High-Value Link Building is Hard Work

You’ve probably heard that obtaining links from authoritative sites is a must for your long-term Web site promotional plan. Certainly, this is a key piece of advice that we provide to all of our clients. Today, we’ll discuss the steps to obtaining such links.

First, How Not to do it

Backlinking your competitors and building a mailing list for all the sites that link to them, and then sending out mass mailings is the big no-no here. Even if you’re clever, there’s no way to produce a mass e-mail which shows that you looked seriously at their site. You must hand-customize your e-mail to these types of sites (more on this later).

On a related note, you can’t fall into the mindset of looking at your cost-per-acquired-link. This metric is downright harmful, because as a businessperson, you’ll begin to optimize on it. You’ll want to drive your cost per link down. The result: you’ll get worse and worse links.

After all, forum spam, blog spam, and WordPress template spam is pretty cheap, but you aren’t going to get anything authoritative that way. The other factor that must be central in your mind: one authoritative link can potentially be worth 10,000 times more than one of those blog spam links.

1. Set the Right Goals

You can’t get where you need to go unless you understand where you need to go. If your chief competitor has a dozen killer authoritative links, don’t devise a plan to get yourself two such links — you also need a dozen or more. You have to play to win.

2. Identify the Authorities

There’s no simple formula for doing this. However, there are a few possibilities to consider:

  • Leading companies in your space. Because you don’t want to look at your direct competitors, think about looking at independent authorities that carry a lot of respect in your space.
  • Backlink competitors. Focus on the domains with the highest PageRank that link to them.
  • Colleges and universities. Not student and professor bookmark pages, but school departments and school libraries.
  • Major media. Is there a columnist at the New York Times that covers your space, or something closely related to it?

3. Devising a Content Strategy

Once you know who the targets are, figure out what it will take to get them interested in what you do. They will only link to you if you offer their users great stuff. Understanding this and absorbing it into your overall business strategy is incredibly important.

How hard the content plan will be depends on the goals you set for yourself, and the diversity of authorities you’re pursuing. You’ll need to assemble a market leading content/tool package to play to win in this game. You’ll probably need to provide this in a non-commercial user experience — otherwise, it will be an unattractive page to link to.

4. Develop a Contact Plan for Each Site

When dealing with high value, authoritative sites, develop a separate contact plan for each one. The person who contacts them needs to spend enough time on the target site to really understand what might motivate the person responsible for the page to give a link.

You then need to determine what aspect of the great content and tools on your Web site might appeal to the audience. You may end up developing custom content just to improve your chances of getting that link.

The more creative you can be here, the better. You may need to build a relationship over a period of time. For example, if you spot a typo on the subject site, make that the subject of your first e-mail to them (without any overt request for a link).

Keep in mind that this is the most important stage of the process, and it requires the most thought. The first three steps of the process exist solely to put you in a position to succeed in this step.


Set yourself up for success by setting the right goals and aligning your content and contact plans with the needs of the authoritative sites on which your success depends. A properly defined goal may leave you with a pretty daunting set of things you need to do, and it may be intimidating (although this certainly isn’t always the case).

But, it sure beats pursuing something over a long period of time with no chance of success.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies Chicago December 8-12 at the Chicago Hilton. The only major search marketing conference and expo in the Midwest will be packed with 60-plus sessions, multiple keynotes and Orion Strategy sessions, exhibitors, networking events, and more.

Related reading

Simple Share Buttons