Scalable Link Building

While link building is one of the more flashy parts of SEO, it is also probably the most time consuming SEO effort that most folks undertake. The difficulty with link building is that it doesn’t scale well; for most folks, building a lot of quality links systemically is extremely challenging.

For most people, scalable link building is trying to find a way to turn link building into a product, and scaling the production of that product. This has resulted in the mass use of “products” like:

  • Automated directories
  • Automated social bookmarking
  • Link networks
  • Comment/forum spam
  • Buying sidebar links

While utilizing these tactics produce low to no value links and typically are easy to spot creating significant inherent risk, there are some “products” that still produce some good links, though typically in lower quantity for the majority of people than the above tactics (obviously there are exceptions like The Oatmeal, YouTube, and Survey Monkey) such as:

  • Embeddable content
  • Badges
  • Widgets
Though these products typically produce value, these could well be devalued in the future.

If you are failing at scaling link building products, scale your link building processes.

Typically the best links are built through manual (painful) processes that take a long time. While these links are good, you should look at your processes and ask yourself “How can I improve this process?” How can you improve your processes to increase the rate at which you acquire quality links?


Creating quality content is one of the best foundations for scaling link building. While quality content receives great links, simply creating killer content won’t get you links (contrary to what Google leads us to believe). You need to do outreach for your content to “attract” links.

Outreach and promotion is where you can scale content. Here are a couple ways to improve the scale of outreach:

  • Your time is really valuable, right? Use interns to find targets, email addresses, and send emails
  • Use email marketing solutions to do email outreach – this allows you to personalize, or at least use a person’s name, a large quantity of emails. Further, you can tell who opened the email and who didn’t.
  • Look at who has linked to similar content on your competitor’s site and contact them (especially if your competitor’s content is out dated)

Guest Blogging

While guest blogging can get you some good anchor text, this can be a tedious process. Here are a couple suggestions to improve this process:
  • Use CRM software to keep track of who has contacted which websites, if they have responded, and when posts are supposed to go live. While excel works, it is easy for an excel file to get lost. If you have one centralized location for all your guest blogging info, there is less opportunity for things to fall through the cracks.
  • Use Alltop to find blogs – this is a faster way to find related blogs than searching with advanced search operators
  • While you can find a lot of blogs through many different tactics, which ones are really worth contacting? You don’t want to waste your time on crappy blogs. To solve this, grab your list of target domains and pull some OSE data for them. Sort by Domain Authority or number of domains linking to the domain. Note: you will want to exclude WordPress, Blogspot, and Typepad blogs and create a separate list for them, ordering them by PA or domains linking to the page.

Product Give Aways

Depending on the cost of your product, giving product away can be a good way to get links from bloggers. The problem I have run into is that either people aren’t interested or they don’t end up writing a review.
  • Do a site: search and check if they have done reviews before
  • Contact the right people – It can take a long time to contact people to see if they want to review your product. Instead, establish a relationship with someone in the industry who has a big blog (or social) following. Once you have a relationship, ask if they would share the opportunity to receive free product with their community. Use your outreach to build a distribution channel rather than doing one to one outreach.
  • Use a service like Blogger Link Up to put your offer in front of more people. Submit the opportunity to review your product and have bloggers get in touch with you. This has been somewhat hit or miss for me though.

Competitive Backlink Analysis

While analyzing competitor’s backlink profiles isn’t executing link building, it is important in planning how to proceed with your strategy. One of the challenges with this is that pulling data can be really time consuming. Using API’s will significantly speed up this process. If you have several metrics that you like to check and compare against your competitors, you should set up templates that you can paste data into instead of having to recreate these spreadsheets and metrics every time.

What link building processes are you scaling? If you have any tips, please share below.

Geoff Kenyon

Geoff Kenyon

Geoff Kenyon is a senior consultant at Distilled where he leads the strategy and execution of online marketing strategies to drive traffic and revenue for his clients.  Geoffh264 // Geoff joined Distilled in 2010 after working in-house and...   read more

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  1. Love it! So complete!
    I always rack my brain every time I have work on getting links.

    Great job.

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  2. I'd love it if you would share some creative examples of recent link building that you've completed. That would help the most as many of us are aware of the basics such as competitive research, guest posts, etc, etc.

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  3. This is a great challenge for any SEO, how do you scale GOOD link building. For our big ecommerce clients we typically follow this protocal for quick product related links:

    Product Release ---> Product Give Away to Guest Blogger ----> Syndicate inhouse blog post and guest blogger post via Social Media Channels ---> Press Release.

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  4. Great post - I have to agree that the manual outreach method, although time consuming, does still yield the best results.

    I've actually started doing exactly what you're talking about - trying to find ways to optimize the process rather than upscale the project - and I think it's the right way to go.

    Thanks again for the other handy tips highlighted in this post, have an awesome day.

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  5. Nice post Geoff. I agree that the "building" of the links tends to be hard to scale, but as you mentioned the process itself typically has components that do scale. Interns, spreadsheets and software can help facilitate things like gathering and crunching data, leaving more time for the two or three components that truly need some love and attention from real people. Good stuff!

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  6. In some niches it's sometimes worth writing copy for the sole purpose of getting a link from just one specific high quality page.

    Try asking the question - if I could get just one link to this page, where would it be from? - and see if there is an angle you can work resulting from your answer.

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  7. I really love the idea of using scalable content to, such as badges, to get more back links, however, I've never tried it myself. It would be nice to read here some case studies on the point. Thanks!

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  8. Popped over from a link at SEOmoz. Thanks for breaking down what works and what doesn't. I'd rather do something safe and tedious than easy and dangerous (at least with my site :)

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