Getting found online is still a top priority for both big and small businesses alike. Google research from last year indicates that up to 70% of buyers use search at some point in their research journey.
Despite numerous algorithm changes and the more recent influence of social signals, generating quality inbound links to your website is still the primary ranking factor for appearing prominently within organic search results.
Google (other search engines are available, although Google is still very much the dominant player) regards a link from one site to another as a ‘vote of confidence’. If someone is willing to link away from their site to yours, then the assumption is that your content must be worthwhile to that user.
However, some webmasters are still intent on buying links to their website in an attempt to ‘game’ the system. Whilst this was a genuinely effective ‘black hat’ SEO tactic ten years ago, it doesn’t work quite so well now and can even incur the wrath of Google should you get caught!
Focus on quality links that add value
There should be a focus on earning quality, ‘hard’ links – as opposed to ‘easy’ links (that can be easily obtained or bought). And there should be emphasis on the word earn. The aim should be to earn links from places where there’s a real audience that might see your link and click on it directly to visit.
Good links should add value to the reader. They should be meaningful and complement the content the reader is already consuming. Effective link-building is about quality, not quantity.
As social media activity continues to impact organic search results, there is more scope and opportunity to obtain quality links from a variety of sources.
So, what tactics can you use to generate contextually relevant, quality inbound links from other websites? Here are a few ideas:
Create consistently high quality content
Content should be unique and provide real value for the reader. The days of writing posts that are stuffed with keywords and make very little sense have long gone.
Great content doesn’t have to be written content, either. Examples of great content types include:
- Case studies
- E-books and guides
Common across all these content types should be an emphasis on your target customer and an appreciation of what works for them. For example, if your research suggests your customers are very visually-oriented, infographics, photos and video may be more effective than detailed case studies or white papers.
To make the content high quality, efforts should be made to produce work that is unique (not scraped from other sources), engaging and resonates with the target audience to the extent that they’re compelled to link to it and/or share with their social networks.
Contribute to other blogs
As well as producing content of your own, there is great value in participating and contributing to other people’s work, too.
Consider blogs in your niche and sector and engage in meaningful conversation. Leaving comments has two benefits:
1. The comment will include keywords and often a link back to your website
2. Readers of those blogs will see you as a genuine authority/ thought-leader in your area of expertise
A step further would be to offer to guest blog. Guest blogging allows you to write naturally keyword-rich content on your areas of expertise, with links back to your website, on a website or blog that is contextually relevant to yours.
Submit your site to directories
Directories used to be a very popular form of link-building, primarily because they were actually used by people for finding websites.
Whilst directories are less popular now (because of search engines!), it’s still worth submitting your site to directories but only if they have real traffic, people use them and they have human editors (who select sites on their merits).
Join social networks where your customers are hanging out (but don’t set up an account on Twitter or Facebook for the sake of it) and create experiences that people will benefit from and enjoy.
Sharing great content on social networks will allow people to find, read, share and link to your content, as well as submit it to social bookmarking sites such as Delicious Reddit and StmbleUpon, too, generating inbound links for your site.
It’s also worth considering setting up a Google+ account. Whilst I would always encourage people and businesses to join social networks that are most relevant for their customers, there are a number of SEO benefits to joining Google+ that are certainly worth considering.
Don’t forget the anchor text!
Wherever possible, it’s important to optimise the text used within the inbound link. The anchor text strongly influences rankings and it’s worth writing SEO-friendly text that is both succinct and relevant to the target page wherever possible.
Whilst it will be very difficult to optimise the anchor text for all inbound links (you don’t have control), it’s nevertheless worth asking sites that have linked to you to consider what they write when linking back to you.
I know I have only scratched the surface of options for generating quality inbound links to websites but hopefully this will give you an idea of where to start. If you have any other ideas, tactics or strategies please feel free to share them here!