Oh, linking is a wonderful thing.

Building natural links is a fantastic way to build your business. If you have a serious web site, which has something serious and valuable to offer, then every single link you build is a whole network of opportunities.

A crappy link, on the other hand, artificially developed, is nearly the opposite.

It’s a healthy approach to think of your link network as a living, vibrant creature. Links grow by themselves. You do need to feed and water them in order to keep a healthy rate of growth, but they can grow on their own.

Every link to your site is an opportunity to build more attention. Each link offers three core benefits:

  • The link increases the likelihood your site will be found through search engines.
  • It creates the possibility your site will be visited from the linking site.
  • It advances the likelihood that somebody else will link to your site.

Your links are opportunities to create more links.

People have a natural tendency to find leaders. They are searching for a person with authority — and they require evidence of that authority. Links are evidence. It may be very difficult to find the first link — that’s why simple directory submissions can be the best way to get started in link building. However, once you’ve developed a few natural links, more are likely to follow.

Voluntarily provided 3rd party links are the best. From a social and possibly algorithmic standpoint, they give the appearance of being the most authentic and authoritative recommendations of your site. Somebody’s considered opinion went into that link, which gives it great substance to a reader’s perspective.

But there’s a tipping point. One link, unless it’s truly exceptional, is not likely to send hordes of screaming fans to your virtual doorstep. You need to participate in the experience of creating yourself as an authority:

  1. Create great content.
  2. Participate in online discussions of your subject.
  3. Speak when you’re knowledgeable; read when you’re ignorant.

If you build a strong natural linking profile, it’ll grow on it’s own. People will find links to your site, they’ll determine you’re an authority, and they’ll link to you because of your perceived authority.

Questionable links, however, will not in any way serve the same purpose.

Obviously purchased links, spammed links, cheap and dirty directories — these can potentially drive traffic or attention. But they will not in any way create authority. What is lost with these methods of link building is the potential to let your links grow.