If web pages are places dotted on a map, then links are the roads that join them together. Important websites, just like big cities, have a huge number of links, or roads, linking them to other places, and this is how search engines know which websites are more important than others.
Link building is one of the most difficult and time consuming processes of any Search Engine Optimisation campaign. If you’ve just hired an SEO Agency, or if you’re embarking on your own SEO adventure, then you’ll want to get to grips with link building early in the game. This will not only help you to understand what is required, but also what you can expect.
There are many ways you can build links to your site, starting with:
Natural Links – these happen when you create content which other website owners and bloggers want to link to. These can happen without any effort, other than the effort required to create share-worthy content. Some argue that these are the best and most valuable types of links, as they demonstrate that you produce trust-worthy content. Examples:
- Start a company blog which provides valuable industry information.
- Make your content, images for example, available under the creative commons licence, requesting a link-back when used.
Manual Links -Your SEO agency may spend time submitting your website and content to other websites in an effort to get your content linked. This is when SEO starts to get time consuming. How can you make this easier?
- Make it mutual; offer to link to another site in exchange for them linking to yours.
- Offer partnership links between your regular business customers, or offer your customers a ‘valued customer’ style logo for their blog. If your customers are willing to show their support for you by liking you on Facebook, they may well be happy to include you on their website or blog.
- Post on industry forums and leave your link behind. Be warned, not all bloggers like this method and may delete your comments.
Submitted Links – Your website ranking may also benefit from being listed on directories alongside similar websites. These will have to be submitted manually.
And how will you know if it’s working?
Like all SEO, the effects will not be visible over night, it requires a little patience. One of the easiest ways to see if your efforts are paying off is to search for a keyword from one of your pages and see where you rank in various search engines. Obviously, this isn’t a concrete measure, but it can tell you if you’re on the right track. For numerical reassurance:
Bing Webmaster Tools (formerly Yahoo Site Explorer) This will tell you which sites are linking to you and the anchor text they use.
Google PageRank Checker – This will give you a score out of 10, and you can even grab a button to throw on your site.
SEOMoz offer MozRank, a service which will allow you to see your link popularity score. It’s free for 30 days, and then $99 per month after that.
If you host your site on WordPress then you’ll have access to link back information, this will show you who linked to you, from where, and the anchor text they used.