June 21, 2011
As part of a comprehensive search engine optimization campaign, gaining inbound links to your website is critical. But what exactly does this entail, and how should you most effectively go about gaining these types of valuable links? When an arduous task presents itself, it is human nature to try to find a shortcut. Sometimes, these shortcuts work and the quality of the end result is not sacrificed. But often, the shortcut either turns out to be a short-term fix or worse, it backfires leaving you worse off than you were before. And, in my experience, such is the case in regard to building quality inbound links to your website as part of your search engine optimization campaign.
After many years of trying to find shortcuts myself, I finally recognized that the best, highest impact, longest lasting links that point to a website are EARNED – not bought, begged for, or stolen. And how does one go about earning quality inbound links? By actually offering something of value – whether it is value found on your website or value you provide to other websites. Below are a few simple ideas that take a good deal of work, but when applied appropriately, almost always pay off for your long-term search engine optimization efforts.
1. Building an Educational or Resource Section
As I have written about many times before, an educational section of your website serves a variety of purposes. It adds additional pages to your website that can be optimized for critical keyphrases. It can shorten your sales cycle by educating your prospects online rather than over the phone. It can also garner a large number of quality inbound links, simply because you are offering content that doesn’t just scream “buy here” – you are instead offering intellectual capital that helps the visitor to make informed decisions, stay on top of industry trends, etc. These are all ideal outcomes of a search engine optimization strategy. People will often link to this valuable content without even being asked, but if you do initiate an effort to reach out to webmasters in your industry asking for inbound links, they are much more likely to comply if you are offering something of value in exchange.
2. Writing and Submitting Expert Articles
Chances are that your company has a few in-house experts in your industry on staff. But did you know that by promoting these hotshots’ ideas, you can help your search engine optimization efforts by getting inbound links? More than likely, these staff members have important things to say about your industry – where it has been, where it is heading, and what issues it currently faces. By having these experts write articles (or having them ghostwritten by a professional writer after he or she interviews your expert), you can then submit this material to popular industry websites, and thereby share that insider wisdom.
The upside to this approach and benefit to your search engine optimization goals is obvious – getting inbound links (generally provided in the author bio). In addition, people who may not have heard of your company, but are knowledgeable about your industry can find out about you from visiting a popular industry portal rather than by only finding your website. Again, the basic premise of expert article submission is that you are trading something of value for multiple benefits, one of those benefits being inbound links to support search engine optimization.
3. Creating and Updating a Blog
Much like submitting expert articles to industry publications or providing a general educational section on your site, a blog is a very specific, popular way to show off your expert knowledge of your industry, albeit in a more informal manner.
Blogs are a great part of search engine optimization, as they give your site a boost by offering fresh content (and gain inbound links from interested readers). They also help you to show off your current knowledge of industry trends and events by serving as a publishing platform for these newsworthy items as they unfold – sending a clear sign to your visitors that you are staying on top of all current issues relevant to your industry.
Over time, others in your industry will recognize the value of the information that you are providing, and many will share it with others via a link from their own site. Once again, you are providing something of value for multiple gains.
4. Offering Free, Informational, Industry-Related Tools
In almost every industry, there are tools that people might rely on as part of their decision making process, and by utilizing a valuable tool, you can actually promote inbound links. Mortgage sites offer free, online mortgage calculators. Car dealers offer similar tools such as payment calculators. This principle can also extend to most industries.
Do you sell consulting services? If so, consider offering a spreadsheet that allows people to evaluate a certain aspect of their business. Do you offer remodeling services? Then consider creating a tool where a visitor can provide room dimensions and then add the features of the room that they desire, allowing them to see what it might look like. Use your imagination.
What tools do you use internally that might be of benefit to your visitors (tools that you don’t mind sharing, of course)? If it is a fresh and useful idea, you might be surprised at the number of websites that will provide you with inbound links. But again, there are other benefits for this value that you are offering, including more visitors, more brand recognition, and potentially a sense of gratitude from prospects who found your offering invaluable.
These are only a few ideas on how you can trade value for links as part of your search engine optimization strategy. We haven’t touched on opportunities that exist with video, interactive games, and a variety of emerging technologies. But the main idea here is very simple – you earn inbound links by providing value. Moreover, these efforts are not geared simply or specifically for the express purpose of building links. Each of the previously mentioned examples has multiple benefits apart from link building. Of course, it may seem like a lot of work, but your efforts are sure to pay dividends in the long run.
Scott Buresh is the founder and CEO of Medium Blue, a search engine optimization company, which was awarded a prestigious American Marketing Association award in both 2008 and 2010. Buresh has been featured in respected publications such as Entrepreneur, Success, Direct Marketing News, Business to Business, Search Marketing Standard, Public Relations Tactics and the Atlanta Business Chronicle. His articles have appeared in numerous online publications, including ZDNet, WebProNews, MarketingProfs, DarwinMag, SiteProNews, ISEDB.com, and Search Engine Guide. He was also a contributor to How to Build Your Own Web Site with Little or No Money: The Complete Guide for Business and Personal Use (Brown, 2010), The Complete Guide to Google Advertising (Atlantic, 2008) and Building Your Business with Google for Dummies (Wiley, 2004). Medium Blue is an Atlanta search engine optimization company with local and international clients.