How to Build Links to Your Website Without Selling Your Soul to the Devil

by Marcus Sheridan

how-to-build-links-websiteLink Building Definition: The process of attracting inbound links to your website, which in-turn drives more traffic to your site and also tells Google and the rest of the search engines that your stuff is awesome. :-)

I’ve been utterly surprised how often I’ve been asked lately about link building.

“Marcus, how did you build so many inbound links to your site??”

“Marcus, is there a quick way to build inbound links to my site?”

“Marcus, did you pay someone for all those inbound links you have?” (Arghhh..)

Alas, if we would just stop making all of this SEO stuff way more than what it is.

Currently, my swimming pool website has thousands of inbound links coming back to it. But to be honest, kind of like my Klout score, I don’t care.

In fact, I’ve never spent one second of my inbound and content marketing life (that would be about 1100 days and counting) looking for ways (other than via content) to build inbound links.

Seriously, it’s a waste of energy. (Again, see KLOUT)

It’s also sucks your focus in the wrong direction.

Link Building Shortcuts

This will sound very sacrilegious to many. As you’re reading this, there is an SEO somewhere in the world calling me an ‘idiot’.

But I’m fine with that. I’ll let the SEO play with link building ‘tactics’ while the rest of us produce great content that builds more and more momentum with every new blog post.

And while I’m at it, here are my top 7 link building phrases that make me want to vomit:

  • Buying Links
  • Trading Links
  • Exchanging Links
  • Automatic Link Building Tools
  • Link building directories
  • ‘Link Building on Steroids’
  • ‘Link Building Gurus’

If You Play With Google Fire, You Get Burned

Think about it for a second—Do you really think Google and the rest of the gang aren’t getting smarter and smarter every single day? Of course they are. There will come a time when search engines will be able to identify fake links, farmed links, worthless links, etc from a mile away.

This is also why I’ve never understood why certain people freaked out over Google’s Panda Update. Seriously, why would anyone be upset that Google is getting better at what they do?

When Panda came out, people that had built their links through awesome content got rewarded.

Others that had been working for years to ‘game the system’ and take link building ‘shortcuts’ shot down the rankings or even got penalized by Google.

Great content is the ultimate ‘Anti-Panda’. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Google loves delivering it to their customers, and their customer (that’d be you and me) love reading it.

And that’s where the links start to build.

Again, no science here folks. But no shortcuts either.

But to add further light to this subject, I’m going to show you 4 methods of producing awesome content that will legitimately attract valuable links to your site:

1. Talk About Other Companies in Your Industry:


As Dale Carnegie once said, “There is nothing like the sound of one’s own name.” This principle has remained true since the beginning of time. In fact, to add to the phrase, one might say, “There is nothing like the sound of hearing one’s company named.”

I wrote this article at the beginning of 2011 and it casually discussed 4 companies I was paying attention to in the swimming pool industry and why. Today, 11 months later, here are the quick stats of the piece:

  • 307 Inbound Links
  • 6,791 Page views

But not only that, all those inbound links is what has lead to  much higher search ranking results. For example:

2. Compare Products, Companies, Brands, etc in Your Industry

Consumers love nothing more than comparing one brand or product versus another. But most of the time, Google doesn’t have a lot of great content to give folks when they type in these types of ‘vs’ or ‘comparison’ phrases. Here is an example of a very successful one on my swimming pool site:

Since this article was published, its stats are:

  • 189 Inbound Links
  • 20, 506 Page Views

As you might imagine, with so many inbound links the search rankings are exceptional:

3. Answer Questions Others in Your Industry are Afraid to Answer

I’ve talked about this principle again and again and again, and the one I most often point to is ‘pricing’ and ‘cost’ related articles. For example:

In about two years time, this page has garnered:

  • 124,200 Page Views
  • 1,529 Inbound Links

Again, with so many inbound links, the keyword rankings are off the charts. Here are just a few of the phrases the article ranks for:

4. Great Guest Posts on Powerful Sites with Purposeful Keyword Goals

Although I don’t think guest posting is nearly as effective as producing great content on your own site for inbound links (I’ve never done a single guest post in the pool industry), it does have benefits, especially in competitive fields. For example, I recently did a guest post on Social Media Examiner. The post took me hours to write, but because the site is so highly ranked, and gets in front of so many eyeballs, I knew it would be very worth it and the few inbound links coming to my site from that post would also have great SEO value.

But just doing a guest post on a great site like SME is not enough. The link(s) you use to send folks back to your site should have a definitive purpose in terms of your keyword goals. For example, because I want to rank on the first page of Google at some point for the very competitive phrases ‘Inbound Marketing’ and ‘Content Marketing’, the anchor text (words used in the inbound link) are directed towards that goal, as you will see here:

No More Shortcuts, Just Great Content

So there you have it my friends, 4 ideas for generating truly powerful inbound links to your website. As I’ve stated many times before, the key to all of this is being willing to think, talk, walk, and write for consumers. It ain’t about you or me. It’s about their questions, their needs, and giving them the information they’re looking for.

Your Turn:

Link building is certainly a debatable topic, and this article is not the exception to the rule. Do you fall into the camp that I’m in, and say the only focus should be on great content, or do you feel that other link building methods are effective as well? Also, what are some other content strategies you’ve used successfully to build more inbound links to your website?

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