search engine optimisationThe mere mention of link building these days can cause decision makers to stamp their foot down with an authoritative “NO!” To be fair, it has been tarnished with a bad reputation thanks to dodgy link building practices like link farms.

That’s why Google introduced Penguin and devastated half the internet

But web users need links to other pages to help them find information they are looking for. And you need external links to increase traffic and broaden your online profile.
Despite the aggressive approach by Google, search engines still show favour to websites that include strong, genuine links. Fortunately, there are several excellent methods of building healthy links without upsetting the Penguin.

Content marketing

The best way to link build is through content marketing. By putting links to other sites in your posts, you are demonstrating your intention to share valid information. This gives you kudos with both readers and robots.

Links are categorised in one of two way; internal links and external links. Internals are embedded into the content of your website and can point to another page on your website or to a third party site using a hyperlink.

An external link is when a webmaster of a third party site links to your site. These type of links are excellent with SEO as search engines rank referred-to sites higher – so it helps greatly aids your page rank if you have a lot of external links.

However, this has complications.

Ideally, you want other webmasters to link into your site independently – so make sure you have unique and engaging content that offers value to readers. You also need to target an audience that is likely to provide you with an external link so pitch your content to marketers within your industry.

The best practice however is to write on a regular basis for industry magazines that have a good following.

The other drawback to content marketing is you need writing skills and the ability to write for the web. If you don’t have these skills you will probably need to hire a professional content writer which incurs costs.

Image Link Building

Image link building presents another opportunity, especially if you have great images on your site that other sites are using. You can give permission to others to use your images providing they acknowledge you as the source. This also helps your online branding.

Local links

The best way of scoring some easy links is through local businesses and freelancers you have hired. It may be that your company is partnered with other companies offering different services. They will probably want the favour returning, but it is polite business to promote each other on respective sites.

If you have worked with a freelancer, offer to give them a testimonial and ask them to direct a link back to your site. If your company is involved with a public event or gives money to charity, ask them to provide you with an external link.

You should also approach local directories that has a section relevant to your industry. Local business directories and journals are a good option together with the Chamber of Commerce. You may also have a site that reviews local businesses in your area.

Link Reclamation

If you have upgraded or migrated to another url, you may have lost some links. To check this, go to the “Crawl Errors” page in Google Webmaster Tools and make a note of any 404/dead pages.

It is also recommended that you use a software package to find sites that link to those pages. You can then either contact the webmaster and ask them to renew the inbound link, or create a 301 redirect from the 404/dead page to the new page. (contact them if you can as keeping 301 redirects to a mininum is advisable – we’ve seen many a site with 301 redirect chains (301 -> 301 -> 301 -> 301 etc – not healthy).

Despite webmasters abusing link building in the past, the practice still has its uses, and search engines rely on link creation to improve the functionality of the internet. Providing you employ best practices and fall within Google’s Link Scheme guidelines you will be favoured by search engines and will not receive a penalty.