SEO 101 – Link Building (This is priority #1)

Search engines look at links as the main factor on how they rank websites in their search results. Links give the search engines an idea of how important a website is. By seeing how many other websites link to yours, they can tell whether or not your site is important. Each link pointing to your site counts as a vote for your website’s importance.

Based on my experience with SEO over the last 6+ years, I can tell you with 100% confidence that link building is by far the most powerful method of getting your website to rank high in search engines. If you are going to spend money and or time on any one area of SEO, this is the area I recommend you spend it in.

The reason it is weighed so heavily by search engines is because it is the hardest thing for website owners to manipulate. Search engines look at links pointing from site A to site B as a vote from site A to site B.

So if your website has 50 other websites linking to it, search engines see this as 50 votes that your website is a good site and should show up in search results. The higher quality the links that you get, the more weight search engines give them and the higher your rankings will be.

Let me quickly explain something that often gets confused. When talking about getting links there are two things you will hear about, internal and external.

Internal links are simply links from page to page in your site. So if on your home page you have a link to your contact page, that is an internal link.

External links are links from other people’s websites that link to your website. When I talk about link building, I am only referring to external links. So as you read the rest of this link building portion please understand that external links are what I am referring to.

Anchor Text
Let’s talk about anchor text. Anchor text is the clickable part of a link. For example in this sentence the words anchor text are the actual anchor text. This is the part of link building that most people fail to take full advantage of. Anchor text is critical to SEO success.

As I stated before, a link from one site to another is a vote for that site. The search engines then look at the anchor text of the link pointing from site A to site B and then say that site A is telling them that website B is about whatever the anchor text is. So if you have 50 links pointing to your site and all of the 50 links have the same anchor text then your website very likely to rank well for whatever that anchor text is.

For example, if our dry cleaning site has 50 links from other sites pointing to it and all of these links say “dry cleaning business” as the clickable link text or anchor text then our dry cleaning site is much more likely to rank for the term “dry cleaning business”.

So here is the takeaway of this section: When you do your link building, you need the anchor text to be exactly the key phrases you want to rank for. This is very important.

Here is the second takeaway to running successful link building campaigns: The more important the key phrase is to your success, the more links you need to get that have that exact anchor text.

So using the example of the dry cleaning website, I would find my biggest term that I am targeting which in this case we said was “dry cleaning business” and get as many links as I could that have “dry cleaning business” as the anchor text. If I do that properly my website will soon start to rank high for the term dry cleaning business.

You should also get links that have different anchor texts as well so you are not only link building for one term. So I would also get links that have “starting a dry cleaning business” as the anchor text. Remember, you want to appear natural to search engines so getting links with different anchor texts is a good thing. It will also help you rank for more terms and thus get more traffic.

As you go about getting links make sure you don’t point all of your links to the home page of your site. In other words, if in our dry cleaning example we had a page about dry cleaning franchises, we should point some of the links we get to that page i.e. When you link to sub pages of the site make sure that the anchor text is a key phrase that you are targeting on that particular page. So in this example the anchor text I would use to point to is “dry cleaning franchises”.

Natural Link Building

Before I tell you about the different types of links, you should know that search engines want to see links that appear naturally in the evolution of the internet. They don’t like to find links that are there to manipulate search engine rankings. So your job as a website owner is to make your link building efforts appear as natural as possible.

When you get links, you need to mix up the anchor texts of the links so they are not always the same. Having them be the all the same does not appear natural. You also need to get links at random intervals. In other words it does not appear natural to get 3 new links every day, or to get 50 links in a few days when you haven’t been getting that many links at that frequency. Randomness in link building is key to appearing natural.

Types Of Links

There are 4 different types of links. Each has a different value in the eyes of a search engine.

  1. Reciprocal Links
  2. Directory Links
  3. One Way Links (Paid)
  4. One Way Links (Natural)

Reciprocal Links
Reciprocal links are links where site A and site B both link to each other for mutual benefit. These types of links used to be effective in the early days of the internet but when website owners figured this out they started getting hundreds if not thousands of these types of links and search engines had to devalue them.

If you already run a web business you probably get emails everyday asking you to exchange links with another website. For the most part these are a complete waste of time. I always ignore these emails. Most of them are automatically sent out by a software program, not a real person. Having said that sometimes you will get a legitimate email from some website owner where it would make sense to exchange links.

For example, let’s say that you are a realtor in San Diego and another realtor that services Los Angeles emails you and asks to set up a relationship where you send each other clients that are looking in each others areas, and then you each put a link to the other ones website on your own site. This kind of link exchange makes sense. Unless it is someone who is in your exact industry but not a direct competitor I wouldn’t recommend bothering with reciprocal links.

Directory Links
You will find that there are thousands of both free and paid directories that you can submit your site to. Most of these directories will give you a link back to your website. If you come across any that wants a reciprocal link in return, skip it and move to the next one. You should be able to get one way links from all directory submissions that you do.

Since submitting to web directories is a legitimate way to start building link popularity I will teach you the best way to do this for maximum SEO effect. Read the post I wrote entitled:

Submitting To Web Directories For Max SEO Effect

One Way Links (Paid)
One way links are where site A links to site B and site B does nothing in return. A paid one way link is where site B pays site A to link to him. After reciprocal links became highly devalued people realized that getting one way links was the best way to build link popularity. This practice of purchasing one way links became very popular, but like the reciprocal linking craze this too has been devalued because of abuse.

Many link broker websites were selling links to thousands of websites. Google finally figured out how to track these type of links purchased and 100% devalued any link that was purchased in this way. Basically if a website had a “Sponsored Links” section of their website which had a group of text links in it the search engines would not count any of those links in the link popularity equation. So people were wasting their money on links.

I don’t recommend buying links as your main link building practice. But it can be helpful in certain instances.

There are a several things to consider when purchasing links:

  1. Make sure the site you buy the link from is very relevant to your site.
  2. Make sure any link you get is a one way link. Never pay for a reciprocal link.
  3. Make sure the link does not appear in a list of sponsored links.
  4. Never pay monthly for a link. If someone wants to sell you a link on their site, tell them you are only interested in buying a permanent link, not a monthly link.
  5. Try to only buy links where the website owner will place your link naturally into the content of his website instead of on the side bar or in their footer.

Let me recommend a couple of places to go try and buy relevant links:

The first is This site is a webmasters forum that is very popular. They have a section where you can go make a post telling people you want to buy links in a certain category and you will get many people offering to sell you links on their site. Just make sure that you use those 5 rules above when buying links there.

The second is This site allows you to pay bloggers to write a post about your website and include links in the post. These links appear very natural to search engines and you can usually get them for about $20 a link. There are thousands of bloggers in every category waiting to post about your site.

One Way Links (Natural)
Natural one way links are links that happen naturally without any help from a website owner. Someone likes your site so they link to it. It’s that simple. These are the hardest links to get so naturally they are the most powerful in terms of high rankings.

The ultimate link would be a natural one way link to your site that someone embedded into the content of their home page.

The trick is to make all of the links your website gets appear natural so they have more powerful effect on your rankings.

Link Building Summary

Another important factor of improving link popularity is the knowledge that it does matter what links point to your site. In other words, not all links are created equal. When you begin the process of building link popularity, there are some important principles to remember:

  1. Avoid Link Farms and Free For All links pages at all costs – search engines will not recognize these as legitimate links
  2. Get links from websites that are relevant to your website – the closer the website is related to your site the more weight it will carry
  3. Get links from websites that have many back links – search engines look at linking many levels deep, if a site that links to you has many links pointing to it, its a better link for you
  4. Try to get non-reciprocating links to your site – when you link back to the person who is linking to you it carries less weight with the search engines, try to get one way links
  5. Submit to as many directories as possible – you never know which directories will help improve link popularity so submit to a lot of them, just make sure they offer a one way link (no reciprocation)

If you take the time to do your link building and search engine optimization the right way your rankings will continue to climb until you are at the top of Google, Yahoo and MSN.

Let me reiterate that these sound principles I have taught you have been proven on over 300 different websites. I guarantee they work.

Common Link Building Misconceptions
Here are some common questions people have for me as it regards to link building.

If a site that has been penalized in Google links to me can my site be penalized too?
The answer to this is NO. You can never be penalized for someone else linking to you. However, if you link to a site that is black-listed by Google you can be penalized for that. Just be careful who you link out to.

My site was in Google yesterday and now it is gone. Was I penalized?
This is a common occurrence with Google. They mess around with their indexing all of the time. You may be #1 for your main term and then you look again the next day and you are completely gone from Google. As long as you are adhering to the techniques I taught you above, you have nothing to worry about. Give it a week and you should be back.

Adam White is a 20+ year entrepreneur having built and sold 18 internet businesses. He currently runs JustReachOut and SquidVision, a new type of landing page optimization software for SaaS companies, and does SaaS and SEO consulting at He lives in Tennessee with his wife and kids and in between SaaS businesses he writes and directs feature films.

16 comments On SEO 101 – Link Building (This is priority #1)

  • Another great post!

    Just a note: I’m not sure if you’re aware, but has an affiliate program. I just signed up and I would have loved to make you a bit of cash for the referral.

  • thanks for this information! I am just curious if there is any method to the madness regarding asking other site owners if they’d be willing to link to me…

    We understand that reciprocal links are not that good.
    We understand that directories are not that good.
    We understand that paid links are not that good.

    That leave one way; natural links..

    Is there any verbiage or strategy that works better than the next?

  • Great article, I think I have read it like 5 times already.

    I second Aaron’s question. Link building is my final frontier now that my site feels established and has a few decent natural links. I rank pretty well right now, but I would like to rank a little better and go after the really tough popular terms now. Link building seems like the way to go.

    Adam, you also told me another ingredient in SEO is something you can’t really do, but you can buy sorta, … age. I just wanted to call this out here too.

    BTW, what about pingbacks. I use WordPress and my CMS and I do allow comments on my articles. I have wondered if enabling ping backs, or rather displaying them on my page, harms that natural link that I just earned or not. I would hope not, but a ping back sorta seems like a reciprocal link, right?

  • Christian, you can buy age but not with a current website you own since it is only as old as it is. You would have to buy an established older site to get age. Pingbacks are something I usually ignore.

  • Great articles!
    One question: I have purchased 40+ domains 8 years ago, will they be considered 8 years old even though they have no active websites? Most do not even have a parked page.

    Thanks for your help!

  • Trina, thanks for the question. You need to have an active website that has been indexed by Google to gain age.

  • Eugenio Milhorn

    The SEO industry has changed alot over the years, what used to work before, doesn’t work anymore. You obviously know what the deal is, but I can’t wait to see the changes of Google in the next few months.

  • I have a quick question. I have three social networks built for my website, with a combined 500-ish friends so far. Every couple days I leave all my “friends” comments or post that I somehow work in my website for them to click or visit. Will Google see all these links I post as natural high quality back links?

  • Adam – When you say “Pingbacks are something I usually ignore” does that mean you disable it in wordpress or you just don’t worry about it either way? If you were answering Christian’s question about whether pingbacks harm the natural link and is considered a reciprocal link it wasn’t obvious to me.


  • Pingbacks are not reciprocal links. It is just some other blog linking back to your site but usually with a lot of your own duplicate content. That is why I ignore them. You don’t need to worry about them.

  • You probably won’t get much credit for these links as they are not the most natural appearing links in the world but that doesn’t mean that they won’t help you at all.

  • Hi, I’m new to itnernet marketing and found your article particularly helpful, especially the part about anchor text… Now my next step is to actually learn how to create anchor text! lol

  • thanks lots of good informaton I find it difficult to get good quality linkks fast any tips?

  • Adam, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much valuable link info, given away in one hit. Thanks for the tips and your generosity.

  • Great info. This is probably the best info I have ever seen that I didn’t have to pay for. Thanks for making it available. Learning a lot about SEO techniques.

  • Adam, thanks a lot for these infos. I have never had a website but with your info on buying website I just bought one 3 weeks after reading your free course. Now I will look into the link building as you recommended. Thanks again with much gratitude. Good bless.

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