Recently I had a client in a difficult niche that was having issues building backlinks. There are many site owners in competitive niches — I'm looking at you, lawyers — that have zero interest in helping their peers, even if it means they're helping themselves. The idea of helping out a potential competitor is like asking the Pope to punch a kitten.
"No, I'm not going to trade links with the company in Miami."
"But you work in Tampa. He doesn't overlap with your market at all, and his PageRank is higher than yours. You do the same thing in the same state."
"I don't care. I might want Miami to be a part of my market someday, and then he'll always outrank me there."
Being handcuffed like this means that I'm willing to take a step back on my expectations for grabbing the best backlinks. For these types of clients I turn to the link wheel.
What is a Link Wheel?
A link wheel is a series of sites and pages that all link to each other, in an effort to build up the ranking of a single site or page. You're effectively building the base of the pyramid, the top of which is your most important page.
Here's a simplified version with four hubs and a single target page.
Link wheels will often include many more hubs, sometimes dozens.
A typical link wheel will use free services like WordPress or Squidoo to build the individual hubs, and then link them all together.
The Problem with Using a Link Wheel Service
I've communicated with a couple of services that build link wheels. That's their only job, to build your link wheel.
You'll notice that I'm not linking to any of them here. That's because their writing is abysmal. I'm not sure who they're farming out their services to, but they need to check to make sure that they've completed middle school.
Asking an untrained writer to discuss a topic that they have no knowledge of is only going to lead to tears for everybody. Don't give up too much control over the content. You either need to write it yourself, or communicate clearly with a talented writer to make sure the content produced is up to snuff.
Recently Michael Gray gave a review of TextBroker.com. He discussed the importance of being clear with your instructions to the writers you hire if you expect great results.
Natural Links are Always Better
Let's not pretend that link wheels will ever trump the power of natural links. Sometimes though, when you have that particularly difficult client that refuses to share, I don't think there's anything wrong with building a custom link wheel as long as the content is not spun and provides useful information.