When most people think of manual link building they think high volume, low quality, low skill labour. This is one of the reasons link buildings got a bit of a bad name and most SEO bloggers prefer to talk about more exciting stuff, like link bait.
The truth is though manual link building still works and works well. You just need an edge. Unfortunately that edge isn’t a piece of software. To get the edge you need to invest in that rarest of commodities- time.
Spending real time. Quality man hours on a link building campaign is what it takes to hit the next level with your link building. Let me give you some examples…
The easy way - buy links off a network or broker. Takes a few minutes but the value is negligible and the risks probably outweigh the rewards. You get links on crap sites with other link buyers.
The time intensive way - put in the man hours researching real websites where you can place links. Take the time to find the most relevant pages. Audit their outbound links to check for spam signals. Negotiate a price. Work with the webmaster to submerge the link in the content of the page so it’s not detectable or obviously paid. It takes longer, it costs more but it will take you to the next level.
The easy way – write some auto generated crap and distribute it across a syndication service or use some bulk submission software. You get hundreds of links but only the worst sites take your content and most won’t get indexed.
The time intensive way – write decent, legible and useful articles and submit to article sites with editors who manually approve submissions. You won’t get as many links but you’ll get a few decent links which stay in the index and increase in value over time.
The easy way - link drop in followed blog comments which aren’t moderated and are overrun with spam. You get a very fast link but it’s on a page with thousands of outbound links, mostly to spam sites.
The time intensive way – painstaking manual research into blogs with followed comments which aren’t spammed. Then taking the time to read the post and contribute a lengthy and meaningful comment which the author will approve. You’ll get permanent followed links on real blogs with few outbound links and little or no spam.
The easy way - as this technique becomes more popular people are going to try an take shortcuts like distribution networks or paying bloggers for links which pose as guest posts. The truth is this works pretty well but it limits you when it comes to quality blogs who will only take decent original content. Guest posting the easy way is only marginally better than traditional article marketing. Any blogger who accepts guest posts because ‘they haven’t got time to blog themselves’ probably doesn’t have a particularly strong readership and won’t be around for long. A link from their site to yours will be valued accordingly.
The time intensive way – research the best blogs in or across your sector and strike up a relationship with the blogger, comment on their posts, follow them on twitter, come up with an awesome post idea and then and only then pitch it to them. Work with the blogger to craft a post which their readers love (and link to/ tweet) and use that post to setup opportunities with other similarly high quality blogs. You get permanent links archived on high quality blogs with domains which are going to strengthen over time as the blogger develops them.
Competitor link mining
The easy way - download your competitors links, find any old email address or contact form on the site (or whois record) and send out a blanket begging link request. If you get very lucky 1 in 100 of these requests might get you a link but probably far less if your sites commercial. You’ll burn more potential allies than you can ever make with this approach.
The time intensive way – is to hand sift the data, filtering out sites which might be owned or run by competitors, the paid links and the scraper trash. Spend some time researching exactly how and why those sites are linking to your competitors then come up with a way to replicate this and scale it out to closely related sites. This is the best and in many cases only way to pick up those valuable trusted university and government site links which will strengthen your domain and protect you from link devaluation in other areas of your link profile.
The easy way – use a link swapping network or just search for sites with ‘links’ pages. Throw up a link page or directory on your site and you’re good to go. You can get a lot of quick links this way but you’ll also end up linking out to bad neighbourhoods which will probably do your site more harm than good.
The time intensive way - is to hand pick relevant sites which you have a topical and non-competing association with who offer information not covered by your site which your visitors would be interested in. These are sites you might want to link to even if they don’t link back because they add to the value of your site. Make personal contact with them and ensure you can trust the webmaster that they’re going to maintain the site and not let it drop and get picked up by a spammer. Work out where your content overlaps and propose a link exchange. Add new content to your site which compliments their content and arrange more swaps in the future. You don’t just get a few backlinks, you also get a valuable business relationship which might lead to more link opportunities in the future.
The truth is for most websites you really don’t need to be too creative with your link building to get some decent results. You just need someone who cares enough about what they’re doing to make a decent job of whatever link building tactic they’re using. Hell in plenty of sectors you could probably get results using nothing but social bookmarking if you actually spent the time doing it as well as possible rather than just running some $50 software or hiring some garbage off shore company.
Most sites I look at don’t need the worlds best link builder working on them, they just need someone who gives a shit and doesn’t take shortcuts.