Foundational Links Don’t Split, Crack Or Get Dugg Up

A lot of business owners I work with understand they need inbound links but aren’t sure how to get started or prioritize their efforts. I suggest they begin by establishing a base of links from authority sites that work toward building their business reputations. I refer to these as foundational links and believe they are the cornerstone to all SEO and marketing efforts.

Foundation links support a website much like a foundation supports a home: They’re the solid basis from which the rest of your linking efforts can build on. For the most part, these links don’t change and are immune to the fickle nature of social media sites and search engine algorithms. They come from established sources, aren’t expensive to secure and channel both street and search engine credibility which is crucial for visibility and high rankings. So what kind of links can be considered foundational links?


I consider directory links to be the foundation of foundational linking. They’re easy to find, relatively inexpensive to secure and are rock solid performers from a marketing standpoint. Stick to established directories such as JoeAnt, Best of the Web, GoGuides, UncoverTheNet, and Ezilon. These directories make my short list because:

  • They are human reviewed
  • They’re organized by keyword categories
  • All are indexed in the search engines
  • They keep contextual advertising to a minimum
  • They maintain quality listings

Use the ISEdb to find niche and specialty directories. Tip: Many niche directories sell mailing lists and/or are part of associations which you can join.

I also recommend you take the time to submit to the Open Directory Project, pay for a Yahoo! Directory listing (especially if the site is new) and look for submission opportunities at Wikipedia. Yes I know the Wikipedia uses nofollow on their links rendering them virtually useless from a link popularity standpoint, but—the traffic you’d get from those links is worth it. If you can find an opportunity to add your site where it will make a useful contribution, do it.

Authority Links

Since we’re talking about foundation links, we need to break authority links into two types; links that develop street credibility (business authority) and links we need for high rankings (search authority).

Business authority establishes you as a player in your industry. Links from the Chamber of Commerce, industry Associations, networking communities etc—these type of links work to develop your reputation as a business owner. Tip: Find conferences in your niche and buy links in their online programs/itineraries). Another tip: Take the time to create a keyword lens in Squidoo and add your RSS feeds to it.

To secure search authority, you need links from high ranking sites. Since it’s likely the top ranked sites are also key competitors it will be hard to secure links from these people. Search on your “long-tail” terms instead and negotiate links from the top 20 businesses listed.

Use the Google Directory to find topically relevant sites with high PageRank scores, investigate as partner potential and secure links from these as well. Tip: search the Wikipedia for your terms, secure links from sites listed under “Resources” and/or “References” on the pages you find. Why? They wouldn’t be listed there unless they were very credible sources.

Independent Newsletters

There are independent newsletters in just about every business niche imaginable. Join as many as you can and request advertising rates from any that allow text link ads in the advertising copy and archive past issues in a spiderable database. If the newsletter showcases guest writers, ask to be included and contribute article content. Keep an eye out for references to additional newsletters and news outlets from viewer comments and advertisements. Tip: Include a ‘request to reprint’ statement under your articles to encourage others to use.

Yellow Pages

While links in yellow page directories do not always pass link popularity, they’re still good to have. If you’re tied to a bricks and mortar location, be sure to hyperlink your address to the contact page and submit your site to the online yellow page directories. Many regional directories list businesses geographically and will include a website that’s indexed by location. Tip: Even if you’re not bricks and mortar, if you pay for the smallest yellow page ad and include your URL/phone number you’ll automatically be added to their online directory.

If you used each of these resources to secure one link, you’d have 13 quality links with minimal effort. That’s not bad if you consider each offers additional resources to tap into.

Don’t overlook using these resources to build your base of inbound links, by doing so you’ll have a solid linking foundation to start from. Once it’s in place you can use other more creative linking tactics to grow your link popularity and build on your business and search authority reputation.

Debra Mastaler offers link training and custom link building campaigns through her Williamsburg Virginia based firm Alliance-Link. She is also the author of the link building blog The Link Spiel. The Link Week column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Building: General | Link Week Column


About The Author: of and Alliance-Link is based in Fairfax Station Virginia and offers link marketing consultations and content partner services.

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  • JEHochman

    Deb, please have a look at Wikipedia’s conflict of interest guideline. I believe that webmasters should be able to do whatever they want with their own sites, but when they visit somebody else’s Web 2.0 site, they need to follow house rules. Breaking the rules when you are a guest in somebody else’s house is rude.

    Link building is great, but you need to keep reputation management in mind. Wikipedia’s rules strongly discourage self-serving edits. If you get caught, you and your client could suffer public embarrassment. We all know how well Wikipedia pages rank. Before taking this risk, I recommend reading this essay.

  • debra mastaler

    I understand that by lumping the Wikipedia with the DMOZ and Yahoo Directory it may seem like you can just submit and be done. For the most part that isn’t the case but there are many many sites that would fit and be appropriate. I didn’t dwell on guidelines for any of the directories mentioned because I feel I write for an established SEO/tech crowd (and it’s hard to submit without reading them first), but perhaps I will in the future.

    While I agree that you should always participate in a Web2.0 site as they mandate, I don’t think my suggestion of contribtuing to the Wikipedia if it makes a “useful contribution” goes outside their guidelines. They do state: “Merely participating in or having professional expertise in a subject is not, by itself, a conflict of interest.” Whether you’re a site owner or just an advocate, you need knowledge and/or passion to contribute on a topic. Why promote a site that doesn’t support that passion or be penalized because you’re the owner?

    I do think it’s follow-up comments like these that’s soured a lot of people on the Wikipedia. If the tech community continues to read nothing but doom and gloom about submitting to the Wikipedia, it may fall victim to apathy and neglect much like the DMOZ.. Wouldn’t time be better spent making edits than dusting away cobwebs?

  • JEHochman

    > They do state: “Merely participating in or having professional expertise in a subject is not, by itself, a conflict of interest.”

    Indeed, I am the one who wrote that. There’s nothing wrong with using Wikipedia to meet people and build up your reputation as a thought leader by making sincere, non-promotional contributions.

    Everybody who gets caught abusing Wikipedia for self-promotion says that they were just helping improve Wikipedia and that their links well all wonderful goodness. For examples, see: Wikipedia:Grief.

    If you want to discuss this further, I’ll be at SMX, and will gladly buy beverages for anyone interested.

  • ecacofonix

    Nice post Debra…I had been reading your post while doing what I call immodestly LinxJinx – The Inbound Links Encyclopedia and it is cool…naturally I have included this post as part of reference…

    Reading it the second time now, I realise I have not emphasises the yellow page directories in my “encyclopedia” – beginning to wonder how much of an encyclopedia it is :-)…I do think for business-focussed web sites (and most of sites are) yellow page inclusion benefits them on multiple fronts…cool idea…

    Thanks for your post



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