Building links to your website has always been vital, and it is likely to remain so for the near future. Links provide the basic structure that the Google algorithm is based on, and are the main indicator of a pages importance.
It’s important not to make the mistake of assuming that as the need for links hasn’t changed, that the methods of acquiring them haven’t. Just as the web has changed from brochure websites to interactive communities so has the methods of building links to these sites.
So how did people used to build links?
- Directory submissions – We’ve all seen the “submit to 10,000 directories for $9.99” adverts haven’t we? With that many links you can’t go wrong surely?
- Internal links – Footer links, yes I know, we’ve still got them!
- Paid links – need some quick links? Pop over to Pay-Per-Post and get a blogger to knock up some paid reviews.
- Forums and blog comments – Drop by, drop your links, nobody really cares right?
All of that sounds easy right? And to be fair it is, or was. Google wised up to all of these methods a long time ago. Some are devalued and won’t bring you any benefit, others are going to put your site in danger of being penalised.
So bearing all of this in mind, what should your link building strategy consist of in the Web 2.0 age?
- Directory submissions – I’m a firm believer that good directories will still pass value. Directories like Yahoo, JoeAnt, Business.com, BOTW, The Good Web Guide, Elib, Site Sift and many more are on my submit list. Niche directories that offer a comprehensive review process are also worth their weight in gold.
- Internal links – Logic dictates that footer links are probably devalued by now. Either way, it’s probably preferable making the most out of your standard navigation links. Include your keywords where possible. Make sure your navigation links are present on each and every page. Provide an additional breadcrumb navigation where this isn’t practical.
- Internal in-content links – It’s not just navigation links that help. Be aware when you’re using your keywords in your body text. Link them to your target pages.
- Online PR – Drop the paid links and start drawing up a list of sites that you HAVE to be seen on. Go through the list contacting them, form a relationship with them, find out what you need to do to get involved with their site. They may allow you to write editorial for them, offer to review your products, publish your link in their directory or even just give you a mention where relevant.
- Offline PR – A lot of people don’t give this any consideration. Bear in mind that a lot of offline PR is now also published online in digital editions. A surprising number of places don’t automatically include a link to the website, your PR has to be aware of this, normally it’s just a case of asking.
- 3rd party hosted pages – Make sure you have a presence on sites that offer profile pages. Facebook brand pages, About.org, Flickr, Squidoo and many other industry based sites.
- Press releases – Do something newsworthy. People generally aren’t interested in how your XPC-1i is different to your XPC-1ii, but they’ll probably want to write about it if you’ve just set a land speed record in it. Don’t just submit it to the PR outlets, but send it directly to the people that you want to publish it.
- Linkbait – Create worthwhile content. These days your site HAS to stand out. You need to offer something that others don’t. Create something useful, funny, or shocking – think like a tabloid newspaper editor or an encyclopedia publisher. Whatever you do, do it better than anyone else.
- Related industry pages – Don’t forget industry bodies and associations, suppliers, retailers or other business contacts with websites. Many have places where they would be happy to link to your site.
- Network – One of the most important of all. Join in with your industry online. Comment on blogs, post on forums, subscribe to RSS feeds, link up with people on Twitter. Networking with people will give plenty of opportunities to ask for a link. By getting involved though you’ll probably find that people link to you anyway.
- Competitive intelligence – Tools like Linkscape and Yahoo Site Explorer now mean that we have even more imformation than ever before about who links to our competitors. Find out who they are and then add them to your target list.
While linkbuilding over the past few years has become more skilled and time intensive, it isn’t always harder. Just like Web 2.0 linkbuilding 2.0 is all about developing relationships, information sharing and adding value.