power.

Have you identified a really great long tailed term? Writing an article tailored to a long tailed keyword phrase can be a very effective way to tackle article directories.

These are a few of my favorite article directories.


Directories can be a good source of one-way links – and submissions to relevant directories should be part of your overall link strategy. Many directories require a reciprocal link. If they are highly relevant, and you feel you might get traffic from a listing, then by all means, trade links. But your focus in directory submission is probably better placed on those what offer a one-way link to your site. Some are free – such as and others, such as Yahoo, require a review fee.

You may be surprised to learn that when you pay for Yahoo to review your site, Google does not see this as a “paid link.” If the review fee is legitimate – that is your site is not guaranteed acceptance -- then it is not a ‘paid link.’

Press Releases

If you know how to write a press release, and you have truly newsworthy information to release, this is an excellent way to get both publicity and backlinks. But, in my opinion, it’s only worth the effort when there is a story to be told.

Forum Participation

I love forums. I love helping and I love demonstrating my grasp of a concept. I love learning – both from other members and from taking the time to look up an answer or substantiate a fact to help a newbie. I love being appreciated and I love the business that comes from establishing trust and credibility.

Forums can be a great source of quality, one-way links. But it takes a lot of links to really be effective. If you have the desire to give back through forum participation, you will get far more than links back. Find a forum that truly fits your niche and commit to giving some time to it every day.

Link Exchanges - Try Article Exchanges

Some years ago link exchanges were truly the ticket to the top of Google. Many webmasters set up directories to exchange links – what we pretty much now call link farms. Some stuck to exchanging with relevant sites and built a viable resource list (I know that’s what I tried to do) and others linked willy-nilly with anyone who would play.

I stopped this practice before link exchanges lost their luster in Google’s eyes when I noticed that most of the time my link disappeared from the other site sooner or later. Today I still get emails every day asking me to exchange links, though I have noticed that there is a decided decrease in the number in the few months, and I simply delete them without even looking. I see them as just one more piece of spam.

Would I ever exchange a link again? Sure I would. The site would need to be highly relevant site and I would probably want to know the webmaster. Given a strong level of relevance and trust, here’s how I would do it. I would ask them to give me a unique SEO tip for my tips page or an article (also unique and relevant, of course. In turn, I would generate some copy with a contextual link for their site. The key here is relevance and using contextual links. The old style of Title: Description clearly does look like a link farm. But an exchange of content, which contains a link, has value beyond SEO. It has value for the user and it provides a contextual link to both sites.

Think creatively with linking (within search engine guidelines, of course!) but above all, keep usability and relevance at the top of your list.

M.-J. Taylor

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