How to get links

Where should you aim to find links without risking your search rankings? There are two broad reasons why someone would want to link to you:

  • Because of an existing relationship (i.e. they know you or your company for one reason or another)
  • Because you have content on your site that they want to link to

Even if both of these are true, only a small percentage of possible links will be created without any involvement from you. Often this is simply a lack of awareness - that you would like someone to link to you, or that there is a good reason for them to want to do so.

Existing relationships

Links resulting from existing relationship are probably the easiest to acquire. This includes links from:

  • Associated companies
  • Suppliers
  • Customers
  • Employees

Associated companies

Parent or subsidiary companies can provide very powerful links. For instance, Google links to YouTube following their purchase of the company in 2006, providing a link from one of the most powerful companies on the planet. While you are probably not working for a company owned by Gogle, if similar relationships exist, it is a good idea to take advantage of them. Similarly, if you own other companies, it makes sense for them to link back to you.

Suppliers

Many suppliers are more than happy to be associated with their customer base, as this shows their potential customers who they do business with, and that they are trustworthy. In some cases, offering a testimonial of a service you have been pleased with will also be accompanied by a link. Many companies also have a "clients" or "customers" page where you could be included.

Customers

Most customers or users of your site do not operate sits of their own, and increasingly, social networks are where individuals discuss other sites. However, many individuals do have their own blogs (some estimates suggest that as many as 10% of the US population has a blog). Depending on your audience, there may be good opportunities to get links from customers, although you might need to be creative about how you approach it - for instance running a competition, quiz or survey in order to connect your audience with a different type of content.

Employees

As with customers, most employees do not run their own websites - although some will. Even those without websites may participate elsewhere, or at the very least have a LinkedIn page or presence on other social networks. Encouraging employees to link from these places provides a quick source of diverse new links.

Content-based links

Links that result from content on your site for the bulk of those many SEO companies seek to acquire. They are also the least likely to be acquired naturally and the highest risk. Fundamentally, the question is "why would anyone link to your page?". Some industries are much better suited to these sorts of links than others. As a copywriter or editor, these are the links likely to form the bulk of ongoing opportunities to increase readership - and rankings-  of your content.

Content-based links have two requirements:

  • The content must be suitable for others to link to
  • The right people (those interested in linking to you) need to see the content in order to consider linking to it

Many short-term strategies to get links seek to eliminate one or both of these criteria, for instance by:

  • Targeting links that do not care about your content quality (e.g. free-for-all directories)
  • Getting people who would not normally link to you to link via some sort of incentive (e.g. by paying people for a link or offering to "swap" links)

Links that arise from these methods are likely to hinder rather than help your rankings.

The right content for the right links

Depending on your site, you are likely to have more or less content that other will want to link to. If you offer products for sale, for example, there is unlikely to be a large audience willing (or able) to link directly to your products or product categories. The audience for such pages are customers, who want to buy and use products, and not write about them. If your website is a news site, then your content is much more likely to attract links from those discussing your content elsewhere on the web - be that other news sites, blogs, forums or elsewhere.

In the event that your existing content is not inherently suited to attracting links, you should consider creating new content that is more relevant. This is the driving force behind advice for site-owners to set-up blogs - it provides more "malleable" content that can reach new audiences. Blogs are not the only alternative, of course - news articles, help pages and other non-sales content can also be very effective. Choose types of content that you are able to create effectively, and best fit with the rest of your site.

When considering what types of content to create, also consider the audience for the content. Are they likely to be technically-savvy or have their own websites? Are they likely to be active on other websites? Infographics (an image designed to convey complex information quickly) have grown in popularity (to the point of cliché) because they are specifically intended for use on other people's websites. While infographics are unlikely to be your chosen type of content, make sure that whatever you choose is likely to be linked to or shared elsewhere on the web.

Once you have created content that your audience will love, and is suitable for attracting links, it is highly unlikely that you will get any significant traction for your content if you simply publish it and then wait. For one thing, you are unlikely to get sufficient readers to reach those likely to link to you, and for another, you are likely to only reach an audience who already knows about you, who may be the least likely to link.

So, you should aim to "push" your content out to relevant audiences. This is likely to include:

  • Social networks, particularly if you have built up a following on them
  • Direct contact with sites that might be interested in your content (did you write about a particular type of car? The owners' club may well be interested)
  • Direct contact with anyone involved in the content (for example, did you mention any individuals or companies in your content? Let them know that you have written about them)
  • Third party sites that encourage submission of your content type, if relevant (don't aim to blindly submit to as many places as possible, and make sure you follow any guidelines)

As you create more content, you're likely to find a process that works best for your particular website. Just remember that if you are creating content and then 'leaving' it, you are unlikely to be maximising its potential.


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