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How to Build Links

An updated approach to link building that reflects how search engines rank sites in 2019.

Image of a kung fu master, a metaphor for becoming a master at building links to websites

The following is an overview of the link building process for those who want to create links that last. The details change from niche to niche. But the overview is the same. Regard this as a template that can be adapted for your situation.

1. Cultivate Natural Citations with Solution Pages

A link building strategy that is most relevant for 2019 is to identify problems that need solving then creating content that solves those problems. This can be the heart of a link building strategy.

Some say it’s difficult to build links to product pages. That’s true. That’s why building links to Solution Pages is a more viable strategy.

I believe that (in general) less people are reading blogs. Other forms of content distribution that work well on mobile devices have replaced blogs. Content on sites like Instagram, YouTube and others are typical.

Find out where your audience is, then be there with your content that solves problems. Create your content so that it fits the context of where your audience is.

2. Don’t Be a Virus – Be Useful

Usefulness is key. This is different from viral link strategies. Viral link strategies are generally focused on trivial emotional and reaction-based triggers, part of what is referred to as the cult of distraction.

This results in links from a wide variety of irrelevant sites that may not be as useful as the more relevant links and “shares” cultivated by getting people excited about something that is useful.

Viral links are sexy because they deal in quantity. An SEO can crow about all the links they acquired with a viral campaign. But have the rankings changed?

Link building is not about the quantity of links. It’s about the rankings and sales lift that the links provide.

Google’s algorithm has been on a steady march away from link-quantity based search results. The quantity of links don’t matter anymore. That’s why viral and link bait strategies are increasingly irrelevant, because the links they generate are also irrelevant.

In terms of efficacy, in my opinion you’re better off focusing on creating useful content that users return to, that users bookmark, that users share and users link to. This is the hallmark of a winning link building strategy.

3. Build Relationships with People Not Sites

There is an SEO strategy that says it’s a good thing to link to competitors. It’s based on an algorithm from the 1990’s (search for Kleinberg Hubs and Authorities to know more). It’s one of those rote beliefs that some cling to because that’s how it’s always been done. Search engines change and so should SEO.  Giving an advantage to a competitor makes no sense.

Building relationships with the people behind related sites makes a lot of sense. This is something I do for myself and for clients. Cultivating friends is a winning strategy for growing links.

Go to conferences. Go to industry shows. Contact the most important people in your field. Build relationships with those who are important in your niche.

You can’t get a friend unless you are a friend.  Most importantly, learn to listen. The activity of cultivating relationships is built on listening to others. Be interested in others and relationships will grow.

Links that last are built on relationships.

4. Link Begging

Link begging is an oldie but it’s a goodie. The best way to meet someone is to reach out and say, “Hi.”

This is an important way to get the ball rolling on ranking. Be prepared for more failures than successes.

Don’t scale your outreach. You’ll lose quality opportunities along the way.

5. Become the Site You Want a Link From

Put yourself out there. Become the authority you want a link from.

What kind of site is the kind you’d like to have a relevant link from? The owner of a company attended one of my SEO conference presentations about link building and he reached out to me for help. He said that he wanted links from forums related to his business. But all the forums wanted to sell him advertising, which was of limited efficacy.

I helped him create his own community. Within a year his community was ranking for all the most important search phrases. Most importantly his site became well known with consumers. His company grew exponentially and he sold the business to a bigger competitor and retired.

Takeaway: Focus on People

When Google’s algorithm was aligned with links it made sense to tune the SEO strategy to links. Now that Google is focusing on users, solutions and niches, the link building approach has to shift as well.

I have a pragmatic approach SEO. My strategy bends with the direction the Google wind is blowing.  I don’t do platitudes.

I know that “focus on people” sounds like a kumbaya platitude. But there is a real scientific basis to that approach. The chief reason is that Google’s algorithm is tuned toward pleasing users.

All of the above are methods for establishing authority, cultivating traffic, and making your site known. What ties all the points together is focusing on people, on users.

That’s significantly different from focusing on keywords, quantity and anchor text. But in my experience it reflects the proper approach to link building for a search engine that no longer responds to keywords, quantity and anchor text.

It’s been my experience that focusing on cultivating natural citations, cultivating word of mouth sharing, social sharing, and top of mind brand building works for building links, traffic and sales.

More Resources

Category SEO
SEJ STAFF Roger Montti Owner - at

I have 25 years hands-on experience in SEO and have kept on  top of the evolution of search every step ...

How to Build Links

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