Looking to launch a new website, and want to get it indexed by the search engines? Vaguely aware that you need links, but you’re not sure what that means? Busy swapping links with other sites, and seeing little return for your efforts? If so, this article is for you. It’ll show you exactly what links are and the right sort of link building you should be doing for your website.
I link to you and you link to me and everybody’s happy, right? Wrong! It’s a popular misconception that reciprocal links are the holy grail of SEO. In fact, they’re hardly ever effective, and even where they do work well, they should only form a tiny part of your overall link building strategy.
One Way Links
More specifically, natural one way links. These happen when somebody finds your site, likes your content, and links to you. This is hard currency in SEO terms. Search engines love natural one-way links because they give your site credibility. It’s the difference between a glowing review by an independent critic and a glowing review that you write yourself.
Of course, it’s also the slowest way to build links, as technically you have no control over who finds you and links to you. If your website is new, you can achieve a similar effect by submitting it to some niche directories. Look for industry specific directories, and directories whose users would get some benefit from looking at your site. Don’t go mad, if you can get 10-15% of your overall links from directories, that’s fine.
Paid Links or Paying For Links
If you’ve got a lot of content and a well established online presence, then this can work well in the short term, as a complement to the natural links that have already been acquired. It’s not so great for new sites. Paying people to link to you looks desperate and a bit sleazy, and the search engines know that. The latest “Google Slap” mainly affected those sites who bought lots of links, knocking them out of the top 30 search rankings and into search engine obscurity.
If you do pursue this strategy, go for sites that are very on-topic with yours.
Link Baiting or Link Bait
This one takes a little more effort, but basically involves putting things on your site that people will want to link to – videos, images, quirky content and so on. It differs from general content in that it’s put there with the sole intention of getting links. This works well, especially in combination with social bookmarking, and has no known search engine side effects (so far).
Avoid link farms and free-for-all link pages, and make sure your outgoing links are going to credible places too. Bad links are like bad neighborhoods. The search engines don’t go there. A few bad links won’t make much difference, but if you’ve got a pattern of them, then you could be penalized.