In the early years of website development, it was pretty common to put up a simple website (or a single web page) and then be done with it. As if checking something off your list. Website launched: check!
The problem is some businesses still have this mindset.
I had a discussion last week with a senior vice-president at a company who launched their website in 2005, and he admitted that until recently, the site essentially really hasn't been touched. It's 2015! "You're telling me your website has essentially been static for 10 years?!" (It's more common than you might think.) In companies like his, most of the time, they've never thought of their website as an untapped channel for driving sales interest. The main reason the VP came calling was that he heard about Google's pending algorithm update, which aims penalize websites that aren't mobile-friendly. Unfortunately for this company, in addition to the website being outdated and stale, it's not even close to being mobile-friendly—meaning he probably needs a major website overhaul.
Now, you're probably thinking: If the site's 10 years old, then why does this guy even care about SEO? My thoughts exactly. Aside from not being mobile and having stale content, when I took a look at the website, it was clear that the VP knew very little about SEO, and his reaction to the latest change toward mobile-friendliness was more an emotional response than a logical decision. If he really understood Google and its updates, he'd know that not having a mobile site is far from the company's worst marketing problem.
Pay Attention to the Modern Fundamentals of SEO
New updates like being mobile-friendly or having an effective design are far less important than SEO fundamentals because they hold less value in Google's ranking algorithm. Today, in lieu of the recent buzz surrounding mobile SEO, I'd like to re-emphasize the importance of the top variable in search engine optimization—and that's the number of other websites linking to your website (i.e. "inbound links").
These links are like votes of credibility for your website. The more you have, the more legitimate your website looks to search engines. That's why Wikipedia nearly always appears among the first few results for most subjects on the web. Millions upon millions of websites link to Wikipedia to give credit to a definition or to link users to an in-depth article. Because Wikipedia is such a content-rich, informative website, Google's algorithm can't help but offer it as a top result. If Wikipedia had poor content no one would link to it, so in more ways than one, attracting and building inbound links is a game of building better and better content.
That leads me to the questions everybody in SEO is trying to answer: How hard is it to get more of these inbound links? What are the best ways to foster link building? And how can I get links quickly to improve my SEO fast?
Organic Link Building
The first camp for link building would say your focus should be on an "organic" approach.
These are links your website accumulates over time from other websites that made the decision on their own (not prompted by you) to link to your home page or another page on your site. These might be company listings in business directories, trade associations your company belongs to, conferences you've sponsored or participated in, or a business partner of yours.
If your company has a blog (if not you should) and you're regularly updating it with fresh and interesting content, you'll begin to experience growth in organic links to your blog content from other industry blogs and websites.
In the modern day of SEO and the strict rules on link building best practices that Google has introduced, organic links are like gold. The trouble is they take time to accumulate. So be patient but start publishing regular content to really help fuel this type of link building, and monitor who you're getting these links from and what they're linking to. If a certain type of content garners lots of links – keep writing that type of content.
Proactive Yet White Hat Link Building
The next camp of link building still follows best practices of modern link building but takes a more proactive approach. Instead of waiting for credible inbound links to come to you, you seek them out, starting with the lowest hanging fruit.
If you belong to various trade associations and you see they link to their members' websites, be sure your website is on the list and receiving a link. If you attend and sponsor a lot of conferences or trade shows in your industry, be sure they're giving you a link.
This takes some work but as you start to build a nice library of blog content and online resources or tools, seek out other websites and blogs that could link to your great content – if you can make the case that their readers would benefit having access to your content. To increase your chance of success with this approach offer to do the same for them on your website or blog.
The key here is to use a manual process and build these links over time. Obtaining a couple hundred links in a month will look suspicious to Google and could result in a penalty that ruins your search rankings.
For other ideas on proactive link building ideas, read our article "Link Building Tips for the Busy Business Owner".
Paid Link Building – Avoid This Approach!
By all means, avoid paid link building like the plague. It's possible you've been approached in the past by overseas SEO companies offering to get you links for a fee. Hopefully you've ignored these offers.
These aren't organic or legitimate links and usually fall in the category of spammy link building that Google has cracked down on with their Penguin update introduced in 2012 that continues to evolve with new updates.
Keeping link building top of mind as an ongoing activity with maintaining your website is key. It's not a one-time thing you can check off your list and there's no easy way about it. Link building takes work. Hopefully this article shed some light on the need for inbound links and how to obtain them the right way.