One of the most challenging parts of Search Engine Optimization is getting inbound links back to the websites we’re optimizing. Google wants links to happen naturally, yet still encourages us to link build by consistently rewarding the sites with more links with higher placement.
So, how do we encourage natural links back to our sites without resorting to black or grey hat techniques? Without buying them? Without link exchanges? We get creative and we work hard, that’s how.
Step 1: Create and Sustain Quality Content
Once you have quality content, and you’re updating it on a regular basis, you’re done, right? Nope. This is just step one. Creating “link-bait” or pages that inspire bloggers to link back to you is the basic “if you build it they will come” strategy for links. And ghosts of baseball players don’t blog. Sorry.
That being said, if you have nothing of value available, then link building is for naught. So the better phrase to describe this strategy is: if you build it, you, and everyone else, will have something worthwhile to link to.
Step 2: Join the Discussion
This is where the hard work comes in. This is where hours of what looks like “socializing” online create valuable links. follow bloggers who talk about your topics. Not all of them, just the really stellar ones. Comment on their work, regularly, with insight and care, and become a member of their little “in crowd”. Then, when they talk about something and you have something relevant to add, email them with your link.
- Reintroduce yourself “I’ve been reading your blog for months, and I love the way you write about this topic. I log in as “Dude1234″ when I make comments.”
- Introduce which post you’re talking about “In your latest post, you talked about this, and it happens to be my area of expertise. Here’s my website, and the specific page that will provide some insight. “
- Offer something “I don’t know if you’re interested, but I’d happy to sit in for an interview with you about this topic to clarify it for your readers.”
This blogger may or may not link to you right away, but you’re a member of their community, and eventually they will use you as a linkable source for information.
Forums are the same way – show yourself to be a member of the community, and only link to your personal website in your profile and signature lines of your posts, never in the body of your posts. Yes, this seems like a sideways approach, but this is what natural links are all about. Getting the name out there, without being pushy or acting like a spammer.
Step 3: Give Stuff Away
The next step is a lot less subtle. Just approach bloggers with a gift. A contest they can run on their blog with a prize at the end (I see this with food bloggers all of the time). A PDF of valuable information if they sign up for a newsletter. A freebie of your product to review. Or better yet, if you run a local brick and mortar business, you might want to consider hosting a blogger event.
Please Note: Do not ship out free review samples of your Evergreen Scented Dishwashing Liquid to every blogger you can find online. Research, people! Research! Find the bloggers who would be likely to review that kind of product on their blog, and be sure that they are willing to do product reviews. Read several entries of their work, and ensure that they are relevant, well spoken, and that there are people reading and commenting on their blog.
I’ve focused this article on bloggers, but it works with other online journalists as well. Article content can be tricky to come up with on a regular basis, and offering a free interview or product is often a welcome way to break the ice.