A Beginners Guide to Link Building

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Recently, we provided the answer to the question “What is link building?” in which we explained that link building was a process most website owners go through to encourage other sites to link to their own in an effort to improve search engine rankings.

In this article we begin the process of explaining how to do that.  Because understanding what link building is is one thing. Implementing some sort of action plan is an entirely different thing.  So let’s start with some of the basics:

Why would one need to perform link building?

Well, as we said above, link building is getting other sites to link to you.  But why is this important?  Consider it in these terms:  Links are like votes for your site – the sites with the most votes tend to rank higher than sites with fewer votes.

Granted this is a very simplistic view of link building but for the purposes of this article it describes why nicely.  In other words, if you want to see your site at the top of the search results, you need links.

So how do you get links?

Like anything, getting links to your site begins with research.  And research begins with knowing just what you want to rank for.

What are your most important search terms?  More specifically what will YOUR customers use to find YOUR website?

Take yourself out of your office and consider some of the generic or non-industry terms people will use to find a site like your own.  While this may sound easy, it’s been my experience that in many cases it is not.

That is because all too often, the business owner is so wrapped up in their business and its day-to-day operations that they can’t take a step back.  They can only think in technical terms, or industry specific phrases that the average person may not know.

For example, take an automotive body shop that might specialize in the latest techniques using a “downdraft spray booth” or use a “heat baking” process to help give their clients a better finish.  Do you really think the average searcher knows or even cares that they need to find a company that uses a downdraft spray booth?  The short answer is no.

The average searcher will be looking for something like: “autobody repair” or “fix my car’s paint” or “Dent removal”.  All terms are non-industry specific, generic terms.

Keeping that in mind, try and do some searches as your typical customer – Identify 10-20 terms they would use to find your site.

Be sure to keep a record of those terms – they are important and will form the basis of your link building.

What do I do if I can’t come up with that many terms?

Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out how people will find you.  Not to worry there are lots of free tools you can use online to figure out how your site might get found online.

For example, Google offers a keyword tool as part of its research suite of tools.  While this tool is designed to help advertisers find search phrases they can pay for (pay per click), it is also handy for helping find terms you can use to rank for organically.

Simply visit the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to help you find suggestions.  All you need is one phrase to start.  And if you are even stuck on one search phrase, not to worry – you can get the tool to analyze your website and bring back suggestions.

As a side note, this is also a great tool to help you find phrases you could optimize your site for, but that’s a whole other article.

So now that you have some suggestions from Google (don’t forget to save them somewhere) begin searching.  Use those phrases and do some searches on Google and other engines to see who is currently ranking there.  These are your online competitors.

Now I know what you’re going to say – “But these aren’t my competitors.  I’ve never even heard of half of these guys!”

While that may be true to you, in terms of Google and the online space it isn’t.  You’re still thinking “Brick and Mortar”.  You are thinking about the competitor of yours who is down the street or around the corner.  However, your competition online is the entire world if they are optimized for a search term you want to rank for.

So, keep that in mind and take a look which websites are ranking on the first page and make note of them.  Do this for all your important search phrases and gather a nice big list of all the websites and web pages you will be competing with for those searches because in my next article I’m going to explain how you are going to use your competition to help you and they won’t even know they’ve done it!

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