Good Old-Fashioned Link Building

  |  May 12, 2008   |  Comments

What's the secret to getting other sites link to yours and improve your rank on the search engine results page?

When was the last time you revisited your inbound link building strategy? Do you even have one in place for your Web site? As much as people are relying on Web 2.0 (define) or 3.0 to build links naturally (via links from blogs, forums, social networks, wikis, etc.), I believe good old-fashioned link building still has a place in organic SEO (define).

As archaic as it may sound, as long as search engines continue to place priority on "off-site" factors like inbound links over "onsite" factors like keyword placement, there will always remain a place in SEO for strategic link building.

Just so we're clear, I'm not evangelizing a return to sketchy linking schemes of days past like link farms. But what I'm advocating is ensuring your company has covered off on the basics before advancing to the more emerging and innovative ways to garner links.

There are two main types of traditional link building strategies:

Actively seeking incoming links. You search for potential linking partners, approach them and ask for a link (and often you provide one in return). I refer to this approach as a "direct" linking strategy, which was common -- and somewhat abused -- in the early days of SEO.

Indirectly encouraging incoming links. You create good content, and distribute it on the Web to encourage other sites to link to you of their own volition. This approach is referred to as "indirect," but is not typically entirely accidental and often intimately linked with your public relations strategy.

In my opinion, these are the back-to-basics fundamentals of good SEO. Oftentimes, marketers get so caught up in the next great thing, they forget to capitalize on the proverbial low hanging fruit of linking.

For example, if you have relevant, authoritative partners, suppliers, resellers, or vendors, why not simply ask them to link to you? This is an example of a direct linking strategy: You identify a viable linking partner, and you contact them to politely request a link. Simple. It doesn't always work out in the end, but it never cost anyone anything to ask. In fact, to increase your probability of successful linking, you could even incorporate the requirement in all partner contracts that they must provide a relevant and prominent link to your Web site.

Another example of back-to-basics link building is leveraging your company's PR strategy. If your PR agency is undertaking "noise making" in the marketplace, capitalize on this to generate valuable links back into your site. Be sure to optimize your press releases for search engines and submit any releases to news and portal sites for suggested inclusion.

On a related note, any articles you or your colleagues have written as part of your thought leadership program can also help garner incoming links. When developing educational articles, always be sure to include a byline at the end of your article, including the author's name, company name, and URLs, making sure to use keyword-rich hyperlink text.

By far, one of the simplest means to encourage inbound links is to simply build link-worthy content into your Web site. It should go without saying, but often this truth is overlooked: If you want other sites to link to yours, you need to ensure your site is actually worth a link. This means your site must offer something of value to entice other sites to link to yours.

Examples of link-worthy content include how-to articles, product reviews, tools, tips, resources, and case studies. A residual benefit of adding such content on your Web site, is that this information is of much more interest to editors, journalists, and other media personnel. In fact, once you have a solid library of useful content on your site, you can make a habit of regularly alerting online publications to newly added content as inspiration for articles.

In the end, what it boils down to is having really good content. No schemes or strategies you undertake will help you more in SEO than having the most relevant, cutting edge, and applicable content. People will read your content, share it, and link to it. And in return, search engines will value it, and ultimately rank it more highly.

A simple formula, yet one that evades so many Web sites. Maybe if we all got back to basics when it comes to SEO, we might be able to finally secure our place at the top of the search engine results, rather than being slaves to every new trend.

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Julie Batten

Julie is a member of the senior strategy team at Klick Health, focused on online media and digital. Julie initially established and led the media practice at Klick for several years, relinquishing leadership to expand beyond media into additional digital tactics. She brings a wealth of experience in search marketing, digital media, and all facets of digital strategy to bear, helping Klick's clients develop innovative digital solutions. As her role has evolved, so have her contributions to ClickZ, which she has been writing for since 2007.

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