Last week I wrote about the importance of internal links and I stand by everything I wrote; many sites neglect their internal structure, get lazy on the anchor texts for navigational links, and in general miss an opportunity to help solidify their site in the rankings. They mean the difference between a site with staying power in the rankings and one that flies up and then falls.
But today, let’s talk about one of the driving forces behind rankings: Incoming links. In a way, incoming links are a very frustrating part of SEO because if they’re high quality, they’re probably also spontaneous. That means the best links are the ones you didn’t ask for; someone read your site and linked to your article. They follow your blog and linked or responded to it in their own. Ideally, they’re using descriptive, keyword-rich anchor text. Some link to your homepage and some to different internal pages in your site. Why is that frustrating? Because you can’t control them. The best links are ones you didn’t ask for, so if they have generic non-descript anchor text, oh well.
Insert your own witty caption about incoming links here…there’s just too many to pick from..
And sometimes, they just don’t happen at all – you can’t force someone to link to you. So what can you do to encourage people to link back to your site? Well, here are a couple suggestions:
1) Content. Yes, yes – this isn’t the first time I’ve said it, it won’t be the last time, and I’m certainly not the first to say it, but – content is the core of a good SEO strategy. Good content attracts the search engines, gets people reading, and hopefully, gets people linking back, too. If your content is well written and thought provoking, people will pass it on.
2) Link to them! Link exchanges – especially black-hat SEO practices like link farms – are frowned on, and might even penalize you or get you outright banned from the search engines, but organic, spontaneous link exchanges can be your best friend. If you link to someone, you’ll get their attention – and they might pay it forward, particularly if you’ve done everything you can to make your site attractive and useful.
3) Tweet your own horn…on Twitter and Facebook, that is. Social networking sites can easily be leveraged to get your site out there – and with re-tweeting and sharing, respectively, it’s easy to get your content flung quickly from person to person. Google indexes Twitter too, so links there count!
4) Use your blog for more than just content; they’re social media tools too. With your blog linked in your profile/signature, read other blogs that your target audience is reading. And comment. Discuss. Agree, disagree – but make a valid point and support it. Even if they don’t link back too, creating a presence in the blogosphere gets traffic back to you – which means more exposure, and chances for linkbacks. Do the same thing on your blog; if you get a comment, respond to it. Get a dialogue going.
We’ll talk more about solicited links at a later date, but when it comes to unsolicited incoming links, it pretty much comes down to exposure. Get your name out there – and if you’ve done a good job with your content, links will come.