Why Links Matter to Grow Your Business

Right now, there is so much content on the Internet that just putting your website up, the digital equivalent of hanging out your shingle, is no longer enough. To get "discovered" on the Internet, you need to make sure that people can find you.

The easiest way to do this is by getting other people to talk about you, generate social media buzz and have influential people and blogs link to you. Google has over 200 ranking factors in their algorithm, and the links are one of the most important signals.

However, not all links are equal. The valuable links are those you earn by writing excellent and informative content that other, reputable sites want to link to. In fact, Google introduced their Penguin update to uphold the validity of every link.

This helps in two ways: first, people are more likely to click links on websites they trust. If they see that their trusted sources consider you a valuable source of information, they're more likely to click. Second, the more popular websites that link to you, the better ranking you'll have with Google, which is crucial for being found on search engines.

So how do you earn these links? Let's look.

Provide Value
The most important tip anyone can give you in terms of link earning (commonly referred as "link building") is that your website needs to provide value. People need to want to read it, or all the other tricks in the world aren't going to get you there.

Content marketing is considered a key part in the modern marketing plan. If content is not properly presented or proves to be misleading, there is a chance your plan will backfire.

"Value comes in many forms," says Abel Sekepyan, CEO of WP Events Planner. Perhaps your information is informative and interesting or opinionated and controversial. Maybe it's funny and intriguing. Possibly, it's a little bit sad, but in such a way that it motivates people to change and talk about it.

Write content that will make people react. Whatever your method of communication is, if the topic is not valuable--if people don't read it and think "My friend needs to hear about this"--you're not going to get the links through content marketing that you need. If you can't do this yourself, hire a content writer to do it for you. It's crucial.

• Be interesting
• Offer a fresh perspective
• Breathe life into your content
• Offer a new voice (simpler/more authoritative/more engaged/for a different target audience)

Leverage Your Networks
Once you have a great website with fantastic content, you need to let people know it exists. Yes, you can start by sharing on social media, but that's not going to get you the kind of backlinking that drives search improvement.

Are you a member of your university's alumni organization? Contact them and let them know about your website and how you can help their alumni or staff and ask them to link to it on their alumni page.

Are you part of a professional organization that's relevant to your website? Same thing.

What about your local Chamber of Commerce? The nearby chapter of the Small Business Administration? All of these organizations can provide valuable links to your website that increases your authority both with readers and with Google. Follow this simple formula:

• Contact those who might be interested in your website
• Explain the value of your website to them
• Ask them to link to your website if they think it's a valuable resource for their visitors

Link to Others
If you're going to ask for links, you should be prepared to offer them in return. If you're an author, you should link to other authors that you find inspirational. Review their books when they come out, and link to their websites or social media. After the post is published, reach out to them and ask them to republish or share your content on their website or social media channels.

If your blog focuses on tourism in your area, link to different tourist attractions that can be of interest to your customer base.

If you're a restaurant, link to the local market where customers can purchase your jarred sauces and ready-to-heat meals. Keep your links relevant and interesting to your customers, or your site will come across as spammy.

Host Interviews and Reviews
Whenever you ask someone to either interview you, or be interviewed by you (or review your product), you need to be prepared to answer the question: "What's in it for me?"

Be prepared to talk about what the interview will focus on, or the amazing benefits the reviewer will find in your product, or the number of visitors who come to your website and will interact with the interviewee's platform.

Be careful, however, of saying that the only benefit that a guest poster or interviewee will get is exposure. As many writers in particular are fond of reminding certain websites, exposure doesn't pay the bills.

• Offer guest bloggers, interviewers, and reviewers something concrete--maybe swap services?--in return for their work and time.
• Make sure that the people you're bringing in are of interest to your readers
• Encourage them to leverage their social network as well as yours to bring in readers for both of you.

Earning valuable links is one of the key steps in creating a marketing success that your business needs to succeed online. What's the number one tip you've used to build your market and create website viewers?