This topic came up in SEO Chat’s forums recently; you can check out the thread yourself. Feel free to join the conversation, too. The original poster understands why one would want to get back links, but seemed unclear as to why any website would want to GIVE them. He understands that the most valuable back links come from quality websites in the same field – those with lots of good link, traffic, and content. But why, he wondered, would such a website link to a possibly lower-quality website – especially if they’re in the same field, and therefore likely to be competitors?
Fortunately Belfast, one of our newer but fairly experienced members, was able to offer some enlightenment. The trick is to not think in shallow terms when it comes to SEO. You need to put yourself in the shoes of the other website owner and think about what they might need. How does what you sell, or the information on your website, fill their needs?
Say you’ve built an awesome website, “with a great feature/tool/picture/diagram/authority type info,” Belfast observes. Visitors to the website from which you hope to win a link would probably be glad to give it, because “it would potentially help provide their users with a better experience – they get all they want from one ‘hub.’”
If you hope to win a link from such a comprehensive website, and yours isn’t quite as complete, see if you have something that fills in some gaps for them. To use another example from Belfast, say you’re an ice cream manufacturer in England. Would an ice cream manufacturer in Ireland be willing to link to your website? Sure, if there’s a need for it – perhaps to answer a frequently-asked question about shipping or supplying ice cream elsewhere.
Somewhat related to this point, it helps to consider the geographic location of the business. Just because a company has a website doesn’t mean they’re absolutely trying to serve a global business. If you have a lawn care business on the east coast of the United States, you’re not really competing with lawn care businesses on the west coast, even though you’re in the same field. This presents you with another possibility for earning back links.
Also, it’s entirely possible to get links from websites Google would consider to be in the same field as yours, but that aren’t directly competing with you. Belfast used an example in the motorcycle business. Say you run a business that sells new motorcycles, and you’re looking for a back link. Belfast suggested that you consider looking for sites that sell motorcycle spares (or perhaps other motorcycle parts). You might also consider businesses that repair motorcycles or do custom paint jobs for the vehicles.
Fundamentally, though, as Belfast points out, “there has to be a ‘need’ for them to link.” Maybe you have the best or most entertaining “something” that they want to share with their audience, or you have the authority and information that supports their message, or any one of a number of reasons. You know best what you can offer; if you want to earn back links, you need to find websites that need what you can offer to them and their visitors. So put yourself in THEIR shoes, think like THEIR customers, and then make your pitch. Good luck!