Who's your company's best link builder? My hunch: you are, if you're a CMO, SVP, or VP of Marketing. You're building links and partnerships every day for your company's brand.
If you're not, then you need to understand the value of inbound links to your Web site. Eventually, you need to develop a cohesive strategy for building links -- a plan that can be integrated into your comprehensive marketing strategy.
The many different ways to focus your link building efforts makes developing a sophisticated strategy difficult. While we're going to review a few different link building opportunities, we won't cover them exhaustively (for advanced strategies and tactics, read Justilien Gaspard and Sage Lewis regularly). Instead, today's column will focus on how you decide your approach.
Here are a few examples of link building tactics:
Link Building the Old Fashioned Way: Identify sites that will find the content on your site relevant and interesting and ask them for links. Success on this strategy depends on having great content, tools, or both on your site. Remember, people don't link to your site to help you make money, so you need to give them a reason to link to you.
Develop Content for Third Party Sites: Many magazines, blogs, and other Web sites are constantly looking for high quality content. There may well be many of these in your market space, and they'll probably provide clear attribution back to the site of the author.
PR and SEO PR: Basic public relations work can bring great rewards. Using a PR firm can bring major visibility and benefits. Get into a highly influential blog, or into a major magazine, and you could have links come pouring into your site.
Social Media Sites: For example, social tagging sites such as del.icio.us and StumbleUpon can certainly bring traffic to your site. They're not that well-known for link building benefits. If a major influencer in your space learns about you through them, you can certainly get link building benefits as well.
Widgets and Other Tools: The advent of widgets has created tremendous visibility to the concept of developing tools intended for distribution to third party Web sites. The old fashioned way of doing this was with a hit counter.
The problem with tools such as a hit counter: the links you'll receive probably won't be relevant to your site. Success in this strategy in today's environment requires that you distribute relevant widgets and/or tools.
Viral Videos: You can also develop videos related to your business. BlendTec's series of videos, under the title of Will It Blend is truly a classic example of a video that went viral, but more importantly, effectively communicated the brand message of the company at the same time.
Directory Links Yes, this still is a viable option if you pick the right directories. You need to look for directories that have a strong and respected editorial policy, in particular, one respected by the search engines.
There are hundreds of variants of these major approaches to link building. There are also a couple tactics I don't recommend.
Next week, why you should never buy links; almost never swap links; and critical questions you must ask when building link strategies.