Link building has had a bad reputation because of link farms and all those spurious “seo-experts” who constantly tell you that link building is penacea for all search engine ranking problems.
What exactly is link building?
Link building is a sort of endorsement. When people link to your website or blog, they do it because they want visitors to visit your link and benefit from the wonderful content you are producing. It’s a way of telling, “Look, here is another wonderful resource you may like to check out.”
There was a time when Google used to rank websites merely on the basis of three things, or rather four things: the textual content on your webpage, the title of your webpage, the description and keywords. This was a great way of ranking well, till people started exploiting it. With little effort you could create pages like that and misdirect visitors as well as search engines. So search engine engineers thought, there should be another way of ranking links. And what would be better way than humans themselves promoting particular links?
So no matter how well you optimized your website, unless other people endorsed it, linked to it, the search engines didn’t see any value in it. Your website could only rank well if you had high-quality content, plus lots of incoming links. So link building became an activity that involved getting links back to your website.
Of course this method was also open to exploitation as people started creating websites merely for linking back to the websites that would pay them. Hence came into existence, as far as Google goes, the Page Rank (PR).
Page rank is the number that Google assigns to websites that are of very high quality and the quality as well as credentials have been validated by other trusted and respected web publishers. It is something like this: blogger A is already respected by Google. He enjoys a very high page rank. He finds that blogger B is also doing some great work and therefore links to him. Similarly, there is another great blogger C who also links to B. Blogger B, consequently begins to enjoy a higher page rank. The more people with good page rank link to blogger B, the higher page rank he gets. Similarly, if blogger B, who now enjoys a good page rank, links to blogger D, blogger D also begins to get good page rank. So the ranking began to depend on who is linking to you.
People can exploit this also, but this normally works. Link building in true sense means getting links from bloggers and website publishers who enjoy a good page rank.
Building links for your website as a small business
Bigger businesses have a money advantage. They can pump in lots of money in producing tons of content and some of this content goes viral on social media and social networking websites, earning them 100s of back links. They can also advertise all over the web. Building links for them is not a problem.
As a small business you have budgetary constraints so instead of depending on money, you need to depend on your social skills. This blog post on SEOMoz rightly says, that instead of building links, you build relationships.
In the times of social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google plus, relationship building and networking isn’t as difficult as it used to be a few years ago. The thing is, search engines discourage you from buying links. They insist that the links coming to your website must be voluntary.
If you are producing great content, people don’t have any problem linking to you. But how do they find you? They find you by knowing you.
Building relationships shouldn’t be confused with spamming people or irritating them by needlessly bombarding them with messages. Engage them in conversations. Observe them when they normally come online, what sort of conversations they seed or participate in and what sort of questions they ask. Do you have answers to their queries? If yes, provide them without being overbearing. Let them gradually get familiar to you and your presence. Show to them that you are interested in their topic.
Relationship building is a time-consuming process so you will have to be careful whom you are approaching. Make a list of 50 people you would like to interact with on an ongoing basis and don’t just create the list randomly. Do some research. Observe various people interacting on Twitter and Facebook. Since it won’t be logically possible for you to interact with everybody, just choose five people to interact with per day and make sure you drop them a message.
You will need to keep this in mind that it is an ongoing process. Some people may respond and some people may show an attitude – doesn’t matter. Your intention must be clear. They are successful, but you too are working hard. One day they were in the same position and they too were making an effort to better themselves. If they don’t respond, either they don’t have time or they’re not interested in what you have to say. Move on.
Read more on the original blog post linked above.