For time immemorial (i.e. since the late 1990's), link building has been a key part of search engine optimization. Over the last ten years or more, countless methods have been suggested for getting more links, with various rates of success. Unfortunately, all of these advanced techniques and theories can make link building, which is really a simple concept at its core, seem complex and daunting. Don't be intimidated by link building. Here are three easy steps that anyone (even the incredibly busy) can follow to get more inbound links to their website.
How to Get More Inbound Links
Step 1 - Cover the Basics
If your website and/or business is new, this is the place to start. The good news is, even if you only complete this step, you'll already be ahead of a lot of the competition. If you've been around for a while, you might already have most of these links covered, but take this opportunity to review. In Step 1, your goal should be to get all of the obvious links that many in your field already have. In other words, take this opportunity to pick the low-hanging fruit off the link building tree. This means: a) Submitting your site to online directories, and b) Creating profiles on social media sites. Submitting your site to online directories can be time consuming, depending upon how many you would like to reach, but it is certainly not difficult. It is a great task for interns to complete, if you have them, or you can pay a submission company (there are many) to do this for a reasonable fee. Please note that this is not the same as "buying links" - you are simply paying someone to submit your site to various free directories (which is okay), not paying a website to include a link to your site (which is not okay, according to Google). Creating social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Delicious, etc.) is also an easy process. In this case, messaging and tone are a bit more important than above, but in both cases, it is important to have consistent messaging across the board. We highly recommend writing company descriptions of standard lengths before you begin this process, and simply copying and pasting them as necessary. This sheet of standard descriptions is a great tool to give an intern assigned with the task of building links.
Step 2 - Check Out the Competition
Now that you've got the bare minimum covered, it's time to get a bit more creative, and reach out for more incoming links. To do this, you could scour the Web for weeks looking for linking opportunities, but I promised an easy approach to link building, and I plan to deliver on that promise. That's why we're going to let Google do most of the work for us. Begin by creating a list of your competition. Let's start with a list of ten competitors in your field. Once you have this list, do a Google search for each company. In each case, the result will be a list of websites that mention and/or link to the company in question. With each result, ask yourself, "Could my site also be included on this site with minimal effort on your part?" In the case of industry directories, review sites, chamber of commerce listings, social bookmarking sites, and others, the answer is often, "Yes." Submit your website for inclusion, or contact the site owner through the contact form or by email. By using Google, you are effectively letting the competition scout out linking opportunities for you. Here's a final word of caution: you don't have to get EVERY link that might be available to you. In other words, don't spend six hours trying to get one link, when you could get 20 others in that time. Unless we're talking about The New York Times (or a similarly trafficked site), that one link simply isn't worth the time you'll spend getting it.
Step 3 - If You Build It, They Will Come
If a friend has ever sent you a link via email, instant message, Facebook, or Twitter, you know that people like sharing content that's interesting and/or entertaining. This stems from people's desire for shared experiences, but that's the subject of another blog. The point is, if you create content (blog posts, podcasts, videos, etc.) that people find interesting and/or entertaining, people will share your website through all the channels listed above. This step is the most time-consuming, but it also has the potential to be the most rewarding. The right content has the potential to fuel thousands of incoming links if it becomes viral. This approach also involves the most amount of luck, but remember that all of the fresh content you create makes your website a better place to be, even if it doesn't become a viral sensation. So don't get discouraged if your first blog post doesn't become the next Internet sensation. Creativity is the key trait of a successful link builder. If you keep an open mind, you'll find the linking opportunities that everyone else missed. Good luck!