How to ‘Cheat’ at Link Building and Get Away with It

Thanks to the pesky Penguin update link building has arguably become tougher. Many of the methods SEOs used to use to build links are ineffective at best, or potentially downright dangerous at worst.

Can you still ‘cheat’ at link building and get away with it?

Depends on what you mean by cheating ūüôā

How about this: are there any easy ways to build links left?

Actually, I think there are. I’m not sure whether or not this really counts as ‘cheating’ at link building; but what follows are a bunch of methods to help you build links relatively easily.

Outsource appropriately

There’s plenty you can outsource when it comes to link building – research, content, design, outreach, coding – I could go on, but (hopefully) you get the picture.

Matt Beswick¬†has written a very thorough¬†guide to outsourcing¬†which I’d recommend reading. Rest assured, he’s not advocating spam; merely finding a less costly way of getting stuff done.

Build links in your sleep

Well, kinda.

Got a blog? Get Zemanta. Zemanta indexes your content and recommends it to the bloggers signed up to their program when semantically relevant. As a blogger writes their post, this box appears:


The blogger can then decide which posts (if any) they’d like to include and link to from their post. The blogger doesn’t receive any financial inducement to link and as such these links are given editorially.

As a publisher you pay to have your links recommended (i.e. appear in front of the bloggers).¬†I’ve been running Zemanta for a year for a client – during this time we’ve generated 257 links at an average cost of $14 per link.

Get your customers to link to you

If people like you enough to buy your product or service, chances are they might be willing to link to you. But how do you find out if they have websites?

Ideally you want to try to capture this information at the point of purchase if people buy online – a simple tweak to your purchase funnel to include an optional field for customers to enter their website (if they have one) is all you need.

If you haven’t already done so it’s also worth mining your twitter followers to see if any of them have websites and might therefore be open to linking to you. Use Followerwonk¬†to download a list of your followers. Sort by those who have a URL listed and bingo – a lovely group of potential link prospects.

Leverage photos & images

If you already have great photos and images on your site, chances are people are already using them – although sadly, they’ll often do so without crediting you with a link. Fortunately there’s a neat way around this – you can make your photos and images embeddable. Hat tip to Paddy Moogan for this one – he’s knocked up a embed demo¬†and you can grab the code here.

In addition to this I’d recommend that you also upload your images and photos to flickr under a creative commons license like so:


Of course you’ll then also need to make sure that when people use your images you’re getting the credit. You can of course do this via reverse image search¬†or as an alternative, check out Image Raider:

image raider

Create ‘people’ pages

If you are undertaking PR activity you may find it hard to convert ‘mentions’ into links. This is often a particular issue for sites where the homepage is ‘salesy’ or designed to push consumers down a purchase funnel; as many journalists are reticent to link to commercial pages. Get around this by creating non-commercial ‘people’ pages on your site. ¬†Then, when you’re providing quotes etc for journalists ask for a link to the relevant ‘people’ page on your site instead.

Here’s an example of Will Critchlow’s page on the Distilled site:


Fix 404-ing pages with external links

This is really link reclamation rather than link building, but nevertheless I think it’s worth a mention.

Are you losing link equity? If you have pages that are currently 404-ing that have good external links then you most certainly are. Annie Cushing has made life easier for you by pulling together a quick and easy guide to identify 404 pages worth fixing.

And so dear readers over to you – got any further suggestions for ‘easy’ ways to build links? Do let me know via the comments.

Post script – Portent’s Content Idea Generator deserves the credit for the title of this post. It also suggested “How to fight Lex Luthor using only Link Building” – which in fairness sounded like tons of fun, but sadly ¬†I know nothing about comic books.

Image Credit РCheating 

About Hannah Smith

Hannah Smith is an SEO Consultant working for Distilled in their London office. She manages technical, link building and content campaigns for clients across a range verticals in addition to managing one of the internal SEO teams at Distilled.

5 thoughts on “How to ‘Cheat’ at Link Building and Get Away with It

  1. The concept of link building has been altered after penguin and panda updates. There is no shortcut but yes genuine link building yields productive output. Good article…

  2. Link building has now become so complex, it doesn’t seems to work like before anymore. These strategies are worth trying, we will put our hand to it and see what comes out. Any way thanks for the tips they are worth a million. Nat

  3. Great post Hannah, thanks for sharing these ideas. Much as I don’t like the idea of “cheating” to link build, I think ultimately if you’re “building” a link, it cannot at the same time be 100% natural. So this is less cheating, and more just creative tactics to achieve what we all still need to achieve: links that look and feel natural, that generate actual clicks and provide value to a link profile. And these ideas certainly do.

    1. Hey Emma,

      Thanks for your comment. The title was just supposed to be a bit of fun. I don’t really think any of the tactics I’ve written about actually constitute cheating ūüôā

  4. Before panda and penguin updates most of the companies are dependable on link building strategy for getting better search engine ranking but currently it is very difficult to rank over SERP by doing only link building. So we need to change our work process accordingly. but reading this great post I learn some great tactics on how to do link building after Google’s recent updates.

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