Google and its search engine brethren don’t operate their analytics as a democracy, so keeping up with their link thinking is tough. In the world of search engines, it’s their game, their rules, especially for Google. This isn’t a bad thing. Google keeps moving the bar in any direction it thinks will meet the goal of giving searchers exactly what they’re looking for, and our searches are better for it.

If customers aren’t flocking to your door, you’re going to have to play Google’s game, and the game they like to play means link building. You’ve got three varieties to work with: internal, external and inbound links.

Internal Links

These are links between pages on your website.

  • Make sure that each page is linked to at least one other page so the search engine spiders can see them.
  • Add links between pages where it makes sense for the viewer to jump from one section to another. Do whatever it takes to give the user control over where they go and when, even if it means skipping around your site.
  • If you’re still using a “click here” call to action button, stop it. Search engines like links from real words (known as “anchor text.”) For example, “Here’s our guide to composting,” not, “For our guide to composting click here.”

Internal links are the easiest to manage and completely in your control.

External Links

These are links from your site to other’s sites.

  • Link from your site to sites where your customers can get more information. Provide links to product manufacturers, customers who use your products, or organizations with information about what you sell (like a government agency or a non-profit.)
  • Give credit on your blog posts to your information sources, and link to their sites. Let the sources know you mentioned them. They may want to link back to your blog.
  • Tell great stories, and show where you got your information. If you sell a brand of ice cream that is made at a local dairy with an interesting story to tell, link to the dairy’s website.
  • Make your site newsworthy. Link to trade shows, associations, local calendars and charities.

Although time-consuming, external links are easy to create and don’t require outside approval.

Inbound Links

These are links to your site from other sites. Inbound links, or “backlinks”, require a lot of time and outside cooperation. You can’t make others backlink their sites to you. You have to earn these links by establishing relationships.

  • Go to the blogs you follow. Keep up with the conversations and post your comments. Both ask questions and answer them. Be a sincere resource, even on a competitor’s blog.
  • One step up from blog commenting is guest posting. Contact site owners and ask to contribute posts. Create a name for yourself through another blog’s following.
  • Publish articles and press releases. If they’re picked up, your byline and your link are published on other sites. These links count, too.

The links with the highest rewards are the ones that you have the least amount of control over. These are the “natural” links that come to you because your content is great, not because you’ve prompted anyone to look your way. They are the hardest to get and the most valuable.

Link building is the quantum mechanics of SEO. It’s complicated, completely out of your control and constantly changing. If this has given you enough information to make you curious (or frustrated), and you want to take on some serious link-building, you might want to find an SEO expert.