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What type of links should we be getting?

by Jon Cooper
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In the wake of Penguin, I’ve been getting asked this question A LOT. I think it’s finally time for my answer.

Penguin has changed everything – oh wait, no it hasn’t. All it did was penalize those for doing what they knew was wrong, but the only difference is that Google actually followed through with some of their threats on bad links.

So what SHOULD we be doing? We know what links we SHOULDN’T be pursuing, so it’s finally time to break down the links that you can get. 

Non keyword rich anchor text for mid to low quality links

I’m not talking about an Xrumer blast, but for the lower quality links you can get, never go for anchor text. That era is over (see image above). Here are a few examples:

Directory links (Give me a minute before you bust my chops)

If you’re still going for directory links solely so you can get anchor text, then stop. Your goal for directories (stick to higher quality & niche related though) should be 1st to make sure they get accepted into the directory and 2nd that you can get branded anchor text, never keyword rich. You can get those elsewhere.

Dofollow blog comments

In limited numbers they work, and they work great, but once again, don’t go for exact anchors. Always use your name, because not only will they have a higher chance of getting accepted, but it’ll help diversify your anchor distribution.

Tumblr

You know you can still get easy followed links from Tumblr, right? I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, so go check out this video by Ana Hoffman (scroll down a little bit). To clarify: just use your name. I know you can get anchor text, but don’t (if you HAVE to, do partial). Also, don’t abuse this. You’re ratio of total links to linking root domains will start to look very unnatural very quick if you start getting a ton of these each day.

Easy content-led links

You hear a lot about content-based link building strategies, and a lot of them are vague and hard to actually put into play (not to mention completely hit or miss), so here’s a quick list of actionable content-based link building tips.

Research FAQs, build content around it, set up alerts, reference it when you enter the conversation

This one’s a little old in my book, but create content around certain questions that get asked a lot in your niche, create a thorough post on the topic, then set up Alerts so when it’s mentioned, you can swoop in & answer, as well as referencing your post either in the middle of your response or as a source at the end (i.e. Yahoo! Answers makes you cite the source at the end). They might be nofollow links in some cases, but seeing as they shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to get each time, they’re worth it IMO.

Target natural linkers, build content that they share

Here’s the process for this strategy:

  • Identify those in your niche, or those in similar niches, that frequently link out freely.
  • Sort them by influence (for obvious reasons)
  • Build content around the topics that they most frequently share
  • Reach out to them via social channels or email (they’ll do the rest)

An easy identifier of those who link out freely are the ones who do weekly or monthly link roundup posts.

Also, I recommend (as you probably already know) to make sure you’re not just sending over a cold call email when you suggest the content. Make sure you develop those relationships, then start recommending that content. Sure, it might take a month or so, but if you do it right, you’ll be able to tap into these linkers time & time again.

Mega Broken Link Building

I call this “mega” because if done correctly, you might never run out of opportunities (depending on the size of your niche). Here we go:

  • Start with a list of 25 or so related blogs
  • Input them all into Screaming Frog, Xenu, or the IMJ Crawler (my new favorite)
  • Build a spreadsheet of all the broken links you find on those blogs (depending on the tool, you can segment & export)
  • Use the OSE API to sort the list of broken links by LRDs or Page Authority (to help find most linked to content)

You now have a sortable list of previously linked to content that no longer exists. The top of your list of broken links should have a few highly linked to pieces of content, so use the Wayback machine to find what was there, recreate it (but make it even better; even add other types of media like images, video, audio, etc), then reach out to everyone linking to the broken resource and ask for them to replace the old one with a link to you.

You can also do this for links pages:

  • Find 40-50 links pages
  • Find broken links using Check My Links or DHP
  • Copy & paste the broken URLs into a spreadsheet
  • Use the OSE API to sort them

Seeing as it was a links page, they’re probably broken homepages, so start out at the top of the list and go down until you find a website that’s completely broken. Put them into OSE and find their Top Pages, then recreate that content & reach out to the old linkers to replace it with a link to your new content.

Existing Opportunities

Reclaiming Twitter Mentions

If someone ever links to your Twitter page (i.e. twitter.com/pointblankseo), then do what I did here by creating a page on your site for your Twitter account, then reach out to them and ask if they could switch out the Twitter.com link with one to the page you just created. Can’t remember where I heard this, but it’s genius.

You can also do this with any other accounts you have online. Sure, they might not have a widget that Twitter has that makes it a quick & easy set up, but get creative (i.e. if they link to you in a forum, create a page on your site all about your activity and accomplishments on it, as well as a link at the top of the page to your account).

Brand Mentions

I know most of you’ve heard it before, but because it’s a quick set up & they’re practically free links, I’m hoping one person hears this for the first time:

  • Set up Google Alerts for your brand name
  • When it gets mentioned without a link to you, reach out to the webmaster/blogger and ask if they could please link

Super simple & super actionable.

Conclusion

I might have repurposed a lot of these strategies from past posts, but the point is that there are tons of ways to build links that are still OK in Google’s eyes, so if you stock up on these, you’ll never have to worry about algorithm updates again (actually, you’ll start looking forward to them!).

[Image credit]

This post was written by...

Jon Cooper – who has written 122 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Jon Cooper+ is an SEO consultant based out of Gainesville, FL who specializes in link building. For more information on him and Point Blank SEO, visit the about page. Follow him on Twitter.

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32 Comments
  1. Marie Haynes says:

    Once again, really great stuff Jon! Thank you!

  2. Excellent advice Jon. I especially like your reminder to develop a relationship first and then start to ask for links. It easy to get in a link building zone sometimes and push too hard too soon, forgetting that without the relationship you’re little more than a beggar…and nobody likes a beggar.

  3. Just brilliant. I will try this with the broken Link Checker. I am really thankful because I could never figure out how I could get high quality links.

  4. Takeshi says:

    A lot of great ideas in there. Thanks!

  5. Vince Lin says:

    Shady or genius? Not sure which one wins. Broken links strategy seems cheap to the people that haven’t fixed them yet.

  6. Takeshi says:

    Been having a lot of fun with the broken links tool over the past few hours. I was wondering, why don’t you just register the old domain rather than contacting the website and asking them to replace the link?

  7. Kevin says:

    Justin

    Another brilliant article, I like the idea of finding old broken content and re-creating it. This is a brilliant idea.

  8. Hey Jon,
    Thanx for the nice article, this is what i am looking for.
    very helpful links on Link Strategies
    and statistics of Percentage on Inbound Links

  9. Nirav Barot says:

    Brilliant article Jon and great research..

    What i understand through out the updates till the date is…
    We all SEOs are newly born and our so called father is Google with mother Penguin ;-P…

  10. Instant win.

    No other comment needed.

  11. Patrick says:

    Mega Broken Link Building, talk about Genius! Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Amazing tips.

  12. Isaac says:

    This is a great post, Super helpfull. I will have to second the recommendation of using yahoo answer for link building.

    at the moment I’m building up a new site with only this and social media and seeing great rankings in return. I have to say social is a must if you’re not doing it, even if you don’t know how to use social just use it as an rss feed for some of your content and move from there.

    Again great post.

  13. Sameer Khan says:

    I am very glad to read this one. Nice stuff to get a natural links.

  14. Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as
    I provide credit and sources back to your webpage? My blog site is in the exact same
    niche as yours and my users would genuinely benefit from a lot
    of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this ok with you.
    Cheers!

  15. Ben says:

    SEO MOZ mentioned that the Penguin update looks down on even very gray hat SEO like having links in your clients pages back to your site, but surely this can’t be right?! If I make a web page for a client and put a link back to me (the designer) in the footer, I’m going to get stomped on by Penguin? Outrageous!

  16. Question: What about aggressive anchor text on off-topic blogs?

    Say, for instance, I’m working in the “debt reduction” vertical where the anchor text distribution average is skewed towards using keyword rich anchor text, with a low incidence of branded anchor text. But say I can get a bunch of keyword rich links from a number of design blogs, all pointing to my debt reduction site with debt reduction related keywords.

    Keeping everthing else above board (i.e. quality of sites, type of links), has anyone ever got a warning from having too many off topic blogs in your profile? I’m imagining this would be a manual find by a quality grader, rather than an algorithmic alert – unless penguin has corrected for this as well.

    Let me know if this question seems confusing.

    • Sorry for the duplicate comment, lol. Also, I don’t mean doing this at the level of a JC Penny. The idea would be just decent quality sites (DA 35 and above), and possibly across only 1 or 2 different verticals, but all off topic when compared to the keywords.

  17. Question: What about aggressive anchor text on off-topic blogs?

    Say, for instance, I’m working in the “debt reduction” vertical where the anchor text distribution average is skewed towards using keyword rich anchor text, with a low incidence of branded anchor text. But say I can get a bunch of keyword rich links from a number of design blogs, all pointing to my debt reduction site with debt reduction related keywords.

    Keeping everything else above board (i.e. quality of sites, type of links), has anyone ever got a warning from having too many off topic blogs in your profile? I’m imagining this would be a manual find by a quality grader, rather than an algorithmic alert – unless penguin has corrected for this as well.

    Let me know if this question seems confusing.

  18. Ricky says:

    Researching broken links and reaching out link prospects seems like a tedious job. However, sorting pages based on PR is a nice little idea. It will help us to filter low PR pages.

    Superb info. I will definitely try to follow it ;)

  19. Devin says:

    I appreciate your positivity, and I believe you’re spot on about penguin. Great post, always such great suggestions from you.

  20. Nice work Jon,

    will be signing up to your newsletter as soon as possible.

    Like you said yourself many of these ideas arent groundbreaking but they are always good to have in front of you and jog your memory into finding new ways to obtain links.

    thanks again

  21. I think everyone needs to watch the video, Do Shit Real Companies Do, by Wil Reynolds http://www.seerinteractive.com/blog/seomoz-meetup-rapid-fire-link-building-strategies

  22. reeha@inkjet says:

    Jon you really helps me and brings me out of huge problem. I really gain some best points and suggestion to implement and for better backlinks and link building strategies. thanks

  23. Hello Jon,
    I think in the end i found my right place. I have a wordpress blog(http://jaipursightseeing.wordpress.com/) with fresh content and no outbound links but after penguin my blog keyword ranking is dropped………. i do not know……….why this happened? I never did black hat seo for my blog ………………….i am much worried……..please see my blog and suggest me ……………what should i do…………..I hope you will solve my problem.

  24. Excellent tip on the broken link and what tools to use Jon.
    A namesake of yours Jon Ball presented on a recent ClickZ webinar on simile subject, link building after Penguin. Webinar here (http://www.clickzacademy.com/webinars.php) if people are interested. I also blogged about it here (http://www.cleverseo.net/26-pro-google-penguin-effective-link-building-tips/), again if people are interested.

    Excellent site and resources Jon, signed up for your newsletter – tweeted it also.

  25. Jasjotbains says:

    Hi Jon !
    Can you explain the “brand mention” feature you described above? HOW can I set up Google alerts when my brand is mentioned, and one more thing:
    “When it gets mentioned without a link to you, reach out to the webmaster/blogger and ask if they could please link”
    How do check out I have been mentioned?
    Thanks in advance :)

  26. Ryan Key says:

    I am using Google docs to manage my linkbuilding, also have a number of other tools like SEO Quake, and SEOMoZ Premium for researching links. Screaming Frog looks interesting.

  27. Preet says:

    Hello Cooper ,

    I need a little help from you . Actually i have a website and i did seo of it . It was going very good and i reached on page 2 on 2 keywords . But immediately after some days , my site disappears from Google and now i am unable to see it anywhere.

    I have submitted a reconsideration request to Google , and they replied that this site has not been in Spamming list.
    I do not know what happened to that . i m very much stressed as i spend money and Time both.

    Can you please help me in this . I shall be thankful to you for this .

    Please reply .

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