The Web is called ‘The Web’ for a reason. It consists of billions of pages, knit together by a vast network of links. This ‘web of links’ gives the Internet both form and function. If they didn’t exist, we’d all be stuck on the same webpage for an eternity and it would be quite boring. But links do more than just create the structure of The Web; they also allow us to travel through it. Links serve as portals from one web page to another. Over time, links also become an indication of the popularity or success of any given website or webpage. Popular webpages naturally get lots of links, as well as shares on social networks. Search engines then use this link data to asses the usefulness or popularity of a given page, and websites with a large quantity of quality links get more traffic from Google and other search engines.
(Note: a ‘quality link’ can be described as a relevant or helpful link that comes from a reputable website. Poor quality links from spammy websites aren’t very helpful in search rankings.)
While this is an oversimplification of the vastly complex algorithms that search engines use, it’s safe to assume that an increase in quality links will usually lead to an increase in search engine rankings and therefore traffic.
Quality links = higher traffic.
Higher traffic = more exposure, more sales, new fans, etc.
As artists, our success depends on growing our fanbase both online and off, so you can see how important growing your website’s link profile is. But, it can also be difficult. Asking politely for links from strangers isn’t usually very fruitful. If a webmaster doesn’t know you, chances are your email will end up the trash bin. The bright side? Most successful artists have never done one iota of link-building. Why? Because links happen naturally. When you create great content, people will share it and link to it. No, it doesn’t hurt to go out there and ask for links. But there are many great techniques for manually building links, and if you create great content you should be able to grow your links naturally.
The concept is simple: put interesting content on your website that people will link to, and do it consistently. Make sure to share your posts on social networks. Rinse and repeat.
5 tips for creating linkable content
You may have heard the term “linkbait.” It’s not my favorite way to describe creating linkable content, but these techniques would probably fall under that category. (Further reading on Link Bait at HubSpot)
1. Make sure there are “like” and “share” buttons on your website
This is super important. You’ve got to make it easy-as-pie for people to share your content, because social shares and ‘likes’ will include a link back to your content. Adding share buttons is an easy way to optimize your content for linking.
2. Put the focus on your fans
Have you ever been featured in an article or on a website? Have you ever received a notable award or been referenced by a celebrity or political figure? Whether you have or haven’t, it’s not hard to guess what you might do if something like this happened. You’d probably proudly create a post on your favorite social network (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and link to the website that talks about your achievement. You might also write a blog post about it and link to the site that featured you. Heck, even if you didn’t post anything, one of your friends probably would.
What I’m getting at is this: you can create this same linking effect by featuring your fans on your site. Create a blog post where you interview a fan on video, feature fan artwork or music, or post audience photos. If you do this regularly and make sure your featured fans know about it, you will get links. Also, don’t feel shy about asking for a link or social share in these cases–your flattered fans will most likely be happy to.
3. Interview other artists or musicians
An artist interview, even if it’s just conducted via email, is a great way to generate links and social shares. Not only will this add some great new content to your website, but it will broaden your network and present linking opportunities for the artist and his or her fans. It’s a win, win, win!
4. Post it on your website first
Here’s a great habit to get into. Instead of uploading that awesome photo to Facebook, sharing your new demo on Soundcloud, or writing that witty post on Tumblr, put your content on your website and then share a link to it. This way you are creating a link to your website and giving everyone in your network a chance to share (and link to) your website. Not only that, but they might just visit your site and find something they want to buy. Cha-ching!
5. Leverage online relationships with your content
One of the best ways to encourage linking is to build relationships with people who have influence online. Seek out bloggers, journalists, and artists who have active online audiences. Start by sharing their posts and letting them know how much you appreciate their work. Chances are they’ll return the favor. When one of these influencers creates an article or post that resonates with you, write a commentary or response, post it on your blog, and be sure to link back to their site. Often this will be flattering to the influencer and gain you a link, some social shares, and a thank-you.
Do you have any suggestions for making websites more link-able? Let me know in the comments below.