Linking Strategies

How to generate abundant incoming links using our 20+ proven strategies


We recently released the recording of our Dynamic Web Pages clinic. You can listen to a recording of this clinic here:

Windows Media Audio:


This research brief will answer the following questions:


1. Why are incoming links important for your website?

Links pointing to your website are important for several reasons. Some of the most important ones include:

  1. Links generate free traffic directly. The more traffic that you can attract via links on other (relevant) websites, the less you will have to spend on pay-per-click search engines and other paid marketing programs.
  2. Link popularity is important in some search engines. The more (relevant) links pointing to your site, the higher the site will be ranked for relevant search queries.
  3. Exchanging links with complementary (but not competitive) sites can increase the overall traffic to both sites, thus creating a win-win situation for both site owners.

2. What is the most single most effective technique to generate incoming links, and how can you measure the number of incoming links to your site?

Consider the following table, which shows the number of incoming links to several health supplement-related websites: (Due to the size of the table it is on a hidden layer.) To Display The Table

What You Need To UNDERSTAND: Of the four sites, has the most incoming links (a total of 24,243 counted by all six engines).

Why does one website have significantly more incoming links than the other three?

Unlike the other three sites, which are basic storefronts, has consumer reviews and other valuable content. This content not only increases keyword relevance, it also encourages other site owners to link to the site.

KEY POINT: Provide as much valuable content as possible. More than any other factor, high-quality content on your site will encourage other website owners to create links to your site.

“Valuable content” can take many forms: informative articles, product reviews or comparisons, software downloads, free services, opinion-based content (blogs, etc.), and many others. Even a large or inexpensive selection of products can be considered valuable to website owners who don’t provide such a service.

The table above was generated using the free tool at:

This tool will allow you to plug in your own URL and the URL for several of your competitors. Not only will it tell you how many linked pages these search engines can find, but you can actually browse these pages through the search engines themselves. This is useful to identify which pages are linking to your site and to the sites of your competitors.

You can also use your web logs or statistics program to determine which sites are already linking to yours. By viewing these sites, you will get ideas as to the types of sites on which to pursue additional links. The ability to view your “referrers” or “referring sites” should be considered an essential part any website metrics solution.

How satisfied are you with your link popularity results? Most site owners we’ve spoken to find that they have significant room for improvement. In the following section, we will look at 20 additional proven strategies for creating incoming links to your website.

3. What are 20 additional strategies to generate incoming links?

  1. Submit your site to as many directories as possible. Directories differ from search engines in that they are usually maintained by a human editor rather than a robot or spider that indexes your site.

    In most cases, directories provide links to your site on static pages (rather than dynamically generated search-results pages). This is important when contributing to link popularity. Thus, directories provide a relatively simple way to create incoming links to your site and can contribute significantly to link popularity.

    Below, we have listed the leading general and UK-based directories. We have also listed several sites that function as “directories of directories” (or meta-directories).

    General Directories: ($299) (non-commercial sites only) (must be an editor)

    UK-Based Directories:

    Directories of Directories:

  2. Syndicate your content. Allow other website owners to reprint some of your content in exchange for links back to your site. This keyword-rich copy on other sites can create significant incoming traffic as well as impact your link popularity.

    If you are a good writer with extensive experience in your field, you might also write guest articles for other websites. This is a great way to create incoming links and establish a reputation for yourself as an expert.

  3. Create a page of “popular quotes” on your site. This page is meant to encourage other site owners to use quotes from your content on their side, accompanied by a link back to the source. You can see an example page of this type at:
  4. Submit your website to the various online awards programs. Most awards that you win will grant you permanent links on their “previous winners” pages. While this may not create much actual traffic, it will contribute to link popularity.

    If you have already created a high-quality site, it should be relatively easy to win some awards. Review our research report on website awards to identify the best techniques to win awards for your site:

  5. Create an affiliate program. This encourages other site owners to link to your site because they can earn a commission or other reward for sending you traffic.

    Note, however, that some affiliate links will NOT contribute to you link popularity if they redirect through a third-party service. In other words, your domain name must be in the linked URL for you to get link popularity credit.

    Review our research report on affiliate marketing here:

  6. Solicit reciprocal links. Write to individual sites owners and PERSONALLY request a link. If you haven’t linked to them already, offer to exchange links. Do not send them a form letter; most site owners will ignore this kind of email and may regard it as spam.

    KEY POINT: When soliciting reciprocal links, focus on sites that complement your own site but do not directly compete with it.

    You should personalize your link-exchange emails and not rely on a template. Include specific details about the site from which you are soliciting a link. Let the site owner know you actually took the time to review her site.

  7. When selecting link-exchange partners, utilize the search engines to identify sites that rank well for search terms that are important for your site. From among these sites, target the sites that compliment your own without competing.
  8. Utilize link popularity tools and search engines to identify which sites are linking to your competitors. Solicit links from these sites as well.
  9. Focus on creating links with relevant link text. For example, if your site sells marketing widgets, text such as “Bob’s Discount Marketing Widgets” is better than “”. The link text should describe your site as best as possible in a few words and include relevant keywords.

    Ideally, work your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) into your link text. This should say what makes your website stand apart from the competition (most products, unique products, lowest price, etc.).

    Relevant link text will have an increased impact on link popularity for “crawling” or “natural” search engines. For more on natural search, see our recent research brief on this topic:

  10. Focus on QUALITY links. Authoritative sites will have a greater impact on your link popularity than unknown sites.
  11. Consider launching more than one website. For example, you might create a second website with reviews and information about the products for sale in your online store. The links from one site to the other (and vice versa) will increase the link popularity of both.

    Note that creating a large “network” of sites with similar content (and especially on the same server) can get you penalized in some search engines.

  12. Frequent online communities such as discussion forums and email lists. Make valuable contributions to the community and include your linked URL in your signature. This won’t have as significant an impact on your link popularity as it once did, but it can still be an effective way to generate organic link traffic.
  13. Utilize press releases and other publicity-garnering techniques to draw attention to your site. Other sites may pick up these releases and link back to you. Also, make sure to publish these press releases on your own site, which will help to increase your site’s credibility.
  14. Utilize reviews or testimonials as a linking strategy. Many webmasters will publish your favorable comments about their sites or products, along with a link back to your site.
  15. Don’t overlook exchanging links with your business partners, if appropriate.
  16. There are a number of other techniques that may work for certain types of sites. These include hosting your own awards program, hosting a “top sites” program, joining web rings, and so on. There is information on utilizing these techniques in some of the articles in our literature review below.
  17. Don’t participate in link farms or free-for-all links pages. These will not create any direct traffic and may have a negative impact on your link popularity.
  18. Keep track of your link solicitation efforts. Utilize an Excel spreadsheet or similar method to track the dates and success rates of directory submissions, link exchange requests, etc.
  19. Cultivating links is an ongoing process. Be on constant lookout for new sites that may link to yours.
  20. For additional ideas on increasing link popularity, see our research report on Google PageRank:

These techniques can create a significant increase in the traffic to your site over time. Not only will you receive traffic directly from the links themselves, you will also achieve higher ranking in those search engines that consider link popularity.


Related MEC Reports:

Small PPC Engines Tested:

Five Paid Search Engines Tested:

Comparison Search Engines Tested:

Google AdWords Tested:

Overture Tested:

PPC for Subscription Sites:

Landing Pages Tested:

DealTime Tested:

Natural Search Engines Tested:

Transparent Marketing:

Literature Review

As part of our research on this topic, we have prepared a review of the best Internet resources on this topic.

Rating System

These sites were rated for usefulness and clarity, but alas, the rating is purely subjective.

* = Decent ** = Good *** = Excellent **** = Indispensable

131 (Legitimate) Link Building Strategies ****

ClickZ Link Building Archives **** – Link Popularity Check ***

Characterizing the Competition for Links on the Web **

The Road to Link Popularity **

Building Your Site’s Link Popularity **

How to Get Non-Reciprocal Links to Your Website **

The Art of Advanced Link Building **

Search Engine Strategies: Looking at Links **

Ten Things You Need to Know about Linking and Link Popularity **

Aggressive Linking Strategies **

Link Popularity and the Myth of the Guestbook Link **

Link Generating Programs: Good or Bad for Search Engines? **

Using Google to Identify High Quality Link Targets **

How Important Are Reciprocal Links? **

Search Engine Link Popularity **

Measuring Link Popularity **

Top Ten Things Not to Do When Asking to Trade Reciprocal Links **

Reciprocal Links: The Glue Behind the Web **

About This Brief


Editor — Flint McGlaughlin


Writer — Brian Alt


Contributor — Jeremy Brookins


HTML Designer — Cliff Rainer
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