Inbound links or backlinks – links pointing to your website from another location – are a bit like site votes. They show that your content is valued by others and is being shared by them in their networks. When this occurs, your website is more likely to rank better with search engines.
At one time, a website’s ranking could be boosted by having copious numbers of backlinks. This led to the development of quick-fix link ‘schemes’ – networks that existed for the purposes of buying and trading links or creating automated links in order to manipulate search engine rankings.
These days, search engines are looking for backlink quality and relevance rather than quantity, and participating in such schemes could actually earn you some unwanted penalties! This means you need to work a bit harder to ‘earn’ your backlinks, by being audience-focused and providing top quality content on your site.
While some people might declare that link-building is no longer relevant, in fact backlinks still have a valid place in site rankings, which makes it important to take steps to build links for your site for small business SEO purposes. And not only for SEO purposes – when someone shares your content, it can also help to spread the word about your business among their friends and networks.
Building links through relationships
Human beings are social by nature. We all like being liked, connecting with, sharing with and helping others – or at least most of us do. Science tells us that we are wired this way for survival – after all most of us wouldn’t survive for long as Robinson Crusoe!
This applies in business as well as in everyday life. By its very nature, being successful in business requires the building of relationships and participating in networks of various kinds. By networking and engaging with others in our field we can influence others, be influenced by them, expand our businesses, gain new contacts and leads, and earn new customers.
These principles can also apply when it comes to link-building for your site. If you want to build more quality links, improve your search rankings, and expand interest in your site and your business, it’s better to do so from a relationship perspective, rather than one of just amassing copious numbers of links.
Building relationships can enable you to build links in an ethical and more natural manner with people who are genuinely interested in and impressed by what you do. This really needs to start with seeing the fellow human being behind the link rather than just the link itself.
Building links through networking – it’s all about engagement
By networking with others and building mutually-beneficial relationships with them, it becomes a lot easier to request favours, such as asking them to read link and share your content in their networks and offering to do the same for them.
Networking of course offers way more than this; it also provides opportunities to share concepts and ideas, to learn about new business or job opportunities, to expand interest in your business and to build your reputation. While there are no guarantees, this is more likely to result in people taking an interest in your site content and sharing it within their own networks.
Ways to network include:
- Attend trade shows – look for ones that your clients are likely to attend.
- Join professional associations in your industry.
- Attend seminars, conferences or other events that provide opportunities to meet and engage with people.
- Join your local Chamber of Commerce or other network groups in your area, and make yourself known to fellow attendees at meetings and events.
- Undertake training and development courses to expand your knowledge and to meet new people.
- Keep in contact with people you meet, through phone calls, emails, meeting up for coffee or golf, or through social media.
- Use social media platforms to develop online relationships and networks with like-minded individuals or to look for opportunities to meet up in person. Options include Facebook, Twitter, Meetup, Google Plus, and LinkedIn. Note that if you do participate on social media, make sure to follow others, comment on their pages and share any content you think will be valuable to your own audiences.
Tips for networking:
- Introduce yourself to people but avoid being pushy – you are there to build relationships, not make a sale.
- Make sure to take a stack of business cards with you when you attend live events.
- Be the genuine article – people can often sense when someone has an agenda or just wants something from them. When it comes to relationship building, sincerity is the key.
- Take a genuine interest in others – not only their business but also their interests and hobbies (and personal lives if they are willing to share with you!).
- Practice the ‘Golden Rule’ – give to others what you would like to receive.
When it all boils down it’s all about people – and engaging with them and developing mutually-beneficial relationships. This takes time to do, but the rewards can be well-worth the effort, including when it comes to link-building!