You may have an amazing website, but not many people will see it if other sites aren't linking to it.
Relevant inbound links from authoritative, trusted and/or quality websites are every search marketer's dream. (An inbound link, also called a backlink, is a link from an external site that points to content on your site.) Google, which owns about 66 percent of the search engine market according to comScore, sees such links as votes of confidence for your content. Because Google wants to serve users the most relevant, freshest, trustworthy results, inbound links from trusted sites to yours can go a long way toward pushing your content up in search result rankings.
Of course, obtaining those inbound links takes considerable time, effort and resources. There are also a lot of myths and misunderstandings related to link building. For example, some believe Google will penalize you for getting too many links too quickly (not necessarily) or that reciprocal links are a surefire way to boost your rankings (it depends).
To help your site develop a quality inbound link profile, we've collected 25 top link-building strategies and tips from three experts:
Eric Ward, a link-building strategist since 1994 and author of LinkMoses, an email newsletter ($8 monthly).
Debra Mastaler, president of Alliance-Link, which provides custom link building training.
Scott Fasser, director of customer experience for Optify, developer of SaaS-based inbound marketing software.
Set Your Link-Building Foundation
1. Put someone in charge.
Because link building is time-consuming and resource intensive, someone needs to be responsible for driving the effort, Fasser says. "You need someone focused on actively managing the program, promoting the right content and always looking for new opportunities."
2. Set up a process for monitoring and measuring progress.
From the beginning, have a method in place--usually accomplished via SaaS tools--to monitor and measure your link-building efforts on a regular basis. "If you don't have that process set up, when someone asks how effective your link-building campaign is, you won't have a good answer," Fasser says. "And if you don't have a good answer, you're not likely to get the time and resources you need to continue the link building."
3. Don't outsource your entire link-building campaign.
"You can't outsource 100 percent of your link building or website promotion to a third-party and expect to get the same results you'd get if you had someone doing it in-house. You need someone in-house who really knows your industry," Ward says, since that will give link campaign strategies both context and focus.
Every site, Ward adds, "was designed with a specific and potentially unique audience in mind, specific objectives for that audience and specific subject matter. Doesn't it make sense that every site is going to require a specific approach to link building and content publicity? You can't cookie-cutter the process."
4. Begin by examining the links on your own site.
Unlike most inbound links, the links on your site are entirely within your control. Take a close look at how you're linking to your own content on your site. Are you using keyword-rich anchor text to point to relevant content elsewhere on the site? (Anchor text is a hyperlinked phrase, such as click here, that links to content that typically exists on another web page.) If anchor text is not keyword-rich, revise it, Fasser says. This can help the content that's being linked to with anchor text get a boost in search engine relevancy.
5. Create a baseline of existing inbound links.
Use a tool such as SEOMoz's Open Site Explorer to see which sites are currently linking to yours as well as the anchor text used in those inbound links, Fasser advises. This provides a snapshot of your complete inbound link profile, which is useful for tracking progress.
Open Site Explorer can help you improve your link-building strategy by providing a quick look at your inbound links--and the ones your competitors have.
Open Site Explorer data can be exported in CSV format. The basic tool is free. Additional features are included in subscription plans that start at $99 monthly.
6. Study your competitors' links.
You can also use tools such as Open Site Explorer to investigate the links your competitors have, Fasser says. This can provide ideas for directories and other sites to pursue.
7. Go after links your competitors don't have.
It's not enough to simply find out which links your competitors are getting and go after them. At best, that will simply put you on an equal footing with them. You should also pursue inbound links your competitors dont have, Ward says.
8. Focus on link quality, not quantity.
Relevant links from a few high-quality, trusted, authoritative sites are worth more in SEO terms than a ton of links from low-quality sites, Mastaler says.
9. Develop a list of top-priority keywords and use them in your online content.
Determine which keywords have the most search volume, are the least competitive and have the highest relevancy to your business and its products or services, Fasser advises. Use those keywords in your blog posts, white papers, press releases and other online content. "When you get links from other sites to your content, you'll be more likely to get good-quality anchor text links using your important keywords," he explains.