How can I use link building effectively?

How link building can improve your website's search engine rankings – and what to avoid

I understand that building links is important for SEO, but I’m scared of being penalised if I buy them. What are the other ways I can get more links to my website and what methods should I avoid?

Rob Weatherhead writes:

As you hinted in your question, links are a very large part of the algorithm the search engines use to choose which website is most relevant to a particular query. Put simply, search engines use a link as a vote as to the quality and authority of a webpage on a particular topic.

In order to avoid any potential penalties you need your links to come from trusted sources and in natural ways. A link in the footer of a website containing dubious content, or a link from a page which links to 100 other websites, is unlikely to give you much benefit, and at its worst, can get your website banned or penalised by the search engines.

Provide useful content

The easiest and most natural way to build up natural links to your website is to produce good quality informative content. Useful, good quality content makes people want to link to it from their own websites without the need for any form of incentive which could be construed as payment. Consider writing a blog about your particular sector or industry, or maybe you can produce a research piece or white paper containing useful information for your market. These sorts of information sharing activities tend to generate links naturally from websites related to your business or industry.

Online press releases

Engage in online public relations by writing press releases about things that are going on in your industry or with your company. Have you just launched a new product or service? Has the government just made some changes which affect your industry? If so, write a press release about it and put it out there on the web. Press releases can be distributed via services such as market wire (www.marketwire.com) where, if informative and well written, they will often be picked up by online publications across the web. You are able to include information about your company with each release including a link to your website so each time it is republished, you will get another link.

Industry related groups

Are you involved in any industry bodies or industry related discussion groups? These can also be leveraged to gain links. As well as simply asking for a link from the websites of any groups you are a member of, you can often take part in guest blogging slots, or ask an expert sessions where you can again sign off your work with a profile, including a link to your website.

Utilise those you already do business with

One of the easiest and yet often forgotten sources of links are the people you do business with every day. Many of your customers and suppliers will have a website where they will, if asked nicely, place a link back to yours. Suppliers especially should be willing to do this as after all, you are writing them a cheque each month!

There are many creative ways in which you can build the volume and quality of backlinks to your website. The above are just a few ideas. Make sure you steer clear of any link buying networks or any schemes with claims of hundreds of links for just a few dollars, these are likely to have little value, and at worst could possibly get your website banned from the search engines.

Link building is not an easy, overnight practice. It is something you need to keep front of mind when doing business online so you can maximise any opportunities that arise to build you link profile.

Rob Weatherhead is operations director for BT SearchSmart which provides a range of small business SEO and PPC services

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