While search engine optimization experts and brand managers have debated the efficiency of links for some time and the future of link building has become questionable to some, word from Google's headquarters is that links still matter and will continue to matter in the future.
However, how they are earned and how reputable they are may be changing.
According to Matt Cutts, Google's head of web spam, link building is still a critical aspect of an effective SEO campaign. According to Cutts, for link building to be helpful, sweat and creativity are necessary. This means going beyond the old-fashioned buying of links and into the world of earning them. One important step?
Using real world, in-person connections.
Since credibility now matters more than ever before, one of the best ways to build links is through real-life connections. This doesn't mean you have reason to worry if you don't have a large network; it just means now is the time to start working on it.
How do you do it? Consider a few of the ideas listed below.
Start with Those You Know
Think about your current network. Whether you're a website marketing a product or service, or a blogger for a niche industry, chances are you have some sort of following. Whether it's comprised of customers or other professionals, there are people who know what you do and have interacted with you in one way or another. Why not start the old-fashioned way by reaching out to them?
A letter, personal email or phone call to announce your new website or initiative could work wonders. Offer to share their link on your site if they reciprocate. Simply gauge their reaction to your announcement prior to asking. Chances are high they'll be on board with helping in your link building efforts, especially if you offer to do the same for them.
Join a Chamber
Local business chambers and chapters of professional organizations exist with the sole purpose of connecting professionals with other like-minded professionals. Unlike trade shows and networking events that rely on one-time encounters to start conversations and increase awareness, these organizations create regular opportunities for networking and relationship-building that can be hard to come by elsewhere.
Look into which professional organizations or chambers are nearby and reach out to them. Find out if you could come to their next meeting to learn more. Find one that fits your goals and vision for networking and join. In addition to gaining exposure, you'll be entitled to other benefits that could include speakers and conferences, discounts and any number of other things.
Host an Event
Everyone likes to feel appreciated. Why not host a "thank you" to those who've helped you grow your business while inviting new prospects? In this case, hosting a networking event could work wonders.
Put together a targeted list of attendees and send out invitations online and through snail-mail. Announce the purpose of the event - networking - along with any door prizes that you might be able to offer in raffle format for those who take the time to show up. Showcase your excitement to get others just as excited.
While the event is taking place, do your best to interact with those who show up. Casually bring up your link building efforts and how much youâ€™d appreciate any shares. You could be surprised by the positive responses you receive. A simple event could go a long way.
Attend and Consider Sponsoring an Established Trade Show
If you're not ready to host your own event, don't worry. There are trade shows taking place around the country and world every single day. Chances are, there are a few near you that are already slated to take place in the near future.
Trade shows are a great way to meet others in your industry and learn about ways to enhance your business, so sometimes showing up is good enough. However, if you're interested in really making an impression, signing up as a trade show sponsor or setting up a display at the trade show might be more effective.
By setting up your own trade show display, you're giving people a reason to come learn about your business. When they stop by, start conversations, share what you've been up to, and get to know what their needs are. When possible, work asking for links into your conversations. At the very least, you'll bring awareness of your business to a whole new audience. In the best-case scenario, you'll also earn a few links.
Look for Advertising Opportunities Offline
Online advertising offers excellent opportunities for reaching specific demographics and target audiences, but local options may be more affordable. Local newspapers are constantly looking for advertisers. Likewise, school and church events, fundraisers and other functions often offer spots for advertisers and sponsors. By taking steps to increase your local exposure, you'll be opening the door for future conversations and relationships. These could very easily turn into link-building opportunities.
Building links offline doesn't have to be complicated. It does, however, require a little extra effort and creativity. Take the time today to look for new opportunities and jump in. Your efforts will pay off in the long run by providing credible links that boost your search rankings.
About The Author:
Adrienne Erin writes weekly for online marketing strategies that help businesses succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to get in touch, or visit Design Roast to see more of her work.
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