Bringing your business to the online world is a daunting venture. It takes much more than just coming up with a good domain name and publishing some content pages; it takes an ongoing effort to drive traffic towards your site. A major part of this, as you may have heard, is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in which a website is tailored to be easily read by (usually) Google’s algorithm and ranked highly. However, even if your onsite SEO is great you can improve your rankings even better with link building which is a major part of offsite SEO, but it is also largely misunderstood and something that small businesses struggle with.
Link Building: What is It?
As the name implies, link building is the process of going out and actively getting links to point back to your site. This doesn’t mean linking between posts or pages within your website, that is internal link structuring which is an important aspect of onsite SEO. Link building almost always refers to securing links on foreign domains that point back to your site, known as “back links.”
Google, and other search engines, regard back links to your site as a merit of good faith from the website where the link is featured. It’s telling them that the webmaster, blog owner, editor, tweeter, follower, etcetc, found your site useful in some way and want to showcase it to their visitors. While links pass along traffic to a site directly in the form of people following the link, most of the time links are built for SEO purposes.
The Dark Side
While a direct traffic boost from a link is always great, the main purpose of link building is to manipulate your standings in the search engine results page (SERP). Ranking highly for your search terms can provide an immense amount of traffic to your site, and this means that SEO and link building (once they were proven to work) became heavily involved in spammy techniques that built as many back links as possible. Sites with little to no meaningful content would rocket up the SERPs and outrank sites that deserved the high rankings. This led to “good” sites having to resort to black hat measures in order to compete in the rankings, or had them taking a bite from the apple just to get an edge up on their natural competition.
The Google Spam Hammer
Nobody hates spam more than Google’s own Matt Cutts who helped to spearhead a movement against spam on the internet. In the rolling Google and Panda updates by Google, sites that use black hat and unnatural link building methods (along with onsite SEO methods) were hit hard in their rankings. Many sites saw decreased rankings, and some saw removal from Google altogether. This has sparked a movement towards “white hat” link building that doesn’t get noticed by Google’s algorithms as spam.
How Do You Link Build?
With all of that on the table the question remains, how do you go about link building? Well for starters, you want to focus on natural, white hat link building that doesn’t look like any kind of spam. This means staying away from buying links, link schemes or networks, or anything that might be related. White hat link building takes a lot of time to do correctly, but the good thing is that you no longer need hundreds of thousands of links in order to rank. If you can get a handful of links on quality, relevant sites to your own, you should see your rankings start to increase. There are some time proven strategies for this kind of link building are guest blogging on relevant blogs in your niche, and simply calling up or emailing webmasters and editors and asking for a resource link. Yes, this takes time, but building relationships with people is just as important as building the link.
The Importance of Good Content
Without high quality content you’ll find yourself floundering in the rankings and in your link building endeavors. Create resources and pages that are engaging and helpful to visitors. These will naturally build links over time as people link to them. With weak content, you’ll be hard pressed to convince anyone to link to you – naturally or otherwise.
Don’t underestimate link building. It can have a powerful influence on your sites traffic and bottom line, but it also takes a lot of time and effort to do it correctly. At all costs, stay away from spammy black hat techniques because once you get in a hole with Google, it is a chore and a half to dig yourself back out.
This post originally appeared on Small Businesses Do It Better