Link building is the heart of any search engine optimization campaign. Without it, no amount of on-site optimization will result in success. You absolutely need high-quality links, and many of them, in order to achieve desired rankings. However, there is often too a great a distinction between on-site and off-site optimization. The former is thought of as optimizing title, header, and meta tags, as well as strategically including targeted keyphrases in prime areas of the body. Off-site is imagined as being entirely, as the name suggests, off your site - building links on self-made external blogs, article pages, and forums. The irony is that on-site and off-site optimization are closer than most people imagine, as it is the content of your website which should be delivering most of your links.
As shortly as five years ago, it was possible to rank very well for highly competitive phrases with virtually no high-quality links. Just submitting enough articles and blog comments with your link was enough to secure the rankings you wanted, as long as you were using the proper anchor text for your links. Now, Google's algorithm has become markedly more sophisticated, and it will take a lot more than simple links to get results nowadays. In fact, having a link profile comprised too highly of low-quality links can actually hurt you. Google wants to see other people voluntarily linking to you, not a profile made only of self-made backlinks.
It makes sense that better links, acquired from non-self-made sources, would be more valuable. After all, rankings are ultimately based on votes, and someone else voting for you is worth a lot more than you voting for yourself. That's why attracting the attention of bloggers, journalists, and even the common public is so important. They will give you the links you need naturally, and not only will this be easier for you, but the links will have so much more value.
So how do you attract these better links? Content! That's what the web is, and those who produce the best content get the most links and best rankings. Think about the last time you read something really cool or relevant. You probably shared it through Facebook or Twitter. While the exact rankings contribution of social media posts are debatable, it is generally agreed that having significant buzz around your brand can improve rankings, especially if that buzz is coming from notable people in your industry.
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