How to Build Links

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The approach you used two years ago to builds links is most likely drastically different than the approach you take now.

As search engines have changed what they are looking for, the efforts we make as link builders have changed as well.

It is becoming more common for “link building” campaigns to be built containing efforts around social media, paid promotional efforts, content creation and possibly even traditional media.

To develop a program that involves multiple channels and efforts can be complicated. But when approaching your ultimate outcome of generating links, if you think from an engineer’s perspective, it can help guide you to creating a link building campaign that will generate optimal results.

The Engineer’s Approach

When an engineer designs a new product, they go through a multi-step process to ensure they achieve the outcome they require. This process includes research, conceptualization, feasibility assessment, establishing design requirements, preliminary design, detailed design, production planning, tool design, and finally going to production.

This approach is a decision making process – all geared up to meet a final objective or conclusion. In the end, each phase outlines steps that need to be taken to reach the final outcome.

Engineering a Link

When this process is applied to link building it can help create campaigns that yield better results. Guest blogging and outreach only do so well by themselves, but by following the engineer’s approach you can create link building campaigns that intertwine traditional tactics for optimal results.

Here are the steps in the process and how they relate to link building.

Defining the Outcome


What is your end game? In this case, it should be building a backlink profile of quality links with diversified anchor text that helps your client rank for targeted terms. Now you need to figure out how to get there.


Research is the first phase of the engineering process and the key to finding out exactly what is needed.

This step could be as simple as realizing your backlink profile is significantly smaller than your competitors or those who are out ranking you for a specific term. It may be much more complex with detailed analysis of the quality of links your website currently is generating compared to your competitors or an even deeper dive into anchor text distribution.

Engineers do extensive research on their target, from industry research to current products in market. When you’re in this phase you need to understand where your client’s website is at now and where you need to be to reach your outcome.



In the conceptualization stage the creatives on the team tend take the lead. Whether you’re by yourself or with your team, this phase allows you to brainstorm concepts that can lead to generating inbound links for your client.

You can promote a free give away of concert tickets, propose dropping marketing paraphernalia off the Empire State Building, offer scholarships to students or any other idea that could possibly lead to generating links. Whatever cliché term you want to call it – thinking outside of the box, ideating, etc. – now is the time to do it.

Feasibility Assessment

After you’ve had your fun conceptualizing, it’s time to iron out which potential link campaigns are most likely to generate quality links and, equally important, also realistically and economically feasible. Clients expect results, and most of them expect results on a budget.

Engineers understand that certain factors limit what they can do. These factors keep them inline and help them build things that actually function. Just as what you eventually present to your client actually has a chance of being launched. Know your clients and know what they and their legal departments would see as acceptable.

Design Requirements

design-requirementsIn order to reach their goals, engineers outline certain requirements for their design. It may be something as simple as engine they are designing must be able to go 0-60 in under four seconds or as complicated as the using a specific brand of valve seals for your engine rebuild.

From a link building perspective, you’ll not only need to outline the types of links you get back, but also what you’ll need to get them.

For example, you may want to set up initial requirements around anchor text distribution. Here is a quick example:

Anchor Text Distribution Requirements:

  • 50 percent branded anchor text
  • 25 percent anchor text is “targeted keyword”
  • 15 percent anchor text is “targeted keyword”
  • 5 percent anchor text is “targeted keyword”
  • 5 percent anchor text is miscellaneous
  • 20 percent of inbound links are image based

You’ll also want to outline what type of tactics you will use to acquire the links. At this stage, a simple list will be fine:

  • Targeted content creation
  • Content promotion
    • Promoted tweets
    • Facebook stories
  • Guest blogging
  • Email outreach

Preliminary Design

Now it’s time to bring the conceptualizing and design requirements together. Once you have an idea that will generate links and understand what you want to get out of it, as well as how you will get it, it’s time to pull it all together.

This phase usually leads to a pitch or idea deck being created. While not every detail is ironed out, you know the who, what, and how.

Detailed Design

The detailed design is extremely important. It is the attack plan. Not only does it encompass the overall link building campaign, but it outlines who is involved, what they are tasked with, when deliverables are due, and exactly how you’re going to achieve your results.

This is the plan that will be implemented when you reach the production phase. It needs to encompass the entire campaign’s efforts. A project manager or super anal account manager is a great person to have help out with this phase.

Tool Design

For link building purposes, this phase can cover many things. A tool could be a web property or a page tied to a promotion. It could be a broken link prospecting tool or an email address with as the domain. The tools you need and the actions they will help individuals complete during the campaign should be outlined in this phase.

Engineers map out every single tool they require including ones that have not been built yet during this phase. Hopefully you have some skilled developers on your team to get you the tools you need.


its-time-to-linkThe production phase is where the fun starts. You have your plan, now it’s time to execute. The detailed design gets put into action using the tools you have available. If you aligned each phase with your outcome, the results you get from this phase should match up quite well.

The Outcome

Engineers approach projects with the goal of getting an action completed. If that action is building out a quality, diverse link profile, all of the steps you took in each phase should lead to creating links.

When you’re creating a campaign, you want someone who interacts with it to create a link. Whether you require someone to blog about an experience they had to be entered into a contest or require someone to share a link via social media, you want to make sure you’ve acquired a link.

When used correctly, this approach helps streamline the planning process and keeps your entire team focused on a common goal and assigns accountability to each team member.

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