9 Evil Ways to Build Links

by Peter Attia on April 17, 2012

A while back Sean put up a great post for “alternative” link building methods. I loved this topic and wanted to expand on it with a few methods I’ve… umm… heard of…

In all seriousness though, I think it’s important to know dark side strategies not for promotion, but so that you know how to protect yourself from it.

dark side SEO


1.) Tell bloggers you work for someone credible and want to write a guest post for them. For example The Discovery Channel. You can then place a link to Discovery as well as your actual client.

2.) Target mental health awareness bloggers and pretend that you have a sibling with the same mental illness. Tell them it would mean a lot to you personally if you could make a donation in the name of your company, but that you don’t have the personal finances to do it yourself. However, the only way you can make a donation through the company is if there is a link to the company in return.

3.) Similarly to the first one, create a piece of content in the name of a credible organization and publish/promote it everywhere… with a link of your choice.


1.) Buy a decent hosting account and offer free hosting to your friends or anybody. Through FTP you can go back later and put links wherever you want.

2.) Offer free web design to people you meet that are too broke to hire a designer. Install WordPress and throw up a quick template with a link in it. Even though the site will be crappy, they won’t change it, because they won’t want to pay for a new one.

3.) Place links to two different clients in the same post. Charging separately for each.


1.) Buy a WordPress plugin that you know is active. Create an update that contains a link to your site. The next time they update their tool, the link will appear.

2.) Download several free website themes and templates. Change or add the link of your choice and resubmit them to template directories.

3.) Find a credible and useful tool or widget. Promote it as if its your own tool, but with your link in it instead.

Other Ideas?

If anyone can think of some others, I’d love to hear them!

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben Johnston April 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Nice post. Off the top of my head:

Buy a domain or two that sound like hosting companies, get in touch with webmasters through that account (aim for technopleb bloggers rather than smart ones), tell them that their hosting company sublets from you and you need their FTP details to perform some routine maintenance, then sneak some links in/ ask them to put a link somewhere on the site for you to test something.

I’ve never tried that one, but I bet it’d work!


Peter Attia April 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm

That’s a good one! I think it work well with less tech savvy bloggers for sure! I’m wondering if less savvy bloggers would know their FTP information though? Seems like they may have a friend build their site or set up a CMS for them or something.


Sean April 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Haha, dude these ideas are awesome. I particularly like the lying angle which could be very useful when working for smaller websites :-)


Peter Attia April 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Indeed! They would be harder to get caught or penalized for as well :)


Joel April 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Hard to even call “lying” evil anymore. Most of the great link builders of our time have posed as a female to get links, especially with Mommy bloggers.

I’ve also done..erm…heard of the following:

1. Find a competitor’s site that has a lot of ads/recently changed their design/looks a bit old.

2. Look at their backlink profile.

3. Contact their best links telling them that your competitor’s site was hacked and is sending malware to users. Ask them to update their link to yours, which is the “new” company website.


Peter Attia April 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I’ve heard about different ways to steal a competitor link, but this is probably the best one! People obviously won’t want a malware link on their site!


Joel April 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Nor will they risk going to the reported site to check if it’s legitimate ;)


Sean April 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm

1 – Go on acting course – http://www.nyfa.edu/acting-school/ (Intensive 4 or 8 week courses!)

2 – Review a list of charitable organisations (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_charitable_foundations)

3 – Pay someone to create an excel sheet that features all charities and their head office addresses (meanwhile practice your acting in front of the mirror)

4 – Travel to each organisation pretending to have whatever ailment they specialise in. Props (children, animals) may be useful so see if you can buy, steal, borrow whatever is necessary.

5 – Tell the charity representative (who is only too happy to see you) that you are in talks with the media about how much they have helped you with your plight. Mention that you would be more than happy to write about your experiences on their website.

6 – Outsource the writing to someone (I’ve heard that the BMR writers have a bit of time on their hands at the moment) and practice your acting for your next ‘role’

7 – Review the content add a few highly relevant links (and your clients) and send to the charity. If they are really hooked in then discuss a long term arrangement.

8 – Rinse and repeat


Peter Attia April 17, 2012 at 4:11 pm

I think someone has a new life goal! I would consider anyone that pulled this off a god.


Sean April 17, 2012 at 4:18 pm

It’s on my bucket list…


Kenny A April 18, 2012 at 1:24 pm

This is truly evil… well done.


David Cohen April 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm

If you’re in-house and you write for your company’s blog, put a link to your personal blog/site in the author bio section, and vary the anchor text and page you’re linking to on each new post you write.


Peter Attia April 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm

That’s commonly done. I think it’s fine for the author to claim credit for something they’ve written. Granted, the keyword should be their name or something and not “Link building”.


David Cohen April 17, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Interesting. I wasn’t aware this was commonly done. It’s forbidden where I work and hadn’t noticed it on other corporate blogs.


Peter Attia April 17, 2012 at 6:31 pm

It depends on the company, but it mainly practiced in guest posting. Letting in house authors put a link in their bio for their blog or social profiles. The only time I think it’s important to make a conscious decision on whether to allow it or not, is if you’re outsourcing your guest posting to an agency. You usually don’t want your specific posts linked to an SEO company.


Adam April 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Bribe / Pay college students to post an article and or link on their campus blog or other public facing sites.


Peter Attia April 17, 2012 at 7:50 pm

That’s quite commonly done :)


Shelli walsh April 17, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Wow Peter. Your article is almost a bit too good like you really do know how to work those evil links : )

Can’t believe you outed my very cunning method of offering design for free and stuffing it with links. Ha ha ha!

Just for any of my potential clients who might be reading this – I really don’t do that! : )


Peter Attia April 17, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Hah! Glad you liked it Shelli! I really do think it’s important to be able to think in a “morally incorrect” manner. It helps you think outside the box, plus it can give you insight on something fishy you see your competitors doing!


Craig Addyman April 17, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Haha love this


Matt J April 18, 2012 at 7:37 am

Here’s some old methods I used to use:

1. Some .edu sites and high profile sites have open pages on statistics for who’s visited their site, among these stats are the referrer from where the visitors have come, along with a nice helpful link. Forge about 1000 requests headers with the referrer field coming from your site and *boom* you’re on the list, near the top <– rinse and repeat for a whole bunch of .edu sites

2. Email still works surprisingly well, send in plain text and blatently ask for links. I used to use GSA's email spider, which pulls out a load of email addresses for a particular search term, and then a mass-email sender. Great for contextual links

3. If that fails, buy 50,000 Twitter followers from Fiverr and tell people you're this great social media Guru and you'll help them with their SM presence in exchange for a link.


Peter Attia April 18, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Wow! These are all great. I especially like the first one? I never knew anything about that.


Sean April 18, 2012 at 8:27 am
Peter Attia April 18, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Meh, Rand is just playing the white knight like he always does. I understand his concern, but it’s silly for people to pretent scammy methods don’t exist.


Rob April 18, 2012 at 8:29 am

On the same topic list your site as a proxy server that you want traffic for. :) Links are great, but you need the traffic also!


Alessio April 18, 2012 at 11:30 am

“Offer free web design to people you meet that are too broke to hire a designer”.

this is the best for me. even because it could be really really simple to do.

thanks for this post :D


Chaaron April 18, 2012 at 7:09 pm


I’ve ….heard about people threatening bloggers who were asking for money to add links to their posts/articles.

First you have to make sure that the blog/website is highly relevant to your subject/product, that a link would be added value for the readers and only if the blog owner wants money for a contextual link.

With all those conditions, then you would send an email, mentioning Google best Practices, and inserting a link to Google “how to report paid links” ‘s page. http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=66736

Usually people get back to you pretty quickly and do you a favor by graciously offering you a link on their page.

Mean but such a powerful thing!


Peter Attia April 18, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Hah! That is so villainous! I imagine people would get back to you almost immediately in fear of being reported.


Chaaron April 18, 2012 at 7:19 pm

but it works well…it’s just so annoying to have people think it’s normal and correct to ask for money for those links!

You feel like you are the Web Police it’s pretty funny!


Nick LeRoy April 18, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Good list. Definitely some angles / techniques I haven’t heard about. Love it when people go “against the grain” with SEO posts


Peter Attia April 18, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Thanks Nick! I’ll try to keep things interesting :)


Carl April 19, 2012 at 8:36 am

1. (I wouldn’t) Contact all my suppliers e.g. cleaners, coffee machine, travel company, couriers, hosting company, stationary, recruitment etc and tell them I plan to terminate their contracts if they do not allow us to guest blog or obtain a link from their websites clients page.

2. There are still many websites out there that you can carry SQL injections, but you just need to know how to find them. Easy way to drop links.

3. Set up fake competitions (think that is against the law) – offering a 100x life time supply of Nike Airs in return for a review on the latest selection of trainers that the website has to offer. So many people will think they have a chance. Buy some paid tweets to promote.

There are loads….of which I would not do any of them.


SEO and Friends April 30, 2012 at 1:07 pm

ghghghhgh, really evil strategies ^_^


Brian Austad June 5, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Haha, Ok, I admit that I’ve been doing two of these. Only slightly, and not to the same degree. My goal isn’t necessarily to get links, but more clients. The links are nice by-product.


John June 29, 2012 at 11:33 am

Oh-er, your own hosting, then add your own links… Hello Micro-GoDaddy. :) Perhaps a tad illegal? Love the first idea though and we’ll be trying that badger out!


Mike Arnesen July 25, 2012 at 5:17 am

That’s some pretty evil link building. Worthy of the Dark Lord himself. However, I feel like the ideas under “Steal” wouldn’t do particularly well post-Penguin. Thoughts?


Peter Attia July 25, 2012 at 6:15 am

Hey Mike,

If you’re using exact match anchors, they probably won’t do as well as they would’ve pre-penguin. However, if you keep the keywords branded, they could be a “good” way to build up authority.

The link profile of a completely organic and authoritative site usually contains about 60% branded links. That being said, I don’t see any of those harming you for penguin related reasons if you stick to branded keywords.



Tom Andrews July 29, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Very entertaining post :-)


Irandomit December 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm

dude you are a genius, the part on wordpress it’s fantastic


Peter Attia December 5, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Hah! I wouldn’t call myself a genius, but I appreciate it nonetheless :)



Ian Walters December 27, 2012 at 11:27 pm

Re: Steal 3.) Find a credible and useful tool or widget. Promote it as if its your own tool, but with your link in it instead.

Presumably this is ok if the tool/widget is actually offered to you?

I recently downloaded an e-book of top SEO tips and one of the bonuses was a widget that could be white-labeled and promoted on your own site.

Re: Cheat 1.) Buy a decent hosting account and offer free hosting to your friends or anybody. Through FTP you can go back later and put links wherever you want.

I have the ultimate hosting package which allows me unlimited domains and databases so I can alias my clients’ sites from the same account. Because links would be from/to the same IP address I know that there is no link juice to be gained and I don’t sell that to my clients. I even put a TAC in my contracts that I won’t provide links from my other clients’ websites and i dont work the same business types within the neighboring zip codes. Is this still strictly white-hat or should I be buying hosting packages for each client? If so, what is the advantage of ultimate/unlimited?


Peter Attia December 28, 2012 at 1:06 pm


This is kind of a vague area that hasn’t gotten any substantial evidence to prove one thing or another. Lots of people will get dedicated IP’s so that they don’t have to worry about their IP being used by someone else for a “bad neighborhood” site, like porn. It likely wouldn’t hurt your site to be on the same IP as a bad neighborhood site, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. The expense isn’t worth the risk.

As for the IP’s, there are hosting plans that will provide you with several IP’s so that you can put each site on a different one. Obviously this depends on your hosting provider, but it may be worth investigating in your situation.


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