How Do You Get A Million Links?

A journey of a thousand million miles backlinks begins with a single step link
-Confucius (sort of)

I hope Confucius will forgive my changing his quote around, but if you haven’t heard SEOmoz recently moved past the one million mark for links flowing into the site. Congratulations to Rand and the rest of the Mozzers on their well deserved achievement. Rand posted today on how SEOmoz gained those one million+ links, all in under three years no less, and since I’ve been answering a lot of questions the last week on how to get links I wanted to add a few thoughts of my own.

First let’s put things in perspective. I just checked Yahoo Site Explorer for a link count on this site and I’m sitting at 15,183, of which a very large part are undoubtedly from forum posts and blog comments, so I’ve a long long way to go to even get to 100,000 links, let along a million links. On the other hand that probably means my links are more on the order of yours as I’m guessing you need a lot to get to a million links too.

In his post today Rand outlines the keys to how he got all those links and I take heart in the knowledge that my strategy for growing this site since day one is in line with much of what Rand discusses. I still need to get better at a few things, but it’s confirmation I’m doing things right. Hopefully you are as well.

The keys according to Rand are Content, Community, and Timing.


By now you know that content is important to your success. If you don’t then here it is again. Content is important to your success. Reread that a few times until it really sinks in. Yes, there is more to generating traffic and success than content, but this is where it all starts. If you don’t have something worth linking to why would you expect to gain links.

What’s worked for SEOmoz?

  1. Don’t be afraid to try something new
  2. Be timely & topical
  3. Make it usable & attractive
  4. Present something different
  5. Writing quality

I’ll let you read Rand’s post if you haven’t already for the details on the above, but I would like to call your attention to the last item on the list, writing quality. There’s a good reason why people like Brian Clarke and Chris Garrett are on my daily reading list. Both help improve the quality of your writing and over the months I’ve incorporated many of their ideas.

Not every post I write today is better than every post I wrote a year ago, but overall, by focusing on quality, this blog has improved. A better blog is more likely to build links into itself. Improve quality and you’re more linkable.

The quality of your writing goes beyond knowing the rules of grammar and being able to put sentences together well. I think it’s important to develop a writing voice. Your voice is everything about you coming out in your writing. It’s your experience and your thoughts and your beliefs and so much more. By all means research what you’re writing about and spend time learning what makes for good writing online, but develop a unique voice above all else. No one can replicate your unique voice.

Look back up at the five points listed. All are about being remarkable. New and different is worthy of comment. So are timely and topical. Consistent quality is remarkable and attractive packaging is remarkable. Remarkable gets talked about and online that means links. Remarkable goes above and beyond. Remarkable is not safe. Remarkable pushes boundaries and tests limits.


A link is a line of code on a web page, but it’s real people made of flesh and blood that write that line of code and give you links. Every time someone asks me how to get people to link to you, I suggest getting to know them. Businesses have been benefiting from social networks since the very first business. Since it’s people that will link to you make people aware of what you have to offer.

Once again from Rand

  1. Don’t pretend to care, actually care
  2. Follow up by email
  3. Stay out of gossip
  4. Use some personal branding
  5. Strategic name recall
  6. BONUS – Involve your connections

I was surprised to learn that Rand needed a few years to learn the first one. It’s the most important thing on this list. Faking interest is obvious. It won’t win you any friends or links. Take the time to genuinely know people. We all have something in common so find that something. You can start with the idea that you both have websites likely on similar topics. Help someone out if you can. Share a tip you learned to bring someone else more traffic. Helping others is a good way to gain their trust and start building a relationship with them.

Participate in the community. It’s amazing how many people create spam posts and comments on forums and blogs thinking the goal is to get the easy links. Those links aren’t worth much. The value in forums and blogs and any other social community is to participate in the discussion and add something to the conversation. Honest participation gets you noticed, grows your network, and gains links.

Rand’s bonus tip is pretty important too. One of the driving forces of web 2.0 is interaction. Web pages and sites are no longer static things meant to be read only. The goal is to get people to interact with you and your site. One of the greatest strengths of SEOmoz is the community it’s built around itself. It’s one of the few blogs where I’ll actually read most every comment. Interaction brings people back more often and familiarity in this case doesn’t breed contempt, it breeds links. More familiarity with a site brings it’s content to mind when you’re thinking of where you can link to. It also creates loyalty among your community. I know I’ve linked to SEOmoz more than once and I’m sure many of the other members there do as well.

The more interaction you have with others in your community, the more likely others in the community will link to you.


I admit I haven’t always had the best timing in life and some of what I’m about to say is as much a reminder for me as anything else. Not listening to Rand I started a blog mainly about seo and marketing at a time when the market for both is pretty saturated. It’s going to be harder to get those million links now than had I started a few years ago. The vacuum for information about seo has been filled. But that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. Far from it.

Timing is also about playing it smart, though. Our blogging and articles and tools have changed over time to reflect where we believe search marketers’ interests lie.

Look at where things are going to find a new vacuum. Watch your industry and listen to people asking questions to see where and when their interest is shifting. Then time it right to get there just before they do.

You create your own opportunities by preparing for their eventual arrival. Opportunity is always right in front of you. The trick is seeing it and capitalizing on it at the right time. Timing is all about being ready for the next opportunity that reaches out to you. Pay attention to what’s going on in your industry. Follow how it’s evolving. SEO today is not the same as it was 10 years ago or even a year ago. If you pay attention you can see where your industry is going Before everyone else and you can get there first.

Timing sometimes means holding on to something you create and waiting for the right moment to release it. Hollywood does this all the time. A studio make a movie, but when it’s ready they realize the zeitgeist of the day is looking for something else. They hold back the movie and wait for the cultural climate to change before releasing the movie.

Timing can turn something that would be a failure today into a success tomorrow. If you’ve written something that doesn’t seem like it would go over well when you write it you can hold on to it longer and make it better and when the climate changes and the timing is right you can publish it. Be careful, though, because if you wait too long someone will get there first and you’re back where you started. Timing is everything.

A million links is a lot to get. It’s hard to even fathom how you and I could ever get that many, but it all starts with a single link. Each new link opens a new avenue for someone to discover your site. One link leads to two, which leads to eight and beyond.

Build something worth linking to, connect with the people who who will link to it, be prepared so when the opportunity is in front of you, you can capitalize on it. If you do all three you’re well on your way to a million links.

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

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