Last week I discussed the ongoing debate around the use of paid links
for SEO. As I noted, there seems to be a growing consensus that the use
of paid links is a risky proposition.

Most SEOs, even those who still utilize paid links, tend to agree –
building links the old-fashioned way (i.e. earning them) is the best
long-term approach.

What are the most effective ways to do this? Here are 5 techniques that can be highly-effective.

  • Link to others. What goes around comes around. If you link to third party websites that provide valuable content that is beneficial to your visitors, those websites are more likely to link back to you.

    While it’s important not to go overboard (doing so can actually hurt your Google PageRank, for instance) not linking out is an SEO sin to be avoided.

  • Offer quality content. It should go without saying but publishers are going to link to content that they believe is of value to their visitors. Thus quality content is the best way to obtain inbound links. Whether you’re a web designer or an attorney, the best way to produce quality content is to leverage your knowledge and skills to offer information, advice and opinions that are relevant to the individuals you serve or the industry you’re involved with.

    Remember: most websites are a relatively static affair. The less frequently you’re updating your website, the harder it is to produce quality, timely content that others are going to want to link to. As such, it’s important to consider ways you can create more opportunities to provide new content.

  • Blog. A blog is one of the easiest and most effective ways to create a more dynamic website. With robust (and free) blog publishing platforms such as WordPress and Movable Type that can be set up with relative ease or hosted by a third party on your behalf, it’s easy to publish the great content you produce without having to be a techie.

    One of the best things about blogging is the ‘trackback‘. Most blogging platforms will automatically ‘ping‘ the blogs that you link to, letting them know that you’ve linked to them. In my experience, this often results in your blog getting on the radar of the blogs you link to and increases the likelihood of links back at some point.

  • Build relationships. Nobody is going to want to link to your website if it doesn’t offer quality content but nobody is going to know about your website if they don’t know who you are.

    Just as networking can mean the difference between struggling to drum up business and having the problem of clients and customers beating down your door, it can also mean the difference between struggling to acquire inbound links and having everybody linking to you.

    Whether you’re networking offline at conferences, trade shows and mixers or online using social media services like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, the individuals you build relationships with can become your best friends when it comes to link building.

    Blogging and networking can be a potent combination; once you have a decent virtual Rolodex, it’s easy to send your contacts links to blog posts you publish that you know would be of interest to them. Inevitably, some are likely to link to you on their own websites and blogs.

  • Maximize the inbound links you already have. How other websites link to you is often just as important as them linking to you. An interesting post on the SEOmoz Blog last week suggested that publishers monitor inbound links and, where appropriate, reach out to those providing those links to request changes that may be more helpful.

    From asking for better anchor text to linking to a more appropriate page, there’s no guarantee that your request will be respected, but if you don’t ask, you can’t receive. Remember that most of the time, third party websites aren’t linking to you in less-than-optimal ways intentionally – they’re doing so because their publishers aren’t familiar with SEO and linking best practices.

Link building is often a challenging task but as paid links become more risky, the start of the year is the perfect time to refocus on long-term link building by implementing some of the techniques described here.