There are only two main points to effective link building. Really, only two:
#1 – Content
#2 – Distribution
There you go. Now go forth and prosper.
That was a short post. Perhaps I should expand a little. The basis of creating a presence online, and therefore creating something that people deem worth linking to, is content. We all know this. No one is going to willingly link to a product page or hard-sell advertising without either a bribe or a super specific reason to recommend you. Content that provides some sort of service; tips, advice, insight and well researched information – that’s the kind of thing that viewers will pause to read, mark down as helpful and unique and pass the word around. So point #1: write awesome content – check. Learn more about them at Local Client Takeover.
Now unless people are regularly searching for what you’re talking about (which, hopefully they are, but there’s no guarantee your content will be noticed unless your ranking is good – which is what link building helps with, and round we go in a circular motion…), your content might just float out there on the internet ether, unbeknownst to man nor beast. We need to do something about this. We need to get our work seen, noticed and shared. Here are a few ways to accomplish that mansize feat:
– We talked about making your content uber-useful in #1, but there are a few tricks to get it seen in the first place. Top tips posts (see what we did there?), whether you have 5 or 100 of them, always tend to do well in linkability, as do back-to-basics overviews of certain subjects. Summarising or laymanising information that others might not have the time or inclination to read themselves is another good hook – make yourself useful, eh?
– Uploading content onto sites like Digg, Reddit, Sphinn, Propellor, Newsvine, Squidoo, Scribd, Articlebase and EzineArticles etc provides direct links to your site or blog post. Some ask for just the URL, some you’ll need to actually insert the text (and don’t forget the links, doi!) – also bear in mind that articles tend to hold more sway than a short blog post.
– Setting up social media profiles (think beyond just twitter and Facebook to expand your readership) where you can give information about your company, link up an RSS feed to your blog directly, add appropriate photos and videos, network with people working in your field and your target audience. For example, LinkedIn, ning etc. Some of these require some concentration and effort to cultivate a worthwhile presence – taking the time to build a well-rounded del.icio.us or stumbleupon account can be helpful if you provide links to great resources – your knowledge will show you are an authority on the subject.
– Affiliation or a bit of back scratching goes a long way – I’m not suggesting trading off links to all and sundry, but finding a mutually beneficial association will mean links for free. How about a non-competitor related company, a charity or local cause, or just a site or company you admire? Generosity with links and mentions and retweets makes people want to reciprocate with no ulterior motive. Especially if the content you’re writing is worth linking to, remember #1? Go read it again.
– Topical content, based around current events and affairs (ensuring it’s at least in some way relevant to what your company is about) is a sure way to get noticed, and hopefully linked to. Right now, you’re probably going to want to incorporate the World Cup into your news, or the BP oil spill, a few months ago the election would have been worth talking about. What’s next? If you keep an eye out, you can be the first to make an association or form an opinion on breaking news, making your content link-worthy.
– Multimedia reaches a broader audience than just text alone. Using image and video, presentations and podcasts all give your content an extra opportunity to get linked to. Videos are hugely popular links and have the potential to go viral very quickly if they’re good enough. Again, #1, firstly make sure your content is something that lots of people are going to be interested in and then get it out there.
– Being the eyes and ears for everyone – reporting on events and conferences often is a great way to get links. Even if you couldn’t be there yourself, gathering research and information on what went on and redistributing the wealth can be really worthwhile as linkable content.
– Incentives, offers, freebies, samples, testers, promotions – whatever you want to call them – all can provide a good reason to link to your fantastically generous site.
– Writing comments, reviews and testimonials on other (relevant) sites, and leaving a calling card link can often intice readers back to see what other sage advice you have to offer. Try to get first comment on posts from respected sites, answer Yahoo! questions, give honest reviews on products and services that relate to your area of business.
– All the above have been free, but we should also probably mention PPC (pay per click) as an effective way to get links too, though that’s a whole other kettle of fish. And another one that requires a little cash – whenever your business has something to shout about, write a great press release and distribute it over the many PR sites out there, who will do a lot of the SEO for you.
Check on who’s retweeting your content on Topsy, and who’s linking to you via Social Mention as well as your normal analytics tracking to see what content gets shared, what gets ignored and what you should be writing more of. And for a great technical rundown of the value of different types of links, have a mosey on over to SEOmoz’s post on linkage.