What are inbound links?
Inbound links are links that are directed towards your site from another site. These are the most valuable links that a website can have. They are not configured on the website itself. There are several strategies for generating inbound links.
The easiest way is by uploading content with links to your site onto article submission sites. These sites allow you to upload your content into sections that are relevant to your business. Their feeds are then picked up by other sites, and before you know it, your content is being syndicated over dozens of sites. Most of the time, they keep the linking structure intact. So if your articles contain embedded links to your site, you’ve got an inbound link that the search engines can see! Just make sure that whatever you do, the links are from quality article submission sites.
Another way to generate inbound links that are much harder but worthwhile are establishing rapport with webmasters of sites with high page rank and getting them to agree to upload your content (with embedded links to your site) onto their sites. This can work great with .edu and .org sites, which are, by nature, more non-biased and non-commercial sources. This also means they are probably more likely to help you out than commercial .com or .net sites. Simply start serving them up free content for their site that is well-written and a lot of the time they will gladly accept it. You scratch their website’s back, they’ll scratch yours.
Still another option for generating inbound links to your site is by link baiting. Scour message boards and blogs relevant to your business, and write helpful posts that contain direct reference to resources on your website. For example, if you are a Porche auto parts dealer, it would make sense to visit the exotic car message boards. If you find a post on how someone’s having a really tough time finding a “Porche widget”, then that’s your golden opportunity to pitch in on how a “Porche widget” isn’t THAT hard to find if you know where to look. Even if the perfect setup doesn’t present itself, you can easily join a relevant community and start posting there with your site in your sig file. What’s the worst that could happen? Someone on the forum may like the site and reward you with a link on their site.
The final, cost-prohibitive, and slightly risky/shady way of gaining inbound links is by outright purchasing them. There are tons of link brokers out there who stand in an alley in cyberspace, opening a ratty briefcase full of link positions on pages of various rank. The expensive part comes in where getting a relevant link from a page with a great flow of traffic will cost you a lot. And as soon as you stop paying, the traffic and SEO benefits soon go away. The slightly-against-the-nature-of-the-search-engine’s-TOS aspect of this kicks in when it has become obvious that Google, amongst others, largely frown upon directly paying someone (other than themselves) for ranking and traffic. Eventually their complex algorithms (or a dedicated team with human eyes) will seek out those sites who are brokering links and punish them for the practice. So if you’re really lazy, then why not buy a link? But beware, and also be prepared to sink a ton of cash in the process… not to mention possibly open yourself to having a difficult time figuring out which link brokers are trustworthy and which aren’t.
What is reciprocal linking?
We like to put this question in with inbound linking because it is still valuable to set up reciprocal links on your site. Reciprocal linking is when two websites agree to link to each other. This practice, once a great way to boost natural website rankings on Google and the other search engines, doesn’t work to that effect any longer, but is still valuable in that it helps establish to the search engines what your website is relevant to. Inbound links from relevant websites (without a reciprocal link back to the referring source) have a higher value to the search engines though, because they make it clear which site is the authority to the other. Still, it can’t hurt to reach out to your fellow webmasters and broker a reciprocal if you can’t get an inbound from them.