Way back in the old days, say 2004 or so, link building was a simple proposition:  I link to you, you link to me, we get better positions in the search engines, I’m happy, you’re happy, everybody wins.

In 2005, Google began personalizing search results for each user.  Depending on their history of previous searches, Google crafted results for logged in users.  The rejiggered search algorithms caused a negative impact on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and reciprocal linking (either puposely or incidently) and became a waste of time at worst, ineffectual at best.  Sites that exchanged links with each other basically cancelled each other out.  A newer method was to triangulate links with Site A linking to Site B and Site B linking to Site C and Site C linking to Site A.  And then in August 2009, Google announced the rollout of a new search architecture, codenamed “Caffeine”. The new architecture was designed to return results faster and to better deal with rapidly updated information from services including Facebook and Twitter, further diminishing the old reciprocal link methodology but giving increasing creedence to social media and one way links.

Whew!

So why bother at all you might ask?

Because in The New World Order of search engine rankings, mainly established by Google,  the search giant has determined that various link schemes were trying to game the system (read Google’s take on link building here).   But at the same time, Google was placing even more value on inbound links for determining what content was relevant to the keywords typed into their search window nearly 11 billion times a month!

Bottom line:  inbound links are a “vote” of confidence in the eyes of Google.  The more inbound links a page or a website has the more important that page must be in terms of relevancy, popularity and importance, etc.  And for Google, it’s ALL about relevancy.

BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME?

And according to Google, the best way to get natural, organic inbound links is via the “Field of Dreams” method:  Build it and they will come.

Which, from a business perspective, is not always practical and can take months if not years to achieve based on organic results alone.

So should you abandon an inbound link building strategy completely?  Absolutely not. 

While you want to avoid getting just ANY type of inbound links (avoid Link Farms at all costs) you can definitely help the process along.

Here are some strategies, as part of a well-rounded inbound linking plan, that you can use to proactively generate and attract quality, relevant, inbound links:

INBOUND LINKING TACTICS

Guest Blogging – You already blog diligently for your own business, right?  Try reaching out to some relevant blogs that you read and follow and offer to provide them with an original article.  While the article will be well-written and informative  and not self-serving or salesy, you can expect to be able to add a link back to your own site as part of the author resource box or writing credit.   To find blogs that allow do-follow links (many blogs do not allow the value of your return link to impact the search engine ranking for reasons too  numerous to get into here) you can check out Do-Follow directory sites such as DoFollow.info and Followlist.comFYI, this blog is do-follow so you get the value of any posts or comments you make here.

Blog Commenting – Not up for writing well-researched and documented blog posts?  A great way to get started blogging is by commenting on other, related blogs.  Every blog comment you make can include a link back to your own site either from your profile link or within the comment itself.  Again, use the do-follow directory links above to find blogs that definitely allow your “link juice” to flow where you want it to — back to your own site. 

Press Releases – Assuming you have some genuine “news”, press releases are a great way for generating inbound links back to your website.  Many professional press release distribution services like PRWeb or PR Newswire allow you to add multiple keyword links throughout the body of your press release.  When your release gets picked up by Yahoo! News or USAToday.com with a link back to your site, that can have  a huge positive impact on your search engine rankings.  Here’s a great article that explains the benefits of press releases in improving your SEO.

Article Syndication – Similar to press release distribution, article syndication via sites such as EzArticles.com and others can be used to seed your own links around the Internet.  An added side benefit is that other people and business owners who read these article repository sites can use the content for their own sites provided they keep the author resource box with your link intact, spreading your content and links even further.  Here’s a great article on Article Marketing 101.   One bit of confusion that sometimes dogs the article syndication concept is the concern over duplicate content.  Rather than explain it here, read this useful tutorial about duplicate content in Google’s own words.  Bottom line:  article syndication is fine as long as each article links back to the original writer.  It’s when you buy and distribute Private Label Rights content that someone else wrote and you slap your name on it that you run into trouble.

Social Media – And last but certainly not least is social media.  In case you thought (or hoped) social media was a passing fad, I can assure you that from an SEO perspective, it’s not.  In fact, Google has given so much weight to social media “shares” “likes” and “tweets” that social media’s impact is really the “new inbound link.”  Read our past blog post that features a video in Google’s own words about how drastically social media is directly impacting search.  To use social media to your own advantage make sure to create a business Facebook page and a Twitter account and link them together.  Or if you don’t want to engage in social media, at the very least, add social media sharing tools to your own website so OTHER people an share your content if they want.  This is assuming you have content worth sharing.

BOTTOM LINE:  Content creation is the new lead generator — the new marketing medium.  More content and more inbound links equals more search engine traffic, leads, prospects and sales.  If you want to have success online you’ve got to suck it up, roll up your sleeves and engage!  You know when you start seeing Twitter hastags on TV commercials it’s time to join the party.  So get out there!