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Allow me to take a little of the hassle, monotony, and time commitment out of creating quality, long-lasting, third-party links that will pass the “Panda” test and will deliver long-lasting results.

Building high-value links is a constant, every-day challenge for search engine optimization companies and professionals. Building links that aren’t contrived and self-promoting in appearance is a particularly challenging task, as search engines are diligently enhancing their ability to sniff out those types of links.

Now before you skip to the list, ask yourself: what would you say is the leading reason you’re not getting third party links currently?

If you’re not inviting visitors to link to you, wouldn’t you say that might be a leading reason?

I know, it sounds simple; but I’m surprised at the amount of websites and clients I see that don’t invite visitors to link to them. It’s time to honestly assess your own website (and client websites, if applicable) and begin inviting others to start linking for you!

1. Review other businesses without being asked.

Think of the services you use, your valued partners, software that makes somebody’s job easier in your organization, equipment used by your organization, or a company that did a great job on your website.

Proactively sending them a testimonial will make their day, and you can bet that they would love to feature it on their website (especially if you request it specifically). Maybe they will even tweet about it and post your review on Facebook or wherever else they spend time online.

Be sure to write the copy for them, complete with a link, logo, picture of you or a group of coworkers, and even provide it in HTML to make it quick and easy for them to post online.

Granted, No. 1 requires some work in making the invitation, which you have to make yourself. The following three tips, on the other hand, let your website do all the inviting for you.

2. SMBs pay attention: invite customers to review you, and point them in the right direction to make it an easy task.

There are a few ways to do this. Yelp, TripAdvisor, and most review sites have embeddable widgets that you can place on your site, and some simple searching reveals that for some reason, most websites only feature one widget.

I would recommend that all small businesses start implementing a “Reviews” page, that 1) provides links to their page on at least three review sites (Yelp, Google Places, Facebook, etc.), and 2) features several of those reviews.

You’re going to get good and bad reviews, but the bottom line is: you’ll get reviews! Conversation will spread around the web about you, because you’re:

  • asking visitors to talk about you
  • sending them directly to the best places to do it
  • giving them several options so that they can pick their preferred review platform

That last bullet is very important for most SMB customers. SMBs will see that a portion of their visitors may have a Yelp account, or they might be regular Facebook or (formerly) HotPot reviewers, but a large portion of those visitors and customers isn’t likely to be familiar with any of those review platforms.

For example: I guarantee my parents (and same goes for every one of their siblings) have never heard of Yelp or Foursquare. They use Google and Facebook, but they don’t have a clue that you can review businesses on those websites. Hint hint: I’m sure that if they did know they could leave a review, they would be happy to do it if it looks quick and simple to do.

Extra tip: Inviting customers to leave reviews is key to getting good reviews; leaving a review takes a little effort, and negative experiences are far more effective at motivating customers to leave a review than satisfactory or good experiences.

Sample SMB website review page:

Tell customers that there are places online to review you, and invite them to talk about you.

3. Add the Facebook “Like” widget, along with other social media share buttons.

Nothing new here, right? I don’t think you’ll experience any forehead smacking or light bulbs here. But how many websites are doing this?

I’m not just talking about the Facebook icon that generates a pre-filled comment box, requiring people to complete it and hit “Post” (although that’s great too). I’m talking about the Facebook “Like” widget that only needs one click. If a user’s Facebook profile is public, then you’ve got yourself a social link.

Each of our own blog post pages feature a few extra social media share buttons (e.g. the ShareThis button at the bottom of the post). Most blogs are using share buttons like that, but the Facebook Like widget below seems new enough that it’s not being used as often.

Example: Facebook Like Button
Example: Facebook Like Button

4. Invite users to link to you, and provide the HTML in a widget.

Doctors have referral cards, and phone companies reduce your monthly bills for referrals. Why don’t more websites ask for online referrals, and then make it easy for the non-web-developer to place a link on their blog, website, profile, etc. by providing the HTML code?

It’s pretty simple to do – basically replicate the typical embedding options you see on Youtube, Vimeo, or Slideshare, but instead of providing embed code for a video or digital resource, you’re providing the HTML for a link, complete with anchor text, a logo or whatever is appropriate.

Copy to clipboard -> paste. Simple and painless.

Commenters: Are you already practicing any of these tips? Has it worked for you? What are your suggestions for effectively inviting others to link to you?