You can transform your SEO link-building strategy for the better by focusing on the user instead of the subtle complexities of search engine technology and policy. Smart SEOs and online marketers know that the quality of user experience is the over-arching goal that should shape everything they do.
Link building is one of the hardest, most complex elements of SEO. And it is currently the most important and powerful, since search engines primarily rank websites according to the quality and relevance of inbound links. A website's link profile needs to demonstrate that the site is regarded as trustworthy and relevant - that other trustworthy people in related communities are citing it or voting for it as helpful or important.
Search engines don't formulate their ranking policies to make life difficult for SEOs. Their aim is to improve the user experience. User experience is at the heart of search engine optimisation and digital marketing and this is too often forgotten as we focus on the data. Link building should not be about influencing search engines but about reaching and helping interested users.
First the obvious. Create relevant content that people will want to visit and link to. Create content that is easy to find and that your website's users will love. Broaden the site's relevant user-base. People who may not become your customers may still want to link to you on their relevant websites and blogs.
Online marketing is primarily about bringing users and linkers (webmasters, bloggers, social network users...) to the site, in addition to prospective customers. If you sell mobile phones only to businesses, then including content about mobile phones that is helpful to consumers will win you quality inbound links from consumers (who far outnumber businesses and are more likely to link to you). The most important goal in link building is creating quality content that people in relevant online communities will want to link to from their relevant websites and blogs because it is compelling or helpful.
It is not always obvious where best to seek links, or what sort of links to build for SEO.
So forget SEO.
Focus on the user experience and your healthy, organic link-building strategy will reveal itself. Instead of using PageRank to judge the link equity you might get from a link, use it to gauge the volume of people who may use the site. Those users, not the search engines, are who SEOs and web marketers should in fact target.
Online marketers understand the need to engage with users. Participating in relevant online communities engages prospective customers, creates valuable content and builds links in relevant places. If you sell surf boards then your customers are surfers. Find the most popular online surfing communities and engage. Become an active part of them. Become known in them and gain a reputation of trust, authority and knowledge - by helping people, answering questions and sharing ideas and information. For free. Where it is helpful, link to a relevant part of your website. This should ideally be content rather than a product, but you can funnel users into the purchase process from there - if they want to buy. And if they don't want to buy then if your content is good perhaps they will want to link to it on their surfing blog instead - which arguably has much more value. If you find something that would really help your website's users then link to it from your website to help those users.
It should be a natural, organic, community practice, building a natural, organic link profile, as well as building actual links that actual users will click on. If you sell tractors and excavators, and people are asking more questions about tractors, then you will naturally be building more links for the product that is most in demand right now. If you use anchor text, aim it at helping the user find what they want, not at influencing the perception of search engines. That will come naturally. Pay no attention to links being dofollow or nofollow. An organic-looking white hat link profile should contain both. Don't link for the search engines' sake.
When you build links, make sure they are links that your website's users and customers would find and click on in their browsing journeys. Find relevant places and engage in communities there. Help interested users find the information they need. Customers and linkers will follow those links to relevant places on your website. And so will search engines. But forget them. Like every aspect of internet marketing and SEO, your link building strategy should be all about the quality of user experience.