Links are a cru­cial ele­ment of search engine opti­miza­tion, and colum­nist Kevin Rowe believes that long-term SEO suc­cess relies on build­ing links that dri­ve real traf­fic.

Many peo­ple see link build­ing as a way to dri­ve rank­ings. But, when done cor­rect­ly, it can (and should) also dri­ve traf­fic.

Dri­ving traf­fic has a lot of ben­e­fits beyond the obvi­ous poten­tial increase in leads and sales. More web­site traf­fic can pro­vide valu­able ana­lyt­ics data about what users are look­ing for and what con­fus­es them. It can also help grow engage­ment and poten­tial­ly refer­ral links on social media as oth­ers begin to share our con­tent.

In this col­umn, I’ll explain how to iden­ti­fy sources of links that dri­ve actu­al traf­fic and how to eval­u­ate your progress so that you can focus your efforts where they will have the great­est impact.

Identifying link partners

In order to find good sources for traf­fic-dri­ving links, there are a few ways you can go: com­peti­tor research, rank­ings and influ­encers.

First, find the pub­li­ca­tions dri­ving traf­fic to your com­peti­tors by using tools like Sim­i­lar­Web to find their top refer­ral sources. Not only do these tools tell you who is link­ing to your com­peti­tors, but some can also show how much traf­fic your com­peti­tors are get­ting from those links.

links for referrals Rosy

Any site dri­ving traffic/referrals to your com­peti­tors should be inves­ti­gat­ed and eval­u­at­ed as a poten­tial link­ing part­ner. Check each one for qual­i­ty, ver­i­fy­ing that they aren’t con­tent scraper sites and are actu­al­ly valu­able resources for your tar­get audi­ence. If they pass the test, then con­sid­er approach­ing them for a link.

Of course, you shouldn’t just pur­sue links from sites that are dri­ving traf­fic to your com­peti­tors. Review the top-rank­ing web­sites in Google for the terms you want to rank for and see if any of them can serve as good link­ing part­ners. For exam­ple, many indus­tries have ver­ti­cal-spe­cif­ic direc­to­ries that pro­vide both free and spon­sored list­ings.

As always, do your research when approach­ing sites like this. Do the direc­to­ries seem spam­my, designed only to gen­er­ate links for SEO pur­pos­es? Or are they legit­i­mate sites that con­sumers actu­al­ly use, like Yelp, Tri­pAd­vi­sor or Avvo? (Note that links from legit­i­mate sites will often be nofol­lowed, but they are still valu­able because they dri­ve real traf­fic.)

If you want to do more of the heavy lift­ing when it comes to con­tent, try approach­ing major and niche indus­try out­lets that you can con­tribute con­tent to. In addi­tion to the above sites you found dur­ing your research, use a tool like Buz­zSumo to find social influ­encers and reach out to them on their social chan­nels or via email to see if they accept guest posts. These posts need to be high­ly rel­e­vant to the website’s audi­ence, and be care­ful to fol­low any edi­to­r­i­al guide­lines and respect their rules for sub­mit­ted con­tent.

In addi­tion to small­er indus­try pub­li­ca­tions, you can also find guest post­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties on major sites like through their guest post­ing forms. The byline link or the author page can be a great source of traf­fic and refer­rals. Often, I’ve got­ten leads from these links just because the prospect was impressed with see­ing the byline in major out­lets. How­ev­er, you must be dili­gent and care­ful here: Sub­mit your best work, as inclu­sion is often com­pet­i­tive, and edi­tors can there­fore be extreme­ly choosy.

Oth­er great out­let options to con­sid­er are com­mu­ni­ty forums, like indus­try-spe­cif­ic sub­red­dits or sites like if you are in mar­ket­ing. Just remem­ber to be a good com­mu­ni­ty mem­ber — nev­er spam oth­er users with your own con­tent, and be sure to par­tic­i­pate reg­u­lar­ly by answer­ing ques­tions and com­ment­ing thought­ful­ly on oth­ers’ con­tent.

One last angle to try is to find indus­try influ­encers and spon­sor or part­ner with them. Many influ­encers are will­ing to enter into part­ner­ships with brands, where they will review or work with a com­pa­ny on con­tent and social media posts to get the brand’s name out to their audi­ence. Cost usu­al­ly varies with audi­ence size and the scope of the cam­paign.

influencer links Rosy

Since the aim here is to dri­ve traf­fic and brand­ing, you shouldn’t run into any issues regard­ing Google’s link­ing guide­lines. How­ev­er, it’s impor­tant to ensure that all finan­cial rela­tion­ships are dis­closed accord­ing to FTC guide­lines and that you aren’t attempt­ing to hide or sneak links into any con­tent that you are send­ing to these out­lets for pub­li­ca­tion.

Evaluating success

Once you’ve approached your cho­sen link part­ners and suc­cess­ful­ly obtained links, it’s time to review your work. After each month, check Google Ana­lyt­ics for refer­ral traf­fic to see which new sites you’ve worked with are actu­al­ly bring­ing you traf­fic. After three to six months, you’ll have a clear pic­ture of which sites are worth your time and which aren’t. For instance, if is bring­ing you more traf­fic than three indus­try sites com­bined, it might be bet­ter to pare down your indus­try sites to be able to sub­mit more con­tent to

Addi­tion­al­ly, you can also see if there is an increase in over­all brand search for your name using Google trends or Google Key­word Plan­ner. Often, brand­ing cam­paigns can result in more direct traf­fic, as well as organ­ic traf­fic due to an increase in brand­ed search­es. By care­ful­ly track­ing increas­es in direct and brand­ed organ­ic refer­rals, you can see the impact your brand­ing cam­paigns are hav­ing. This can help you see the long-term ben­e­fits of your link-build­ing efforts in grow­ing your web­site traf­fic.

While track­ing the data, be sure to also track your suc­cess build­ing rela­tion­ships with the influ­encers and web­sites you’ve sin­gled out as poten­tial link-build­ing part­ners. This can show your progress to man­age­ment and help you hone your pitch and mes­sag­ing style.

Final thoughts

Link build­ing, no mat­ter the goal, is hard work if you want it to be done eth­i­cal­ly and with endur­ing val­ue. Build­ing a healthy link port­fo­lio can help you gen­er­ate traf­fic from a wide vari­ety of refer­ral sources, while also increas­ing your over­all online pres­ence and mak­ing sure you own more of your brand­ed search terms. Be sure to cast a wide net by work­ing with many dif­fer­ent sites and plat­forms.


Rosy Strate­gies, a South Flori­da based com­pa­ny, was found­ed on the belief that inte­grat­ed mar­ket­ing strate­gies are need­ed in today’s puls­ing mar­ket.  Many com­pa­nies do a lit­tle bit of this and a lit­tle bit of that with­out tru­ly eval­u­at­ing their performance/ROI. Rosy Strate­gies goes through the plan­ning process with you to estab­lish a clear direc­tion and uni­fied pur­pose for all your mar­ket­ing efforts.