If you want your business’ website to rank highly for its chosen key words then there are three rules that must be obeyed; links, links and more links.
The key to getting your website to rank highly is to get other websites to link to it. Without these links to your website from external websites, there is no chance that your chosen keywords will rank highly by themselves.
Whilst it is essential that you build your own links through social media profiles or reputable business listing profiles, these backlinks are not sufficient in themselves to bump your business up the ratings. As there are only about 20 of these that are really worth building, it is crucial that much greater numbers of links are created and the best way of doing this is by persuading others to create them for you.
As a rough guesstimate, most small businesses need anything from between 30 and 250 other websites to link to theirs in order to rank highly for between 5 – 10 averagely competitive keywords. Yes, you heard correctly, 250! But how, I hear you ask, do I get 250 other websites to link to mine? Well, there are some basic guidelines that you can follow that should give you a helping hand.
Make it Interesting
The most important thing to remember when crafting a successful website is to make it interesting. There’s no point in spending time and money on a cutting edge, up to the minute designer website if it is essentially boring; it can’t just look good, it must also be good. Yes, content and lots of it is a must but pages of repetitive babble will render your beautiful website useless.
No matter how unique and special you believe your business is, you’re kidding yourself if you think no one else out there is offering what you are. Your business needs to be competitive and your business’ website is no different; your passion for and belief in your business needs to translate through your website. Make it interesting, make it extraordinary and make it unique.
If your content is exciting, if it offers browsers a new perspective, then they will want to read it and share it with their own community and that is half the battle done. This organic growing process, where websites discover and share each other, is what Google is aiming to replicate and promote so take advantage of this.
Nevertheless, amazing content is not sufficient in itself to boost your rankings as potential customers still need to find it; you must still promote, promote, promote. Make use of social media, email, forums and blogs to spread the news and the links will slowly begin to grow as other bloggers and internetters discover and share your site. You must not get complacent though; once you have built up a strong base, keep refreshing your content, promoting it to wider audiences and forging new business links and you will reap the rewards in the long run.
Give Them a Reason
These days, it is not just enough to ask politely for other businesses to link to your website; they will have been asked by many others already and will want to boost their own website in return. Some people or businesses that you know ‘in real life’ may be happy to provide you with a link or two free of charge but most will require a little push in the right direction and there are a few things that you can do to help this process along.
If you want a business or individual to link their website to yours then you must give them a reason by making it worth their while. This is where your networking skills come into play; make new links by reaching out to potential partners or customers and build on existing relationships to begin assembling your own network that will grow. Begin with current friends, colleagues, partners and suppliers and expand your network from here; share the amazing content on your website and point out the similarities or elements that may help them in their enterprises.
Building a strong networking group based on reciprocal personal relationships will help you grow your website and business both online and offline and will be almost impossible for your competitors to replicate.
Call In a Favour
Don’t be afraid to call in a favour from an existing customer or supplier, after all, it won’t take them long and will cost them nothing to link to your website. If you offer your partners or suppliers a service or are a good customer then they should be willing to offer a favour in return.
If necessary, you could even offer a small discount or other incentive in return for a link or two on their website at a later date. It always pays to be polite and treat your customers fairly as they’ll be more willing to help you out in small ways; the value of a loyal customer base can never be exaggerated.
Offer a Quid Pro Quo
If the business or individual in question is unwilling to offer a link or two for free, or if they are not already an existing customer or do not know you or your business, then you can easily offer a small favour in return.
Although link exchanges (where one party offers links in return for links) were once a widely accepted practice in SEO, they were often abused and, unfortunately, Google picked up on this. Recently, Google has devalued the trust and authority that passes between reciprocal links but they can nevertheless still provide a useful means of getting targeted traffic to your site if used in moderation.
If a desirable or relevant website offers a link to your website in return for links to theirs then there are two simple rules that can be used as a guide;
Make sure that the website is reputable, has quality content and is not involved in any spam linked activities. Links from a disreputable website can only have a detrimental effect on the quality of the traffic directed to your website. Having spent all that time, money and effort on producing a top class website for your business, you want to ensure that you optimise the traffic accessing it and don’t associate yourself with untrustworthy companies.
Make sure that there is a logical connection between the potential website and your own. If you run a dog grooming business in London then there is no point in linking it to a lawnmower manufacturer in Scotland, as the links will be irrelevant and are unlikely to convert into customers. Arbitrary links are a waste and, moreover, will look suspicious to Google and may be discounted.
If a link exchange is not sufficient or possible then you could exchange content instead. Provided that your excellent content is relevant to their product or service, you could allow them to publish it on their website in exchange for links but remember, always make sure that you get the credit for it and don’t give your copy away free to direct competitors! Alternatively, if the potential exposure to a new audience is large, you could offer to pen some content specifically for them in return for links; they get free content and you get free links and advertising.
Offer Your Expertise
If giving away free copy is a step too far for you, then you could always share your expertise or experience with other websites and businesses instead. A good way of broaching new online relationships is to offer suggestions on how to improve websites or to offer solutions to aspects of the website that may not be working correctly, such as broken links or poor content. The key to this though is to be sensitive and constructive; don’t lecture someone on how rubbish their website is, as they won’t thank you and certainly won’t be willing to give you free links! Instead, offer to help resolve problems and build a reciprocal relationship from there.
Points to Remember
As before, it is unwise and ultimately unproductive to fill more than 10% of your links through companies that have little or no relationships to your business. Make it relevant and make them count.
Moreover, don’t settle for your website links being buried on a ‘useful links’ or ‘links to our partners’ webpage; you don’t read them and neither does anyone else. To make them count, your links need to be incorporated into a relevant paragraph of copy or a blog. If this means writing the piece yourself then do so, it will be worth the minimal amount of effort it will take.
Finally, don’t get complacent! It takes time and effort to build the links needed for links but they can easily disintegrate. The internet is constantly evolving and so are your competitors, if you stand still for too long then your advantage will be gone. Continually improve your website, work on existing relationships and strive to make new ones, then watch your website move up the search engine rankings.