in Digital Marketing

The number of links from external sites to any of your website’s pages is one of the primary ways Google determines the importance of your content. Google prefers important content in its search engine results pages (SERPs). So if you believe your content is important and valuable to your readers, you will do well to consider link building a part of your marketing strategy. But how can you go about getting these links, called SEO backlinks, that are so vital to your website’s visibility online?

Over the last decade that I have been working on websites and helping with the creation of content things have changed a great deal. However, incoming links have remained a significant contributor to search engine visibility, and the quality of those incoming links seems to have only increased in importance. You will want to attempt to find high quality websites from which to obtain incoming links.

How to Get High Quality Backlinks

1. Get Listed on Industry Association Websites

Whatever your industry, there is likely a well-recognized membership association that provides leadership and coordinates legislative and promotional efforts for its members. If you choose to join, make sure that you take advantage of a (usually free) business listing with a link to your website. Don’t overlook your local chamber of commerce, which almost always provides a member directory.

2. Get Listed on General Purpose Business Directories

Human-edited business directories are a good indication of quality. If someone takes time to review and include a site, it is a vote of confidence. Google typically responds well to these incoming links.

  • Yahoo business directory—paid submission is $299/year but may be worth it for at least the first year.
  • DMOZ.org—this free directory is one of the best incoming links you can get. Because a team of volunteers reviews and includes each listing, a listing here takes time to get. Submit once, and leave them alone to review and list your site as time allows. It can take months, and only high-quality websites are included.

3. Interact on Relevant Blogs

Interacting with real people and building relationships online are vital to your business success. After all, the point of all these incoming links is to bring people to your business where they can connect with you. So why not be proactive? Go to where they are.

So where are your customers hanging out? That should not be too hard to figure out. Who are the thought leaders in your industry, or the industry of the people you hope to attract as clients?

Most industries and professions have a handful of highly influential leaders who publish content regularly on blogs. Leave thoughtful comments in response to their posts. Make sure that your comments help those who are reading and demonstrate your knowledge. Almost every blog allows you to share your website address while commenting.

Don’t forget your local bloggers. They may not be thought leaders within your industry, but they are well connected within your community. Not only may you gain clients through engaging with interesting blog posts, you may be able to get some free coverage on local blogs if you approach the editor with a good news story about your affect on the community.

Note: Many blogs are using a nofollow attribute on links left in comments. This means that those links you leave on blogs may not pass their vote back to your website and increase your search rankings. However, it is still worth building nofollow links because every link has the potential to bring a customer to your website. Add value wherever you can. It will come back to you.

4. Gain Visibility and Incoming Links by Guest Blogging

Often, if you have decent writing skills and a clear expertise in the domain that a blog covers, you can approach the blogger and propose a guest post. I am not an expert in this tactic, but many writers have made their careers by guest posting on prominent blogs. I hear that there are some methods you can use to land a guest post.

5. Add Value by Responding on Relevant Forums

Use the same strategy with forums as with blogs. However, forums can sometimes be even more effective for attracting customers. A relevant forum will be dedicated to answering questions and solving problems for your potential customers. Your business will be ideally qualified to answer those questions and demonstrate your value conclusively. If you spend some time consistently contributing on a highly relevant forum, you will build valuable relationships. You will also build relevant high-quality incoming links that will usually last for years.

6. Get Coverage in Local and National Newspapers

The art of the press release never goes out of style. Newspaper editors in every community are always seeking high-quality stories. Take time to create a press release that tells a story, and you may be surprised at the coverage you can land. Be sure to include your website address and often your article will run online with a link to your site.

To go beyond local media coverage, you may need a press release distribution service. Even if no one picks up a story distributed this way, the stories are often archived on the Web. If you remember to link to your own website in the press releases, you can get some links this way. They will be of low quality, so don’t SPAM the news release distribution services as a link building strategy. Your real goal should be to share stories that are good enough to run in print.

7. Most Importantly, Share Valuable Content

All the incoming links in the world will not make people like, trust, remember, and recommend you. For that to happen, you will need to take the time to understand your readers and share content that they find personally valuable. This can be hard to learn to do, but it is well worth it. If you succeed, you will have hundreds of readers actively creating incoming links by sharing your content with others.

Google’s own blog post on building incoming links makes this point well. They suggest that you focus more on creating valuable content than on building links.

I recommend that, whether you have only a few static pages or hundreds of blog posts, you make sure to include convenient tools with each article or paper that enable readers to share them easily. Services such as ShareThis and AddThis are easy to integrate to static websites, and all blogging platforms should already have similar tools installed for you.

Nothing interests people more than compelling stories and solutions to the pressing problems they face. If you can learn to write in your own authentic voice, share stories that let your readers know there are real people behind your business, and consistently engage in online (and offline) communities, you will build valuable incoming links over time.

Link building ideas

Featured photo: “Connectors (Verbindungsstücke)” by Barbara Willi. Some rights reserved.

What have you learned about link building?

What resources have you found helpful to increase incoming links for your own website? I have not mentioned paid links in this post because I don’t believe buying backlinks is a sustainable or honest way to get inbound links to your site. So please don’t advocate for that tactic, but any other suggestions are appreciated!