There are two main reasons why gaining inbound links to your website is important: links are a ranking factor and they generate traffic from both search engines and third party websites.
You only have to read Google own developer blog titled “Good times with inbound links” to find information on this.
If you don’t believe Google , as many don’t, you can refer to 3rd party trusted sources such as MOZ’s “search ranking factors” page . This outlines how Google understands how trustworthy a webpage is based on the number and quality of inbound links it may have directed to it.
Why? Because websites tend not to direct people away from their own site without good reason. Plus, and most importantly, Google knows that it’s out of the hands of SEO’s & website owners. They can’t force quality websites to add their links, so Google has developed their algorithm to learn which sites to trust based on their content and link signals e.g. it’s bad if a website links out to too many sites without many inbound links (spammy).
Having links from other websites also boosts the volume of traffic coming to your site outside of Google (and other search engines). Depending on where your customer is in the buying process, they may be using other sites – such as local directories, industry publishers, influential bloggers etc. to find answers to their queries. Being listed on resource pages listing the top businesses in your area, for example, means that your customers can find you through multiple avenues.
But as links are so important it’s no surprise that they can be difficult to obtain. It used to be the case that some SEO companies would attempt to ‘game the system’ by using ‘black hat’ link building tactics that no longer work. Search engines have got wise to these shady tactics, such as buying links, submitting to spurious directories, and spamming blog comment sections and online forums with links back to your site.
But this doesn’t mean that you can’t find ways of improving the quality and quantity of links pointing to your site…
5 simple link building tactics for SMEs
1. Submit your site to local business directories and listings
Directory link building has a bad reputation, mainly because it has been exploited. But there are still a good number of reputable local listing sites and directories that will provide a link to your business website.
In fact, simple mentions of your business name, address and phone number on particular websites can be valuable even if they don’t include a link to your website. Particularly for local businesses, citations from business listings sites – Yelp, Yellowpages.com, etc. – and mentions on other sites – blogs, local newspapers, other local businesses, etc. – tell search engines that your business is relevant to searchers’ needs. For more information about link building specifically for local businesses, take a look at this great resource from Casey Meraz over on the Moz blog.
2. Get listed in industry-specific directories
Beyond directories, make sure you check the websites of any professional, business or trade associations that you’re a member of. This would also include business networking groups that you attend. If you are a member of one of these, it can be very easy to get a link back to your business’ website.
3. Get in touch with your contacts
One of the most straightforward ways of getting links back to your site is by leveraging your existing contacts.
- Suppliers – This could be as simple as writing a testimonial or case study, just make sure it links back to your site.
- Clients – May be happy for you to write a blog about your project working together and how it helps their clients.
- Strategic Partners – You will have many relationship with businesses that ay not fall under the above, however you might be able to provide useful content for their website in terms of a blog aimed at their clients. As long as it ads value and there is a small link in there back to you guys, that will be great.
4. Write guest posts and articles for other websites
Guest posting is still a useful strategy for link-building:
Guest blogging is the process of writing a piece of content which is then placed on another website, often with a link back to your own website in the form of a bio box or sometimes from within the content itself – Paddy Moogan (from The Link Building Book, 2nd edition)
The main disadvantage of guest posting is that it takes a long time – you can’t just pull together a quick article and fire it off to people. Instead, you have to go through a number of stages:
Find websites that might publish guest posts
Find the contact details of the person running the websites
Narrow this list down to those domains worth getting a link from
Create content that competes with what they currently publish
Send emails about your potential guest post
If accepted, distribute the page where your post is hosted
5. Create useful content and resources
The best link-building strategy is – and will likely always be – the creation of content that your customers find useful. Publishing fantastic resources will earn you links. There are a whole range of types of content that can be used as part of an overall link-building campaign but here are just a few examples:
Case studies: Aside from being useful for your potential customers and clients – giving them more information about your services – case studies are also really great at obtaining links back to your website. This is why you should think about writing case studies based on customers that you would like a link back from, such as those with particularly authoritative websites.
Careers resources for schools, colleges and universities: Even if you don’t recruit directly from universities or colleges, careers resources can be useful and link-worthy resources to produce. Educational websites are usually highly authoritative, which will improve the link profile of your site.
Tools and calculators: If you can design and produce some sort of tool, then this is the kind of ‘evergreen’ content that can slowly-but-surely attract links over a long period of time. Simple calculators can work well but are often overlooked. For example, a contract cleaning company could create a simple calculator that gives prospective clients a rough quote of what they might expect to pay depending upon the services that they’re interested in.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of link-building, but these simple 5 steps will allow you to get started.