Link building has changed dramatically over the last dozen or so years we’ve been in the business. It used to be that you could succeed if you simply sent out hundreds of link requests, swap reciprocal links, submit your site to directories or even buy links.
None of that is enough any more.
If you’re going to succeed at link building you’ve got to actively engage with your online community in all its richness and variety.
You’ve got to invest time in networking, carefully researching link prospects, establishing your own credibility and building relationships with people who can give you links.
You need to adopt a mindset and ways of working that are going to bring you success.
Understand that mindset and you’ll find the whole process of link building much easier. Here’s the mindset you’ve got to adopt:
1. Understand why another site will link to yours
You’ve got to be able to see your site from an external perspective. Move away from focusing on why you think other sites should link to you and find out why they would link to your site. What are their motivations? What will they get out of it?
You’ve got to develop a curiosity about how links ‘happen’. As you come across links to your competitors or to industry resources, ask yourself the question, “Why did the person behind that site decide to link out to that external site?”
You’ll find that there are many, many motivations. And once you discover them, explore how you could provide similar motivations for people to link to your site.
2. Don’t do links just for SEO
Links bring many benefits, not just SEO. In the introduction, we explained our top six. We choose them because they help your business, not just your SEO. We believe that this is something all link builders must embrace.
3. Know your community
Get to know the best news sites, the most popular social media sites, the busiest forums and the most popular blogs. Be curious about what people are writing about and discussing: sign up for newsletters and RSS feeds and set up Google alerts for your important keywords. Spend at least a part of every day finding out what’s going on in your industry.
4. Be sociable
We’ll be coming back to this many times throughout the book. An understanding and a use of social media is now an essential part of link building. Once you start to really engage with your online community, many new link building opportunities will open up. You need to really build your followers and fans – not just with influencers, but with your customers, potential customers and anybody else who happens to show an interest in your company.
5. Obsess about your customers
Listen to your customers and understand what they’re really looking for. Respond quickly to any questions and turn what you learn into powerful web content. Ask customers to share stories and use them to add detail, opinion, examples and ‘color’ to your copy.
6. Understand the language that your customers use
Discover the words people use when they look for products like yours. Use these keywords in your writing. When people link, they often use the name of a product, a publication, or the title of an article or blog post as the linking text. So use keywords in headlines and titles and you’ll get valuable keyword rich links.
7. Be wary of automation
There are many link building schemes that claim to be able to build inbound links automatically. Avoid them like the plague – they invariably involve some variation on search engine spam. Don’t waste time trying to fake an inbound link network: rather, invest your time and money in building real links from quality sites.
8. Be generous with your outbound links
Link to quality content in your market – even if it comes from competitors. But don’t just link to any relevant sites you find – choose sites that publish exceptional and useful content.
9. Watch out for great content ideas, no matter where they come from
Take a close look at any piece of content that catches your eye – an article, a contest, a survey. Isolate the basic elements and then transfer the idea to your own industry. Look for the basic elements of any story and see if you could adapt it to your own business.
10. Get your message out
Be proactive in getting your message out on your blog, on social media sites and publications in your market. If people don’t know about your great content and if search engines have not indexed it, you’ll not be getting the payback that your hard work deserves.
11. Incorporate writing into your daily routine
Learn how to write great copy – writing is a skill that can be learned. And the best way to learn is to write a little bit every day. Start simply – a 100-word blog post several times a week is a good start and should not be beyond any of us. As your confidence grows, so too will the volume of your writing.
12. Obsess about quality
You need quality links from quality sites and the best way to get them is to provide quality products and publish quality material for your customers. Quality content encourages more people to link.
13. Build links offline
Don’t forget about offline activities. There is much you can do that will encourage people to link. Pick up the phone, attend local business meetings and national events – you’ll easily build contacts among fellow delegates and links will follow.
14. Anticipate – be prepared for the unexpected
Things are always happening in your marketplace. Sometimes a sudden development or change will catch you out and cause some real problems. Other times, changes in the marketplace can present you with a sudden opportunity. If all you do is react to such events, you’ll be in the mix with everyone else.
If, on the other hand, you anticipate events and do some basic preparation, you’ll be in a powerful position when serendipity throws you a great opportunity.
So how about introducing a ‘What if?’ brainstorming session into your monthly routine?
Pull your team together and ask them to imagine what might happen in your market in the next 12 months: have some fun and be as wild and imaginative as you can.
Draw up a list of people’s ideas and pick the top five or so. Then ask the question, “What would we do if this actually happened?” Such an exercise will get your team focused on your marketplace and who knows how you might take advantage if one of them turns out to happen?
15. Be relentless and determined
Quality links are hard to get but they’re worth the effort. When you’re just starting out, you’re not going to be immediately successful. Don’t lose heart, keep at it, hold to these principles and you will succeed.