Home : Executive summary: abridged guide to building incoming links

If you don't have time to read the whole of this guide, the information on this page should get you up to speed. Each section links to background information elsewhere on this site.


Sites can link out to other sites (outgoing links), trade links with other sites (reciprocal links) or get linked to by other sites (incoming links). Sites with lots of on-topic incoming links are called "hubs". We'll mainly focus on incoming link building i.e. on getting more sites to link to yours.

Incoming links bring new traffic to your site, help get it indexed more quickly by the search engines, and improve its link popularity (which has positive effects for your site's ranking in the search engines). Your aim should be to get as many (quantity) strong (strength) incoming links as possible from pages and sites that relate to yours (relevant).

Unsolicited Links

Unsolicited incoming links are ones you don't have to ask for - a certain percentage of your visitors find your site useful, funny or informative enough to link to it from their own site or blog.

Various factors increase the probability that your site will be deemed "link-worthy", including: fun stuff, useful tools, an edgy or unorthodox approach, valuable content, biggest or best something, tools to help visitors communicate with each other and with the world, timely information, and substantial quantities of aggregated information on a niche topic.

The more such factors are present on your site, the better your chances of picking up unsolicited incoming links. If you don't want to hang around waiting for other people to link to you, you need to be out there hunting for good link partners, and soliciting incoming links.

Finding Sources of Incoming Links

There are 3 rich potential sources for incoming links.

  • Major directories: sites such as Yahoo! and Dmoz.
  • Niche directories: smaller sites dedicated to a specific topic or theme, and aggregating substantial numbers of links and information. A great place to start looking for these is this site's Directory of Directories.
  • Sites that already link to your competitors: use the search engines to find out what sites link to your competitors, then ask them for links.

Preparing a Link Promotion Kit

Save time at the promotion stage by preparing a link promotion kit (text file containing all relevant information about your site) in advance.

You should include administrative information about your site (URL, email address, full name, address, telephone number). You should also include a relevant, on-topic site title, description and list of keywords. You need to have 2-3 variants of the title, descriptions of several different lengths, plus 10-20 keywords and keyphrases in the list.

Request Incoming Links

When emailing a site owner to ask for a link, remember that they're under no obligation to provide it. Don't try and trick the site owner into giving you a link, and follow all instructions closely. Stay polite, keep your email brief and to the point, and spellcheck it.

Include some or all of the following in your email: who you are and why you're writing, what your site has to offer, information on any competitors that already have links, the wording of the link and your site's URL, your contact information and readiness to provide additional information, and a polite signoff.

Wait at least 2 weeks before re-submitting a link request, and remember to check the site first to make sure your link wasn't already added. If nothing happens the second time, give up!

Track Your Progress

Always record the results of your link promotion efforts. Use an Excel file with the following columns: URL of site submitted to, submission URL, how you submitted (form, email etc.), contact, email address, title, description, submission date, date you checked the result of submission, follow-up date, result, notes.

If you do not see any results within a few weeks for a particular submission, try again ONCE. Still no joy? Then give up on that particular submission.

Remember: you can use the information you've collected if you need to submit a different site in the same niche at a later date.

Final Word

Good luck building up the links to your site. If you haven't seen the Directory of Directories yet, it's worth a visit...