Link Building in 2014 – 6 Old School Tactics Brought Up To Date

We all get it; SEO in 2014 isn’t about building links – it’s about link earning. Believe me when I say that I’m on board with that, but we also need to look at things realistically or, while you’re off earning links, your competitors are going to be buying them and most likely destroying you in the SERPs.

But that’s not good, right? You’re brand building. You’re looking at things for the long term. You’re a real, 21st century, SEO. So what do you do?

Let’s take a look at some link building tactics that, sadly, have been pounced on by the spammers and therefore ended up on Matt Cutts’ radar. That doesn’t mean that they don’t work though and, just as importantly, are still valid ways to promote a site if done correctly.

The Obvious: Guest Posting

I’m going to get this out of the way early. Guest Posting has been done to death over the last couple of months but it is still a genuinely great way of driving traffic, leads and links to a site. Whether you’re building your own profile or working for a client there is always, and I mean always, an industry leading site that will accept guest editorial.

The key to success here is to not look at it just for the link: think about the traffic opportunities and ensure that any content you put together is something that you’d be happy for a potential customer to read. Get that right and you’ll have absolutely no trouble.

Really Old, and Really Dirty: Directories

You don’t, do you?

Yep, I still build directory links.

Some of you may gasp in horror, others may glance over at their copy of GSA to check how many thousands of submissions have been done today. The rest will give a knowing smile and nod.

Start with a ‘fire and forget’ dmoz submission and then move onto hunting for industry and location specific sites. Don’t just get listings in every directory you come across but, again, think about the traffic. Towns and Cities usually have at least 3 or 4 great resource lists, and don’t forget about those that are country specific (as long as they’re human edited and don’t just link out to everyone who pays $20).

This isn’t the 90’s: Links and Resource Pages

Scraping the first 10 pages of Google using a ‘YOUR_NICHE inurl: resources’ search query is all well and good but, again, think about the quality. Doing a sanity check to ensure that the page is likely to send you any visits is something that very few tend to do, and when you’re reaching out to a site remember that you need to stand out.

If you’re reaching out to someone make sure that you use their name. And spell it properly. Tell them in a couple of sentences why your page deserves to make it onto their list. Get a nervous twinge when writing the email or struggle to find a good reason? Go back to your content and make it better… and then reach out.

Wham, Bam, Spam you Ma’am: Forums

I don’t mean create a profile on every forum you find. Please don’t do that. This is about contributing to communities, giving something back, and inadvertently building the kinds of links that send a whole bucket load of traffic and sales.

This takes time but is well worth it and I’ve found time and time again that forum traffic converts amazingly well. The other thing to remember is that owners of forums don’t actually mind their members promoting their sites – what they mind is when this is the only reason you’re part of the community is to spam the hell out of everyone else.

Everyone is different, but I’d advise setting up your account, contributing for 8 – 10 weeks, and then mentioning your affiliation when it comes into conversation. After that you’ve got the option of offering up exclusive discounts, taking out a banner ad (probably at a heavily discounted rate since you’re seen as a valuable contributor), and even getting a mention on any forum emails.

Every Blogger’s Nightmare: Comments

“Great post.”

“I have been trawling the web for hours and never found a post this good.”

“I {loved | liked | enjoyed} this {somewhat | lots | very much} – {thanks | nice one | much appreciated}.”

If you’re doing this, please stop. The majority of comment links are no-follow, so aren’t going to do anything for your rankings, but they do just happen to be the perfect way to show how knowledgable you are and build relationships.

Used as a pre-requisite to a guest post request, some well placed and insightful comments vastly increase your chances of acceptance because, again, you’re seen as someone who is not only familiar but also adds value. Just look at Gianluca Fiorelli’s comments – he always goes into depth, and says something useful – something that I’m sure is partly why he’s thought of as such an authority.

Let’s Get Vis-u-al. Vis-u-al: Infographics

Can an infographic really be thought of as old school? Well, they’ve been scaled to the point where this kind of stuff exists, so yes! When it comes to infographics, there are a few important things to remember:

  • Tell a story.
  • Make sure it looks good.
  • Request a citation, but don’t try and cram in anchor text.
  • Pre-outreach really helps take-up and can vastly improve your chances of success.
  • Record your sources even if they aren’t all on the graphic (I had an unfortunate incident with Mashable last year that resulted in 4 hours of sheer panic. Worked out okay in the end but could easily have meant we missed out on a great placement).

The Over-arching Message: Don’t Try to Get Something for Nothing

At the start of this I might have had a bit of a dig at link earning. The reality is that as a modern SEO you shouldn’t be expecting to get something for nothing. Whether you’re writing a guest post, submitting to a directory, creating an infographic, or commenting on a blog you need to be constantly trying to give something back. This doesn’t need to be infinitely time consuming but, in the end, the benefits will be more than worth your investment.

About Matt Beswick

Matt is the co-founder of Aira - a UK based agency offering SEO and Social Media campaigns to businesses of all shapes and sizes. He started his digital marketing life with Hidden Pixel making Facebook games, is also a dog lover, self confessed geek, and loves motorsport.

3 thoughts on “Link Building in 2014 – 6 Old School Tactics Brought Up To Date

  1. Hi Matt,

    I think this article and advice was useful pre-2014 but I’m not so sure many companies will be undertaking these methods today.

    Directories?!? Get listed in Dmoz and then get your site listed in 20+ low quality directories that scrape Dmoz! Not good. And more to the point, who really uses directories these days (other than Yell)? A couple of sentences above you say “think about the traffic opportunities” (for guest posting) – well directories don’t send you traffic these days so what’s the point of building a link in one? One of my personal sites that I have listed in Dmoz has had 1 visitor since 1 January 2013.

    Links and Resources pages? I think this too contradicts itself a little bit, when earlier in the post you say “think about the traffic opportunities” – who goes on a links and resources page in 2014? I find what I’m looking for on Google or social networks, not on some blogger or business’ links page. The original purpose of links pages were for link exchanges – so any links pages still alive today perhaps contain penalised sites, maybe unrelated sites, and generally a long list of outbound links – ie little value if none to be had from these. Granted, there are one or two opportunities out there for some businesses but from the link building techniques you’re suggesting in this post, I was under the impression you’re aiming this at a blogger/affiliate audience.

    Forums can be a lot of work for little reward in comparison to other link building and community building projects you can be undertaking to significantly increase your list of customers. But for small, new and niche businesses’ alike forums have their benefits.

    How many infographics really get picked up and republished on sites other than infographic directories? For social I think they can be great – plenty of ReTweets, Shares etc. But in terms of bringing your site actual links, naturally? I can’t remember ever seeing the BBC or a newspaper publishing an infographic that wasn’t their own (maybe I don’t read the news enough?).


    1. I think you should have read the article a bit more closely @barrie_smith:disqus. The advice is all perfectly sound.
      Re: directories – don’t miss ‘hunting for industry and location specific sites.’

      1. I can sort of see Barrie’s point re: directories. I think that the ‘plethora’ of ‘great industry or geo-based directories’ SEOs often make clients aware of in our industry are the best of a bad bunch. Even if they won’t incur penalties they’re not likely to boost rankings. It really is scraping the bottom of the barrel during the advent of resource-based SEO (which might include ‘content’ or powerful web tools such as a financial information aggregation system).

        I think now it’s more about having an idea or connecting with an audience’s ‘moment’ (something that has been done in print media and television for years). If you stick to ‘bread and butter SEO’, all the people having real, larger ideas will quickly overtake you! Budget is a concern though, not everyone can afford lavish microsites and incredibly creative SEO campaigns.

        I mostly stopped using directories when Google took down their “Google Directory” DMOZ mirror. That to me was a signal that even the best simply don’t cut it any more.

        To say something positive about directories, if you’ve already built up substantial authority they can be good for boosting geographic or industrial relevance. They’re good for convincing Google that you should rank for more geo-related terms; but if you’re expecting them to pump authority into your site and to see rankings go up on a wider scale… you’ve got another thing coming.

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