This post is meant to be helpful for those with an intermediate level understanding of SEO. If you have a basic understanding of how Google and other search engines rank pages and are aware of some basic SEO best practices but aren’t yet an SEO expert, we think you’ll find this post useful.You can also find UpCity posts classified by level of expertise on the following pages:
- Posts for any SEO experience level
- Posts for beginner level SEO (those new to SEO)
- Posts for those with an intermediate level of SEO understanding
- Posts for those with an advanced level of SEO understanding
In a perfect world, you create such compelling content that relevant, rank-boosting links pour into your site auto-magically. You’re the authority and everyone loves you and shows their support with an unsolicited back-link. You’re number one on Google for everything relevant to your business. Life is good in this “if you build it they will come” dream of every site owner.
The reality of small business link building is a little more sobering. Some links do happen naturally, but a lot of work has to go into getting those natural links. And the more competitive the market the harder you are going to have to work at link building.
What is link building?
Link building is pretty much what it sounds like: the actions you take to garner relevant links from other websites. Link building is the hard part of an SEO strategy. We should all be able to build a search engine friendly website and get on-page SEO right, but link building requires dedication and creativity. What worked great 6 months ago, as a link building tactic, may not be as effective today.
If you’re a small business with a website that is supposed to be contributing to your business, then link building should be a part of everything you do – whether you’re writing a web page or handing out a business card at a local chamber of commerce meeting. You are like a hungry politician handing out buttons asking for a vote, and yes, you’d better be prepared to shake a lot of hands (virtual and real) and kiss an ugly baby for a link.
And just like in politics, the best, most qualified, most relevant candidate doesn’t always make it into office. The one who knows how to get votes wins.
Why is link building important?
Inbound links or back-links to your site from authority sites are arguably one of the most important SEO variables that the search engines consider when ranking websites.
So, back-links = votes = better rankings = more traffic = more success.
The right back-link from the right authority site could be all that stands between your site and that oh-so-fickle #1 ranking on the Google SERP.
How do I start link building?
If you are new to link building, then start with what’s easy. Ask other related business that you already have existing relationships with for a link. Ask friends. Ask family. Ask vendors. You’ve got to get comfortable asking people for votes. You are in a popularity contest, and after all what you’ve built is worth linking to, right? One of the best link building tactics is to create content that you can be proud to promote and won’t hesitate to ask people to link to.
And start researching, reading, and acting on advice like this:
- 101 Ways to Build Link Popularity – SEOBook
- Link Building 101 – The Almost Complete Link Guide – SEOMoz
- How to Create Amazing Backlinks – WordStream
- Small Business Link Building: Part A – Analysing Opportunities – SEOMoz
- Non-Geeky Link Building Tips for Small Business Owners – Daily SEO Tip
- Links Your SMB Can Easily Snatch Up – Small Business Trends
Are some links better than others?
Yep, some links are better than others. Unlike a political vote, some links carry more authority and weight, in the search engine’s eyes, than others. Their authority is very much related to the links pointing to their own site as well as many other factors.
It’s going to be harder for you to get links from authority sites, because they know the value of their links and will be careful when linking out to other sites. A good tactic is to find out who these authority sites are linking to, and try to copy what these link recipients are doing to get links.
A link with some surrounding context and strong anchor text that is related to your site, is also better, for a given page, than a link with a weaker context. For example, if another marketing related site links to this article, we would much rather the link use the anchor text “small business link building” than “click here.”
Is it bad to link to other sites?
Just as an authority site is careful about who they link to, you need to consider the signals you are sending the search engines with your outbound links. You could follow the “link unto others as you would have them link unto you” policy. Linking to sites that you would want to link back to you is not a bad link building strategy. At least they may notice you and are sure to appreciate the link love. Making friends is all part of the link building game.
Are some types of links bad for my site?
Google clearly states that buying links could lead to the banishment of your site, so yeah some types of links are bad and probably not worth it. Just like getting links from spammy sites can hurt you, make sure you are selective about who you link to and don’t link to spam sites. Checkout Google’s article on quality links to get a better understanding of their perspective.
How do I track my links?
You will find several tools for SEO link analysis, but you should definitely learn how to use the tools the search engines themselves provide for you:
By using tools like these you should be able to see who is linking to your site, from what page they are linking, and the context of the link. These are all good things to keep an eye on.
How do I get links?
Link building starts with you creating something worth linking to.You’ve got to create lots of compelling and useful content: blog posts, videos, web pages, infographics, etc. Then you have to promote your content.
Start by sharing your content with the relationships you have already built your market and get busy forming new relationships. Be involved. Be an authority. Create tools, lists, and content that other websites, bloggers, etc. will find relevant for their audiences. Be deserving of links.
It’s going to take a lot of hard work and some creative link building tactics to get ahead of the competition. Like we said earlier, link building is the hard part of small business SEO, and is the determining factor for who wins the rankings game in competitive markets.
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