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4 Outside-the-Box Link Building Tactics

by Brian Dean
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This is a guest post by Brian Dean from Backlinko.

If you’re like most SEOs, you’re as confused as the cast of Jersey Shore at a TED Talk…

…because it seems that the second you master a new link building strategy, Google cracks down on it.

In fact, there’s a lot of buzz that guest posting (guest posting!) may be the target of a future Google update.

It can leave you wanting to scream: “what’s left!?“.

Fortunately, there’s still a handful of powerful link building strategies that still work over the long-term.

And as someone that’s tried them, I can tell you that they blow most old-school link building techniques — like article marketing and press releases — out of the water.

Strategy #1: Build a White Hat Blog Network

In my experience, a private, niche-focused blog network is one of the most effective link building strategies on the planet.

But if multiple registrars and fistfuls of class-C IPs make your head spin, why not build a white hat network instead?

In fact, this is something that even big brands like American Express dabble in. They created their small business information site, Openforum.com, to funnel traffic and links to their official site:

Open Forum

Think of how you could take one piece of your business — like drywall tips, Twitter marketing or vegan recipes — and build a mini-site around that subject. When the site builds a bit of trust and authority, start dropping links to your site.

If you’re knee-deep in the SEO field, you may have seen TheShortCutts.com. It’s a site that breaks down Matt Cutts’ often cryptic Webmaster Help videos into takeaway points. This site links to Click Consult, an SEO firm.

Even though it’s just a few weeks old, TheShortCutts.com boasts these impressive metrics:

Short Cutts Metrics

Why does this work so well?

For some reason, people are slightly more apt to link to a tightly-focused site with a single tool or feature than a page on a larger site.

Strategy #2: Infographic Egobait

Infographics and egobait are two of the most effective backlink strategies around.

But when you put them together…

POW! You get a doubly powerful strategy.

Using Infographic Egobait I was able to get my precious metal client dozens of backlinks from authorities in the investing niche, like ZeroHedge.com and Mining.com. And these authority sites push the infographic into the viral stratosphere:

viral infographic

Here’s how to do it:

1. Create an infographic like you normally would: find a hot topic in your niche, collect interesting data, and hire a pro designer to make something eye-catching.

2. Here’s the twist that makes this technique so powerful:

You know that references section you put at the bottom of infographics, right?

Infographic references

Instead of referencing random .edu and news sites, reference authority sites in your niche.

3. Once your infographic is published, reach out to those authority site owners using this tested email template:

Subject: I Heart (Their Site)

Hey (Name),

First off, I want to say that I’m a huge fan of (Their Site).

I love your stuff so much that I recently referenced (Their Site) in my latest infographic: (Infographic Title).

You can check it out here (Infographic URL).

I’m just sending you a message to give you a heads up.

I’d be tickled pink if you share the infographic with your readers.

Either way, I’ll see you at (Their Site).

Thanks!

(Your Name)

Like anything in link building, infographic egobait is a number’s game. The more sites you reference and email, the more links you’ll get.

Strategy #3: WordPress Plugin Directory

You probably already know that you can get links by creating a WordPress plugin or theme that automatically drops a link on the user’s site. But that strategy is a bit shady for my liking.

Either way, I’m talking about something way better: getting a dofollow link from one of the most trusted authorities online, WordPress.org.

And you can do it by simply by submitting a unique, functional plugin to their plugin directory.

While outbound links in the plugin description area are nofollow:

Nofollow Links

The link to the contributor’s page is dofollow:

Dofollow WordPress

If you’re hopeless at coding (like me) you can hire someone on Elance or Odesk to make a unique plugin. The WordPress directory mods are a bit stricter than they used to be about accepting plugins, so be sure that your plugin brings something new to the table (in other words, don’t submit another social sharing plugin).

As long as it’s unique and functional, you’ll be OK.

Bonus tip: Re-code the plugin as a Joomla Extension or Drupal Module…which will land you links from two more PR9 domains!

Strategy #4: Send Bloggers Something Cool

You may already know that you can get some top-notch links by sending your product to top bloggers in your niche for free.

Even if don’t have a product or service to sell you can (ethically) bribe site owners for links.

How?

With free stuff!

I’m not talking a .pdf download or membership area login information.

I mean send them an actual, physical item.

It can be in the form of a branded water bottle, a hoodie, or a t-shirt.

In fact, startup Shareaholic goes as far to send t-shirts to bloggers that mention their product:

Shareaholic

Imagine how much you’ll stand out from the masses when you send them a handwritten “thank you” letter…along with some free stuff.

Think of some ways you could do this for your own site (if you do client work for a big brand then you probably already have tons of free T-shirts lying around).

Bonus Tip: Give out free stuff at Tomoson.com. There are a ton of Mommy bloggers there that gladly trade free stuff for backlinks.

Final note from Jon: Thanks so much Brian for contributing! For everyone else, f you’re looking to take things further, check out my link building course.

This post was written by...

Brian Dean – who has written 1 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Brian Dean is the link building obsessed owner of Backlinko.com. When he's not building links for his sites, he's....building links for his client's sites. You can also follow him on Twitter for the latest SEO news and tips.

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20 Comments
  1. Joe Robison says:

    On strategy #1, where do you draw the line between the old school method of building up a bunch of blogs to link to your main site, and what you’re recommending. Is it simply build one really good, high quality site that can stand on it’s own and link to your own site from it, then move on to the next one?

    • Brian Dean says:

      Great question, Joe. It’s really, really hard to say where to put that line. I’d think that what you said: “a high quality site that can stand on it’s own” is a good litmus test to go by. It’s similar to the white hat vs. black hat debate: there’s no good line between white hat or what’s black hat, but you tend to know it when you see it.

    • Jon Cooper says:

      You can also draw the line by whether you publicly show that it’s associated with your main company/site. Black hats hide it, white hats embrace it.

      • This. I hate to steal someone else’s acronym, but you know you’re on the right track as long as you’re doing #RCS. The Amex analogy was a great example: They’re not building secret link blogs for every color of card they offer. Their SMB niche is huge and needed to be addressed by a standalone site.

        • Brian Dean says:

          You’re right: this is RCS at it’s finest (you know you’re doing RCS when you use the same strategies as a Fortune 500!).

  2. Rob Stone says:

    Just found this via your Twitter Brian, fantastic ideas

  3. Marie Haynes says:

    I really like the idea of quoting other sites in your infographic as a form of ego-bait. That’s a good idea.

    The mommy blog idea, however, is against Google’s Quality Guidelines. The Guidelines say, in regards to link schemes, “Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link”

    I’m sure if you do one or two of these it won’t get you penalized. I’m currently working with a site who has received an unnatural links penalty because of this type of linking done on a larger scale.

    • Brian Dean says:

      Good point about bribing Mommy bloggers, Marie. I’m not technically exchanging a product for a link (it’s for a review). But in reality we both know it’s done for links. So you’re right: it definitely violates the spirit of the Webmaster Guidelines.

  4. Thank you for the tactics Brian! This is the kind of info that I’d like to be aware of. Love to read more of your blogs!

  5. Sandeep says:

    Thanks ! Great post ! Surely gonna use it for my deal based company. :) Waiting for new posts !

  6. Danny Howard says:

    Thanks for sharing these Strategies Brian, much appreciated.

    I used the first strategy for our client, we bought an expired old domain, with no previous penalties, completely healthy profile. And for every 5 articles we create we drop a link back to there website, and it works so well and looks natural.

    Some great ideas for link building, thanks alot.

    Cheers

    Danny Howard

    • Brian Dean says:

      My pleasure, Danny. I’ve also been dabbling more into white hat blog network link building, including hiring freelance writers with G+ verified authorship, active social media profiles, and good content. You’re 100% right: it works.

  7. Jeff Foster says:

    HI Brian,

    Thanks for giving a ‘bonus tip’ and a shout out to us over at Tomoson. We are integrating SEOMOZ data to our next software update so you can actually track every link generated by sending out a product.

  8. fablab says:

    I have a great tutorial on how to do advanced and sustainable linking in using SENukeX, and also how to use SENukeX to the maximum with advanced campaign templating. http://wp.me/p3gspT-9g

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