If you are trying to maximize your SEO, then it is crucial to pay attention to both on-site and off-site SEO. On-site SEO includes things like: your meta tags; whether your content is keyword-optimized; your internal and outbound links; your sitemap and robots txt; and your alt, title, and header tags. These on-site SEO factors are the ones that are most under your control, so it is crucial that you optimize those first before you spend a lot of time on anything else. Once you've got that under your belt, you should seek to optimize your off-site SEO. Off-site SEO is comprised of mainly one thing: inbound links.
To understand why inbound links are important, it is crucial to understand the PageRank system. Larry Page thought up the PageRank system when he was a graduate student at Stanford. It is based on a method used in academia to determine which academic papers are the most influential. This method is called “citation analysis”. Essentially, the more times a paper has been cited by other papers, the higher it is ranked among academic papers.
Page thought that perhaps it would be a good idea to provide search engine results in this manner. By analyzing the number of links pointing at a page, a rank could be assigned to that page. Larry page wrote a paper about his idea in 1998, and then started Google later that year. Prior to Google, search engines mostly determined the search engine results based solely on the page's content. Google provided much better search results with its new system, so it quickly became the #1 search engine and has stayed there ever since. Now, every major search engine uses some measure of inbound links to determine its search results.
What this means for you is that you need a high number of incoming links to your website in order to rank favorably on the search engines. No matter how good your content and on-site SEO happens to be; if you don't have any incoming links, then its unlikely that you'll be able to beat your competitors who do.
There are quite a few methods for obtaining inbound links. Many businesses favor a certain method, while other businesses favor an alternative method. There is no right or wrong way to get a link. you should do it in a way that best matches with your advertising and marketing strategy. Here are a few ways to get you started.
There are hundreds of sites which will accept informative articles from your business. Some are broad and generic (e.g. ezinearticles.com) and some are niche specific and highly targeted. You may be able to create partnerships with bloggers or websites in your niche and contribute content to them. In your article, you can share valuable information while promoting and linking back to your website. If other websites think that your content may be valuable for their readers, they may syndicate it. Article marketing, when done consistently, is a great way to build inbound links, while simultaneously driving traffic from the articles themselves.
There are a ton of directory sites on the Internet. You should definitely submit your site to the maor directories like Yahoo, DMOZ, BOTW, and Business.com. For a fee, there are services which will submit your site to over 3000 different directories. This is a great way to pick up a lot of inbound links.
Rather than thinking about other sites in your niche as your competitors, you might want to think of them as your partners. Don't be afraid to link to other sites. They'll probably notice that they're getting traffic from you and link back.
There are a ton of places you can answer questions from potential customers. You can comment on blogs in your niche, answer questions on Yahoo Answers, answer questions in forums, and write reviews of books in your niche on Amazon. In all these cases, you can establish yourself and your business as an expert in your niche and include a link back to your site for people to find out more. Don't get too promotional, just get the link.
Google frowns on this, but too many people take Google's word too seriously. After all, Google doesn't own the Internet. You should just consider this as part of your advertising and SEO budget. You can either pay people to review your product and link back to your site, or simply buy a link from them. If your link is on another site's header or sidebar, then it is actually on many different pages and counts as many different links.
Inbound links are definitely crucial to your businesses success. There is no right or wrong way to obtain inbound links. The most important thing is that you get them somehow.