When you build a brand new website, it’s very much an unknown quantity for Google and other search engines. They don’t know how good the quality of your site is, so they don’t know how high up it should appear in the search results. They use complex algorithms that assess the relevance of a site using on-site factors, such as those we describe in our previous SEO post. But there’s another important ‘ranking factor’ we haven’t mentioned yet, and that’s the number and quality of the links from other sites to yours.
Links to your site aren’t just beneficial for the new visitors they bring. Search engine algorithms regard links as endorsements of your site, and the bigger and more important the site linking to yours, the better. Links from a high-ranking, established domain like bbc.co.uk are worth more than links from small, newly launched sites. While links from powerful domains like the BBC are difficult to come by, there are plenty of other things you can do as a small business owner to grow the number of reputable links to your site. Here are some ideas to help you get started.
Social media profiles
Quite apart from the many other business benefits of being on social media, your profile pages on these sites are a good place to begin building links to your site. As you can see in the example from our Twitter profile below, most social media profile pages have a space for you to add your website link. Setting up profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube/Google+ and other social networking sites gives you easy links from reputable domains, so if you’re not already taking advantage of social media, this is just one of the reasons to start now.
It’s worth pointing out that links in social media posts haven’t been shown to have a direct SEO benefit, i.e. a link in a Facebook post does not equate to a link in an article on the web. However, there is a direct correlation between how well a website ranks in search engines and how active and successful a website is on social media. Why? Most likely because an active social media presence means that more people will be finding your content and therefore you’ll naturally attract more links from elsewhere. The lesson? Get your content out there.
Writing for other sites
Writing for other websites is a great way to gain exposure for you and your brand, getting your opinions and expertise in front of new audiences of potential customers. For example, if you run a garden centre, you could explore opportunities for writing informative posts for websites that are dedicated to gardening. Not only will this benefit your overall business profile, but you should be able to use these opportunities to link back to your own site, either in the article itself or in the short ‘author bio’ you’ll probably be required to provide along with your article. To find writing opportunities, try contacting blogs or websites you enjoy reading yourself and offering to contribute or try Googling phrases such as “write for us” along with terms related to your business (such as ““write for us” gardening”).
To-do: identify websites and blogs writing about topics connected to your business
Bloggers and PR
Good old-fashioned PR still has a place in business, though for smaller companies it can be difficult to gain exposure beyond the local press. That’s why the rise in blogging is good news. There are blogs dedicated to virtually any topic you’d care to mention, with lifestyle, fashion and beauty blogs particularly popular at the moment. Many of these bloggers are happy to provide product reviews or other kinds of media exposure in return for free samples and/or a fee, which is a great way of getting your products in front of interested new audiences. If you do decide to go down this route, make sure you request a link back to your website; established blogs with a big readership will have strong domains that will help give your site a boost in the search results, as well as driving traffic.
The link building ideas we’ve outlined here will help to raise the profile of your website, so don’t neglect the content on your own site. If you devote some time to creating interesting blog posts, infographics or other content related to your business, and you share it on social media, you might find that others start linking to your site without you even asking them to.