The most successful link building strategies are done manually. I have no doubt about it. None of these automated methods last in the long run, and with Google getting smarter with its algorithm changes, I’ll be surprised if bulk comment spam and directory submissions will even give you much of a short-lived success anymore.
Manual link building is the way to go. Throw out the automation.
As part of our link building work for clients, we will stalk their competitors to find out which directories they are listed in, which sites they are mentioned on, which footers they have negotiated links in etc etc. This gives us an initial idea where to start in terms of putting a strategy together/which sites to target and so forth.
One thing I’ve seen over the years with a number of our clients competitors is the amount of automation that appears to have taken place in their link building campaigns. I do see it less and less now-a-days I must confess.
Directory submissions were always one of the big automated link building techniques. And I’m sure they still are today. Not a big directory listing fan myself, but I won’t deny using them. Personally, I prefer suggesting to our clients that they only use handful of respected directories that actually pass on some link juice.
Social bookmarking sites are another popular automated service, amongst what I class as lazy link building. Far from the quality of links you should be expecting if you pay for a link building service (the same can be said of automated directory submissions).
Using tools to send out forum and blog comment posts is another popular choice for automated link builders.
To summarise, a link that can be made without any human involvement is of low quality. A link building team that provide you with a strategy and planning are the ones who are more-likely to succeed, and certainly eradicate the risk of upsetting Google.
Examples of Manual Link Building Techniques
The manual equivalent of automated directory submissions is to simply go to the directory’s yourself and manually input your submission. This gives you the added benefit of changing your heading in directory to directory to minimise the risk of incurring a search engine penalty for building the same anchor text link over and over.
The same way you can automate directory submissions, you can also automate forum signups and posts. I’ve seen examples of these tools improving their intelligence by at least trying to post something that kind-of makes sense in the forum topic, or the blog post they are commenting on. However, they still remain easy to spot, and delete.
Instead of automating your forum comments, I recommend 5-10 minutes a time on a forum to enhance your reputation and post relevant links to your website when necessary. These days, it appears the more trustworthy your profile and your site is, the better it will perform in the long run.
To conclude, try not to cut corners with your link building campaign. Rather, spend time enhancing your profile and therefore increasing your links, or the opportunities to build links. And if you don’t have time for that, employ a reputable link building service to do that for you ;)