Guest advice by Hillary Bassett Ross of Kinetic Pencil

Although on-site optimization plays a substantial role in search marketing, no successful marketing effort is complete without an effective link-building strategy.

If you take away anything from this post, it is crucial you learn two things:

  1. Link-building is fundamental to ranking your site for a specific keyword or key phrase.
  2. Not all links are treated equal.

Link-building.

Improving the rank of your site is highly influenced by the number of links coming in to your site. This is because search engines view links as ‘votes’ toward your site’s credibility (and the keywords it interprets on your site). Once you have selected the key phrase you are targeting for your site, you need to generate an ongoing link-building strategy. A solid linking strategy includes creating a good site and interesting content AND actively pursuing linking opportunities from other people or sites.

  • Create and share interesting content. Give people a reason to link to you – generate contentthey need and can use. A blog is a great way to host your own content.

Once you have a great site, product, or content, chase down some links. Here are a few ideas:

  • Bloggers. Get featured by bloggers in your niche, or offer to write a guest post.
  • News. Look to online news outlets relevant to your industry or community and pitch them on why they should cover your product or service.
  • Customers. Be clever about how your current customers can link back to your site – maybe you write an overview about what you did for them, or have them list your on your site as a partner.
  • Events. Host an event, and be sure to promote the information (and your company or site) on a variety of news sites, blogs, event calendars, Twitter, etc. Do a blog write-up on how it went, and be sure to post some pictures.
  • Relevant directories. Look for industry lists or directories that can promote your site or service (and link to you). The operative word is relevant; link neighborhoods are important, so aim for links from the most authoritative, quality sites.

The link neighborhood.

In search, it is imperative you understand that not all links are weighted the same. This is where the link neighborhood comes in. Similar to the keyword stuffing, search engines are too smart to valueany link. Because search engines are in the business of providing the most relevant and credible search results, they look at the bigger picture: what types of sites are linking in to yours?

For example, imagine two sites are trying to rank for a specific key phrase and each of them have 5 links. One has links from link farms and low-quality sites, and the other has links from news sites, industry leader blogs, or other sites with credible editorial. The search engine will favor the latter. Your link neighborhood is important – you want a diverse portfolio of links from credible, trusted sites.

On paid links.

Bear in mind, Google frowns upon paid links. Do your due diligence in seeking authentic, quality links and be wary of paid link opportunities.

Search marketing is an ongoing, constant process. To stay a competitor in your niche, you must consistently be working to add quality links. And don’t forget that Google and Bing don’t owe you anything: Search engines can change their algorithms, which can also affect your ranking. This is part of the game, and in the case of search marketing, the best defense is a great offense.

Be thorough and strategic in your approach, and plan wisely for an ongoing effort to build relationships and garner quality links.

This article is written by Hillary Bassett Ross, a Principal with Kinetic Pencil. Kinetic Pencil provides marketing strategy and web development to help small- and medium-sized businesses win on the Web. Read more articles like this at www.kineticpencil.com, and connect with Hillary on Twitter @hillary_br