Link building techniques: Risk vs. reward

Ian Lurie

Link building is all about risk management.

There are lots of ways to build links. But search engines do not like to be manipulated. They work constantly, with lots of really smart people, to find ways to filter out links secured purely for SEO purposes.

That makes many forms of link building risky, because:

  • Search engines do not consistently apply the rules. You may see your competitors doing something and getting away with it. You try it a few weeks later and bam: Penalty.
  • The rules change. What’s safe one week might not be safe the next. That’s life.
  • Your competitors are going to report you. If they’re search-savvy, they’re watching for anything they think might be a bad practice, and they’ll report you at the drop of a hat.

Here’s my risk management chart for link building:

Link building risk factors

Link building risk management [pdf]

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. @Justin I usually add guest blogging on to my normal editorial calendar. If my goal is 4 posts per week on my own blog, then I do what I can for guest posts (usually 1-2 a month, sometimes more).
    I rely on my own posts to build links as well.
    If you’re a hardcore link builder, though, or if your client has no blog/way to add content, go wild – do 2-3 guest posts a week if you can. Just make sure you land on quality blogs.

  2. Great infographic Ian. I like how straight-forward you are. There are basically only a few really great ways to build links that a) work and b) come without risk. With all these posts about how to build this and that type of link, infographics like yours are a needed extra perspective. Thanks!

  3. I like that one yellow circle on the right in your image. If you blow it up and look at it, then it says to build lots of great quality sites and use them for links. That is an interesting tactic. Not many people use that one because of the level of work involved. It is sure to be a winner too.
    Link building will always be a trade off. I don’t think that commenting is really being frowned on by Google all that much. Obviously you don’t want to automate it with scripts that pump out pure spam. However, a carefully crafted link in the right place will actually generate reader interest in you and clicks to your site.
    Matt Cutts says Google does not mind links being built with the intention of driving traffic. I think comments are better for driving traffic than for SEO. He has definitely liberalized his language around link building in his more recent videos.

  4. My friend, I have made over millions in sales last year and we have links coming from blog comments, paid links. I have yet to lose ranking for past 10 years. All these so called SEO pros stop others from doing things that they are doing enmass look at wix. wtf are they doing? How they rank for so many great keywords? Ever analyzed their profile?

  5. Hi Ian,
    great infographics, but I would disagree with you on some points.
    – blog comment spam – please define it? – as far as I see it, if you actively participate in comments (as for example in SEO niche), putting your website into comments is a clear signal of “neighborhood” to engines and even if the comments are nofollowed, engines identify it
    – link spam network – please define it? – as far as I see it, if you own several sites, interlinking them where is appropriate will do you no penalty, because engines will just devaluate the links and you will still get traffic

  6. @Goran Leaving useful comments is one thing. Bombarding blogs with automated commenting tools is what I consider ‘spam’. The same goes for owning multiple sites. If you own a few sites and interlink them, that’s great. But you can also launch hundreds of thin sites, link them to slightly higher-quality sites and so on to ‘launder’ the link authority and then use those to boost a few target site. That’s a link spam network.

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