Link building should be considered phase two of any SEO campaign (on-site optimization being phase one) and is a critical component of maintaining site ranking and establishing a trust factor with the search engines.
Link building is an ongoing campaign necessary for improving a website’s inbound link stream which can help promote your brand and overall visibility in the search engines. Link building can also help boost unique visitors to your site which in turn can lead to a boost in conversions. Link building efforts come in many forms including: local profiles, blogging and blog commenting, social networking, directory submission and online publicity, among others.
The person conducting the link audit should keep an eye out for “bad” links coming from places like adúlt or gambling sites. Search engines keep track of how many “bad” links a website has and the greater the percentage of links coming from these sites the more poorly it reflects on the website. Again, trust is the most important thing to establish between a site and the search engines. The number of “bad” links has a negative effect on a website’s trust factor.
Analyzing a competitor’s website helps you determine if there are any good places you should be focusing your link building activities, but aren’t. It also lets you know what kind of competition there is online. If competitor X has 7,500 links, competitor Y has 12,000 and competitor Z has 23,000 one-way links, then a company with only 2,000 links knows it has a lot of work do to before it can effectively compete in the same space.
Along with online directories, you could consider becoming a member of industry associations. While it often costs to join these associations, it helps lend credibility to your site and can help position you as an industry expert. You should try to promote your website as an “authority” in your industry by placing links in online arenas that correlate to your industry/products and that will drive appropriately targeted traffic to your site. Industry associations are also a good place to develop relationships with other members.
You can help promote yourself as an industry leader by creating, and commenting on, industry blogs. Producing your content as opposed to just re-posting work by outside sources lends credibility to your site and encourages consumer trust in the expertise of your company and you as a writer. It can also help create a conversation with customers as opposed to the one-way communication of a website. Blogs that allow for comments encourage consumer participation.
Leaving appropriate comments on other blogs (comments that actually contribute to the conversation, not just things like “Thanks for the post!” or “Great ideas!”) helps grow relevant links back to your website and promotes your company’s authority as a leader in your industry.
As you promote your website and build its authority as an industry leader, natural inbound links will develop overtime. As your company blog or white paper is discussed or cited, as your product/service is reviewed and promoted by word-of-mouth over social networking sites or as your online press releases get picked up by various news sources, your campaign will grow to include links not directly created by your website’s link building efforts.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to link building (just like most SEO efforts) is that it must happen over an extended period of time. It’s easy for website owners to get anxious and want to see immediate results and over-aggressively push link building efforts. Doing so can result in negative consequences. Link building isn’t just about boosting the number of one-way links pointing to your website; it is also about building and managing an online brand that resonates with consumers.
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