The Ultimate Guide to Link Building in 2011

You’re here because you know how important link-building is for your website, blog, business, or brand. Links are the currency of the internet, payable by Google.

Here at Single Grain, we thought we’d let you in on our own link-building strategies, as varied as they might be. If you are a beginner or have just created a new site, you can use this guide as a checklist. On the other hand, if you’re an experienced link builder, see if you can spot anything we’ve missed and add them in the comments section. Peruse at will, or jump ahead to one of these categories: social media, viral content, guest posts, news, interviews, competitions and community, reviews, link requests, local links, e-mail marketing, paid links, or face-to-face. And don’t worry about getting them all done in one day – keep this as a reference so you can check back and see how you’re doing!

Social Media

  • Create profiles on social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any of your other favorites. (here are a lot more sites to choose from)
  • Use those profiles to spread additional links to your own content, tastefully interspersed with other informative articles and interaction (not spam!).
  • Invest in a social coupon deal. Even if subscribers don’t purchase the actual deal, they are still exposed to your brand.
  • Create multimedia presentations and post them on any of the following viewing sites:  SlideShare (presentations/slidedecks), YouTube (videos), or iTunes (podcasts).
  • Become a member and interact with social bookmarking sites starting with digg, StumbleUpon, and Delicious.
  • Answer questions and establish your “authority” on sites like LinkedIn and Quora.
  • Interact with forums in your market. Be useful and human – not spam!
  • Comment on blogs and join conversations to help strengthen your online network.

Viral Content

  • Write tutorials and complete how-to’s.
  • Create beautiful, useful infographics.
  • Show off photos and artwork.
  • Create an informative ebook or whitepaper.
  • Present a case study…
  • Or take it a step farther and be a case study! Put your analytics to good use and show off your business strategies. Explain what has helped your site or business grow, complete with steps so others can follow your lead.
  • Host free tools.
  • Give free advice.
  • Create free design templates for WordPress or Blogger (complete with credit to your URL at the bottom).
  • Make a free app (for multiple platforms).
  • Make a free browser extension (for multiple browsers).
  • Just give stuff away for free; The more it’s worth to them, the more it’s worth for you.
  • Create lists. Especially huge, exhaustive, comprehensive lists. Or create lists that will provoke a reaction, like lists of iconic people.
  • Write about other people. Be mindful about what you say and remember that whatever you post on the internet is permanent. This is the case whether you want to be a ranting, angry critic or a raving, boastful fan.

Guest Posts

  • Write authoritative guest posts within your niche. Make sure your particular angle is showcased through the article, so it doesn’t just blend in with the regularly scheduled posts.
  • Write broad, interesting guest posts outside your niche. Tie your specialty to their niche markets in unexpected ways. For instance, ‘keep fit while freelancing,’ or ‘be zen while doing SEO.’
  • Accept guest posts from other authors on your blog. Some guest posters tell their audiences when they have written a guest post.
  • Let your articles be published in ezines or newsletters of other organizations with attribution.


  • Make your business newsworthy; Have a successful marketing campaign, fundraise for a charity, or tell your own personal success story, from day one until now. Of course, you could also go bankrupt or get involved in court all in the name of ‘news’… but those strategies don’t come highly recommended.
  • Create a high-quality press release.
  • Contact national news, local news, and industry news with your story. Don’t forget about newspapers, radio, TV, and internet news outlets.
  • Volunteer to be an “on call” expert in your field. Be known as the one who can define industry jargon so that anyone can make sense of it.


  • Get interviewed on other sites.
  • Interview others on your site.
  • An interview on the news is great, too!

Competitions and Community

  • Ask questions in blog posts or social media outlets. Listen to the answers. Keep people engaged.
  • Survey your followers. Know who is listening to you.
  • Create banners or badges for fans to include on their blogs or sites (with a hyperlink back to your site).
  • Create a give-away or drawing that encourages blog comments, retweets, and sharing.
  • Run a competition for the best multimedia created for the contest, linking back to your site – videos, blog posts, infographics.
  • Create badges for winners of “best blog” or “best site” contests.
  • Sponsor a charity, conference, or sports team. Thinking bigger? Get an event named after you.


  • Solicit reviews of your products and services.
  • Create an affiliate program to encourage others to promote you.
  • Give testimonials for others (contractors, consultants, providers). Give permission for the testimonial to be posted on their website with a link back to you.
  • Solicit testimonials from others, and cross-post them on your site and theirs.

Link Requests

  • Routinely link to other helpful pages.
  • Find lists of niche or local sites, and ask to be listed.
  • If you have a blog, look for blog directories to be listed in.
  • If your site has beautiful CSS, submit it to a CSS style directory.
  • If your site is standards compliant, submit it to a standards compliance directory – you get the picture!
  • Ask for links from employees and friends with websites, especially if they are looking for a way to help your business grow.

Local Links

  • Trade reciprocal links with neighboring restaurants and businesses.
  • Join the local business bureau or chamber of commerce.
  • Look at the city website (or help create one). Request to be listed as a local business.
  • Find out if your local library has a directory of local websites or businesses.
  • Complete your business profile on DexKnows, YellowPages, and other business directories.
  • Complete your business profile on Google Hotpot, Yelp, and other review sites.
  • Encourage and respond to reviews (both positive and negative).
  • Notify your alumni association, or other schools or colleges you are associated with, about your business. It’s possible to be listed in an alumni directory, a newsletter, or other online materials with a link back to your site.


  • Attend conferences.
  • Have business cards, carry them, and use them.
  • Write about the conferences and events on blogs and social media.
  • Take pictures. Let people know they will be posted online – with this you’ll be giving them disclosure and a reason to visit your site.
  • Follow up with contacts (wherever they are made).
  • Arrange times to meet local professionals in your field.
  • Join a networking group or organize your own networking event.
  • Be helpful. If you give the up-and-coming a helping hand, it’s not just a one-way street.

Final Thoughts

If you want to see how far link-building has come, check out some pretty comprehensive lists from 2007 and 2002. Some of these tips have aged quite well while others, well, haven’t. This list here will grow old eventually as well, but until then, if you’ve thought of any additional link-building advice that could be included in our list above, please let us know in the comments- we’ll add it with attribution. What a great way to get links to your site!

By the way, now that you know how to start building links, don’t forget to be smart about it. Associate your links with important keywords (but not always the same keywords). Make sure your site is ready to “grab” new visitors – you only have a few seconds! Brush up your design, create a landing page, and suggest a category or an article to get them introduced to what your site is about.

Measure the results of your link-building. Run analytics, and annotate important events. This will help you discover which audiences converted well, and let you focus your later efforts more productively.

Go forth and build links!

  • Those are some great ideas to diversify and attain quality links.

    After the recent Farmer/Panda update, SEOs must invest more time into producing quality work (something that wasn’t fully necessary in the past years).

  • Steve,

    Thanks for the complements. I think there was always a need for more quality at least in the last 5-6 years. With Panda/Farmer update it’s raised the bar even higher to the point where all parts of your site need more SEO value and having higher quality content, links, etc is a way of doing so.

  • Monique

    Forgive my ignorance, but what does this mean?

    “Invest in a social coupon deal. Even if subscribers don’t purchase the actual deal, they are still exposed to your brand.”

  • Monique,

    It means that if your product/service fits try to work with companies such as groupon, living social,, and other deal a day or coupon sites.

  • Samuel P.

    WOW! This is probably the most complete “to the point” guide on link building available online and it should become a piece of VIRAL CONTENT in the SEO forums filled with this same question over and over.

    There are a few things on which I disagree, free templates are already being abused and like the “designed by” link in the footer will probably be worth nothing soon. The same thing happens with the entire “REVIEW” section, most of those techniques could be considered PAID links and actually harm your rankings.

    From there on I loved your post and I’ll definitely add a few strategies to my plan!

  • Samuel,

    Good points about footer links & reviews. It has definitely can be over used.

    Both can be used if it is relevant to your business. For example, it make sense for a web designer to make free wordpress themes as it helps his/her business and help with link building. This is not the only thing they should do nor should they stuff anchor text rich links in the footer.

    By no means are we suggesting that you deploy only 1 of these tactics. It’s more to give others ideas and start off the brainstorming process

  • Great stuff. I would suggest you add (under local) Sponsor a page on a Local Charities site. There are lots of good charities that can use your support and will be happy to give you a citation or a link at the bottom of one of their pages “Sponsored by your company”

  • Mike,

    Great suggestion. I think it could actually fit in both categories. As you can sponsor industry organizations or other things that aren’t necessarily local

    • Yes! We had a client that was from Canada (living in and doing business in Denver CO.). They sponsored a page on a Canadians in the Untied states support site, and it was a nice citation and link. The great part is it was done without even considering the SEO value. That’s the best type linking!

  • Well very nice techniques you shared with us. After the strictness of Google against content farmers, all SEOs should consider on the quality of their website. Specially content.

  • These are all good tips.. Well while creating the links we all need to do is we must create the links as many as we can with different methods..

  • Print this out and use it as a guide! While it may seem overwhelming, look at the tips offered that you think will have the most impact for you and schedule one task per day. Good Stuff!

  • Thank you for an informative article – using business directories and local search directories are an invaluable tool to aid optimization, web traffic, and raising any business profile.

  • Thanks, this is a really useful summary. Yet again search has substantially evolved and those of us who want to do a good job of it need to keep on top of the latest techniques.

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  • Thanks for sharing valuable points in link building. Its really helpful for those who want to proceed a quality link building. Every SEO beginners have look at this post. Once again thanks.

  • Great list – although I think you can get into some hot water with reciprocal links of neighboring businesses. I see this taken too far all the time with services like Linkmarket and whatnot.

    Any time you’re thinking about reciprocating links, you need to ask serious questions about relevance and whether visitors to YOUR site will find that link valuable.

    Anyways, thanks for putting this together!

    • Great point Joel. Definitely have to be careful with reciprocal link building.

  • MB

    Thank you for the interesting post. There is enough work in 2011…

  • Great post!

    No matter which Link Building methods you use always raise the “Quality” bar as high as possible because “Quality” does work no matter what.

    Take this post as an example, I came here from another good Link Building blog ( through a link in their Monthly Link Building recommended posts.

  • Great article and list, in my opnion it is good to have a wide diversity of backlinks. Links from many video sites, PPT / sharing sites, social bookmarking and social directory, blogs etc. The more divers the better because Google loves an organic and natural looking backlink profile

  • I like this Site. Thank you so much for such a great post. Your time will help us to increase our knowledge.

  • php2ranjan

    Tons of tips, most of which I didn’t know until I’d been blogging for about a year (but better late than never, right? 😉 )

    Keep up the excellent work man.

  • Nice tips, I would like to add. Before doing guest post, make sure your site has a lot of useful content for the new visitors. You might wanna keep them as returning too.

  • I already know these all link building ways, but it is very useful for new webmaster, I like your way of writing, its very easy to understand.
    nice post & very informative blog you made.

  • Links considered as quality if it is related to your site and can create stable traffic, rankings and regular visitors.

  • Very complete compilation of tips for Search Engine Optimization.

    Would like to add for Local SEO look for High schools and even Middle schools in your area that are hosting events that have a website. Many school events look for sponsors and for $25 – $50 will give you a sponsor position and get your URL listed on their site. Look for sites that have archived pages of sponsors from previous years. Most of the time this will get you a .gov link.

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  • I’m hearing from a lot of people that they have put link building on hold because of the Penguin update. Realistically I think it’s just a matter of trying to vary the sources you are getting your links from.

  • That is a lot of work but hey if you have a good business I recommend you to do it because it really works this way. I think within a year you will have nice standings in Google and within 2 years you will dominate the market.

  • This is one of several really helpful link building guides, covering topics in social media, viral content, guest posting,

  • This is one of several really helpful link building guides, covering topics in social media, viral content, guest posting, news. I use it a lot.

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