#2: Niche Blog Listing Sites Can Be Much More Effective Don't give up on directories or listing sites entirely. For example, here's some blogs in specific niches I'd be very You can find these types of sites quite easily through searches, but looking at the link profiles of other blogs in your niche that perform well in the search rankings can also provide a lot of value. #3: A Few Well-Targeted Searches Can Reveal Hundreds of Link Opportunities Finding quality, targeted directories and lists can be a good start, and may bring traffic as well as better search rankings, but if you get creative with your searches, you'll often find even more specific and sometimes valuable opportunities. #7: Guest Post Strategically One of the most common pieces of advice I see on growing one's blog audience and links is to "guest post" (a practice where one blogger creates content for another site and earns readers, recognition and a referring link). If the content is highly temporal, it could work well as a guest post, earning you immediate attention, but not costing you as much in the long run. This post on 8 Ways to Buy Links Without "Buying Links" is a good start. It can be overwhelming to go to an event by yourself without knowing anyone first, so leverage Twitter and your blog's network to find folks who comment, read, run blogs or tweet about your site and build those relationships online before you take them into the real world. But, you should also consider the value of commenting regularly and productively simply to build a relationship with the few key bloggers/sites that matter most to you. Hopefully, if you have some less-SEO-savvy/techy friends running their own blogs, this post can be a valuable resource. Please do contribute your own ideas and suggestions for personal blog link building; we'd love to see them (and feel free to link to posts/examples in your comments).
I’ve gotten to spend some time recently with folks who run small, personal blogs (including my wife, friend Kim, and a travel blogging dinner meetup SEOmoz sponsored in Seattle this week), and many of them have asked me whether SEO, in particular link building, is an activity they can take on to help grow their online presence. I can certainly empathize with the challenges – from reading many of the guides and posts about link building here on SEOmoz or elsewhere in the industry, you could be forgiven for feeling “in over your head” or that “only real businesses can do this kind of stuff.”
This post is intended to provide answers specifically targeted to individuals running their own blog, personally or semi-professionally, on how to engage in activities that will draw in links from other sites and grow you potential to rank in the search engines.
#1: Generic Directories Aren’t Your Best Bet
Thinking of spending a few dozen or a couple hundred dollars on a generic directory listing like Yahoo! or Best of the Web? For personal bloggers, my advice would be to save your money. These directory listings may provide some small amount of value, but there are dozens of different activities you could engage in that cost less or have higher ROI. Generics are also extremely unlikely to send you direct traffic (and what’s more – Yahoo! only lists 46 personal blogs now; it might be hard to make the cut)
Not worth the $299 for personal bloggers
Even those like the long-neglected Open Directory Project have such long wait times, tough criteria and poor acceptance rates that it’s barely worth submitting these days. There may be a few exceptions here and there, but on the whole, I’d urge personal bloggers to shy away from large, subject-agnostic directory sites.
Note: These generics may make sense for larger operations and sites, depending on your goals.
#2: Niche Blog Listing Sites Can Be Much More Effective
Don’t give up on directories or listing sites entirely. For personal blogs, particularly those with a targeted niche, there are a lot of good places to create listings or fill out a submission form. For example, here’s some blogs in specific niches I’d be very You can find these types of sites quite easily through searches, but looking at the link profiles of other blogs in your niche that perform well in the search rankings can also provide a lot of value.
- Travel Blogs
- Technology Blogs
You can use search queries like “niche+blogs,” “niche+bloggers,” “niche+blogs+list” at Google/Bing or try Yahoo! Site Explorer or Open Site Explorer – plug in the blogs you’re most jealous of (or most similar to) and you’ll often find a few dozen to a few hundred opportunities.
#3: A Few Well-Targeted Searches Can Reveal Hundreds of Link Opportunities
Finding quality, targeted directories and lists can be a good start, and may bring traffic as well as better search rankings, but if you get creative with your searches, you’ll often find even more specific and sometimes valuable opportunities. Think of these queries on three levels – overall blog topic (similar to the suggestion above), category theme (of or related to one of your primary, consistent topic areas) and post-specific (related to an individual piece you’ve authored or are considering writing).
For category themes, you’ll want to identify a particularly strong category-focus on your site. For example, my wife has a collection of posts about air travel, and could find opportunities for links specifically to this section or posts in them using queries like air travel blogs suggest or air travel resources. Don’t give up if you don’t find opportunities on the first page of results -dig deep – it’s often where you’ll find the best opportunities.
You can also use this tactic on individual posts – particularly those that tackle important, controversial or high-demand topics – the kind that fit nicely into resource collection lists.
This Labs tool can help make running the right queries easy
Once you have a few posts or categories in mind, leverage link searches from this SEOmoz list, this one from SEJournal or this one from SELand. You can also use the Link Acquisition Assistant from Labs and this free tool from SoloSEO to help.
#4: Answer Questions in Online Forums / Q+A Sites
When you participate positively in online forums, it often sends referrals to your site from those who check out your profile. Many of these are nofollowed (meaning they don’t pass link value in the search engines’ eyes – more on this here), but the traffic you receive from those who ask the questions or who find value in your response can be useful – and earn you links.
As an example, for the past 6 months, I’ve been answering a question or two each week on Quora, a relatively new but well-regarded Q+A site focused on technology and startups. My answers page shows that I’ve left 77 total answers since April (~11/month) and you can see the impact that has on traffic back to SEOmoz:
SEOmoz’s traffic from Quora (past 30 days)
While not stellar, it has been building as the site grows and the answers get indexed by search engines and seen by more people. For personal bloggers, spending a few hours each month contributing to 5-10 relevant Q+A sites or forums can have a substantive impact on your traffic and on links that you generate inside your community. It’s a great way to “interact” with those who, otherwise, might never stumble across your site.
Some of the broad Q+A sites I recommend looking at include:
- Yahoo! Answers (depends on your topic – some areas are very low quality)
- Wiki Answers (gets good search traffic, but a less active intra-community population)
- Quora (the above mentioned startup – currently has a tech/valley bent, but is growing and expanding fast)
Of course, you’ll also want to identify niche and subject-specific sites where contributions can be made. A good example starting point would be something like StackExchange’s list of Q+A sites on their platform or using a list of communities (e.g. ODP’s Math Chats & Forums).
#5: Submit Your Best Work to Relevant Social Portals
If you have posts that you feel are especially brilliant, interesting and potentially “viral” (meaning lots of web visitors will want to share them with others once they’ve seen it), there are a number of portals that can help drive traffic and attention through social “voting” or editorial review. A relatively good list is here (though it’s not fully comprehensive), but I’ll also tackle some specific examples:
- Kirtsy – a niche social site focused on fashion, arts, style and family.
- Care2 News – one of the most popular niche social voting sites on non-profit, environmental and societal stories
- Hacker News – a very popular community around startups, technology and entrepreneurship
- Subreddits – Reddit has grown to become one of the most trafficked social sites on the web, and they have categories (aka “subreddits”) for many topics
Just be aware that submissions should be carefully considered. If you spam these types of sites with everything you write or even a few inconsistent or irrelevant pieces, you can be banned, downvoted or simply shunned by the other contributors/voters. The best way to know what to submit vs. not is to read the site’s top pieces regularly and get a “feel” for what’s appropriate.
#6: Use Twitter (and possibly Facebook + StumbleUpon) on Every Post
While you should be cautious about submitting every piece you write to social voting sites, there are fewer reasons to hold yourself back from promoting everything your post on Twitter, Facebook and StumbleUpon. In fact, may of your fans, friends and followers on Twitter/Facebook may be surprised and disappointed if they don’t see a stream of your latest content through those channels. While subscribing via RSS or email are still quite popular, many folks use Twitter/FB as a way to keep up with your content.
I do strongly recommend that if you’re sharing via Twitter (in particular) that you use a URL shortener like bit.ly that captures and dispalys click-through data so you can measure an improve (see my blog post on Twitter CTR for a more in-depth analysis of that issue).
StumbleUpon’s “Interests” include hundreds of topics
StumbleUpon is bit different, in that you earn traffic from it based on the ratio of visits to “thumbs up” received by those seeing your work. However, unlike a Reddit, Hacker News or Digg, there’s no stigma or restriction on thumbing up / submitting every post you create. Providing a good, relevant description…