Everyone who has tried to market a website will know how hard it is getting established. Getting those first, all important inbound links to your site can feel like an uphill struggle, especially if you’ve built ‘just another’ shopping website. You might think your new site is the best thing since Google, but to anyone else it’s yet another boring link exchange email.

The most obvious way of acquiring backlinks for your website goes like this:

i) Do a search in your favourite search engine for your chosen keyword
i) The send an email to the site owners of the sites you find asking for a link exchange.

I’ve done this sooo many times and to be honest I don’t know why I bother. It’s got to be one of the most frustrating and depressing things you can do online! After sending about 20 blandly worded emails out into the ether you’ll be left feeling totally disillusioned – I can guarantee it! But there are cleverer ways you can go about building links, and here are a few of my favourite suggestions.

Link Baiting

I’ve been reading a lot lately about ‘link baiting’. Linkbaiting is the latest SEO buzzword and the new favoured method of building inbound links to your website.

The idea is to create something on your site that naturally attracts inbound links from forums, blogs and social media sites like digg.com, del.icio.us, Furl, Shoutwire, Mixx and all the billions of other site’s that have popped up lately. The idea is to create something with a ‘buzz’ around it. Viral marketing isn’t anything new, but I’ve seen some really great examples lately, including the Facebook haters video made right here in good ‘ol Bristol. (Forget San Francisco, this is where it’s at lol). Anyway back to the post.

Here are a few possible ‘link baiting’ ideas.

1. Create something genuinely useful for the community. This could be releasing a part of your code that is particularly clever, or writing a neat Javascript library that does cool stuff.

2. Create some free web templates and leave little links at the bottom to one of your sites, then let people download them for free as long as they leave the links intact. Obviously many will remove them anyway, but a few honest people might provide you with a few backlinks.

3. Make something funny, like a movie or picture gallery, then post on the social networks.

4. Interview someone famous, then publish the article as an exclusive on your site.

5. Write something controversial.

6. Write an article and submit it to an article archive. Let people publish it on their website in exchange for a backlink. There are loads of article archives out there.

7. Build a useful tool. – SEO Book have done this with their keyword tool. A tool aimed at replacing the ever popular, but now sadly expired Overture keyword tool.

8. People love freebies, why not offer people some free stuff if they link back to you. Probably cheaper than buying a link in the Yahoo directory anyway 🙂

Other ideas for acquiring inbound links

Link baiting it just one approach, here are a few more tried a tested ideas.

1. Submit your site to link directories. – A little bit of an goldie olden this one. You’ll find ‘The Ultimate list of link directories’ floating around somewhere, although most are out of date. You can waste an awful lot of time on link directories (believe me!).

2. Offer unique ‘sponsorship’ opportunities on your website in certain categories. If you have a half decent shopping website for example, you could offer a merchant or partner site an exclusive link in the category most relevant to them. This is something we’ve been thinking about on a new price comparison site we’ve launched. As your browse each of the categories there’s a section at the top of the page that says ‘sponsored by’ then a site name and link. This is prime real-estate and made all the more eye catching with a funky javascript fade-in after the page has loaded.

Whether this will get any interest is anyones guess, but I’m thinking there could be a few other similar style opportunities out there. I’ve noticed some very cool page turning ‘ad’ effects on sites lately. Just make it a little different from the normal ‘pointless’ links pages and people might sit up and take notice.

Final Thoughts

This post was going to be all about the best way of acquiring inbound links, but that’s reminded me of another useful tip I picked up a little while ago about finding possible link partners. Instead of doing a search and contacting those site that come up for your chosen keyword, why not find out who’s linked to them, and go after them instead…? You can do this easily with Google. Just enter ‘link:www.competitorssite.com’ to see the links pointing to their site.

I hope you’ve been partially inspired at least to think of new and innovative ideas for getting links back to your site. It’s a bit of a challenge thinking up new ways to grab people’s attention, but it pays if you give it some thought and planning and have a proper strategy in mind for promoting your site online.

Marketing online is all about creative thinking, so go and put your thinking hat on, and just remember… In the words of Damon Killian, “Give the people what they want”.