Let’s start things off with a little education! These links all lead to specific guides on high-profile sites, all of which are designed to help you understand the art of the backlink. Read through these and you’ll have a pro’s knowledge on what backlinks are, how to build them, how to vet them, and what methods are risky to use. Some information will be redundant, of course, but that comes from any situation where more than one guide is trying to be the best.
Backlinko’s Definitive Guide to Link Building: One of the biggest and best guides to all things backlinks, this site, writer, and guide are the number one reference you should always have on hand. If you haven’t read it, don’t even read the rest of this article.
Quicksprout’s Advanced Guide to Link Building: Co-written by the author of the previous guide and SEO giant Neil Patel, this is a guide that takes the knowledge of the previous and ups the game, bringing you to more advanced strategies, including some line-skirting gray hat tech.
Moz’s Guide to Growing Popularity & Links: Part of the massive Moz beginner’s guide to SEO, this chapter covers all thinks links, and gives you a lot of insight into how Google views them. It may be somewhat redundant with #1 on this list, but it will give you some explanations for things the first guide takes for granted.
Moz’s Guide to Competitive Backlink Analysis: This is a detailed guide on how you can analyze the links floating around in your niche, to identify a lot of useful information, such as what sites you can try to get links from, and what sites your competitors are getting links from.
Kissmetrics’ Natural Link Building 101: This is a guide geared towards optimizing your online presence in such a way as to maximize the chances of people wanting to link to you organically. In a way, it’s the opposite of deliberate link building, but it’s really just a complimentary set of instructions.
WordStream’s Guide to Free Link Building: Many link building methods involve some investment, be it paying for links directly, buying software, using paid tools, or building satellite sites. This guide is focused instead purely on free methods of building links.
Point Blank SEO’s Link Building Database: This is an incredibly massive list of link building techniques that has been sorted into a filterable database. You can even sort the techniques by how long they take to execute. If you’re well aware of all the common methods, or you have very specific requirements, use this to find techniques that fit the bill.
Search Engine Journal’s Guide to Qualifying Backlink Sources: This is a guide designed to help you vet the sources of links coming to your site. How do you know if a link is helping or hurting you? Use these criteria to decide, and compile the worst links into a document to disavow if they become an issue.
Monitor Backlinks’ Tips for Link Building: If you need a quick refresher, or you’re looking for a quick version of some of the guides listed above, you can check out this post. It’s not as complete as many of the others, but it works. Just ignore the wonky formatting.
Matthew Woodward’s Guide to Tiered Link Building: Tiered link building is a gray hat technique, so by rights this guide should be going lower on the list, but it’s still packed with some useful information and is a good illustration of how a technique that can hurt you is sold as a good, valuable technique.
Now let’s move on to places where you can actually submit your links for some value. This first section is focusing primarily on social networks, places where you can build an online presence and seed your content in a way that others can share and link to for additional value. Note that I’m leaving off a few major sites, both because you already know them and because their links aren’t actually that valuable on their own.
LinkedIn: There are a bunch of places you can link on LinkedIn for value. In addition to profile links, you can even write regular short blog posts and link them to longer, more detailed posts on your main site.
Pinterest: Pinterest is great when you have content in certain niches, like DIY. It’s also great when you have moderately visual content, like infographics. That means it’s an excellent site to use in conjunction with some other link building techniques later on this list.
Reddit: Reddit is very picky about the kind of content that makes it, but it’s also often kind of a crapshoot. That said, there’s a subreddit for everything, and you will undoubtedly be able to find one relevant to your niche, where you can post your content. Better yet, post your link as a read more for a relevant response to someone else’s comment and you’ll be more likely to be viewed as presenting value rather than spamming and advertising.
Google+: The time was, links from Google+, at least certain profile links were followed and gave a bunch of extra value beyond what links normally do. They removed this in a Panda update a little while back, but it’s still a good place to drop a few links. If nothing else, Google+ gives you a direct line for potentially faster indexing.
Instagram: This site is great if you have visual content, but it falls flat if you don’t have excellent imagery. Use sparingly if you’re going to use it, as the recent invasion of marketers has turned many people away from the more blatant advertising posts.
Imgur: A combination of Reddit and image host, this site is great if you can provide some value in image form with a little text accompanying it. You can get thousands of views in a matter of hours if you make it to the front page, and all it takes is a reasonably compelling infographic.
HubPages: A cross between a social network and an article directory, this site allows anyone to create hubs centered around their expertise. Think of it like a secondary blog that doesn’t require quite so much investment. However, you do need to reach a certain level of points gained if you want followed links.
BizSugar: A social network for business owners, this site helps you share links and swap partnerships with other related bloggers. It’s a great little social network for links if you can find your role and your community.
Tumblr: Very popular among millennials and younger folks, it’s tricky to use this site for links, but if you get a good one circulating it can get you tons of links from tons of Tumblr subdomains over the course of years.
Triberr: This network bills itself as a social network for influencers, which means two things. First, if you’re there, you’re calling yourself an influencer and can be assumed to have at least some of the power that implies. Second, you can find the other, more powerful influencers there, and network with them directly.
High Quality Article Directories
Directory submission is one of those link building strategies your momma warned you about. It’s the kind of link building you find in dark alleys after midnight in New York City. It’s hugely risky, unless you stick to the top-tier, legitimate sites. That’s what this list is for; to point you to the sites to use, and keep you from having your website shanked and its traffic stolen in the night.
GrowthHackers: This site is designed for bloggers who really want to get the most out of the web with the least effort involved. That does mean that it has a very well defined niche, but if you’re in marketing, business, or growth hacking in any way, you can find a place for your articles.
Slashdot: An article directory for geeks and techies, this is the ideal place for articles on tech and tech in politics, usually more focused on news and discussion than on guides or history. If you fit the bill, your articles can perform very well. Just don’t try to force anything off-topic.
Alltop: This directory is packed full of all sorts of content, curated from other blogs and submitted directly. It’s one of the more valuable general directories, in any case. You’ll have to log in to submit a site, but once you’re on the list, you’re amongst illustrious company.
BlogEngage: This is another broad, general interest article submission site, and it leads to a frankly quite odd selection of posts on the front page. That said, it’s still one of the least spammy directories out there, so it’s worth giving a look.
Technorati: Another tech-focused article directory, this one has a side business focusing on advertising to a great extent. That means you get both tech and advertising as valid niches to exploit. Produce high quality content and you’ll be good to go.
Dmoz: One of the oldest, largest blog directories online, it’s amazing this one still exists and provides any value at all. It’s less of an article directory and more of a blog directory, though. Don’t try to submit every single post you write.
SelfGrowth: This is an article directory aimed at success in all things, business and personal. It has posts for success skills, relationship success, mental health, lifestyle, and even financial success. As long as your post is about how to succeed, you’re good to submit.
Triond: This is one part social network, one part blog aggregator. You can sign in with Facebook and start submitting your content immediately. Posts are published on the Triond network, which expands through dozens of sites. Note: we removed the link on this one since their website isn’t loading at the time of writing.
EZineArticles: One of the largest and oldest article databases on the web, it’s best used with original content of a mid-to-low value that you don’t have room for in your main blog. People don’t expect high quality content out of it, so you can easily dominate your niche with a little effort.
ArticlesBase: Another general interest directory, this time with a higher level of quality required to end up featured. They demand that you demonstrate knowledge, credibility, and reputation, in exchange for business and traffic.
These are guides or sites for assorted techniques that don’t really fall under any one category. They’re generally quite good, and get you links from sources you wouldn’t otherwise think to find them, but it can be very time-consuming trying to use all of them at once.
The Moz Guide to Broken Link Building: Broken link building, and the related moving man method, involve finding links that no longer work and informing the site owner that your content is a good replacement for the content they once linked to. You’re not building new links, you’re co-opting old links that are no longer valid in their current form.
Help A Reporter Out: This is a site that hooks you up with reporters looking to get an inside view or opinion on the happenings in your industry. If you keep up with the news or have opinions to share, this is one great way to get your name and link out there as an authority.
Converting Blog Posts to Podcasts: By converting your blog post content into an audio podcast, you earn links both from podcast storefronts and from podcast reviewers. It also gives your followers an additional way to consume your content, possibly during a commute or other travel.
Converting Blog Posts to Videos: By converting your blog post content into a video, you can add on some simple animation and voice-over to be a YouTube success. You can also use the video as a target for Facebook ads, and share it on video roundup sites.
Converting Blog Posts to Slide Decks: Slide decks are like powerpoints, and the main place to share them today is on SlideShare. That site is great for links, and with a little encouragement, you can even get other bloggers to embed your presentation as-is.
Answering Questions on Quora: Quora is like an upscale Yahoo Answers, where good questions are asked and experts contribute answers. Sometimes your good answers will be overrun by more qualified experts taking more time to answer, but your link doesn’t go away in that case; it’s just pushed down. Add a mid-length answer and add a link to a longer explanation on your blog.
Creating and Exploiting Roundup Posts: This is a technique where you search your industry for bloggers creating weekly or monthly top lists or roundups, then submit your content to the lists. You can sweeten the pot by making your own and featuring the blogger in question, even making a top list of top lists.
Writing Testimonials as Bait for Backlinks: Most of the time, when you use a product or service, the owner of that service will love to have a testimonial from a business or blog they can publish. If all they have to do is link back to your site in the testimonial, well, that’s a small price to pay.
Converting Implied Links into Real Links: A lot of times, someone will mention you in a post but they won’t link to you. I do it a lot for common names like Neil Patel, Moz, and Kissmetrics. Your goal with this method is find people who mention you that way and ask them to turn that mention into a link. Note that implied links are still somewhat valuable in Google’s eyes.
Guest Posting Safely and Properly in 2016: Yes, this guide is for 2015, but nothing major has changed since Matt Cutts posted about the death of guest blogging. Do it right and you can still earn valuable links by spreading valuable content.
Gray and Black Hat Methods (Not Recommended)
I’m saving these for last in hopes that you decide to avoid them, but I know some people just won’t be convinced otherwise. Just remember: black hat methods have a good chance of backfiring sooner or later, when Google catches you in the act and penalizes you for using them. They often work for a short time, and that makes people feel secure in using them, but that only gets you caught in a cycle.
Comment Spam: Going around industry blogs, leaving “thanks for the post” comments with links in your profile, and providing nothing of value? Sure, it gets you some links, but they aren’t high quality and they don’t benefit you much. It’s better to leave insightful comments, but sometimes you just don’t have time for that.
Purchasing Links: Specifically I’m talking about low quality links, the kind often generated by software, on sites like Fiverr. This is distinct from advertising, because the links are designed to pass value, not to sell.
Churn and Burn: The churn and burn method is a type of link network you can set up for yourself with a potential minimum of effort. It relies on getting residual value from sites that recently expired.
Building Link Pyramids: Link pyramids are a type of link scheme where you filter value upwards through tiers until the sites that link to you are all of relatively high value, even though none of them are particularly good on their own.
Subpage Injection: This is literally exploiting security holes to hack a site and inject links. It’s the most black hat spam you can do without taking over sites and stealing information to sell. Don’t do this.
Private Blog Networks: Some people swear by private blog networks and claim Google can’t detect them. Others will assure you that such a network definitely will be nuked, and I’m pretty sure that’s the way to go. You can use PBNs for a while, but sooner or later they’ll die out.
GSA Search Engine Ranker: This is one of the more high profile pieces of software used for backlinks. It has some legitimate uses, but many people also use it to comment spam, spam forums, or otherwise build low quality links on directories no real person has viewed in years.
Article Spinning: Taking one piece of content and swapping out words to make an “original” piece of content is black hat by many definitions. Using that content to submit to directories further cements the exploitive nature of directories.
SEnukePro: A mass spam bot that shoots your link all over the web and can backfire dramatically. I don’t recommend using it, but there it is if you want to experiment with the dark side.
Market Samurai: This is a legitimate piece of software, but it has a few hidden tricks you can use in a black hat manner. Just make sure you’re not accidentally spamming your link if you want to use it in a white hat way.
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