Anyone who knows about SEO (search engine optimisation) knows the importance of link building. A good amount of steadily increasing back links from quality third party sources will help the search engines to deem you an authority website in your field, improving your rankings as a result. But where should you begin when devising an effective link building campaign?

As a strategy of success within the ever-changing landscape of search engines and their algorithms, link building is similarly subject to an evolving ‘best practice’ based on the most up to date industry research. However, as for search engine marketing in general, there are some basic tenets that remain unchanged. Here are five guiding principles for getting the most out of a link building campaign:

1. Ask yourself, “Am I worth linking to?” 
You wouldn’t expect people to come into your shop if you had nothing to sell; why expect inbound links if your website has nothing of worth to say? Before you obsess about the number of back links, get back to basics and ensure your website is worth linking to. While that means a well-structured, easy-to-navigate site, with sufficient internal linking and good coding, it primarily means quality content. Tell people who you are, what you do, how they can buy from you/sign up to you/learn from you/join you; then (as the old journalism adage goes) tell them again! And tell them with well-written, grammatically correct, interesting content.

2. Don’t sit back on your laurels.
You’ve created a great place to link to – well done! But that’s just the start of it. You have to regularly update that content to ensure people continue to link to you, and to continually attract new links. Become an actively participating member of your community or industry (whatever that may be) by updating product information, posting comments and viewpoints on your industry, publishing press releases or white papers – however you do it, keep doing it.

3. Position yourself as a link friendly site. 
While link building may be at the forefront of your mind as you review your SEO strategies, it’s not that way for everyone. Therefore be clear about your desire for quality inbound links. Consider creating a ‘link to us’ page, explaining the sort of companies/websites who may be interested in linking to you, and how they can do it, including which URLs and anchor text they can use. You should keep this page updated so as to feature a good spread of anchor text possibilities.

4. All that glitters is not gold.
As for so much in life, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. If an SEO provider guarantees X thousand quality inbound links, then you have to ask yourself some serious questions. Such as, if quality links are based on merit and cannot be ‘bought’, how can you guarantee a certain number within a certain timeframe? And if you are an SEO expert as you claim, then why aren’t you concerned about creating a sudden swell of inbound links which the search engines will find suspicious? Similarly, if you get unsolicited contact from someone outside of your industry ‘promising’ fantastic, mutually beneficial reciprocal linking, then ask yourself why will it be so beneficial? Reciprocal linking that works has to be between well chosen, relevant sites that the search engines will match as such. The likelihood of such a match conveniently dropping into your inbox is pretty much zero.

5. Use your common sense: link build based on merit. 
Take the old school approach as you start your search for quality links. Use the keywords relevant to your business and search for related websites. Filter your findings to the most relevant and those with the best Google PageRank/Alexa ranking and contact them. If they have merit for your site, you may well have merit for theirs. Call them to find out! Eric Ward, the ‘daddy’ of links, maintains that link building is “one part marketing, two parts public relations, and three parts common sense”. And given that Matt Cutts of Google once stated that “Eric follows the right link building approach. He’s interested in links that are given based on merit, and those are the links that stand the test of time”, Eric’s opinion is one worthy of consideration.

Keep these five guiding principles in mind at the outset and throughout your link-building campaign, and you’re sure of a firm foundation for SEO success. Happy link building!