01 Feb 2012

There Are Only 2 Ways to Build Backlinks

There Are Only 2 Ways to Build Backlinks

Here at Vertical Measures we’re always being asked about our link building methods and what secrets we are holding back. Even though we have developed some proprietary tools and methods, the truth is this: there just are not a lot of secrets.

The way we see it, link building comes down to two approaches: manual link building and link attraction. A mix of both tactics is needed for the most well-rounded link profile that can help your site rise up the SERPs.

Manual link building

Manual link building involves the process of securing targeted links by manually recommending the site to its webmaster. In so doing you know exactly what kind of link you will be acquiring (and can thus target core pages with said request) as the first step in manual link building is to seek out such links, either by utilizing a nifty search operator or sifting through your competitors’ backlinks.

Many different tactics comprise the manual link building approach:

  • Contacting webmasters directly is the most effective form of manual link building. This will often lead you to relevant backlinks, and as an added bonus you can usually control the anchor text. This method tests a link builder’s creativity as here they must craft an email compelling enough to convince the webmaster to grant you the link (after first opening the email). It can be a frustrating method at times since the response rate is often low but it’s ultimately rewarding because of the choice quality of these links.
  • We also often use link reclamation when contacting webmasters. This tactic involves using Open Site Explorer to locate web sites linking to you that are 404-ing. By then alerting the webmaster to this error, you will regain the link juice from the fixed link. You can also search a page for broken links and then suggest your content instead of the broken pages.
  • Then there’s blogger outreach. In this method link builders contact a site for the purpose of posting a guest post (with a link back to the client) on that site. This can often get you linked to a site with a superb Domain Authority that’s relevant in your niche. You can also submit your content to article sites if you cannot find a home for your post on a niche blog. When embarking on blogger outreach, consider using a site like MyBlogGuest to find guest posting opportunities.
  • Directories are great if you want to get your link on an authoritative site as the top directories have fantastic Domain Authority. Most directories will let you pick your own anchor text as an added benefit. We often choose directories with a homepage PR of at least 4 and look for directories that flow PageRank throughout their subfolders. Aviva Directory (DA 77), JoeAnt (DA 71) and Best of the Web (DA 56) are some of my favorites.
  • Finally, forum and blog commenting can help you join conversations already going on in your niche. Perhaps your site has a piece of content that can be useful in one of these discussions, and if not perhaps you can build such content once you see people are seeking such information.

The Pros and Cons of Manual Link Building

Pros Cons
Control anchor text Not always the best site or context
Mostly do follow Lots of manual labor and time involved
Can target specific sites and the pages linked to Must deal with lots of rejection
Can find relevancy
Know exactly what you are getting

Link Attraction

Link attraction, meanwhile, involves creating a piece of content that is good enough to attract a bucket full of links. This tactic provides the best ROI overall because these links are editorially chosen from a variety of diverse domains that you might not ordinarily be able to get a link from. Taking a swing with link attraction provides you the opportunity to hit a home run (or if you’re really lucky, a grand slam) because if the right piece of content goes viral you can receive a voluminous boost.  Plus, since these are completely natural links there is no risk.

Many different tactics make up the link attraction tactic:

  • Infographics are perhaps the most widely used link attraction tactic. They involve lots of planning and require a skilled designer to execute, but the payoff can be enormous. Infographics take a topic or concept and represent it visually. When done right on a compelling topic, the links often flow in, as was the case with this Vertical Measures infographic on link data visualization (106 links from 41 root domains).
  • Videos work to the same effect. They also require some technical skill and can present a topic in an interesting manner. If such videos go viral they can bring lots of traffic and links, but you must be careful where you upload it. Uploading to a site like YouTube provides easy hosting, but then the traffic and links could go there instead of to your site.
  • A contest can do the same thing, and you can guarantee yourself some quality links if you make linking to your site a requirement to enter the contest. Links can be accrued by other sites linking to the landing page for your contest as well for publicity sake. If the prizes are enticing enough (including  prizes for promoting the contest), this can be another source of major links.
  • The key to link attraction really comes down to creating exemplary content. This can come in the form of an interview with a fascinating subject, a white paper that goes into depth on an interesting new topic, a comprehensive eBook or even a rock solid blog post. The medium really doesn’t matter, what matters is creating content so superb that people feel compelled to share it and ultimately link to it. It doesn’t have to go viral to be a smashing success, but the best examples of link attraction will.

The Pros and Cons of Link Attraction

Pros Cons
Editorially given Cannot control anchor text or which page they link to
Mostly do follow Will not know exactly what you are getting
From a variety of domains Will have some failures on timely, extensive projects
Possible home runs (and grand slams)
No risk

For some excellent examples of link attraction, check out this video from Vertical Measures’ president Arnie Kuenn:

Ultimately, any comprehensive link building campaign should focus on both manual link building and link attraction. Through manual link building you can target relevant, authoritative sites in your niche, the type of links that provide a fat boost in the SERPs. Link attraction should be utilized as well because when a piece of content really hits it can provide an unmatched combination of authority, variety and naturalness. Neither tactic is necessarily better than the other, but in conjunction they can provide the kind of quantity and quality necessary for any well-rounded link campaign.

Which methods do you use to build links? Please share in the comments!


  • Ann Smarty Feb 01, 2012

    Hey Michael, thanks for mentioning MyBlogGuest.com! That’s also a powerful blogger outreach and networking tool.

  • Sameer Panjwani Feb 01, 2012

    Great points, though for the benefit of those who didn’t watch the video, a critical point was mentioned out there: you need to promote the good content for it to gain any traction! I’ve seen a lot of good content which never really got it’s due because it was never promoted, the content creators just expected the links and traffic to flow – unfortunatlely, doesn’t always work that way unless you already have a very large and active reader base. For the not so popular sites, I think it’s highly critical to employ some amount of promotional tactics for the quality content, it might even be going to the extent of doing sponsored stumbles or sponsored tweets, just to get the ball rolling.

  • Nick Stamoulis Feb 01, 2012

    It’s important to build links manually but it’s the natural links that really give your link portfolio a boost. In order to gain these natural links it’s necessary to have a strong content marketing strategy in place. Without interesting content a link building campaign is limited.

  • David Allen Neron Feb 01, 2012

    I recently had an issue with buying “Cheap Back Links” (I’m new to back linking) and I hired a company to do some back linking for me. Needless to say they decided it was a good idea to spam low pr forums with my links which is NOT what I wanted AT ALL.

    The real issue is some of the forums they posted my links on had some very questionable material on them and now I can’t do anything about it.

    I recommend you stay away from “cheap back links” because it’ll probably hurt you more then help you.

    If you want quality back links do the work yourself, go and find communities that are actually similar to yours and provide them with as much value as you can instead of being spammy.

    I am very upset about my current experience and hope you avoid making the same mistake I did. I’ll be lucky if my sites don’t get unlisted.

  • Michael Schwartz Feb 02, 2012

    You’re very welcome, Ann!

    @Sameer Very true. Promotion is a critical stage of the link attraction process at Vertical Measures. Any great piece of content must be heavily promoted to reach its highest potential.

    @David Definitely have to be careful not to deal with companies like those. Relevance is certainly key when building relationships with communities.

  • Rajesh Magar Feb 03, 2012

    Nice post.

    But as you said in first para of Manual link building that directly contact with webmaster to get linked on there websites, in which all other people on internet also want’s to be linking back to your website as well.

    So is it normal or not to build reciprocal back-link to achieve good ranking.

    Revert please.

  • Michael Schwartz Feb 03, 2012

    @Rajesh That’s a very 2007 strategy. There could be particular opportunities where a reciprocal link trade is fine, but on the whole reciprocals won’t lead to achieving good rankings.