September 14, 2009
On a number of occassions, I have spoken to or read in online forums, people that have built a website or blog and want to build some links but find that just ‘impossible’. They don’t know where to start or where to look, but at least recognise that the structure of the web means that inbound links are vital.
This post will be long, but will detail some of the easiest ways to build incoming links. It ought to be pointed out that in the Web 2.0 world, building incoming links is just so easy as to be untrue.
It is worth pointing out that little can be gained in the medium to long-term by spamming social sites. Many of the sites listed below are ‘social’ which means that users need to become a part of a community, vote, make friends and be involved to succeed. As you might imagine, this takes time and effort which is why many people simply establish a profile, build one link and then leave. Guess what? These sites and the search engines will discount much of this as spam. So please try not to do it.
Building social links gives you the chance to deep link to individual pages rather than only linking to a homepage and to use relevant anchor text to make Google love your pages even more.
Here we go…
Content Discovery Sites
In a category all of it’s own is StumbleUpon. With a community of 8 million and growing, it has the potential to deliver a lot of traffic to your online property. Members add the StumbleUpon toolbar which gives them the chance to vote – positively and negatively – on every web page that they visit. In this regard, the site is similar to many social bookmarking sites.
As pages become more popular, they are served to members that wish to simply see new things. By clicking on ‘Stumble!’, users are served page after page that other members have voted for. As you vote for more pages, those that are served become more and more targeted to your previous likes.
I know a number of people that can happily spend an entire evening viewing new ‘surpises’ online.
It is worth pointing out that SU has an audience that is very North American. Very. They also have a tendancy to either stay for a long time or bounce away immediately. This means that they can be either great or terrible traffic for your site, depending upon your target audience.
Content Sharing Sites
Have you always wanted to become an online publisher but didn’t want the effort of building a website? Then these sites are for you…
Squidoo and HubPages both allow users to build content pages around subjects and keywords that they are interested in. Once built, Google AdSense can even be added so that the content provider has the chance to earn an income from the page. I know of some online marketers that use these pages to build product reviews and affiliate links!
To have a chance of listing in the search engines, these pages need to be about relatively unusual topics and have unique content. They also need other inbound links pointing to them.
Both sites use ‘drag and drop’ technology which means that to build a reasonable looking page you only need to be able to use a mouse competently. Personal experience suggests that the first page will take around an hour to build but from there they should become progressively easier.
The community aspect of these sites is a little less prevalent than may be the case elsewhere, but each page should only really have one outgoing link. RSS feeds can be added to these pages.
Another similar site is Wetpaint. At Wetpaint you can build and will probably find it easier to add pictures (with links – read affiliate links).
There are a great number of wikis in existence now. Since the technology is both open souce and user friendly, there are countless numbers wikis on small and very focused topics. The biggest and best known is, of course, Wikipedia. Anyone can add a link to Wikipedia but unless the link adds genuine value to a page and points to a genuinely valuable page on an authority site, it is likely to be deleted by other Wikipedia users and editors. But if you have super content and a super page on an authority site, then these are powerful traffic generating links.
If you feel that you have specialised knowledge that you would like to share, wikiHow might be a nice location to build a page. The page needs to descibe in easy steps ‘How’ to do something. The community is moderated quite heavily and they can be a little heavy handed for my own tastes. I say this with a few sour-grapes. A couple of years ago I had not one but two (!!) pages reach their homepage for a day. That ought to mean huge numbers of clickthroughs and visits to my site. Alas, they stripped out my links before hand. Fame but no fortune for me… So I am now on permanent strike!
However, if your topic is readable but not necessarily a big winner with ‘mass’ appeal, it may be possible to retain an incoming link that generates some traffic each month. I have a number of these still ‘working’ for me and they generate around 30-40 visitors each month. Not much, but something.
These days, lots of sites have sections that enable users to ask questions and for other users to answer them. LinkedIn is a great example of a professional version. But the king of ‘answers’ is on Yahoo! where just about every question under the sun is being asked by someone. My own thoughts are that these types of services are something of a waste of time and effort – I don’t like to waste time… But if you are hoping to find out what your market is interested in, simply hang out in Yahoo! Answers for a few hours and see the types of questions people are asking about your subject and the most commonly asked. The role of every entrepreneur is to “find a need and fill it” and this is a great way of finding needs.
When answering a question, you can link to a page that is a ‘source’. Of course, this page might be your own. These links will bring some direct traffic, but they are ‘no-follow’ so no PageRank will accompany that traffic.
For me, I’d rather build a solid link once rather than have to keep returning to build more links every week to maintain my traffic levels. This is the online marketing equivalent of the hamster wheel. Why do it? We all go onto the web to build passive income, not a different job to the one we already have, and especially not one answering poorly written questions from teenagers in India!!
When posting on social networks – sites such as Facebook and MySpace – it can be difficult to avoid being spammy. The only real way to add your links to such a site is by building your own page or group. Contributing to other groups and pages with two sentences and adding a link is – and should remain – a real no-no. Don’t do it.
But building and promoting your own page or group takes time, effort and commitment. If you are hoping for a ‘quick win’ move on.
That said, if you hope to build incoming traffic into a site, it can be well worth the effort. The numbers of people now using internal searches to look for brands, companies and organisations is increasing dramatically. If you plan to move into the world of Facebook promotions, my best advice would be to visit Mashable and have a good read of their many tips and suggestions.
Since I started using the blogging tools on MySpace around two and a half years ago, their outbound linking policy has changed – dramatically for the worse – for marketers. I would suggest that unless you really desire an American audience under the age of 30 and are willing to put in a lot of work, your time could be used better than investing it in MySpace.
If you plan to use Facebook and perhaps LinkedIn as well, be sure to investigate their apps for enhanced functionality or to automate your work. For example, it is possible to import blog posts and tweets to your profile or page.
It is worth pointing out that Facebook is now the largest photo sharing site online, and has 250 million subscribed users – and counting. This means that the potential for traffic generation to an external site is huge.
However, the potential to make a complete mess of things is pretty big as well. Brand management in the social space is not an easy thing. Companies need to be able to let their subscribers and users contribute and take the bad with the good. Control should not be the goal. For this reason, there are a number of organisations that outsource their social profiles – the building and the management – to people more versed in and involved in the Web 2.0 world than their own staff.
Social News Sites
If your content is super-strong, or American focused, or technology related, the world of social news sites may be a way to build incoming links and traffic. The biggest of these sites – Digg.com – receives massive numbers of visitors each month – in the tens of millions. There are a handful of big social news sites, but many in smaller and more focused niches. If your content is say investment, or internet marketing or sport related, there is almost certainly a focused place for you.
As with all other sites, it is recommended to make a few friends and vote for other stories you like – become a user – before you submit anything of your own. Most stories and pages will never get a vote other than the one you provide, so to give yourself a better chance, you need to build a profile that some other people follow and respect. Then others may vote for your content. Otherwise, good luck…
Other sites that do some similar things are Blog Aggregators. There are also plenty of these floating around. Good examples of broad sites are Wikio and Blogs.com. On a more subject focused approach are sites such as Bloggingportal.eu.
Getting your content listed in these means that either you have stand-out incredible work, or you asked. Don’t be afraid to ask…
Unless you have been living in a cave, you must know that the Web 2.0 world – and actually most of the online world – is now dominated by blogs. Do you have a blog? If you are doing any sort of online promotion, publicity or marketing, you have to have a blog. You do have a blog, don’t you?
As you might imagine, for someone whose profession is Director of a blog platform, I have some blogging experience. No, I don’t just write this one…
In my experience, if you build identical content and incoming links, your WordPress blog will outrank both a blogger and a typepad blog. And this is before the optimisation starts – and with thousands of plugins and widgets available, WordPress is super-easy to super-charge.
For example, you can use it to build little sites of a few pages that are mega-targeted at just one keyword, like this stock trading signals site, or huge platforms with the multi-user version, like Blogactiv.
A great way to build strong incoming links to your site is by pointing in links from lots of blog posts on various platforms. eBay, MySpace, Facebook, BlogHi, Xanga, LiveJournal and literally hundreds of others can host your content and let you link back. Here’s a hint – use real content! These places are just overrun with marketers that are spamming them aggressively, so they do their best to remove the spam. Therefore, build the blog, add a post about your subject and don’t link to anything. Then add at least a second post without links. In my experience, this is more likely to make the blog ‘stick’.
A medium-term strategy of satellite blogging to build deep links will do any website a power of good in the search engines. Trust me 😉 The real trick, however, isn’t to build links and hope that they build traffic from Google etc, the real game is in building links with the same focus of any other webpage and having the link bring incoming traffic. If you get this right, Google will love your pages even more!
Some sites are much more valuable for this type of thing than others. I’m not going to give my suggestions here, but if you ask me in person, I’ll be happy to share my preferences.
For a while, leaving comments on the blogs of others, with a link pointing to your own site or blog was a big game. As ever online, it became the home of every spam going very quickly. As an antidote, Google introduced ‘no-follow’ tags which mean that comment posting became almost valueless overnight. To my mind, this – when combined with the effort involved – means that comment posting isn’t a particularly good strategy for building links. For my money, I’d follow other methods here before worrying about blog comments.
Bookmarking started as a way to have a web based location for the favourite pages of an individual. If you take a look in your browser for ‘bookmarks’, you will quickly get the idea. Social bookmarking is simply taking that idea to the logical next step of hosting them remotely.
As a linking strategy, social bookmarking started to take off when internet marketers noticed that Google seemed to give greater respect to sites with bookmarks, and to give high Page Rank values to the bookmarking sites themselves. As ever, as if by magic, bookmarking tools and tricks were uncovered and established.
Now, just a couple of years later, any website or blog that does not have a social bookmarking strategy – or incoming links – is at a serious disadvantage. Why? Simply because every other successful site online is using them!
If you want to automate some of your bookmarking needs, a free tool is OnlyWire. I’m not sure I can actually recommend this myself though. The last time I used it, I was frustrated and it caused me to look for a paid tool which I now use. Bookmark Generation is a much more sophisticated tool – and much more expensive than free – but if you have big plans online, it is actually a very useful time saver. Personally, I don’t think about ROI. I want to rank at number 1 and 2 for my preferred keywords and if that happens, the tools will almost certainly be worth the money…
If you are a really agressive marketer or have a lot of online property in one niche, you might consider establishing your own social bookmarking site! This allows you to build all the links you want and stop other marketers from spamming it – thus (hopefully) maintaining the integrity of the site. Scuttle is an Open Source solution that can be built for surprisingly low cost. Unlike almost everything else on this page, I have never tried this so please let me know how you get on if you do.
A little like social bookmarking is the opportunity to use Web 2.0 properties to build profiles with incoming links. The best example online – and effectively the strongest bookmarks that you can build – is of course operated by Google and is available to anyone with a Gmail account. Once you have logged in, simply build links to pages you like. YES – that means that you can build deep links with anchor text to your pages from Google. If this isn’t the best thing online, I don’t know what is!
My suggestion would be to build only a few links from your Google profile? Why? Well if you want, it appears that you can build as many as you like, but profiles that look spammy and list 47 addresses on one site will be quickly discounted by the search engines. Me? I’d rather have three super-strong links that count than hundreds of links that are ignored. At the time of writing, the possibility of building your own links from Google seems to be very little known, so those that build a few in the early days will have a big advantage over all the spammers that follow in 12-18 months time when everyone in Internet Marketing knows about it. Shhhhhh!
It is possible to do something similar on Yahoo!. This works a little differently in that links are built to other properties such as YouTube and Twitter, but if you have a profile and want to promote yourself elsewhere, you can build incoming links from Yahoo! Needless to say, you need to have a Yahoo! account.
So far, I have been unable to find similar options on MSN. Anyone know how to do this?
What To Do Now?
General consensus in the Internet Marketing community is that there are three sites on which every website should be promoting themselves. In no particular order these are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Needless to say, each site requires a different strategy and a different type of communication – this is why you need to be on all three – so you can reach different types of people in your market in their own environments. I didn’t say this would be easy!!
If you don’t know where to promote your site or business from here and after all of the above, then you need specialist help!Author : Stuart Langridge