How Do I Build Links?

I get asked this many times by site owners old and new. There is not a simple answer to that. question; though I do try. But I also understand that a response that doesn’t contain anything really solid and actionable can be just as frustrating as no response.

In an ideal world, you wouldn’t build links. People would see your site, be suitably impressed by your offerings and freely recommend it on the internet, thereby building links to your site for you. In a nutshell, that is Google’s advice.

Can you have the most amazing content and would Google just find it, and serve it up to searchers ? I am not convinced. Put very simply, Google uses a lot of different signals to rank content and have moved a lot away from valuing on-page content in favour of trying to assess how users like your site. You need traffic.

Also, think. If a website suddenly acquired hundreds of links but had no other signals that would normally occur when a website is naturally linked and shared, wouldn’t that look a bit suspicious? Again, you need traffic. ‘Natural and organic traffic’

What I would recommend is not trying to ‘build links’ as the end-purpose. Instead look to build traffic. This is because a project of ‘building links’ isnt really well defined. You don’t know whether the links you would be building would be seen by Google,  or counted by Google to assist your rankings, more than likely you wouldn’t know even if the links could be harmful to your site and cause a manual or automated penalty. And at the end of the day, if you had a ‘successful’ project and built 500 links, that is not income, sales or customers.

Building traffic is different from building links because you would embark on that project for the sole purpose of getting genuine, targeted visitors onto your site. (Of course you can build traffic right away by spam blasting with some shady link package, but 10,000 visitors from Mongolia aren’t likely to convert into cash, I meant genuine targeted customers.)

Looking to build traffic is different for each and every site, this is why there is no ‘one-size’ answer. What do you sell? How are you different from other sites in the same genre? What value do you add? What type of people do you see as your customers? What searches do people do when buying or researching your product range? etc. Every site can find a way to  stand out from the rest. Even if you are selling in a genre that is occupied by the ‘big boys’ you can be different by being smaller, offering personal service and adapting to change rapidly.

Once you know what you are offering and why people should buy from you over and above the rest you can start to promote your site in the places where your target audiences would be.  These might be forums, blogs, social networks, groups and so on.

For communities, you probably won’t be able to start promoting your site the minute you join up. Just the same as you wouldn’t walk unknown into a social club and start selling your wares, you would get to know the community first and establish yourself.

If the long approach above doesn’t suit you, then look at the same type of places for advertising placements or paid editorials to get your name out, be sure to track all the traffic so you know what is worthwhile continuing with.

Google adwords will bring in visitors quite quickly and their product listing ads are perfect for ecommerce sites, we have seen some great successes.

Ask your customers to leave reviews on external websites. Whilst there are some spammy review sites, there are also a couple of good ones which might be useful.

Ask your customers to ‘like’ you on social networks and perhaps offer them a discount code if they do. And be sure to keep your social pages updated with fresh information, or, if you don’t update your social pages then don’t link to them from your website, Because that is like sending customers to a dead-end and doesn’t give the right impression.

Some blogs run very popular competitions, consider contacting them and offering one of your products as a prize. Be careful though, a lot of people have started ‘competition’ blogs and they are not all as good as each other, so research the traffic and visitors as much as you can.

Some other blogs review products and same as above, do your research before you send any product. Ideally you would find a collection of bloggers who you would end up having a long-term beneficial business relationship. But it wont happen overnight and not all bloggers are reliable.

Some customers love leaving video reviews and some genres can do very well with these, but not all. Have a look for your product area and see if any review type videos are currently uploaded. Of course it doesn’t mean it is a no-go if there isn’t any, it might mean no-one has done any so you have a big opportunity or  it might mean that a slightly different approach is needed.

If you have great product images, then pinterest could be a good place to showcase them. I don’t think that pinterest will produce returns for every type of site and whilst I have never used it myself, I think the visitors are more USA based. Take a browse to see whether it is something suitable for you.

Your own youtube channel could be something well worth doing if you can give more information on your products, like tutorials. Especially ones which appeal to a greater market than just your local customers. Avoid uploading pure promotional videos.

Once you have gone to all the trouble of getting customers purchasing on the site, keep in touch with them via newsletters. Don’t wait until you have hundreds or thousands of email addresses to bother sending an email because if you do then you might find that many of these would have forgotten you by the time you get round to emailing them.

Hopefully you get the general idea about building traffic and you can apply some ideas to your website and your marketing. But before you do start, be sure to check over your website. Do you have clear delivery prices ? Do you have your contact details  on display ? Remove any out -of-date messages. Maybe even add a dated message like ‘November 2013 News’ Make sure your site looks like there is ‘someone behind it’