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When talking with Online Marketing Agencies, two words continually crop up amidst the jargon and tech talk, two which are seemingly otherwise overlooked and undervalued when preparing an ongoing strategy: “Link Building”. But what does this elusive term really mean?

SEO Link building

“So, What is ‘Link Building’?”

“Link Building is the the process of establishing relevant, inbound links to your website which in turn helps your website achieve higher ranking with the major search engines and drive targeted traffic to your site.”

In Lament’s terms, If you imagine the world wide web as a series of towns and cities, with each website being the houses, apartments and condos, links are the roads and streets connecting each and every one. Some direct to and from like the interstate, and others indirect, the “scenic route”; with multiple diversions and pathways until reaching the final destination – your site.

With more links (or “arrows”) pointing to your site as a voice of relevance and interest in your field or market, search engines pick up on the interest, and credit you with a higher ranking on their page.

“How Does it Work?”

Once you break it down, it is a really rather simple and effective concept. Say, for example, you run a boutique flower shop. You have a website, with store details and an e-commerce function. On the other side of town, is a Wedding Fayre, with their website featuring links online for customers to follow, recommending local businesses and services that may be of interest. Customers click on the link, direct to your website, and if they find what they are looking for – you have yourself a sale.  That, is a built,  used, and successful link.

The key to the process, is to work ‘organically’. The process takes time, and patience. There are still many companies out there that will promise you the world over night -then providing automated spam responses on blog posts, posting bogus and uninteresting comments on forums linking to your site. Some even create fake websites solely for the purpose of linking back to other sites. This is what is known as “black hat” SEO, and will ultimately damage your name, your website, and your sales. Not only will you lose credibility with potential clients and customers, you will be penalised by search engines such as Google, who not only frown upon these unethical approaches, but will restrict and bury your site in the search streams, making you impossible to find and as a result, make any money. Needless to say, AVOID THIS AT ALL COSTS.

As a tool to increase your website traffic and rankings, quality is undoubtedly more important than quantity, and the buck begins with you. The basis of ALL your links will start with your content. To do anything organically – you need the seeds to start with! If your site features interesting, relevant and well written information, other websites will want to link to you because it will add value and to their readership. If your site is nonfactual,  unoriginal (duplicate content) and essentially – boring, your links will suffer as a result. Content and Links go hand in hand – without one, you simply can not have the other.

“That all sounds great, but how do I make it work for me?”

There are no short cuts with linkbuilding, and when done correctly, you should not expect to reap any benefits over night. Link Building is a long term practice with long term goals and results. As mentioned above, patience and persistence are essential. Better to have 10 links from credible well known websites with substainsial traffic, than 200 from unread blogs and forums which will be lost in the webisphere.

Link Building although individually productive, is not something that should be isolated on its own, it should incorporated as part of a well rounded SEO and marketing campaign.

Step One:

Overview your content and website. Remember, link building will not be a success without it. Look over your competitors websites and see what sticks out or could be improved. Be objective, and if budgets allow, bring someone in to do it for you. Figure out what it is you do and how you want to be known. We covered this in our “Marketing for 2012” post last week, but don’t take a jack of all, master of none” approach. Be successful at what you do. Then shout about it.

Step Two:

Vamp up your Social Media. This is a great way of getting your content out there and interacting with your customer base, as  well as a forum for generating content on sites like You Tube. Find forums and discussion boards (Linked In is a great starting place for this). Be an active community member. Offer your insight or opinion on the market or products, comment on a blog and include your link as part of your signature. As your credibility grows, so will the hits on your website.

Step Three:

Get Local. Check out your local area directories and websites (“About my Area” is a great example of this). Build up local contacts, local directories and local listings. Build up business relationships, and ASK. Use your voice and simply asking the question – don’t sit around and ‘wait’ for action, make it happen. Asking for recommendations is still organic (as long as it is not as a result of a quid pro quo situation/compensation etc). Become forward thinking and proactive, and the links will begin to build themselves.

Step Four:

Track your links! There are a variety of tools available,  from the free social media variety to the more intense costly versions (some of which can be built into your marketing campaigns via agencies, company dependent).  It is important to measure your success and see most importantly where that success is coming from. If you are putting 20% of your time into a forum with little result, and only 5% in a directory which is proving more fruitful in returns, be flexible and adapt your approach. The market and the web is ever changing. Keep track of new developments and websites and use accordingly.

Step Five:

Once you have the your tools in places, execute a plan of action. Whether you already have an SEO strategy in place or not, now is the time to review it. New You, New Business. Check out our Free SEO Overview offer we have here at Codastar. See how you are looking online.

Once you have link building mastered and get your coherent and relevant SEO Strategy working towards your long term goal of greater ROI and higher rankings, there will be no limit to your online business potential.

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