Why links should be an important part of your SEO activity

What you may know already is that links should form part of any SEO campaign. What you may not be aware of is just how much of an incredibly powerful and influential component of the campaign they are. Some websites can even rank on page one of Google - for even the most competitive terms - based almost entirely on the makeup of their links, and with little to do with the content of their site.

For example, a search for the term 'click here' in Google delivers the Adobe Acrobat website as the most relevant result, even though the site does not mention those words once on its pages. Google has awarded the site that ranking for the sheer volume of sites that link to it with the words 'Click Here', within the context of driving users to the site to download the Acrobat Reader software.

What's in a name?
What this shows is the emphasis search engine algorithms place on the analysis of incoming links and their associated 'anchor text'. This is also the reason why so many sites with keyword embedded domain names rank so well for those terms - our own URL Greenlightdigital.com - is a case in point. So if you can squeeze a relevant word into your domain name, all the better.

Essentially, most of the ranking decisions made by the major search engines are based on the quantity, quality and context of a site's inbound links from other sites. Search engines work on the assumption that people linking to you suggests that these sites think you have something valuable to offer. As an indicator of your worth, reliability, popularity and significance, search engines have not found another indicator as meaningful, genuine or stable as the people who link to you. This has made link strategies a crucial part of the SEO armoury.

So how do you go about getting more links?
There are a number of ways to increase the number of links pointing in to your site, most of which rely on you having something of value to offer, say or share, that will compel people to talk and write about you, and link to you by extension.

Key methods include:

Sending out Press Release
Inviting guest bloggers onto your site
Being active in social media (Digg, Twitter, etc)
Syndicate your content, apps and tools around sharing sites
Inspiring awe and interest in what you do
Producing insightful research and opinion
Being controversial
Creating and deploying great link bait - video, articles, competitions, etc

Be careful!
But a word of warning, don't be tempted by those sites an emails that offer to generate huge numbers of links and ask you to pay! These methods use link farms and other risky techniques that are not natural but paid for and placed on sites that are usually irrelevant to your site and generally part of 'bad neighbourhoods'. These methods go directly against Google and the other search engines' terms of service and using them risks having you removed from the respective search engine indexes. These methods do initially work, but are quickly identified and punished.

However, that isn't to say that link building needs to be a painful, manual process. You should look at ensuring that with everything you do automatically, you consider the potential SEO benefit and allow that to be part of your standard way of running and marketing your business. For example, ask happy suppliers to link back to you from their own sites, ask a new well-known acquaintance in your sector to guest blog for you, etc, etc. Link building, and SEO generally for that matter, should become second nature in everything you do. That goes for social media too.

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