This is the fifth article in a series highlighting a 5-figure website flip. We’ve already reviewed buying aged domains, outsourcing web design and writing, getting repeat visitors, and conducting keyword research. This article covers link building (for SEO and traffic generation).
It’s often said that on the internet, content is king. I call BS. Links are king, and content is queen. A site with enough link equity can rank for competitive terms, even with pretty awful content — just look at Yahoo Answers. A site with well-placed links on heavily trafficked sites doesn’t even NEED search traffic — it gets flooded with referrals. He who has the most (and best quality) links wins.
The importance of a strong link profile is one of the reasons I decided to buy an aged domain (with high PR). Buying an existing website means you get to start with momentum — you don’t have to overcome the inertia of a brand new domain. You inherit goodwill from the search engines and any existing referral traffic. It also provides enhanced leverage when you start to implement some link-building strategies.
Two Types of Links
Link building can be broken down into 2 main categories: link placement and link enticement. With link placement, you are actively adding links back to your own website. Examples of link placement include:
- Article directories
- Link directories
- Blog comments
- Other sites you own
- Social bookmarking sites
- User generated content sites (Squidoo, Hubpages, etc).
- Guest posts on other sites
Most of these tactics are low value, so I either ignored them or did the absolute minimum necessary to get by (a few key directory submissions). The higher-value exceptions, as I see them, are guest posting and blog commenting (when done right).
Blog Commenting for SEO
I identified a few key blogs in my niche that were either dofollow (their links pass a search benefit) or they had the top commentators plugin installed (with dofollow on the top commentator list). You can easily identify these types of sites in your niche by searching for terms like:
parenting “top commentators”
I made sure to comment frequently on these sites, so that I would get a followed site-wide link. If you employ this link-building strategy, you must offer value with your comments. The last thing you want is to be seen as a comment spammer.
Blog Commenting for Traffic
I also targeted some related blogs to try to pull traffic. My thought process was that by adding insightful comments to other sites, readers may be interested in seeing what I have to say on my own blog. More importantly, by contributing valuable content as comments to other blogs, those blog owners might decide to link back to me — either in their blogroll or in an upcoming post. The key to this tactic is to leave really great comments.
This is a relationship building technique that can pay big dividends. In my case, it was a contributing factor to getting invited to a blog network that became a good source of inbound links and traffic.
Guest posting is the best form of link placement there is — you get a quality one-way link in the body of an article that you create. You know the content is good and relevant to your topic. You know the blog you post on has a strong link profile and gets traffic. When done well, it’s a positive both for SEO and traffic generation, as you introduce your website to a whole new audience.
Guest posting also can form the initial basis for an on-going relationship with a partner site. If you guest post a few times at a large site, you may find yourself linked to more frequently in round-ups, referenced in another post, or included in a blogroll.
The challenge with guest posting is that you have to make sure your site is setup well to receive this influx of new visitors. I didn’t start guest posting immediately when launching Better Parenting because I didn’t want new visitors to arrive at a largely blank site. After publishing around 60 articles, I felt that the site was getting sufficiently impressive that new users might decide to stick around (bookmark the site, subscribe to RSS, etc).
This is when I started to make a target list of sites on which to guest post. I decided to sell Better Parenting before getting aggressive about guest posting (the site had enough other stuff going well for it to sell for a decent sum), but this strategy would have generated a significant amount of additional traffic.
Link Exchange (Enhanced)
Link exchanges have been around since the start of the internet — you link to me and I’ll link back. While the SEO benefit has been minimized over time, and the value of these links is less than one-way links, exchanges with like-minded sites can still prove helpful.
I did a few standard link exchanges, but those were insignificant compared to what I call an enhanced link exchange — a blog network or affiliation.
To a lot of people “blog network” implies combined advertising and shared revenue. That’s not the kind of network, I’m talking about. I’m referencing a looser affiliation of sites, where you agree to promote each others best work.
I hooked up with a few other blogs in related fields (marriage, finances, lifestyle tips, and a mom blogger). We all added each other to our blogrolls and once a week we highlighted the top post on each site throughout the network. This allowed us all to build deep links — links that point to interior pages, not just the home page. It also enabled traffic sharing: visitors of one site became readers of several.
We also assisted each other with social bookmarking on posts that we thought could go viral. The bottom line is that it helps to have friends online… and you don’t need to do much more than ask to make it happen.
Other Ways to Build Links
In the next article, I’ll delve into link enticement, which yielded a great return for me in my website launch. Until then, I’d love to hear from you — what other link placement techniques have you successfully utilized. How have you been able to streamline the often tedious process of placing links?
P.S. — If you don’t want to miss any of the articles in this series, be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed.