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Are you looking to increase traffic to your website? Of course you are! A great place to start is improving the way your site ranks in Google for keywords related to your business, products and services. The better you rank for those keywords, the more opportunities you get to introduce people to your business and turn them into customers and brand ambassadors. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is what will get you there. SEO is a complex but yet simple discipline. Simple in a way because most Web developers and marketers can come up with custom page titles, descriptions and alt tags for their content. This is what we refer to as on-page SEO. Complex because there are so many other factors that can influence the way a web page is ranked in search engines. As an example, Google uses a whole series of algorithms that will each look at different factors in order to give its users the most useful information. The goal here is not to identify as many ranking factors as possible like Hubspot did well on its blog but rather to highlight the importance of backlinks (or inbound links).

Backlinks and PageRank

For the non-technical among us, backlinks are links on other websites that are pointing to yours. Besides the obvious benefit of providing people with another way to find your website, they are important to SEO because of something called PageRank, a key algorithm originally developed by Google that ranks websites. PageRank counts the number and value of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the page is. This is based on the assumption that people are more likely to link to unique, high quality, and useful content. Think of it as a type of recommendation or reference system. The better your references are, the more likely you are to perform well in search.

Don’t abuse the system!

Since the early days of Google, website owners and SEO professionals found ways to cheat the PageRank algorithm in order to get more visibility for their website. Inevitably, their spamming practices affected the quality of the search results. Over the years, Google fought back with a few algorithm updates such as the Jagger and Penguin updates. Websites caught by these updates would often end up vanishing from the search results.

So how do I do it right?

Quality, relevancy, and variety over quantity is key. Do what is right for your business. Put your efforts into acquiring backlinks that would be the most valuable to your business if Google was taken out of the equation. It may seem counterproductive when your goal is to gain visibility in search results but this is the best way to benefit from your link building efforts while staying out of trouble.

Start with the obvious. Links from clients, partners, suppliers, associations you are a member of and organizations you sponsor should all be fairly easy to get. Link to your website from your social profiles and register for a listing into quality Web directories that are specific to your industry. Stay away from directories that are too generic or look sketchy and spammy. Also look at what your competitors are doing and who is linking to them. You might find some inspiration there.

Once you have done your initial homework, sit down with your team and come up with a strategy to get some editorial coverage. Create great content that is worth writing about and linking to. Share it on social networks, with the media, online magazines and bloggers. Guest blog on authoritative industry related websites. If you don’t have the resources internally, evaluate the pros and cons of working with a PR firm, marketing agency or freelancer. The bottom line is, link building done right is not easy. It requires knowledge, technical skills and experience. Before getting into it, you should first ask yourself if the performance of your website correlates with your revenue. If so, roll up your sleeves and start investing into it.