Posted by Helen M. Overland, Search Engine Marketing Specialist, non~linear creations...
More and more frequently recently, we are finding companies asking for help with link building. For those of us who are very familiar with the topic, this may not be the most fascinating topic. However, for those (most marketers) who are not savvy link builders, understanding the link building process can present a real bottleneck.
As search engines continue to value links as a ranking factor, more and more ambitious marketers are launching link building campaigns. The real roadblock that many people seem be running into is the basic understanding of how to go about link building effectively. Here are a few simple tips for creating a simple, but effective link building campaign.
First and foremost - you must identify your market. In general, visitors arriving at your site from an average link may not be as targeted or action-oriented as those arriving from a search query (link marketing is really more contextual in nature), and so it is absolutely vital that you understand WHO your customer is, and WHERE they might be online.
For example, a website that is targeting chefs may look to an industry association, a quality ingredients supplier, a trade magazine, etc. Links from such sites are not only subject-related to your website, but more importantly, they target the intended audience where they may actually be online.
Second, it is important to understand that "free" links can be more effective than paid links. Obviously, if someone recommends your site to your target market, that link could be more valuable than a paid link at the side of an article on a high profile website. If a link has the weight of positive opinion behind it, the traffic it refers could be your highest converters.
Third, provide something worth linking to. You may believe your snazzy new site is worth linking to, and maybe it is, but what is the incentive for someone to actually add a link? Links are generally not gained "simply because you have a website" - this is usually not enough of an incentive for most people to create a link to you. You may find it easier to offer something "link-worthy", such as a whitepaper, article, interesting blog post, joke, video, or freebie. Offer something of value to the people arriving at your site, and generally, people may be more willing to link to it.
Fourth - identify the Influencers in your niche. You can frequently do this just by searching for your industry keywords and seeing what comes up. You don't have to get links from all the high-ranking sites, as was practice a few years ago. Simply identify the pages that may have the most value for your business, and try to get a link.
When it comes to actually requesting a link, there is no one tactic that is best for every site. The most appropriate tactic for gaining the link will depend both on your site and the site you are approaching. For some sites, you can simply email and politely request a link. For others, a phone call is the best tactic. Still other sites are best approached with a physical letter on company letterhead. As a marketer in your specific niche, you may already have a good idea of how the influential sites in your space should be approached.
Bear in mind that a link is best valued by the traffic that it brings, not by the "search engine brownie points" it might (or might not) be worth. The best tips are to identify and target reputable sites, and try to make sure that your site will offer value to the audience of the linking site.