link-building-strategySearch engine optimization, more commonly referred to as SEO in the world of online marketing, is very complex, and ever changing. Google, wouldn’t be a verb, and we would get more SPAM results than you can shake your fist at (do people still do this?). As we stay on top of the latest white hat SEO tactics, (playing by the rules of Google) one thing is for certain–link building is the one of the best things you can do for your site.

Why Does it Work?
The best way to describe why link building is so effective, is thinking of link building as building your “Google cred.” Google cred is just like street cred, but geekier. The more websites linking back to you that Google finds relevant (high page rank for example) the more your website looks relevant. Over the last few years, as website owners have started to realize more people are doing link building for part of their SEO strategy, the harder it has become to get links back to your site. Harder yes, but not impossible.

Where to Start
When starting any link building strategy, I like to first decide which pages in my site are worth the extra effort. Link building is effective, but is VERY time consuming. For smaller sites, I usually point to the home page, and usually the “hire us” or other type page. Once you figure out which pages are worth the time for link building, you should create a few keywords to use for each page. If you don’t know where to start for keyword research, Google’s Keyword Tool is a great place. I plan writing a more in-depth post on link building soon, so stay tuned for that.

Where to Look
Once you have decided which pages to target, and the keywords you would like to use, the next step is to find sites you would like your links on. What blogs are there in your industry? Are there other resource sites that list similar sites as yours as a good resource? The key to link building is to find sites that are relevant in your area of expertise. I can write all I want about SEO, but a site dedicated to making jewelry probably won’t care about my website.

As a link builder, I couldn’t live without SEOmoz, they have wonderful tools for SEO pros, and are very affordable ($99 a month). If you can’t afford the monthly bill, don’t worry, they have a WONDERFUL SEO toolbar that is completely free. The two tools I use most from the tool bar are the nofollow button (it highlights in pink any link that Google won’t see i.e nofollow) and Open Site Explorer.

Knowing what links are followed or not followed in a site can tell you if the blog/site owner will allow followed links (the kind you want) in their posts. If author bios  have links, but aren’t followed, Google doesn’t see these links and doesn’t give you any credit for them. However, if the site is extremely popular, it could be worth getting your website’s name on there just for the pure fact of getting your name out to the right people, so don’t always disregard nofollow links.

Open Site Explorer is a wonderful tool. You can see what websites link back to the site you are looking at–opening you up to more ideas for your own link building success. If you are looking at site A and see that sites B,C and D all link back to site A chances are sites B,C and D will link back to your site as well.

I also like to check the PageRank of a site, to see how relevant Google finds it. Again, a smaller PageRank isn’t necessarily bad if you know it is a well-known site in your industry. A great tool I use is SeoQuake, it tells you the PageRank and other metrics such as the Alexa rating.

Once you have a good number of sites you feel would be a good fit in your linking portfolio, it’s time to start pitching. Pitching is something you can perfect over time, so start slow and build up a great portfolio.

What tools and tactics have you found useful for link building? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Credit: Web Rank