I use several link building tactics, but there’s one that I prefer over all the others. This is how it works:
I Make a List of Sites that Link to My Competitors

  1. First of all, this is what I mean by competitors: the top 10 ranking sites on Google for the keywords I want to go after. I don’t care if they’re direct competitors or not. I’m talking about search engine rankings competition, not business competition.
  2. I use Tattler, a tool that gives me a list of sites linking to my competitors. It pulls the data from Yahoo! Site Explorer, but because it gets backlinks for each page of a site, it gets a lot more than the Yahoo! tool, which has a 1,000-link limit.
  3. There are a couple of paid tools that let you see what websites link to more than one competitor. This is great because when a website links to more than one competitor, they’re much more likely to link to you too. I use Competitive Link Research Tool and HubFinder.
  4. I create a separate list with the top 50 ranking websites for each of the keywords I want to go after. I use Google search (customized to show 50 results per page) and SEOQuake for Firefox to export the results to a spreadsheet.
  5. I’ll end up with two lists: one will be a list of sites that link to my competitors and the other one will be a list of sites that are at the top of Google for the keywords I want to go after.

I Start Getting Links the SMART Way
People are sick of those emails saying “I saw your website and I love it. I’d like to link to you if you want to link back to me.” One-way links are a lot more valuable.

This is how I do it:

  1. I use a broken link detection tool to find broken links on people’s sites.
  2. I contact webmasters to let them know about the broken links I found on their sites. Their contact information should be on their websites or you can use DomainTools.com to get it.
  3. If I couldn’t find any broken links (this rarely happens) I spend some time on their websites and send them a few suggestions, which shows I really care.
  4. Once the conversation is started, I don’t spoil it all by asking for a link. I spend some time on their sites and offer to write an article about something their readers might care. Do you see the difference? I’m OFFERING something, not ASKING for something. I make sure that the articles I write for them are great.
  5. If I’m dealing with a major website, I won’t even ask for a link (although they usually ask me for a byline and link back to my blog). However, this is not the kind of link I want, because the anchor text will usually be my URL. After sending them a couple of articles I ask them to start using my keyword as the anchor text, so the link doesn’t say “http://www.TheOutsourcingCompany.com/blog”, but “Internet Marketing Blog”.
  6. If I’m dealing with a small website that doesn’t have a lot of visitors, I usually ask for a link the first time. Because they can’t offer me a lot of exposure, they’re usually happy to give me a link instead.
  7. A word of warning: you’ll be managing 100’s of relationships at once, so don’t rely on your memory. You won’t remember all the conversations you’re gonna have. Use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool such as BuzzStream (my favorite) or HighRise.
  8. Another tip: using the phone instead of email works a lot better. Think about it: if someone calls you to let you know a link on your site is broken, won’t you be surprised that someone actually took the time to do that? Phone is a lot more personal and a great way to differentiate yourself. I don’t call everybody; I only call when I see a great link opportunity (20% of the time) and I email everyone else.