Link Building Articles

The articles and posts below cover how search engines use links to rank web pages or cover tips on how to build links to help improve your rankings. For information on this topic from AFTER OCTOBER 2004, see the Link Building category of Search Topics in Search Engine Watch.

NOTE: Article links often change, especially the older an article is. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

Also note that in some cases, some tools were presented to Search Engine Watch members through the Search Engine Update newsletter as brief mentions. These tools are noted as "Search Engine Update mention," along with the date. Clicking on the URL takes you to the product mentioned, rather than to a story about the tool. Descriptions are as of the date shown, so the tool may have changed since then.

Namebombing: Linking To Influence Results For A Name
Search Engine Watch Forums, Oct. 11, 2004

Members discuss legal and ethical issues surrounding "namebombing" a practice similar to link and Google bombs, trying to control what comes up for a search on the name of a specific person.

Four Things Yahoo Can Do That Google Can't (PDF format)
ResearchBuzz.com, Aug. 17, 2004

Unlike Google, Yahoo lets you see all links to a particular domain rather than a URL, lets you filter out your own site when doing reverse link lookups, lets you search for more than 10 words in a query and lets you search for RSS/Atom/web feeds. Learn more in the PDF file from Tara Calishain

Change To Link Bomb Sign Of New Link Analysis Shift?
Search Engine Watch Forums, July 22, 2004

The link bomb "out of touch executive" no longer brings up the Google corporate management page, something that's happened for the past several months. A sign of Google tampering with results in its own favor or instead, perhaps a change in how it measures links? This thread investigates and explores.

Interview with Link Specialist, Jim Boykin, of We Build Pages
Search Engine Roundtable, July 20, 2004

Link builder Jim Boykin shares thoughts on building, brokering and swapping links.

Feedster Get Your Links
Feedster, July 2004

Who's linking to you in the blog and web feed world? A new feature at Feedster lets you measure via its database.

Microsoft Watch Web Ranking Tool
Microsoft Watch, July 2004

Enter a URL, then get back its Google PageRank score, Alexa traffic rank and a count of backlinks from Yahoo.

The Art and Science of an Effective Link Building Campaign
SearchDay, June 9, 2004

Is it wrong to buy or sell links? How far is too far in optimizing your internal link structure? If you operate a network of sites, can natural interlinking be perceived as link spam? A group of experts offers answers to these questions, and more.

Prog (formerly Proogle)
Search Engine Update mention, May 2004

Slick. Get Google results with the PageRank of each page shown. Why doesn't Google do this? One reason -- it looks odd to see some pages with a higher PageRank come below those with a lower one. But that's also again proof as I've written many, many times before. PageRank alone doesn't trump. The link context and other factors also come into account. Previously called Proogle, that site closed, apparently because Google blocked it (see this for more). Prog is a replacement by the same company that is working, though it perhaps tempts fate by not only taking Google's results but running its own ads alongside them.

Google PageRank Report
Search Engine Update mention, April 2004

Enter URLs and get back a report showing Google PageRank scores in numeric value. Useful for those on Macs and others without access to the Google Toolbar or anyone who wants scores for a variety of pages.

Keyword Pagerank Finder
Search Engine Update mention, April 2004

Awesome tool for easily proving that PageRank values don't trump everything. Enter a query, and the tool brings back results from Google with their PageRank scores listed. See how the New York Times gets into the top results for movies with a PR6 score, above a PR7 site. See how the Hard Rock Cafe gets in the top results for newport beach with a PR1 score. Take that, all of you who think you shouldn't get links from any site with a PR4 or less.

Kerry gets served up with 'waffles' Web pranks twist results of searches
USA Today, April 12, 2004

A link bombing campaign makes Kerry in the top results for "waffles" at Yahoo (and now at Google, since this was written).

Five-domain Googlebomb explodes in boardroom
The Register, March 25, 2004

Daniel Brandt of Google Watch fame has created a new site to target Yahoo's new paid inclusion program: Yahoo Watch, http://www.yahoo-watch.org. I'll be looking more closely at the site and issues with Yahoo's program in general in a multipart series later this month.

In the meantime, Brandt's not done with Google. He linked to Google's corporate information page with the words "out of touch executives." Soon after, the page was driven to the top results at Google for those words.

Of course, the same thing is now true at Yahoo, as even Brandt notes. That underscores what I've written many times before, most recently about the "miserable failure" search that happened BOTH at Google and Yahoo. Link analysis flaws aren't just a Google problem.

The solution proposed by Brandt -- don't let the terms in a link to a page influence how that page might rank -- isn't a solution. There are many, many times that the context of links pointing at pages helps very good pages rise to the top.

For example, say someone is trying to find Google Watch by typing in googlewatch as a single word. Google still manages to get the Google Watch home page site ranked first, even though that word doesn't appear on the page itself.

There are definitely problems that have been demonstrated by allowing link context to influence what other pages are deemed to be about. Google tells me it has made some limiting of this for adult terms, to help avoid things like what happened to the George W. Bush campaign web site back in 2001. It's also looking to explore what else can be done, and I'll revisit this in a future article.

In the meantime, falling back to old-school "on the page" factors (also see here) isn't a solution and would likely make things worse.

What will help? The two leading thoughts for getting to a third generation of search are personalization (see Eurekster Launches Personalized Social Search) and what I call invisible tabs, the use of specialized search databases.

A big reason both may help is that they greatly multiply the number of fronts where the page spam or link manipulation battles have to be fought.

FYI, MSN Watch has also been founded. Creator Aaron Wall didn't want to miss out on all the Watch madness.

Google PageRank Lunacy
SearchDay, Mar. 4, 2004

The quest by some to improve their Google PageRank score seems to have reached the point of sheer madness. Even common decency may be abandoned in futile attempts by desperate (or simply less educated) online marketers and others who will seemingly stop at nothing to try and gain links in hopes of seeing more green in their Google toolbar.

On the economy of Web links
First Monday, January 2004

This paper attempts a model of how people buy and sell links. The simulation doesn't appear to take into account the concept that some people may not want to buy links on an "important" page if that page has many links on it already. It also doesn't appear to integrate the notion that some sites (big or small) may have a set number of incoming links that are gained because of their content, not because of their marketing budget. I've read the paper several times and don't come away feeling that it provides any sense of the reality of how links are actually bought and sold nor seems to pose great predictive value. But perhaps you'll have a different take.

The Art of Advanced Link Building
SearchDay, Nov. 11, 2003

Advanced link building strategies are critical for achieving high rankings in search engines, according to two noted experts and representatives from Google and Teoma.

Case In Point: What You Need To Know About Link Popularity
Search Engine Guide, Nov. 7, 2003

Looking to build links? Debra O'Neil-Mastaler offers some advice

Links Are All About Reputation - An Interview with Mike Grehan
Search Engine Guide, Oct. 20. 2003

Short interview with search engine expert Mike Grehan on how search engines use links and appropriate link building.

Relevant Links Begin In Directories
ClickZ, Oct. 20, 2003

Directories are dying -- someday, I'll finish a piece I started earlier this year explaining why. The short answer is that today's crawler-based search engines let you scan every page on every book in the library to find the best and most exact references to what you are looking for. In the directory approach, you were only able to scan the titles of books, a far less comprehensive search.

If directories are dying, does that mean it's not worth getting directory links? Fredrick Marckini still sees value in doing the old Yahoo-ODP submission rounds. And sure, do the ODP simply because it's easy way to get a free, valuable link -- assuming they get around to processing it.

And Yahoo? Spend the money only because you think the listing within the Yahoo Directory itself will bring you traffic, not because you think it will help you with crawler-based search engines using link analysis. See the Yahoo Directory page for Search Engine Watch members for more about this and the concept of "detour traffic."

Missing Backlinks in Google
SearchEngineGuide.com, April 17, 2003

Google not showing the pages that link to you, even though you know you have some? Jill Whalen correctly explains that for a well established site, this could indicate that you've been banned by Google. A look at things to check on and avoid.

Link Popularity and the Myth of the Guestbook Link
SearchDay, April 15, 2003

Link popularity is crucial for your pages to rank well in search engines, but the value of guestbook links is questionable, at best, and potentially lethal, at worst.

Aggressive Linking - The Only Search Engine Optimization Strategy You Need?
SearchDay, March 20, 2003

Is an aggressive linking strategy alone sufficient to garner high search engine rankings? A search engine marketing firm in England says it is, and has built a web site to prove that the strategy really works. Search Engine Watch members should click through to the special members-edition

Linkability - Why do some sites have it while others don't?
SearchEngineGuide.com, Dec. 18, 2002

So you want people to link to you? Here are tips to ensure that you have good "linkability."

Google Sued Over PageRank Decrease
The Search Engine Report, Nov. 4, 2002

Google finds itself now being sued by a site owner who saw a decrease in the "PageRank" score reported to those who use the Google Toolbar. He claims Google penalized him unfairly, because he was running a network designed to broker links between sites with high PageRank. Others might feel Google, if the allegations of penalties are true, acted in self-defense. A look at the case, issues it raises and the overall "linking lunacy" that it epitomizes

Search Engine Strategies: Looking at Links
SearchDay, October 15, 2002

Link analysis is one of the most important techniques search engines use to determine relevance and rank documents. Representatives from Google and Teoma explain how it's done.

Google: Can The Marcia Brady Of Search Stay Sweet?
The Search Engine Update, Sept. 3, 2002

Includes a short review of the PR Ad Network system at the end, which sells ads on pages with high Google "PageRank."

131 (Legitimate) Link Building Strategies (excerpt)
SearchDay, July 11, 2002

In search engine optimization, "off page" factors have become more and more important as they relate to rankings. In particular, solid link popularity can literally make or break a site with the search engines.

Top of the Heap
Business 2.0, July 2002

David Gallagher -- not the teen heartthrob from 7th Heaven, but freelance writer David Gallagher -- wanted to be tops for his name in Google. So he enlisted readers to start linking to his site. About a month later, he was rewarded by moving up to be number one. Favorite line in this article? "Sneers Matthew Cutts, a Google software engineer," about Gallagher success. I've talked with Matt many times in person and find it hard to imagine him with a sneer on his face :) Second-favorite line, from Cutts: "There are people out there who warp search engine rankings for money." Would these be those warp engineers you hear so much about in Star Trek? Finally, all you PR0-obsessed worriers -- the number two site for David Gallagher is a PR0 page never actually spidered by Google.

Reader Q&A
The Search Engine Update, June 17, 2002

Touches on whether Zeus links would be seen as "bad" by Google, as well as spam issues.

How Search Engines Look at Links
SearchDay, June 13, 2002

Representatives of Google, Fast, and Ask Jeeves/Teoma share inside information about page ranking and search engine link analysis techniques.

Link Generating Programs: The Debate Continues
SearchDay, Jan. 28, 2002

Do link building programs help or hurt webmasters? Two experts debate the merits of one of the most popular automated link generators on the market.

Automated Link Generators - Not Worth The Trouble
SearchDay, Jan. 17, 2002

Link popularity is crucial for search engine success, but don't even think of using automated software to help -- these programs are both useless and offensive.

How Search Engines Use Link Analysis
SearchDay, Dec. 19, 2001

Link analysis is the secret sauce used by Google and other search engines to determine relevance -- and webmasters ignore it at their peril.

The Road to Link Popularity
ClickZ, Sept. 26, 2001

Tips on building relevant links to your web site.

Linking Mistakes To Avoid, Part 1: Link Optimization and Short URLs
EricWard.com, Aug. 22, 2001

Making your URLs easy to link can help you both with search engines, link building and other promotional activities.

Yes, Virginia, Viral Marketing Really is a Key Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Component
Viral Marketing Monthly, July 2001

By running a viral marketing campaign, you are really running a link building campaign -- and thus getting the benefits that can bring from search engines.

Make Friends With Competing Search Engine Links
ClickZ, May 24, 2001

This is the core to success with building links in a way that helps with search engines. Find sites that do well for terms you are interested in, which are non-competitive to you, and swap links.

Easy Linkin'
ClickZ, May 10, 2001
http://www.clickz.com/linking/build_links/article.php/841651

Gain links by making it easy for people to link to you.

A Linking-Campaign Primer
ClickZ, March 15, 2001
http://www.clickz.com/linking/build_links/article.php/838781

Tips on how to approach a link building campaign.

How to find 1000's of sites to exchange links with
SitePoint, March 2001
http://www.sitepoint.com/article.php/194

Discusses using the 2bpop tool for link building. It pulls links off a page, then allows you to send requests from within the program.

What Makes a Site Link-Worthy?
ClickZ, Dec. 7, 2000
http://www.clickz.com/article.php/833271

Want to gain links? You've got to offer content. Eric Ward has advice on what this really means.

Link Popularity Is Not Your Only Linking Goal
ClickZ, Oct 26, 2000
http://www.clickz.com/linking/build_links/article.php/831231

Further tips on building links, following on the article below.

Building an Effective Linking Strategy
ClickZ, Oct. 12, 2000
http://www.clickz.com/linking/build_links/article.php/830591

Eric Ward is a widely acknowledged master of generating traffic to a web site through online PR and link building. In this article, he introduces you to link building concepts.

How to Contact Editors At Web Sites That Conceal Info
Content Exchange, May 8, 2000
http://www.content-exchange.com/cx/html/newsletter/1-28/tt1-28.htm

Excellent article on how to get in contract with the owners of a web site, when easy contact options aren't offered.

Counting Clicks and Looking At Links
The Search Engine Update, August 4, 1998
http://searchenginewatch.com/_subscribers/articles/article.php/2151521

Covers how Google emerged as a link analysis leader, while Direct Hit concentrated on clickthrough measurements. Also features information about link analysis from the Clever project.