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Many new clients believe that climbing the rankings is down to technical tweaking of the website, when actually it’s hugely influenced by the number of inbound links to a site.

You see, search engines like Google look at what value the rest of the web places on a particular web property.

How often other relevant websites talk about a site and, crucially, link to it, is a far better way for an algorithm to determine which pages are going to be useful to searchers.

It’s going to place far more value on peer assessment than it does on the metadata you post up.

Think about it, when you search for ‘cheap socks’, do you want to see what other people found useful or a list of websites that want to sell you socks, cheap or otherwise?

Encouraging inbound links to your pages is crucial. If you build them, they will come. Customers, that is, not baseball players.

So how can you generate this elusive link juice for your site? Here are my top tips for beginners.

Strike all thoughts of link farms from your mind

Let’s get one thing straight, it isn’t about the sheer quantity of links to your website anymore. Search engines are cleverer than that, they want to see links from relevant and authoritative websites before they rocket you up the rankings.

Don’t shell out cash to some poxy link farm business thinking it will help. Some search engines, including the behemoth that is Google, will penalise your website if you’re caught relying on a farm.

At best they’re useless, at worst, they’re actively harmful.

Create valuable pages

The very best way to encourage inbound links is to fill your pages with valuable, useful, informative, interesting, relevant content. Simple, right?

One great way to do this is to set up a blog, allowing you to post guides, industry news and opinion pieces. If your posts are interesting then people will naturally link to them as they discuss, rebut or expand on your comments.

Sometimes, you’ll really strike gold with a post and it will go viral. There’s a really good example of that over at Econsultancy just now, where the article ‘Ten horrifying display ad placements’ generated almost 2,000 tweets, over 100 comments and who knows how many inbound links?

Articles that do so brilliantly are known as ‘link bait’, because people will want to link to them. There’s nothing sinister about deliberately posting such bait, it is simply that you’ve created something very popular.

In fact, it’s exceptionally difficult to do, even newspapers only manage it now and again.

Johann Hari’s ‘Welcome to Cameron land’ was a good example of a mainstream article going viral, with 25,000 Facebook recommendations and almost 3,500 tweets. It probably wasn’t designed as link bait, it’s just an example of how powerful writing can be.

You have to be interesting

I am really going off the saying ‘content is king’ because it just doesn’t convey enough.

Let’s be frank, what’s in my bin can be described as its ‘content’, but I want some pretty different ‘content’ in my sandwich.

Content isn’t king; that implies the churned out garbage of rewritten press releases and plagiarised copy is useful when it comes to SEO.

Relevant, interesting, valuable copy is king and it takes time and skill to create.

It could be a blog, it could be a series of videos, it could be some amusing game that goes viral. Just make it interesting. The web is full when it comes to barely literate ramblings.

Make industry friends

One key way to build inbound links to your pages is to place guest posts on other industry blogs and include links to your own website.

However, that is much, much harder than it sounds. Although you might think blogs are crying out for content, if you don’t have a reputation as an industry authority then no one will be that keen to carry your copy.

In fact, knowing the value of a link to your website, some powerful blogs will try to charge you money for carrying your post.

The best way to avoid this kind of situation is to make friends with the humans behind the blogs.

It shouldn’t be too hard to make industry friends – follow them on twitter, comment on their blogs and (best of all) corner them at conferences and buy them a beer.

Making friends in your industry will be rewarding because you’ll learn a lot in discussion with them, your finger will be more on the pulse of your sector and you’ll stand a much better chance of being invited to place articles on their blogs.

The internet is a social place, so be sociable.

Use the right anchor text

The anchor text that’s used to link to your site matters, so bear that in mind when you’re writing guest posts. Using relevant keywords reinforces your page’s relevance for that keyword.

Far too often you see ‘click here for more information’, when it could be something better like ‘book cheap flights’ or ‘compare car insurers’ or ‘bird-safe slug pellets’ or whatever it is you sell.

Don’t miss out on the chance to reiterate to the search engines just how relevant your pages are to those search terms.

This is also relevant when choosing headlines for posts on your own blog. People will probably link to your pages using your headline, so it’s worth including keywords there when you can.

Of course, don’t let your keywords spoil your headlines, they are the hook that encourages people to read and then share your content.

Make the most of your position

Not everyone reading this will be a business. You might be a charity, sports team, music act, comedian… Everyone is trying to promote themselves online these days.

If you are an organisation that people want to support then design a badge and ask people to place it on their sites. They’ll be happy to support you, it will drive up brand awareness and you’ll receive a link.

Corporations will find it harder to get people to give away space on their pages. But you could try running a competition, for example, and offer winners and runners up a chance to display a proud badge declaring their success.

Kevin Gibbons

Published 14 October, 2010 by Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons is UK Managing Director at digital marketing agency BlueGlass. He is also known as an SEO speaker and can be found on Twitter and Google+.

102 more posts from this author

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Debbie Sexton

Great post!

about 6 years ago

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Vincent Roman

So the real question is, how many inbound links do you need? I think it also depends on the content of your site. Are you a bricks and mortar business or just a blog talking about gastric bands? I think for bricks and mortar business there are many opportunities to drive traffic for a brand new site that negate the need for inbound links, though they do not hurt at all. For a bog standard blog, it is clear they will live or die by their content and the types of links they can get and your article is spot on for that. Anyhow, thanks for the post. Nice one!

about 6 years ago

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Robert

Choosing your title as the article suggests needs careful consideration. During the UK General Election the BBC used some particularly catchy music for their adverts I blogged about the music and with my carefully constructed title I was seeing visitors within 3 days with no tweets about the post or any other shouting. So as the article states "If your posts are interesting then people will naturally link to them as they discuss, rebut or expand on your comments." don't add masses of content, post content that your readers will want to link to.

about 6 years ago

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Robert

Choosing your title as the article suggests needs careful consideration. During the UK General Election the BBC used some particularly catchy music for their adverts I blogged about the music and with my carefully constructed title I was seeing visitors within 3 days with no tweets about the post or any other shouting. So as the article states "If your posts are interesting then people will naturally link to them as they discuss, rebut or expand on your comments." don't add masses of content, post content that your readers will want to link to.

about 6 years ago

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Andy Xhignesse

Hi Kevin, thanks for this spot on post, you've very effectively addressed many of the most important elements of inbound linking. What I would like to offer as an add on is that an organization do their very best to also articulate a strategy that will encourage inbound links. In a recent blog post I wrote about an indie band "Hotshotcasino" who executed a terrific campaign that served more than one purpose.

The campaign offered a free download of their latest recording in exchange for a 'tweet'. What a great idea! Not only did they create a number of inbound links (the text of the tweet is automatically supplied if the visitor choses to proceed) but there was also a bit of a buzz around the campaign idea. I don't know what the results are to date, my point is this, what a creative way to offer value, the download, in exchange for value, the tweet, and create some links and buzz.

I think it's really important that companies who are serious about their SEO actions sit down and brainstorm on strategy and tactics help create those valuable inbound links as you suggest and that if they need help they should access the help, it can be invaluable to their online presence development. Any comments?

Thanks again, and have a great day!

about 6 years ago

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Vincent Roman

The funny thing is that so many people get hung up on defining factors for SEO, when in reality any number of them will produce results and doing all of them will just be the icing on the cake. There is no right answer, there is only the guiding light of techniques.

about 6 years ago

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winter tires

The reality is that nothing has changed, Link building is as important as it was 5 years ago. The only difference is the way we get links.

about 6 years ago

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Gabriele Maidecchi

Becoming part of a community in your niche, relate with them, share your ideas and thoughts, comment on their blog posts and retweet their valuable content, all good way, as you suggest, to get in the radar of people with real interest in what you do and have to propose. I couldn't agree more, well written.

about 6 years ago

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paul

Fascinating, many thanks !

about 6 years ago

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Keri Morgret

In addition to buying people beers at a conference, keeping lots of advil, granola bars, a couple of USB cables, and an iPhone charger provide great way to make friends at a conference -- and I've gotten links from it as well, though that was not my goal.

about 6 years ago

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sjkato

Very informative. Me likes very much! You do hear often that content is king, yesterday I was looking at a blog which said just those very words. But you are right...making the article interesting is how you succeed as a blogger. Sadly, you often dont have the skills at first to be a great blogger (unless you already are very good at writing and are relatively charismatic), so the time you take to get better can be crucial. Being a good writer is a basis for most of the points here, though you can work on your blogging skills whilst working on your website or making business friends. Perhaps that is the best way. Maybe once you have the talent to blog well, then you can ask your business friends if you can post on their blogs.

about 6 years ago

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Jared

Great Post. Links act like references on a resume and validate your trustworthiness to search engines. 

Another tactic that seems to be a good one is guest blogging. If you can get an authority figure to post something on your company blog, you can get a lot of visibility from that post. Combine that with twitter and other social media outlets, and you can quickly gain exposure with more linking opportunities.

about 6 years ago

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Adrian Swinscoe

Hi Kevin, Some great pointers and clarification of what works and what to avoid. Thanks, Adrian

about 6 years ago

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Daniel Stark

As a telemarketing company, we are always looking to advance in SEO to gain additional leads. Thanks for the great advise.

about 6 years ago

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web design company

Hi, Kevin, Very crystal clear advice that would clear all possible doubts about SEO and i really like your section states that Strike all thoughts of link farms from your mind.

about 6 years ago

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tablet

Now, anyone that has ever created an identity for a company knows it's important to have something that is unique and makes that company stand out... HOWEVER, you can OWN colours! (?)

While being a watchdog for a number of brands, I've become familiar with the practice of making sure I'm using the correct Hex or PMS colours on all promotional materials, but I've never heard of outlawing or rendering colours off limits... isn't is just supposed to be deriviate works, like if I made a C-Mobile campaign with Magenta, then I could see them having a problem with it... but this is out of hand.

So... either Vonage or Ing Direct or Easy Everything has to give up the colour orange to promote themselves, because, well, only one of them can use it? Or Vodaphone and Virgin are going to fight over Red? This is not where design is supposed to lead us...

almost 6 years ago

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