4 link building strategies: Internet marketing questions

Ian Lurie

This is part of my Stump Ian internet marketing questions series. In this question, David asked “Though this is a public setting, what would you outline as a scalable, time/cost effective backlinking strategy(ies)?”
Don’t worry, David, there’s no secret sauce to give away here. I’ve always seen four ways to build links:

Be a really big company

The easiest way to build links? Be Nike, or Sony, or the New York Times. I’ll assume that one’s not in reach, or you’d be paying a consultant $500,000 to tell you the next 3 items.
Success rate: 99%
Feasibility: .00000006%

Site submission

Submit your site to every directory, social media platform, top 10 list and anywhere else you can think of. Sorry, I’m not going to give you a list here. You’ll need to find a good one on your own, or join SEOMOZ and get theirs, or maybe purchase my training when it comes out and use that one. Mwahahaha.
Directory submission and such can set a foundation, but don’t expect it to do more than that. Every SEO on the planet has a list of directories, and they spam the crap out of them.
But it’s easy, straightforward and good way to get started. Since most people think SEO isn’t worth the money, chances are directory submissions will get you a bit of a head start on many competitors.
And there are side benefits: Social media profile creation will help protect your reputation. Directory submissions generate a bit of direct traffic (sometimes). And press releases do still work as media attention generators on occasion.
I count online press releases, article syndication, directory submission and social media submission all as part of this strategy.
Success rate: 10%
Feasibility: 99%

Encourage linking

You can’t buy links. If you’re not an SEO, just don’t do it. The chances of pouring money down a hole are about 100%.
However, you can provide all sorts of incentives to create links. For example, you can create a simple box on link-worthy pages of your site that make it easy to link, like this:
4 link building strategies, from Conversation Marketing
Note how you can click, and it’s already selected? All a visitor has to do is copy, and then paste the code into their site, and voila – a link.
You can also create widgets that include links back to your site, and use services like Tynt.com to turn lazy cut-and-pasters into unwitting link builders.
These strategies are great, if you have a web developer who gives a darn, or if you have the skills yourself. If you don’t, unfortunately, this will be really frustrating.
Success rate: 20%
Feasibility: 50%

Write a lot

This is the one strategy that’s guaranteed to work. Spend a little time learning to be a good SEO copywriter (which means a good copywriter, too – not a crappy one).
Then set a consistent writing schedule. Post new stuff to your web site on schedule; submit unique content to blog carnivals; do some guest blogging.
Keep writing. Always strive for the perfect blog post (OK, that one’s a joke). Seriously, though, work to produce great-looking, easy-to-read, useful blog posts. Keep doing it.
As time passes, if you’re writing good stuff, and you’re working to promote it via social media and other channels, it’ll start to build links. Plus, your guest blogging and participation in blog carnivals will work, too.
Success rate: 75%
Feasibility: Depends on you

Bonus: Execution

Out-execute the competition! Find all those links you already have but didn’t know about. Fix or redirect busted ones, get links where you should have ’em. Those are your easiest ones.

Link building isn’t scalable

Yes, there are other ‘tricks’. I’ve got lots of places I go hunting for links, and most of them are worth a link or two per client. But that’s just a link or two. If you’re up against sites with 2500 unique inlinking domains, there is no scalable, affordable way to do it. You’re going to need to put a lot of time into it. I wish I had better news.
The good news, though, is that very few people do a good job of link building. Put the time into it and you get ahead.

Related links

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the 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 Lynda.com, 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 www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Ah yes, all true. Link building is a bit like tending a garden. Adding Miracle-Grow now and then works great, but you just need to go out and tend the frigging thing. Just like you need to tend to linking building.

  2. Hey Ian, thanks for answering my question!
    The specific techniques are helpful, and the execution bonus tip is motivational/inspirational as much of my own link building has been tedious – even onerous – doing most by hand, for example, via setting up Google alerts for my topic and then taking the time to make thoughtful, valuable posts in appropriate places found.
    Because I like my topic, joining a discussion or posting my insights and experience is fun, but it’s a bit of a grind, and it’s sure not scalable unless I can clone myself! – hey, how come THAT’S not on the above list? 😉
    Thanks again,

  3. Enjoyable post to read Ian.
    I like your style of writing with the success rate and feasibility ratings under each item.
    I can think of another way to add back links which I have done for the past year in my niche marketing which is to create pages such as Hubpages, Squidoo, PR releases and link back to your site.
    Its free and takes a little time, but the long term rewards can be huge.
    Looking forward to more of your tips Ian.

  4. Awesome Advice, Ian!
    I have to agree with Hamilton Wallace on Link Building, “go out and tend the frigging thing.”
    LB is definitely not a set-and-forget strategy.
    Thanks again,
    LR Hand

  5. So content is still king? That’s exactly what I was talking about. Link fixing is in deed a easy and white-hat way of expanding your site’s value.

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