How To Keep Using Old School Link Building Tactics

SEO | 20th February 2017 | Mark


There is a lot of talk out there on how to build links in a post Penguin world as well as a lot of conflicting information. Do this, do that. Its hard to decide on what is a good link building strategy and what isn’t.

Over the years SEO agencies and freelancers have found numerous ways to build links to great effect which resulted in websites getting higher rankings because of the link building skills of their agencies rather than in some case the websites actually deserving the increases. Google had to step in and put a stop to the worst of these techniques and did so with the launch of their Penguin Algorithm.

This articles takes a step back in time and looks at those old techniques that should no longer be used (or should they?) We are not saying that these techniques were bad it was just how things were done. With all of the search engine advances link building has evolved with it.

Comment Links

This technique involved visiting as many blogs as possible and leaving random comments here there and everywhere with a link to whatever asset you were working on at the time.


All over the web you would see comments like “great article {Insert Link}” or the more generous spammers might have gone with something like “great article I really like the way you explained xy or z keep the posts coming {Insert Link}”

TIP: Don’t stop commenting just use it better. There are still thousands of great blogs out there that receive comments. Take Moz for instance they cannot post an article without it receiving a lot of comments. Our tip would be to use commenting wisely and to contribute to high level blogs with a view to increasing yours or your client’s credibility and brand awareness.

SEO Directory Listings

Another old school favourite, of just listing yours or your clients site on every single directory that had a submit now button. Trying to obtain more directory links than your competition was standard practice for a few years.

As a result of this we saw article directories grow at a ridiculous rate. As they were growing at such a rate the names became just as ridiculous such as “,” and so on.

These directories were easy pickings when Google was looking for tactics to chop, so it wasn’t surprising that directories were one of the first things to go.

TIP: Directories are still a good source of links. Just be more selective as in, don’t submit just anywhere. Go for the high level directories that are legitimately used and not just there for search engine purposes. Make sure they are relevant to the site that you are working on in some way also.

Article Directories

Similar to that of the SEO Directory but slightly more complex and deceiving. Article directories were a place where people could upload their articles for the world to read. The problem with them is that they also grew at an astonishing rate as they quickly became another easy source of links. As people needed more links more and more article sites were created.

SEOs couldn’t be bothered writing new articles for each of these sites. Even back then it was known that duplicate content was bad so they had to come up with a way to scale the article directory process since the majority of sites only accepted original articles in a bid to make their site better than the competition. The easy way around this was to spin the articles.

SEOs would spin articles so much they barely resembled the original article and in a lot of cases didn’t read very well either. Who cared as the link was still achieved so job done? All they had to do was pass an automated verification check which only looked at duplication.

Thousands and thousands of links were able to be created from a handful of articles. These articles could also be automatically syndicated through companies that launched specialising in this activity. Most of these sites have since re branded and no longer provide this type of service.

Article Marketing

TIP: I would like to drop a nice tip in here on how to continue with this tactic but the closest I think we could get is Guest Blogging which we cover later, so read on.

Forum Commenting

In its basic form this tactic involved contributing to as many forum threads as possible and dropping links wherever you could before the admins realised what you were doing and blocked you.

The two ways that links could be built using forums depended on the forum. The first would be to drop links directly into the posts, although in some cases there was a post threshold whereby you had to commit to a number of posts before you were allowed to drop a link which didn’t suit some SEOs so they also dropped links into their Bio Signature. This signature would appear at the bottom of every post you did and in the majority of cases you could add a signature from day one and as long as you were clever and contributed properly this largely went un detected by the forum admins.

TIP: I would continue using forums but not from a link building perspective. People still participate in forums so if you can be seen as an authority you will gain the trust of your community which will inevitably bring you more business. I would still drop your main website URL into your signature but would keep it branded and I would only contribute if I could add some real value. I wouldn’t regurgitate what somebody has already said within the thread for the sake of another branded link.

Private or Public Blog Networks

Probably the hardest for Google to detect and the most recent to have Googles Axe thrown down on it. The public or private blog network involved the upkeep of numerous blogs. These blogs were legitimately kept up to date and editorial links given. The issue lies in that they were not genuine and links were easy to obtain (mainly because they were paid for)

These networks grew in strength as they were all linked together and well maintained. The more complex networks were set up on different servers, different IPs using different payment methods all to lessen their footprint to go un detected by Google.

For a very long time these networks provided easy pickings for the SEO world until now. Our guess is that there is still a lot to come in terms of penalties for these networks so best to avoid getting involved.

TIP: The only tip we can offer here is to stay well clear. Google are hitting these networks hard now and as the majority are paid for Google will not stop as we all know Google doesn’t like anybody else making money apart from them!

Paid Links

This is going to be the shortest element in this article as the method behind paid links is simple. You pay somebody for a link. Every tactic in this article could fall under this so we don’t have to go in to to much details.

Google says that paying somebody for a link isn’t a show of trust and that if you have to pay somebody for a link it isn’t worth them taking any notice of it so not worth your time or money. Or is it? Please avoid the services out there that offer links directly for cash as if you can find them then Google knows about them so don’t waste your money.


TIP: People are still paying for links and this will never ever stop. What happens is that links get paid for in better ways to avoid the penalty. If you are insisting on buying links think about Sponsoring a club or event and going down those routes after all you are paying to help the club or event and not for the link! Biggest tip here is to think outside the box and not to pay for the link directly (naughty naughty)

Reciprocal Link Networks

Another easy source of links in the past. Sign up and gain access to thousands of other websites that are all ready to swap links. The method involved emailing them through the provide portal and simply asking. The other website could agree or disagree and then the links would get swapped. The general rule would be to link to the same pages.

The downside to this method was that I linked to a page and then the other website linked back to the page that I linked from thus cancelling each other out.

TIP: Reciprocal link building is by no means a bad tactic as this is how the internet was built. The issue is the method it which it happens. If you feel a site is worthy of a link from your website, then link to it. If that site owner, then believes your site is worthy of a link then by all means there is nothing wrong with that either.

Press Release Directories

Press release link building worked in exactly the same way as article marketing. The only difference being is that the articles were not articles they were company news. They were syndicated in exactly the same way just through different portals so they hit even more websites.

They became a less popular tactic as companies were inventing news just to gain the links. Suddenly everything became news worthy which lessened the impact.

TIP: If you have legitimate news keep it to your own website and try and go direct to journalists. If your story really is news worthy, they will pick it up and it could end up in a publication that would really help.

If you continue to push it through poor PR sites, the journalists will not touch your story at all.

Automated Link Building

SENuke would build you millions of links at the click of a button. That’s it. Pay, set it up and click go. Overnight your link profile could grow by millions of links.


This method is the worst kind of link building you could ever undertake as the links add no value to the internet. Get dropped everywhere possible with no thought or strategy what so ever. SENuke is not the only service of this king a quick search will highlight how easy it is to automate your link building process.

Trying to clean a link profile up that has used automated link building is pretty much impossible because of the sheer number of links. Sites that adopted these methods are instantly visible to the search engines as no sites are worthy of the amount of links that these platforms provide.

TIP: Never use an automated link building platform. The amount of links it can build will make your site stand out like a sore thumb to a search engine. Once the engine takes a look it will take no time at all to establish how the links were obtained so you might as well turn your site off from that point onwards.

Bookmarking Link Building

Sites such as Delicious and Digg were another big source of links back in the day. This tactic involved visiting sites you like (well visiting the sites you are working on) and tagging them on your bookmarking site.

You then create accounts on hundreds of bookmark sites and do exactly the same thing creating lots of links on lots of different accounts across lots of different bookmarking sites.
Services became available to do this for you so you could hit thousands of bookmarking sites with the click of a button. Automated link building platforms utilised them.

As soon as they started being abused they largely because useless in terms of a valuable link source.

TIP: You can still use this method if you are prepared to do the leg work. In order for this to work you will need to find legitimate bookmarking sites that are being used properly (if there are any still there) Create legitimate accounts and use as a means to gain brand awareness and credibility. This will be difficult through Bookmarking sites as they are largely seen as spammy but deep down if you are clever about it could still return for your site even if just from a traffic perspective.

Blog Roll Links

We’ve all seen them. Those randomly placed links at the side of people’s blog posts that appear on every single page associated to the blog. These are your blog roll links and historically allowed people to get lots of links off one website.


Its no secret that site wide links have been looked at in detail by Google. They appear spammy for one simple reason. Why would somebody like your site enough to put a link to it on every page of their blog for any other reason than they are being paid to do so?

In some cases, there may be legitimate reasons for this but largely they are considered paid spots. As detailed above Google hates paid links so decided that these links were no good anymore.

TIP: Blog Roll links are not seen that much these days. The reason for this is because they are pointless so the top tip here is to save your money.

Content Switching

Content switching came along after the first Penguin update (as far as I am aware) so is a little bit more sophisticated than the previous methods mentioned. There may also be cases where this tactic still works. In general, though we would recommend not doing it anymore as looks deceiving and with the advances in search engine technology easily detectable.

The way it works is you create a none commercial linkable asset. Something that you will have no problem getting links for. It can be totally un related to your site as long as it can get lots and lots of links. Once it has lots of links let it sit there for a bit. Let it sit there long enough for all the people who linked to it to forget about it.

Once they have simply 301 redirect that page to a page that you want to improve rankings on. A little more time consuming than the rest of the tactics so far but done correctly would reap huge rewards.

TIP: Instead of redirecting the content. Spend a little extra time coming up with some relevant content that actually gets links you can leave.

Redirecting Of Aged Domains

Search the web for aged high value domains that have expired. Purchase them and 301 the domain to your site.

The trick to this tactic was finding domains that had expired that already had links pointing to them. Once you found these the rest was easy just redirect it. The downside was that links could drop off if site owners realised.

TIP: Look for expired domains related to yours or your clients’ industry with links already pointing to them. Buy the domains and redirect to your home page. Instead of leaving it there dig a little deeper and see which pages the links were pointing to and to what content. Re create the content on your own site and then reach out to the sites asking them to swap their link over as the previous source no longer exists.

Free for all Infographic Directories

Infographics exploded on to the seen as the best thing since sliced bread. Get some data and then re purpose it into a nice graphic. Then people will link to you because it looks pretty.

This works and still works today if you have unique exciting data. The problem is not everybody does. As a result, new fangled directories started appearing. Similar to the SEO Directories of old.

They don’t work because nobody uses them so the time spent submitting could be time spent getting better data in the first place.

TIP: Infographics are still a great way to build links. The way to make an infographic work is to get data that people care about. By care about we mean unique interesting data. If you can get that and dress it up nicely the links will build themselves.

Guest Blogging

My favourite. Guest blogging is great and was born as a tactic after directories and article directories were no longer of use. This tactic involved reaching out to legitimate blog owners and asking them if you could write some content for them and their readers in return for a link back to your site.

This tactic worked like a dream for a while until the old directory owners started re skinning their old directories and turning them into free for all guest blogging sites. Soon enough it became easy to get hundreds of guest blogs as there was very little in the way of editorial defiance.

All SEOs had to look for was “write for us” and they could find thousands of sites willing to publish low value content in return for a link.

This tactic became useless as a result because people stopped caring again where they were posting and Google already new about all of the bad sites out there.

TIP: Guest posting is still an excellent way to build links. Our tip here is to be super selective when looking for guest spot. Make sure it isn’t a free for all site, make sure the site owner looks after the blog, check to see if the social profile is legitimate and make sure its super relevant to your niche.


That concludes our list of fifteen old school SEO link building techniques that were used in the past along with some tips on how to continue using them in a legitimate way where possible. There are probably lots more that we haven’t touched on so would love to here your thoughts on other tactics we have missed and how they can still be used. Feel free to comment below.

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