The art of networking is one that businesspeople have long been trying to master. ‘Get business cards printed and get out there and talk to the right people’ are words that many of us will have heard. We have also all been told ‘it’s not what you know it’s who you know’. Whatever your opinions about networking if you want your business to get noticed online you can’t ignore its online equivalent – link building.
What is link building?
Put simply a link building strategy involves getting other websites to display links to your site. These are called ‘external links’. There is also a strategy for links within your own site which is called ‘internal link architecture’. External links are about more than just allowing users to navigate the internet, they are important in building the AUTHORITY of your website and thus your rank in search engine listings.
All links were not created equal
Some businesses have unscrupulously tried to post as many links to their site as possible, all over the web, to increase their authority with search engines. Search engines got clever and changed their algorithms to that links are ‘weighted’. You might think of an external link as a vote for your site but some votes carry much more value than others. A vote from a site which itself has a high level of authority carries much more weight. Some links actually carry no weight at all. This are called ‘no follow’ links (and are used in Tweets for example).
How do you find sites with authority?
One simple way is to check the Google PageRank of a site. All sites have page rank of between 1 and 10 with 10 being sites with the highest authority. Getting a link from one of those sites to yours would do your search rankings a power of good but you would need a lot more links from sites with a ranking of 1 to achieve the same effect. Much like in the real world a recommendation from the President of the USA would be worth far more than a recommendation from your mate from the pub.
Link building tactics
You need a solid plan to implement a link building strategy. Tactics fall into the following categories:
Manual link building – the DIY approach to link building where you post the links yourself. You don’t need to make friends with the other site first. You might post links on social networks for example but this tactic is of limited value.
Mixture of editorial and manual – editorial input refers to owners of other sites who may be encouraged to link to your site. Much of your strategy may rest on building relationships and trust with other site editors.
Completely editorial – sites with very strong and valued content are able to generate links from other, trusted sites without being prompted. Having great content is invaluable for a highly successful link building project.
Link building ideas
There are many possibilities but here are some of the most important ones:
Great content – it is worth repeating that this is the single most important factor not only for a link building project but for the success of your online business full stop. You can generate all of the traffic in the world but if your site does not contain content that people want to actually read and use you won’t be successful. Ideally you want people to SHARE your content. Why not produce a free podcast about how your product(s) can help people? Think viral!
Digital PR – Traditionally you may have sent a press release to tell the media about your great products. Today you might contact web owner or blogger to review and post links to your site. Some bloggers make a living reviewing products in this way.
Ask your customers – if you have happy customers many of them might we willing to help spread the word about your business. Do they write blogs? Do they ‘like’ you on Facebook? Do they have their own websites? Ask them to mention you and link you your site where appropriate.
Giveaways and competitions – it is a timeless truth that people like a good competition or giveaway. Other sites with customers interested in your prize or competition may be happy to provide a link.
Use social media – the upsurge in the popularity of social media in recent years has massive implications. In fact ‘likes’ are becoming the new ‘links’. This is a topic for another post.
Sounds like hard work?
The days when companies could cheat their way to the top of search rankings are long gone. Now you need the relevance provided by keywords (SEO) and the authority provided by link building. If you are a small or start up business this might seem daunting. Although you need more nuance and sophistication in your approach today, it can be done.
If you have a niche product there will be less competition for keywords which means that link building less important. Your SEO will take you muchfurther. Even if there is lots of competition, don’t forget the power of offline channels to generate online traffic. Direct mail, door drops, off the page ads, radio and TV ads, even billboards can all drive traffic to your site cost effectively if your campaign is well targeted. We marketers have never had so many options are our disposal, the trick is picking the right ones.