Link Building Guide: Step By Step

Link building – can’t live with it, can’t live without it. It takes time, effort, massive amounts of patience and creativity – but it is the stuff of which high rankings are made. So where do you start?

where to start link building

We’ve put together a long list of ideas culled from blog writers all over the SEO industry. Not every idea will work for every site, but you should be able to find a good number that you can put into practice. The first half of this guide has ideas for general linkbuilding, appropriate to any industry and topic, and the second half has particular ideas for products, blogs, videos, contests, etc.

(Note: this list was made a while ago for internal use, and so we didn’t keep track of the sources. Now that we’re sharing it for the public benefit of all the linkbuilders out there, we’d like to give attribution, so if you see any tip that came from a blog post of yours, please contact us and let us know.)

Happy link building!

Leveraging Existing Relationships

If your site has a list of “partner” sites, add their URLs to their listings and ask them to specify yours on their “partners” page.

link building guide partners

For ecommerce/service sites, ask customers/clients to give links – especially if they write to say they are satisfied.

Who are your brand evangelists? Ask them for a link. How do you find them? One hint: use Google Alerts for your brand name to see if people are talking about you anyway on the web. If you see someone speaking glowingly about your brand, cultivate a relationship with them. Show them that you appreciate their appreciation. Eventually you can ask them for a link.

Create a widget of the following sort that customers can put on their site:

“Show off your pride by posting this badge on your Facebook page, blog, or personal web site.  Plus… you’ll receive a 5% off your next purchase voucher for every purchase your friends make via your badge (Terms).  It’s our way of saying thank you for introducing us to your friends.”

This takes work to create the widget that would enable tracking of referral orders and someone to be on top of making sure the vouchers are sent to the correct people, but it might be worth the effort in links and the boost in sales.

What are the most important industry related websites and blogs  in your niche? Look in your LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers and those of some of your colleagues, and look for the owners of/writers on these websites. If you find a match, use that connection and turn it into a link.

Check referring sites in Analytics and ask them to update anchor text.

link building guide referring sites

Check referring sites in Analytics and send them a thank-you note for referrals (good PR for future).

Search for your website URL and see if there are sites that mention you without linking to you. Thank them for mentioning you and ask them to add a link for the benefit of their visitors. Use search queries:

  • sitename

Check for crawl errors in Google Webmaster Tools and see if any sites are linking to pages of yours that return a 404 error. Write to them to give them an updated URL for that content.

link building guide broken links

Ask your client who all of his suppliers are, then research suppliers’ websites to see if they have place for testimonials/link to clients. Possible suppliers are:

  • IT support
  • web design / hosting
  • telephony
  • email service provider / email marketing company
  • legal advice
  • HR / recruitment
  • coaching / business advice
  • property services (including landlords / tenants)
  • PR
  • advertising
  • software provider(s) – particularly industry software
  • accountancy / audit
  • training (again, particularly industry training)
  • printing / graphic design
  • food / drink / hospitality
  • hardware / office furniture / computer equipment suppliers
  • cleaning company
  • industry suppliers (depending on the client’s industry)
  • conference organizers (either for their own seminars etc. or whose conferences you attend)
  • artwork providers (local artists or galleries), florists etc.

This isn’t exactly a relationship you would want to have, but if it exists anyway… Make sure that blog scrapers link back via method outlined here:

Creating Relationships

Connect to influencers in your niche and connect. Use to get a list of influential people in your niche. Follow these people. Keep track of the subjects they tweet about and retweet them. Check their websites to learn more about them and their interests. Start interacting with these influencers – slowly – don’t come on too strong. Eventually, create and tweet content that after all your research you are pretty sure they’ll be interested in. If they are, they will likely tweet and link to your content.

Pitch a story about your industry with quotes from you/your CEO to make it easy for a reporter to use. Use site to get daily updates of reporters looking for sources for their stories.

link building guide reporter source

If you have actual location(s), get links from your local chamber of commerce and area information sites (even large chains can build locations pages).

If there is a site you would like to get a link from, and you see there is a piece of content – blog post, research report, infographic – that they would want on their site, create that content for them and offer it to them (with a link to yourself as creator of the content).

Using Directories

Keep a list of directories, separated into free and paid directories, niches, ordered by whatever system you prefer of ranking page strength (Page Rank, SEOMoz Page Authority and Domain Authority, etc.). When you are link building, go through your list of directories – register in all applicable.

Using Forums

Search for keyword+forum. If the forum enables signatures, add links to your signature. Post regularly. If it does not allow signatures, post regularly and on occasion throw in a relevant link from your website. (You can even get ideas for content from these forums.)

link building guide forum signature

Find “footprints” of do-follow blogs and forums you run across (text on their template which would appear on other blogs using the same template – e.g. “Most users ever online was”, which finds forums powered by vBulletin) and search for that text + keyword.

To find do-follow blogs on your topic, use:

keyword inurl:ifollow*.gif

(This finds a “U Comment – I Follow” banner.)

As you look for forums, make sure to keep a running list of all forums you come across with relevant details: topic, whether the links are follow or no-follow, whether it enables signature links. Also keep track of any usernames and passwords for forums and the signature link for each. Then, when you need to link build for a new site, you can go over your list, pick out forums that are relevant to the new site’s niche, and start building on them.

In your travels across the web, you will run across “abandoned” forums and message boards (read: no one is moderating them). Keep a running list and when you are link building for a particular site, pick a few forums and throw some “ads” up. (Note: once more people discover any particular forum and hundreds of links start coming out of it, it most likely becomes less effective.)

Using Articles

Write articles and put them on article sites. Put links with relevant anchor text in the body of article and in the author bio.

link building guide articles

Getting Links to Others That are Broken

Search “website no longer available”, “website closed” and “page no longer updated” + keyword and tell linking sites that their link goes to site that is no longer available but they could link to you.

Find resource pages for your topic and see if there are errors (broken links, etc. – you can use Xenu). Inform webmaster, and eventually ask for link in return for help.

Using Embeddable Links

Create a widget which will give a link when embedded.

Create a quiz with a badge displaying the visitor’s results that gives a link when displayed.

link building with badges

Using Search Operators

Use SEO Solo link finder tool:

Use SEOMoz Juicy Link Finder Tool:

Use the following search queries (read: put this into a Google search and see what comes up – note: some of these were included in the link tools above) to find potential link targets:

  • keyword “add url” / “add * url”
  • keyword “add site” / “add * site”
  • keyword “add website” / “add *website”
  • keyword “submit url” / “submit * url”
  • keyword “submit site” / “submit *site”
  • keyword “submit website” / “submit * website”
  • keyword “suggest url” / “suggest * url”
  • keyword “suggest site” / “suggest site”
  • keyword “suggest website” / “suggest * website”
  • keyword “recommended links”
  • keyword “recommended sites”
  • keyword “favorite links”
  • keyword “favorite sites”
  • keyword bookmarks
  • “list * keyword * sites”
  • “add comment” keyword / “add * comment”
  • “post comment” keyword / “post * comment”
  • keyword “leave a comment” / “leave * comment”
  • keyword “no comments”
  • keyword “powered by wordpress”
  • keyword “notify me of follow-up comments”
  • keyword “wiki” (
  • keyword forum / keyword forums
  • keyword discussion boards
  • keyword members
  • keyword join
  • keyword “advertiser testimonials”
  • keyword “related URLs” / “* related URLs”
  • keyword “related sites” / “* related sites”
  • “public library” “useful links” keyword
  • “favorite keyword sites” library –clientwebsite
  • “best keyword” OR
  • keyword resources public library
  • keyword

Use the inurl: search operator to make the search more targeted:

  • inurl:tag / inurl:tags
  • inurl:blog / inurl:blogs
  • inurl:forum / inurl:forums
  • inurl:add-link / inurl:submit-link

By Sponsoring/Donating

link building by being a sponsor


  • keyword sponsors
  • keyword sponsorship
  • keyword sponsor charity
  • keyword benefactors
  • keyword donate
  • keyword donations
  • keyword donors
  • keyword inurl:sponsors/advertise
  • keyword inurl:sponsor/advertise
  • keyword intitle:sponsors/advertise
  • “in kind donations” list
  • “in kind donors” list

Or use a topic that is not your keyword but is relevant to your keywords/products:

  • marathon inurl:sponsors (if you sell running shoes)

Through Job Vacancies and Student Discounts

link building through job sites

If you have job vacancies in your business, use:

  • jobs degree variations (,
  • careers degree
  • careers advice
  • career opportunities
  • job finding site
  • job placement site
  • employment site

If you offer student discounts in your business, use:

  • student discount partners + variations
  • student discounts

By Guest Blogging

Use to find opportunities for guest posting. Put your links in your bio first (don’t be spammy) and then when you develop relationship, you can drop one or two in text also.

Other helpful search queries:

  • keyword “guest blogger” OR “guest post” OR “guest article” OR “guest column”
  • keyword “become a contributor” OR “contribute to this site”
  • keyword “write for us” OR “write for me”
  • keyword inurl:category/guest

Using Competitive Intelligence

To find email addresses for link contacts, use:

  • site:[] + [name] + email
  • site:[] + [name] + contact
  • site:[] + [name] + email
  • site:[] + [name] + contact

Check competitor backlinks for potential links. Use process detailed in and/or in

Check the backlink profiles of link-building companies (using a tool like Open Site Explorer).

For Products to Sell or Give Away:

  • submit * review
  • get * reviewed
  • allintitle:get * reviewed
  • reviews inurl:submit
  • review keyword
  • reviews keyword
  • reviews blog keyword
  • intitle:potential places that would advertise it
  • intitle:keyword tools
  • intitle:free keyword tools
  • intitle:list of free keyword tools
  • intitle:list of keyword tools
  • pr welcome
  • pr friendly
  • pr contact
  • pr info

If you have good deals:

  • “cyber Monday” keyword
  • “black Friday” keyword
  • “best/good deals” keyword

If you have a hard to find item:

  • find your hard to find item
  • how to find your hard to find item
  • locate your hard to find item

If you have gift guides:

  • gifts for your target market
  • keyword gift guide
  • Make sure the date is not in the URL of your gift guide so that you can reuse year after year and keep links without redirecting.

If you send a free product to bloggers to get reviewed and you get a link to your site in the review, you can then ask for updated anchor text in your thank you note. See sample email at:

For Product Detail Pages

Put linkbait on those pages: product demos, free downloads, infographics.

Give discounts on popular products (not just overstock), advertised on the page itself. Then even when the sale is over, any links generated will remain.

Have a product detail pages-focused link analysis of competitors – where are they getting their deep links from?

For Blogs

If you have an author profile on Amazon, upload your blog feed.

For Podcasts

If you produce a podcast, use:

  • podcast directory
  • keyword podcast
  • keyword podcast directory
  • keyword podcast list
  • find keyword podcast

For Videos

If you have videos to promote, use:

  • intitle:keyword videos
  • intitle:keyword clips

For Resources

If you have helpful resources on your site, use:

  • keyword resources
  • keyword “recommended resources”
  • “useful keyword sites” library –clientwebsite
  • “helpful keyword sites” library –clientwebsite
  • keyword “top * [tools/ articles/ websites/ etc.]” (refine search to ~1 year ago. Contact anybody who shows up and ask if you can help with the upcoming edition of the article)
  • keyword location resources/useful sites/ links
  • keyword USP (unique selling proposition) intitle:resources (use ‘green’, ‘cheapest’ etc. as USP)
  • keyword “planned research” OR “upcoming project” (this might return upcoming research/ project/ whatever that could be useful, both for info and for links)

For Contests:

To promote your contests and giveaways, use:

  • intitle:submit intitle:contest
  • allintitle:submit * contest
  • blog contests
  • submit * giveaway

Have a giveaway on another site/blog that requires people to go to your site and then post something they learned about your product/company.

Have a competition hosted on your site where public votes are counted – people will post links on their social media pages to get their friends to vote.


If you’ve managed to read through this entire list, you deserve the following wish:

May you get many quality links!

Thanks in advance!


5 Responses

  1. Getting Exposure for Your Blog on Facebook | Debi'Z Organic SEO on Says:

    [...] on the heels of the introduction of our Link Building Guide earlier this week, here’s another idea for gaining exposure – and possibly links [...]

  2. New Free Link Building Guide Available From Debi'Z Organic SEO | Debi'Z Organic SEO on Says:

    [...] Debi’Z Link Building Guide, with hundreds of ideas for building links to your site culled over months from thought-leaders in the SEO industry.  The guide goes through different ideas for building general links, including how to create relationships, leverage existing relationships, Google search queries to use, and embeddable links. It then gives you specific ways of promoting specific content, like product detail pages, podcasts and contests.  We built it originally for internal use, but decided to share it for free with all of you who work so hard to find links. [...]

  3. Bringing Traffic to your Website with Link Building - Talk at JBNF | Debi'Z Organic SEO on Says:

    [...] (see the relevant anchor text?), and it was based on a few examples from Aviva’s amazing Link Building Guide that we blogged about a couple of weeks [...]

  4. Rolando on Says:

    Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Many thanks, However I am having troubles with your
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  5. debizyx on Says:

    Hi Rolando – many thanks for your comments.
    Note that this blog is now dormant, as Debi’Z has stopped all SEO work. For any questions you may have, contact Aviva at her new blog

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