SEO should be one of your main sources of traffic.
But it will never happen without links from other sites. So you need to come up with ways to build links on a consistent basis.
However not all links are created equal.
Loading up on low value links by spinning articles, swapping and buying isn’t good enough anymore. These may work in the short-term, but their effect is limited.
To build a strong web presence that generates leads and sales, you need to build links that also improves your brand and sends you traffic.
Here are 7 practical link building tips that you can start working on immediately.
1. Content Marketing
Creating content is the backbone of online marketing. It powers every other tactic.
That’s especially true for SEO.
Search engines reward sites that are relevant and informative for users, so consistently adding content that helps educate customers will improve your chances.
Great content on your site also naturally attracts links from other people. They might find it interesting or funny, and they’ll share it with their friends if it’s good enough.
But another great form of content marketing is by contributing content to other sites. You can guest post on another person’s blog, or have a regular column on a media site. Besides getting traffic from that site, this tactic also has another added SEO bonus.
When people naturally link to you, they’ll probably use a branded term, like your company name. That might help when people search for your branded term, but that’s not going to be very much traffic overall.
Ideally, you want to control the text they use to link back to you (called the anchor text), so you can increase the value of your site for other terms that your audience might use.
For example, maybe you want to rank for “San Diego Insurance” because that’s what people are actually searching for. Controlling the anchor text (i.e. “San Diego Insurance”) helps you begin to rank for that term, instead of only brand or company names.
2. Social Outreach & PR
Everyone knows they should share their content to social networks. But you shouldn’t stop there.
Start thinking about outreach and PR as the new social media definition. Reaching out to influencers and getting in front of huge audiences is a much better use of your social media time.
But this tactic doesn’t work well for most people. Why?
Because you actually have to put in the time developing a relationship before you start asking for favors.
So instead of cold-emailing other people, let’s start here instead:
- Spend one week creating a list of influential experts, bloggers and journalists in your industry.
- Spend one month commenting, tweeting, and sharing this person’s content. You should also leave long comments on their blog, to let them know you’re engaged.
- After a month, send that person an email offering to help them in some specific way.
If people don’t trust you, then they aren’t going to help you. So spend time up front developing the relationship before you expect anything in return.
3. Strategic Partnerships
You probably already have existing relationships with other companies or brands. They could be vendors, freelancers, or subcontractors. Or they could be your biggest client. They might even be associations or other nonprofits that you work with from time to time.
Either way, you need to figure out how to get a link from them.
Search engines place more value on authoritative and trustworthy links. So links from a .edu or .org are going to be more valuable than links you might pick up by swapping or leaving blog comments.
Besides the SEO value, getting involved with these groups should also help you build brand awareness and get good traffic from the people who are actually interested in your product or service.
4. Social Promotions
Promotions are a great way to involve other people and create engagement around your brand.
But social media promotions are even better.
Good online promotions can have a viral component that makes people take some “social action” as a way to enter the contest.
One example is to have people ReTweet your specific message with a link. That would drive more brand awareness for your Twitter account, but it also would drive more clicks to your site.
Another example is to use your company Facebook page as a method of entry. This would help you increase engagement on the page, which will help you defeat EdgeRank and virally grow your page by reaching more “friends of fans”.
Next time you want to run a giveaway or give your large email database reward points, put the actual link that they need to use to sign up on a new Facebook tab or your Google+ business page. If you’re careful, you can sidestep any policy issues from those two companies and get a ton of social media action in the process.
Social sharing is now a powerful way to improve your search engine rankings and send you massive traffic.
5. Local SEO
One of the most important, but often overlooked aspects of SEO is local search.
If someone searched for your company name, your Google Places and Yelp profiles would be in the top 5. And the reviews that customers have left (or haven’t left), plays a huge part on how other people will perceive your business.
You can also now integrate your Google Places with your AdWords account, which provides the added benefit of social proof to your advertisements. This is one of the best ways to increase conversions because you’re decreasing risk for consumers.
But that’s not all.
Today, your search results are personalized by:
- Social media (Google+) connections
- Past browsing history
- Physical location
So if I search for “car insurance” right now, the top search results are all places located around my house.
The two best things you could do for local SEO right now are:
- Create and fill out profiles for every major location based service (like Yelp, Google Places, Foursquare, Facebook Places, etc.)
- Get your customers involved and leave reviews or start interacting with your pages. Incentives work well, but sometimes all you need to do is make it a part of your lifecycle email marketing and they’ll do it automatically.
6. User Generated Content (UGC)
Incorporating User Generated Content (UGC) on your site is a powerful way to generate inbound links. This type of content is usually sticky, so people are very engaged and share frequently.
Here are some practical ways to start incorporating user generated content.
- Use Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ Connect. Now every time someone takes some action on your website, it will update their social graph.
- Accept guest articles and blog comments from other people on your site
- Have people put a badge or widget on their own site to show support, or as a form of entry to a promotion
- Use forums on your site to get people to interact and discuss topics
7. Buying White Hat Links
Buying or swapping links is a short-sighted tactic. I don’t recommend it at all.
However, there are some ways to “buy links” through a small donation
or time investment.
You can speak at a local university, or donate time to a local group and have them write about it. Participating in conventions is another easy way to pick up links from authoritative sites.
Another strategy is to invest in linkable assets. That could be a new infographic or unique tool that you can use to promote.
One example is HubSpot’s Marketing Grader, which helped them get press, links and traffic from all over the internet.
When your site is heavily commercial, it’s hard to get people to interact and drum up excitement with press and bloggers. But when you use a linkable asset that helps solve your target market’s needs in some way, then it can really take off.
Getting traffic to your site is essential if you plan on selling anything.
And SEO traffic is coveted because it’s predictable and consistent.
But spending your time and money on low quality link building is a waste. Instead, focus on building links that will drive quality traffic to your site and build your brand in the process.
Because by investing more effort up front, you’ll be rewarded with higher quality traffic that will actually convert into customers.