10 Step SEO # 6: External links (part b)

Search engines today still value the right kind of backlinks very highly. A backlink to your site from the front page of the New York Times using “Eugene SEO” as link text will almost certainly give your site a BIG boost for searches on “Eugene SEO,” “SEO Eugene,” and maybe even “Eugene.” A few links from that kind site will put you on top for those queries.

A whole bunch of links from mid-level sites can do the same thing. A billion links from low-end sites will work, also—but it will be damn hard to not get the majority of them devalued to the point of worthlessness.

Last week, I told you everything I know about backlinks: what, why, and where. Today, I’ll conclude SEO Step #6 with a more practical discussion: how?

So we all know by now what not to do, right?

  • Don’t buy or sell links,
  • Don’t link to (or get links from) bad neighborhoods,
  • Don’t get all your links by trading,
  • Don’t get too many links at once,
  • Don’t get all your links from low quality sites,
  • Don’t waste all your time submitting to directories,
  • Don’t let all your backlinks use the same link text,
  • Don’t let your link portfolio be dominated by links from irrelevant sites,
  • Don’t count on lots and lots of backlinks from the same IP address.

Okay then. Doesn’t leave much to work with. So what, then, shall we do?

Here are the main ways I get links.

  • Off-site content publication. Press releases, articles, guest posts in blogs, customized content in aggregators (like Squidoo)
  • Online community participation. Forums, wikis, news groups, blog comments, social networking
  • Link bait.  YouTube videos, free downloads, games, any attractive content that is even remotely relevant to your site. (See March 29th post, Link Bait Ideas)

You may notice that “Link exchange requests,” “Directory submissions,” and “Link packages” did not make the list.

The main thing to remember is, backlink acquisition is a way of life. No, really. It’s not something the Marketing Department puts in the section of their plan titled “Other, Web-related.” Link building is long-term. Link building is on-going. Link building is a philosophy. Link building is for everyone.

All that means is this. If you want to be a successful link-acquirer, you have to make sure that everything you do (and everyone working for you does) concerning your website is aware of link potential, link strategy, and link execution.

  • Press release about the new store opening? Seed the text with a couple (and only a couple) of relevant links, and make sure the attribution paragraph contains a single link to the website.
  • Does your purchasing team have conversations with vendors and suppliers? Try to get them to work a backlink into the next agreement. And dictate the link text.
  • Creative team looking for new content ideas? Think link bait!
  • Email blast to 20,000 customers? Put in a few well-targeted text links.
  • Do you mandate a company-wide email signature? Make sure every employee from CEO to stock clerk has a link to the website, but also encourage them to have a text link in that signature also—just not all the same text link.
  • Does anybody in your company have a blog? Or a Facebook Fanpage? Or use Twitter? LINK OPPORTUNITIES!
  • White pagers? Think links.
  • Articles? Think Links.
  • Craigslist ads? THINK LINKS.

Every time you or someone in your company logs into an industry-related forum, or chat group, or professional organization, or leaves a comment on some relevant blog it is a link opportunity.

All of this is not to suggest you obsess about links. Because even if you get the company culture to consider the link potential of everyday communication, a lot of those links will not end up counting. Some will end up on “nofollow” pages. Some will have the hyperlink stripped before publication. Many will never make to an HTML page at all. The point is that if everybody knows about links and everybody knows about keywords over time links will accrue.

And yes, I know, in the rush to jump all over the whole linky linky thing,  I skipped right over 10 Step SEO, #4.  Next week.

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