A few years ago, my company changed the technology platform and the primary URL of our website.  When the new site went live, traffic dropped dramatically.  Why?  In part because the thousands of backlinks to our old site were broken.

Backlinking is a smart, economical, and relatively easy way to build traffic to your website and enhance your page rank with the various search engines.

Now you may be wondering what a backlink is.  Just as its name suggests, a backlink is any hyperlinked text or phrase placed on a website linking to your home page or any page on your site. The strategy is simple.  In theory, the more backlinks you have — the higher your search engine rank — making it easier for customers to find you.

Unlike buying traffic to your site, backlinking costs you nothing in terms of real dollars.  However, it does require a significant commitment of time. It’s a tedious project, but well worth the effort.  At one point in my business, I employed someone whose entire job was to create backlinks to our site.

While you want as many backlinks to your site as possible, not all links are good links.  Like with any marketing tool you should create a strategy.  Here are a few tips to get your started.

  1.  Share Great Content.  Many websites are constantly looking for appropriate and informative content for their audience.  When you write an article for one of these sites, you can request a byline and a backlink in return.  I often receive excellent articles from experts and happily post them on my company’s site — ItsYourBiz.com.  In addition to the traffic potential, you also gain the added benefit of being seen as a credible expert in your field.  Remember, the articles should be informational, not a sales pitch.
  2. Comment on Blogs and in Forums.  Identify subject-matter-related blogs and leave comments on posts.  Offer a great piece of advice with a link back to your site for more information.  Forums provide the opportunity to create a profile with a link to your website.  When you participate in discussions, make sure you use a signature line which includes your URL.
  3. Get Listed.  Make sure your business is listed in directories on the Web.  Every individual directory you submit to is another chance for potential customers or clients to find you on the Web.  It’s important to make sure you’re listed in as many directories as possible.   Some of the more popular directories include Yahoo, Google, Bing and Yelp but there are many more based on your geographic location and the nature of your business.
  4. Commit the Time.  No marketing initiative is going to work if you approach it half-heartedly.  To manage an effective backlinking strategy you must put forth the effort.  And don’t make the mistake of reaching a certain level and then stopping.  The process must be continuous.  You can find yourself at a top page ranking one day, only to learn you’ve slipped significantly the next.

Backlinking is a process, not a project.  If you don’t personally have the time, consider hiring an intern.  Help them understand what’s appropriate for your business and then turn them loose and watch your traffic grow.

Have you implemented a backlinking strategy? If so, what techniques did you use?

Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and contributor to ABC News and other outlets, public speaker and attorney. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.