10 Simple Steps to Link-building Success

In an earlier post, we simplified the idea of links and described two reasons why links are important.  In the realm of search engine marketing, they’re absolutely essential.  But links are not altogether easy to get–especially the more valuable ones.  So here is a list of steps that you can take to begin moving forward:

  1. Take the long view – If you want to begin building links, be ready to exercise patience.  We talked in an earlier post about the idea that search engine success is a journey, not a day-trip.  Link-building is a perfect example of that.  It takes time to develop your linking strategy, more time to create / develop link partnerships, and even more time for Google to recognize your progress.
  2. Use your keyword research – Your link-building strategy should follow the findings of your keyword research.  So before you begin, be sure you are clear about which words you are targeting on Google.
  3. Identify worthwhile link sources – Not all links are created equally.  Some links can help your site ranking improve incrementally while others can help you do so dramatically.  Be aware that some sites have been flagged by Google as manipulative (i.e. spam links or link farms) and can actually hurt your rankings.  For a deeper understanding of the methodology, see Wikipedia’s entry on PageRank.
  4. Identify link directories – There are some directories that can provide worthwhile links for little or no cost.  One broad example of this is the Open Directory Project, but it’s known to be very competitive to earn a listing.  There may well be some specific (and powerful) directories in your particular industry, so be on the lookout for industry-specific associations and directories.
  5. Research your competitors’ link sources – If you are trying to overcome a competitor for a particular keyword, simply type their URL in a site like BackLink Watch to see exactly where their links are coming from.  You will be able to see right away where the links to their sites originate.
  6. Create or dedicate a page on your Web site to link partners –  A worthwhile tactic to increase links is to negotiate reciprocal links with sites that are similar to yours.  Create a page on your Web site where you feature your link partners and provide contact information for those that may wish to trade links with you.
  7. Prepare your own link text – Referring back to our earlier post on the importance of links, be sure to compose the link text that you might wish to see your linking partners put on their Web sites.  If you don’t think this through, you may be wasting your time bargaining for links that aren’t so helpful.  You may even wish to put this text on the page you dedicate to your partners.
  8. Reach out – Now that you have your links page prepared and your link text developed, start contacting other site owners to begin negotiating reciprocal links.  You may wish to create a record of correspondence in a separate file or wiki page to track your progress and learn what works.
  9. Create a schedule – As you can see, there are many activities that contribute to a successful link-building effort.  It may be worthwhile to create a link-building schedule for yourself that budgets time on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.  This will help you stay on track and maintain steady progress.
  10. Set goals – Like any performance area, setting goals regarding your linking activity can be helpful and motivating to you and/or a team.  It is advisable to create a series of short and long range goals to record what you’re hoping to achieve.

Building links to your Web site can be time-consuming and slow to evolve, but it’s a necessity if you are looking for search engine success.  Following this handful of simple steps can get you on the road in no time at all.