How to Build Links Easily for SEO: Easy Ecosystem, Directory and Association Links

It’s no secret that Google counts links as “votes.” The more links you have to your website from other websites, the more important your website is in the eyes of Google.
In this video, we’ll explain some tactics to get links, easily. Let’s get started!

Watch the Video

Why Links Matter: Link Basics

Links matter to Google! Think of Google (and Bing) as master link counters. If two websites are competing to rank on Google / Bing for a query such as “industrial fans,” then if Website A has ten links, and Website B has twenty links, Website B is better and (all other things being equal) will outrank Website A. However, the algorithm is more complex than simply quantity (as if links were votes), namely –

  • Quantity. More is better.  This is pretty obvious, and basic! Todo: get more links!
    • Note: for local businesses, the review count on Google+ is also a huge factor, so think of every Google review as a “link” – with the more reviews you have, the better you’ll do on local searches.
  • Syntax. If the links are optimized (meaning the link is around a keyword phrase such as seo expert, than the link “to” that site “from” a site means focuses the “link juice” around that search term. Todo: get links around your keyword phrases!
  • Authority. The original term for this was PageRank, but conceptually think of it as Google figuring out which sites are more important than others on the Internet. So, the New York Times has a lot more PageRank / Web Authority / Link Juice than Jason McDonald’s blog. Consequently a link FROM the TO your website is worth a lot more than links from less important sites like Jason McDonald’s blog. Todo: get links from important websites!

But… (there’s always a but) you have to watch out for Google’s Penguin Penalty, namely that too many “optimized” links, from too many “low quality” or otherwise weird sites (e.g., poorly written, no thematic unity, lots of outbound links, etc.). If links are “overdone,” then you provoke a Penguin Penalty, and you can actually rank far, far lower than sites that are playing the game in a more above-board way. (Todo: be aware of the Penguin penalty for too many overoptimized, and/or low quality website links).

How to Build Links Easily for SEO

Photo credit: ucumari photography via / CC BY-NC-ND

Finally, don’t sweat the small stuff. Most of us are far from being penalized by Penguin – our problem is that we have too few links. But compared with our competitors, we just need a few links, and we can often really improve our SEO performance, rank on Google. “You don’t have to run faster than the bear. Just faster than your buddy.”

Link Building Strategy #1: Real-world Contacts

Once you understand links, your todo is to get them. How do you do that? First, call a link meeting at your company. Ask all your team members to inventory EVERYONE that they know – friends, family, business colleagues, organizations – that have websites and might be willing to link to your company. For example, they can call Grandma, in this fashion –

“Hello Grandma! It’s Jason!”

“Why hello Jason!  How are you?”

“Great, Grandma. Grandma, can you do me a favor? Do you have a blog”

“Of course, Jason. I am super, super digital. I have a blog, a Twitter account, am active on Facebook, and of course I’m doing SnapChat.”

“Great, Grandma, could you write a short little post about why I – Jason McDonald – am your favorite grandson, and the most impressive seo expert you know of in the San Francisco Bay Area?

“Of course, Jason.”

“Oh, and Grandma, can you make the link for SEO expert go to my website, around that phrase?”

“You got it, boy. Now, I gotta get back to Snapchat!”

(In memory of Rose McDonald and Marguerite Nellor, the two best grandmas a person could ever have!).

That said, you inventory all of your possible contacts and merely ask them to link TO your company and if possible to write some keyword-heavy but honest text around those links.

Link Building Strategy #2: Directory and Association Links

Once you’ve had the easy link-building meeting, just make sure your company is “link aware.” ALWAYS be on the look out for links. For example, if you participate in industry trade shows, be sure to ask for links back from the trade show website. Next, you want to go to directory and association links. How do you identify good directory or association links?

  1. Do Google searches for your keywords. Look for websites that “show up” that are not competitors. So, taking the example of a New York wedding photographer, do searches like – wedding photography or New York wedding photographers and look for sites such as The Knot ( that show up prominently in the results. Todo: identify directory-type  sites, list of links, and then figure out how to get them to include you in their listings).
  2. Do Google searches for your keywords PLUS phrases such as directories, associations, catalogs, etc. For example, do a Google search for wedding photographer directory or association of wedding photographers.  You can use the Solo SEO tool to quickly build out many of these searches.

As you make a list of link targets, pay attention to –

  • Does the directory / association show up high on relevant Google searches? If, they show up on the search for wedding photographer directory on Page 1 of Google that, in and of itself, is a strong indication that a link from them will be very valuable!
  • Use a tool like Open Link Profiler or Open Site Explorer and pay attention to the domain authority of the target website links that they are given. The more powerful / higher the score, the more valuable a link is!

Look at their listings of “member” companies, and make sure that they do NOT use the NOFOLLOW attribute. If so, that severely deprecates the value of the link. In general, if they use the NOFOLLOW link it is not very valuable to get them to link to you, so move on to the next one. Thus, compare these two links –

  • George Street Photo and Video on (uses the NOFOLLOW attribute / hence little SEO value).
  • Jon Sun on (does NOT use the NOFOLLOW attribute / hence DOES have SEO value).

In addition, if you can optimize the text of the link TO your website to be a keyword, that has value, as does filling your description with keywords that are ‘near’ the web link. That’s called keyword proximity. What’ you’re looking for, is high DOMAIN AUTHORITY websites (directories, associations, etc.) that have DOFOLLOW links to your own website that allow you to optimize those links and/or at least populate your listing with your keywords.

Finally, although there are services that will list you in “free” directories, these “free” directories are so mucked up with garbage as to be very low quality, and if they are even noticed by Google to have some risk of provoking Penguin. Look for high quality, relevant, legitimate directories – these often charge to be listed, and will not list “just anyone” but only companies that are truly relevant. Do NOT use free directories.


Remember that in combination with being link aware (“easy ecosystem partners”) and directory / association links, you don’t have to fun faster than the bear, just faster than your buddy. Just a little link-building can have a huge pay off for many companies because their competitors are doing nothing!

Photo credit: ucumari photography via / CC BY-NC-ND

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About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason's motto as a consultant is that he doesn't do SEO 'for you' but rather he does SEO 'with you.' That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.