Check the link building forum
for lots of ideas on linking campaigns.
A better understanding of this by SEOs would help improve our ability to deliver real value for our clients.
You already understand what you need to know. Getting links from sites that genuinely recommend your site is the best way to get high rankings from the engines.
People didn't link to Matt's blog because he promised them a link in return, or because he paid them. They linked to it because they wanted to illustrate a point, give more resources, align themselves somehow with him, or recommend or refute something he wrote.
That's called natural linking. The way to duplicate "the pattern" is to have something so unique and wonderful that everyone's talking about it and recommending their visitors look at it. But there is no formula for that.
A year or two ago, a condom site put up a funny interactive flash application that helped you "pick the correct size". Do you think they got a lot of links? Heck, yeah. Everyone who saw it sent it to someone else, posted it on forums or in blogs and told everyone they knew to try it. Humor is one way to do it! Controversy is another.
Marketleap was an SEO firm just like any other SEO firm. Ever heard of them? They have a few unreciprocated links out there...
When was the last time someone from Wikipedia emailed you to ask for a link trade? Does Amazon ask you to link to them?
Did Google start a massive link campaign when they started out? Ever see them advertise on TV like the other search engines?
All these have something in common- they were different, they were better, they attracted interest in some way that made them stand apart from the rest.
I know no one wants to hear that their site needs improvement- they just want the formula to the top of the engines. And sooooo many sites decide to "be different" by adding a "resource section" with a few (sorry) lame articles or regurgitated news feeds. That's not different. It's not helpful. It doesn't make anyone want to link to you.
We all are looking for something new, not another OSCommerce site or Yahoo store with the same affiliate catalog as 100 other sites. Even if you think your design is better or your layout more friendly than the other 99 sites... it's just another store. Fight your way to the top of the serps then cry when the algo changes...
But sites that truly are unique get traffic no matter what happens with the search engines. I visit Woot every single day
. Their forum just welcomed it's 200,000th member. I have never searched for it in an engine. Someone recommended it to me. They not only have a unique selling angle (1 and only 1 product a day) and awesome prices (low cost electronics) but their copywriting totally has me hooked. Yes, their copy.
Can you make an iron funny? Can you make an outdated technology like minidiscs sound like a collector's item? Can you get people spitting coke at their monitors over your description of a joystick?
I've bought half a dozen things from them that I never knew I needed...
It's beyond links- it's marketing
, something our own Debra Mastaler has been preaching for years. (It's why her service is worth so much more
than the average link builder.) But it takes ingenuity, originality and creativity. Not step 1, step 2, step 3...