Over the course of the last week, I have seen people saying what works and what doesn’t in link building – and they all contradict each other. Some say the old fashioned link request from webmasters is dead and guest blogging is the way to go, while others say guest blogging is not a good strategy at all for link building. Directories, blog comments, forum posts, dofollow, nofollow, social media – you name the strategy, and there’s bound to be a group of diehard fans of it as well as those who think it’s a complete waste of time.

So, the question is, what does work?

The answer – it depends. It depends on the keyword difficulty and competition, the niche, the client, the saturation, etc. So how do you determine the best route to go? It really comes down to two things.

1. Competitor Research

First of all, you need to do competitor research for the keywords you are trying to rank for. Find the sites that rank the best, then look at their backlinks. You might be surprised to find that someone is ranking with only reciprocal links or directories. You might notice that someone is ranking with a ton of mini-sites all linking back to their main site. You might see that someone is ranking with nothing but blog comments.

2. Goals

How fast do you want to be ranking well for your keyword? Are you looking to blast someone off of the number one spot right now, or looking to build quality links for them in the long run that may not give an initial boost? Is your link building strategy simply for search engine rankings, or are you trying to build links that are going to bring in direct traffic?

A Winning Link Building Strategy

So what determines the best link building strategy? It’s really the analysis of what you learned in your competitor research in conjunction with what you want as your end results that will help you decide what types of links to go for.

This means if you see all of your competitors doing nothing but directories, and you just want rankings, you should be doing directories. If you want traffic plus rankings, then you should incorporate guest blogging and social media on top of directories.

And of course, remember that mixing things up is a good thing – try some different approaches to link building to keep it looking natural.

Still not convinced?

If you don’t believe me, take it from these three case studies (for starters) that offer some insight on what works that shouldn’t, or should work but doesn’t.