How to Get Inbound Links
10. Begin with the low-hanging fruit.
Ask for links from industry connections. Suppliers, donors, employees, retired employees, industry associations, forums, fraternal organizations and anyone else with whom you're affiliated can offer a great place to start your link-building strategies, Mastaler notes. Any individual or entity with which you have "a point of commonality" can serve as low-hanging fruit in your link-building efforts, she adds. Ask them to link to your resources page, blog or other page on your site, or for a listing in their directory.
11. Focus on directories relevant to your industry.
General Web directories are fairly useless in helping your site rise in search result rankings or attract targeted traffic, Ward says. A far better strategy, he adds, is to go after vertically oriented, curated directories maintained by people with "extreme knowledge or passion" who take their time to "collect useful resources."
The best Web directories are those maintained by people who are doing it out of passion, not for SEO. "Google loves and respects these sites because there's a layer of human quality control involved," Ward explains. "The more heavily edited or curated the content is, the more likely it is that Google will respect an anchor text link from that site."
12. Go after a diverse set of links.
The best link-building practice is to obtain inbound links to pages across your site, not just your home page, from a variety of domains using different anchor text keywords, Fasser advises. Just as it's important not to invest in one stock, the same holds true for your link portfolio--ideally, you want to get traffic from many sources. Also, a diverse set of links and anchor text keywords gives you more credibility with search engines.
13. Focus on relevant links.
An inbound link from a site that's relevant to your business is worth more for ranking purpose--sas well as for attracting targeted traffic--than a link from your cousin Billy's site about his favorite beer. "Getting a blog or other site that writes about things related to your product is the way to go," Fasser says.
14. Develop high-quality content.
Google's Panda update of 2011 pushed pages it considered to have poorly written and/or spammy content way down in its rankings. As a consequence, Web sites need to focus on creating high-quality content that's informative, useful and relevant, Fasser says. Not only will high-quality content keep you out of Google's crosshairs, it will help you attract inbound links and targeted traffic.
15. Create infographics and make them easy to share.
Infographics are extremely popular and can increase site traffic, Mastaler says. Other sites often link to them, and they can get lots of Tweets and Facebook likes.
For example, BlueGlass Interactive developed a content marketing infographic that Mashable subsequently hosted. As a result, the infographic has attracted more than 3,800 Tweets, 650 Google +1s and 1,100 Facebook likes.
The keys to getting your infographics posted and shared is to make them visually compelling, informative and neutral in tone--that is, not about your company. It's OK to put your brand on an infographic aimed at consumers, Mastaler adds, as long as you understand that businesses will be less likely to share it.
16. Create custom widgets.
Customize a widget that delivers information relevant to your business, make the widget easy to post on other sites (via cut and paste) and embed a link back to your site, Mastaler suggests. She recommends Widgetbox, an online service that lets you use existing or create custom widgets for $25 monthly and up.
For a monthly fee that starts at $25, WidgetBox will help you build a custom widget that you can easily post on other sites.
Together, infographics and widgets are "a great use of your time" in delivering ROI to your link-building strategies, Fasser adds.
17. Write product reviews.
Well-written reviews of products related to your industry or niche are ideal "linkbait" to post on your site, says Mastaler. Include images (and credit the source) with your reviews to drive engagement. To help each review get noticed, post a link to it and a description on LinkedIn, Quora and Twitter. Create a Pinterest board with photos of the products you've reviewed; each pin (or photo) will include a link back to your site. Video and podcast reviews are another way to attract links and traffic.
18. Develop social media press releases.
A social media press release typically includes one or more photos, social sharing links and video clips. As such, it's more likely to get picked up by other sites, Mastaler says. Services such as BusinessWire and PRWeb will host your release and distribute it to news services and media outlets across the Web. Be sure to include your top keywords and one or more anchor text links back to your site within the release.
You can use services such as BusinessWire to host press releases. Include keywords and at least one anchor text link back to your site for even better visibility.
19. Don't forget online forums.
Online forums are "a tremendous resource," Mastaler says, since that's where you'll find people who are passionate and are often active bloggers. If you can connect with them in a meaningful or helpful way without overdoing a sales pitch, forum members may reward you with a link.
Other Helpful Link-building Strategies
20. Be sure you really need a link before you pursue it.
Before you request an inbound link, ask yourself if you really have a good chance of getting it, Fasser advises. "Link building eats up a lot of time and resources, so make sure you've taken the time to understand the site and its content and if it's truly relevant for what you do."
21. Reciprocal links aren't necessarily a bad--or good--strategy.
"Many people mistakenly make a blanket statement that a particular link-building tactic is good or bad" in terms of SEO effectiveness, Ward says. "The reality is, its just not that simple."
His advice: "Always ask yourself if you would pursue a link (reciprocal or not) if there were no such thing as Google. Instead, do it because swapping links with another site will be beneficial in some way to your site's visitors." As one example, it makes perfect sense for a local veterinarian to exchange a link with a dog grooming service in the area.
22. Big, sudden changes in your inbound links may--or may not--get you into trouble.
Some worry that if their site suddenly attracts a ton of inbound links, Google will suspect black hat or unorthodox link-building activity is occurring and penalize that site in the rankings, Ward says.
The truth is, he says, it depends on the site, its history, the links and the circumstances. If a company is suddenly in the news, its site is likely to gain thousands of inbound links in a few days, with no penalty from Google. Conversely, if about 8 percent of your inbound links had keywords in them and, suddenly, 30 percent of your links are keyword-rich, Google might be suspicious.
"I hate to compare Google to an IRS auditor, but, in some ways, it's true. Google is auditing your site, looking for things outside the norm," Ward says. That's why it's best to grow links naturally by developing and publicizing great content, instead of hiring someone to plant thousands of identical anchor text links to your site on low-quality websites within only a few days.
23. Make content easy to share over social media.
Whenever you post new content on your site, such as a white paper or video, Fasser says to be sure its easy to share across social media. Social media updates containing links are great for building traffic and awareness. You should also share the new content with a Tweet or social media update that includes a relevant keyword and a shortened link, such as from bit.ly, to the content.
24. Your site's ideal link builders will do the job for free.
"The person who is your best link builder is the one who visits your site, likes it, and wants to share it with others," Ward says. That's why it's important to ask yourself what can someone do with your content once they see it, he adds. "It's a mistake not to give people a way to share your content with a Google +1, Facebook Like, or Twitter button. Make it easy for them."
25. Don't put all your eggs in the Google basket.
Too many people put too much emphasis on getting traffic from search engines, Ward says. "The more of your traffic thats coming from Google, the more precarious your position is. Your rankings are fluid and subject to every Google algorithm update," he says. "I've had clients call me and say that, all of a sudden, they're no longer ranking well and it's costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars a month."
Instead, your goal should be to get traffic from a variety of sites, of which Google is simply one. Though achieving this takes time, Ward acknowledges, it gives you a solid, stable foundation that will serve you well in the long run.
James A. Martin is an SEO, social media and blogging consultant and author of CIO.com's Martin on Mobile Apps. Follow him on Twitter @james_a_martin. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and on Google +.
This story, "25 Link-Building Tips to Drive Traffic to Your Website" was originally published by CIO.