Did You Graduate From Link Building High School Yet?

Version 3
    In a recent blog post discussing the importance of link building for
    search engine optimization, I asked people to share how they build
    links to their website. I recommend you go read the responses.

    I
    also recommend you read that article so you know how to construct
    inbound links so they affect your search rankings for individual
    keywords that you want to rank for.

    In that article, I said I'd be writing a follow up article about "how" to build links to your site.
    Link building is not easy. And it's not that intuitive until you do it.
    There are also many different techniques and methods that will have
    varied results. Below is how I recommend clients start and master link
    building.

    *_I tell people that there are 4 Levels of Link Building
    Excellence. And it usually takes 4 years to master it - just like high
    school:_*

    9th Grade: Links You Can Build Yourself That Require Little Time Investment

    Before I get into this, I'd like to stress that you should have a
    really good keyword strategy and make sure you've optimized each page
    on your site around a different keyword phrase. Any link you're
    building should be designed to help a specific page rank high in the
    search engines for a specific keyword.

    That said, the first set of links that every business should get are
    the ones that don't require anyone else's help. There are lots of
    business directories out there where you can just submit your URL,
    company name and a description of your business. Some of them require
    approval. Some of them require a fee. Yahoo's directory, Joe Ant,
    Aboutus.org are some of the ones you should do right away.

    In this class of Level I links, there are also many social media sites
    where you can simply build links to your site. Most of these no longer
    pass SEO credit, but they're still good links to get, assuming your
    target audience visits the site or these sites rank high for your
    keywords already.

    It's arguable that you should hire someone to do (or start) this stuff
    for you. It's low level work that generates low level returns. Just
    make sure that you don't hire a firm that will get you 1,000 links for
    $1,000 dollars. If it's too good to be true, it is.

    10th Grade: Links You Build Yourself that Require Effort

    Before I get into this level, I'd like to stress that launching a
    business blog should be done before doing this. Without having a blog
    on your site with lots of good well optimized content, you don't really
    have anything to link to.

    That said, there are two very common link building techniques that work
    well that don't require you to be a "thought leader". Yet. These
    activities require a bit more time investment and a small financial
    investment. They are article marketing and press release optimization.
    With both of these methods, you have to create relevant content that
    will appeal to your market. So, it requires more time than Level I.
    Also, the process of getting your articles syndicated and your press
    releases submitted and picked up - takes effort. You might consider
    hiring a wired pr firm or a strong seo firm to do some of this stuff
    for you.

    If done correctly, both of these methods can significantly increase the
    links to your site. Also, if you write your articles and press releases
    with a keyword strategy in mind, and with links that support your
    keyword strategy, it can significantly raise your rankings for specific
    keyword terms. Run your press releases and your articles through press
    release grader to determine whether they're going to help.

    11th Grade: Links You Network For that Require a Significant Time Investment

    This part of link building is kind of like sales. Cold calling can be
    done effectively with persistence. But, networking, getting referrals,
    giving first, the law of attraction, etc is a better way of getting new
    clients.

    Link building is the same way. If you're more of a cold caller type,
    and there are lots of potential places you can get a link, you might
    consider just creating a list of webmasters and asking them for a link.

    If you're a natural networker and you're in this for the long haul, I'd
    recommend being a bit more patient. Apply your persistence and spend
    your time building relationships.

    No matter what route you take, the goal of this level is to make
    yourself visible among people interested in the same topics as you.
    This process is a bit self promotional. But, you must promote yourself
    in a way that you're adding value. You master this level by acting like
    a resource for people in your industry.

    How do you do this?

    It's all
    about networking and building meaningful relationships. The first step
    is reading other people's blogs. Then, commenting on them. Then,
    eventually starting a relationship where you're communicating 1 on 1
    with them. I recommend you take the leap from reader to 1:1 with a
    blogger, by pointing them in the direction of other people's content
    that might be interesting to them. In the non marketing world, this
    usually happens through email. In the marketing world, this usually
    happens through Twitter. If you're techy, this might happen through
    Delicious. If you use StumbleUpon or Digg, those are great platforms to
    share things with peers. Even google reader lets you do this kind of
    networking. But, it can certainly happen through any social networking
    platform or system that enables 1:1 communication.

    From a link building perspective, the ultimate goal of this level is to
    get invited to write a guest article for other people's blogs or
    website. For example, I wrote an article about inbound lead generation
    for Aaron Ross not too long ago. In the article, I linked to relevant
    resources on my blog and the HubSpot blog and site. These are great
    links from an authoritative source. Aaron reaches our target market
    sending relevant traffic. These links also help us rank for our target
    keywords.

    During this process, you're also building up a group of people that will most likely begin following you...

    Seniors Rule! (*12th Grade*): Links Other People Give You Because You Create Remarkable Content.

    This level is like the last month or two in high school when you've
    already passed mid terms and you've been accepted to the college of
    your choice. You've done the hard work already. Now, it's time to go to
    parties and enjoy being the care free big man on campus.
    You don't necessarily halt the activities above. But, you spend more of your time just creating remarkable content. (+And some link bait+.)

    At HubSpot, we do some guest articles once in a while and we optimize
    our press releases. But, mostly we just put time into churning out
    content on our blog and producing other online marketing resources like
    webinars and white papers. Some of you seem to think this stuff is
    pretty remarkable. As a result, it generally creates great
    conversations in our comments, strong attendance at our webinars and
    lots of white paper downloads. And regularly, people link to our
    webinar announcements and blog articles of their own accord.

    This doesn't start happening overnight, unless you're already famous.
    We have a lot of advantages at HubSpot. Website grader's success,
    funding in the bank, successful clients, smart founders who started
    blogging before they had a product and now... a lot of employees who
    contributor to the blog, a strong social media following, etc.

    But, we did it in few months. If you're a small business and you follow
    the path above, there's no reason why you can't stake your claim on the
    web. Link building is an important part of that. Hopefully, this post
    demystifies the process a bit and gives you a roadmap to get started.

    The biggest mistake that newbie internet marketers make is thinking
    that creating great content on their blog will be all it takes to be
    successful internet marketers. My biggest frustration is when newbie
    bloggers pack up shop after just a month of writing because the blog
    doesn't have an immediate impact on their search traffic and lead
    volume.

     

    Tags: building, link, links, optimization, seo, straight, straightalk, talk, website