Lately we have been talking about strategies on how to drive traffic to your website through search engines. By examining the construction of our websites, the content we have on them, and the context that search engines judge our websites in, we can formulate a plan on how to better. We have also discussed a wide range of basic SEO tactics you can use. One of the best tactics you can follow to improve your rankings is to get as many links back to your website as possible. And there is no better way than free, right?
Unethical Link Building
Search engines love links to your site. In the algorithms they use, a link can be considered a vote in favor of your site. If you are in competition with other websites to rank well for your search term, you want to get more of these ‘votes’ than the other guy.
I bet you can start to see the incentive for gathering as many links to your site as possible. And I bet you can see the potential for abuse. Shortly after Google and the other search engines became such an amazing revenue engine for businesses placing well in their rankings links developed into a sort of currency on the web.
Before we talk about how to go about gathering free links to your website, I want to touch on less than savory practices that have come out of the search engine optimization community. I’m talking about building links associated with “link farms” or blogs designed by SEO companies for the sole purpose of posting links, etc.
So, how do you build up your incoming links without crossing the ethical line? Read on.
How to Get Free, Quality Links
Quality vs Quantity
Some people just link everywhere in a shotgun strategy approach. This is something you do when you don’t have a plan. What you are looking for are reputable websites. The higher quality the site, the more valuable the backlinks. Think of this as the Scarcity approach. The harder it is to get a link from that site, the better those links will be. Also, the fewer links there are on a high quality page, the more impact a link to your site will have.
Get Other Sites to Organically Link to You by Providing Excellent Content
Ultimately you are creating webpages – and links for real, live people. Even when you are thinking about submitting links far and abroad, put people first. For example, editorial links are created by bloggers and other content managers when they want to reference something you have published in their own writing. This is one of the many reasons why creating high-quality content and extending that content through social networking sites is so important, because you greatly multiply the chances that someone will discover and cite one of your articles.
Get people talking about you. Get your employees out to community events. Host community events. Sponsor events. Get your employees blogging about your industry and their thoughts. Get involved in social media. Invest in some PR. Be creative. Be awesome. People spread “awesome.”
When people start talking about you in real life, they’ll start writing about you online. When people start writing about you online, half the time they’ll link to your site. The other half of the time, you have opportunity to go back after they’ve written and ask that they link to your site. People link to people they like.
Ask People Who Know You
Webmasters who have developed high-quality and popular websites are constantly bombarded with requests for links. You can also approach the owner or webmaster of another popular, good quality website and ask that they add a link to your site. The best place to start with these requests is your own network of business partners, vendors and clients. Try writing testimonials of their services for use on their website. Once done, ask for a link back. You should only write testimonials for products, services, and people you believe in. Trading your good name for a link is a very poor exchange.
Another great source of links are public Facebook pages. In addition to Facebook being it’s own giant ecosystem, these are posts and updates are indexed by search engines. You can add links to your best content on your Facebook page. Once your articles are shared by your fans – even better. Here is another powerful incentive to write great, useful content for your audience. Don’t forget to link to your website in your Facebook personal profile as well as create a separate page for your business.
You can tweet also your links. Valuable and clever links will be re-tweeted. Interact with the Twitterverse, engage others in conversation and share your links when appropriate. Twitter pages also carry Google page rank so don’t forget to update your profile here. It’s a good practice to have a Twitter profile for yourself and another for your company or website.
Obviously Google + will be an important social sharing service to look for. Another that is coming on the scene quickly is Pintrest. Both should be investigated.
What if You Don’t Know Anyone
YouTube offers another great way of building an audience. If you’re comfortable in front of a camera, you can create a bunch of tutorials on any subject. Post them there. Configure your YouTube profile to include links to your website. For example, you can link from your YouTube Channels and video descriptions back to your site – great video content will make people want to click over to your website.
Bookmarking services seem to be the standard go-to for people looking to get started building links. I think this advice was great 10 years ago and I am not so certain of its relevancy any more. Some experts still contend that these services get your pages/posts indexed faster – plus good content generates great traffic and exposure. While not my cup of tea, I am not willing to entirely write them off yet. I recommend starting with StumbleUpon and Delicious, gauging your level of success, and then moving on to other directories.
If you are just starting out, you need to build a sturdy network – and for more reasons than just generating links. Try to meet people through networking, LinkedIn, and industry forums. Add insightful comments and share knowledge where ever you can. Engage people where they are seeking engagement. Partner with people on other worthwhile projects. Networking gets you traffic and credibility and links backs. Don’t forget that you can go to LinkedIn and other business profiling websites and add links to your company in employee profiles. Don’t forget that you can create a personal page in LinkedIn with a link to your website as well as a separate business profile again with a website.
Don’t forget you can synch your website’s blog RSS feed to multiple social websites. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and many other sites will automatically post links to articles in your RSS feed once properly configured.
Advertising in both local and specialist online directories in another old-school way to score points for inbound links. I have the same reservations on this approach as I do for bookmarking services. I include it here for the sake of completeness. Just make sure the directory site is one that is respected and has a legitimate editorial process, such as the Yahoo! Directory. Also try DMoz and Yahoo. Additionally, in both places you can find many local business directories that rank well in search engines for your business category – and many of those directories provide free listings.
You also can get started building links with a press release. Write an article about something you and your business has done recently and post it on your site. Create a press release with links back to your website and submit it to a service like prweb.com to help get maximum distribution.
If Social Media is your thing, check out this article I wrote on 9 Free Places to Share Your Website.
Create Your Own Back Links
Comments that Link Back
Believe it or not, you can even create your own inbound links on other sites. Seek out websites and blogs that cover subjects of relevance to your keywords and that have a readership aligned with your target audience. For example, if you are a landscaper, seek out gardening blogs. Subscribe to the RSS feeds for these sites and then establish a daily or weekly routine of scanning newly posted material for opportunities to post topical, insightful comments that link back to related content on your own site. The extra benefit here is that if you are regularly posting helpful comments that demonstrate your expertise and authority, you will not only boost your ranking, but you will also increase your visibility to prospective customers and provide opportunities for direct click-throughs to your site.
Track Back Links
Some websites are configured so that they will automatically link back to your website if you link to theirs. This is most commonly found between 2 webpages on sites that are set up with RSS Feeds.
Links are More for People than Search Engines
Remember that links have two audiences: the people who click them and search engines that judge them. We want as many clicks as possible on our links, because that means people are reading our content. When our audiences click our content, we want them to think two things: 1) this content is relevant and 2) this content is credible. If you have those two things, you can safely assume that you have high quality links.
The most important tip I’ve saved for last. When in doubt, find a way to put a link to your site where people will find it and share it. You can do that by being ubiquitous. You can do that by simply being your awesome self and letting that shine through on your website. If you are busy being awesome, creating great content for humans the search engines will find you. And that will lead to even more humans finding you, too.