How to Get Your Community to Build Links For You

Building links is often deemed as one of the most difficult and time consuming aspects of SEO. If you have a community centric site, why not use it and encourage link building from your users. Implementing these kind of community link building features can result in a nice and natural flow of links to your site.

1) Profiles
Why not give users a self-serving reason to link to their profile. Turn profiles into a portfolio; whereby member’s can show off their achievements and or contributions to a site.  Double the incentive and enable members to be freelance on the site – for example allow a “hire me” button to appear on their profiles.

2) Sharing Call To Actions
This may seem pretty basic but there are many sites that do not ask users to share their content in a visible way. This can be as simple as adding buttons to share the content. However take caution and do not go overboard.

Sharing your content doesn’t guarantee links, as social links are often not followed, but it is thought, by some, to be a factor in the ranking algorithm so encouraging users to share shouldn’t be neglected.

3) Voting Content Helpful
Do you enable users to vote content up or down? What happens with it after it’s been voted helpful? When a user votes something up, it means they think the content is good content but they may not be thinking of sharing.  You can remind them by providing an overlay that appears after voting something up. Or you could implement  the Facebook “like” button on your site as “liking” content will automatically publish to your wall.

4) Promote Controversial Content
Content that gets people riled up also has a tendancy to get a lot of links. If there are controversial threads on your site, promote them like crazy. Try and stir up that hornet’s nest and see what happens.

One really easy way to keep these threads/posts going is to promote the most active discussions in the sidebar or at the bottom of other threads. There are plenty of plugins available that will highlight content so you don’t have to manually promote controversial content. That said, if you do notice controversial content, it would be a good idea to promote it via Twitter also.

5) Awesome Community Badges
If you have a strong community that loves you, create badges for the community and make a big deal out of it when you unveil them. Sometimes you can get multiple links out of badges, but you need to be careful about how you go about this and it would be advisable to brush up on the guidelines surrounding this area.

6) Ego Boosting User Centric Badges
In addition to creating badges to highlight the community, you should create badges that are focused on the users and their achievements. This will play to the ego of your community members, hyping up how awesome they are and allowing them to level up or improve via a visual ranking or distinguishing feature of some sort.. This in turn will give users a great sense of pride in their accomplishments to date, but will also encourage and motivate them to contribute more to the community.

7) Email Users at Critical Points
What are the critical points of interaction for your site? When a user registers, contributes content, “levels up”, when the user’s content is voted up, or when users’ content is promoted by staff, these are just some of the critical action points that community sites have in common. Identify the critical points of contact for your site and email users at these points and ask them to share either the site or what they have just done with their friends or with people they think would be interested.

Collect Twitter names upon registration, and when the users content is being promoted tweet about it.

8) Embed Photos
Like videos, photos are shared frequently; most sites that host their own videos offer the ability to embed the video and most sites that offer photo galleries don’t.  If you allow users to upload images to a forum or for a review, you should enable and encourage users to embed the image.

9) Create a Leaderboard
Stroke your top contributors’ egos a bit by dedicating a page to the top users and make sure they know about it so they can promote it on their own networks such as blogs etc. For example providing an avatar, the name of the contributor, how many points they have, qualifications and accomplishments and link them to their profile.

Creating a leaderboard can help you get links. When users make it onto the list, they should be informed that they made it – email them! They can be notified when they have cracked the top 10, top 5, and 1st place. In these notification emaisl, give them the URL and encourage them to share it with their friends. You could even include a special badge for top contributors (with a rank number) that would communicate their accomplishment.

10) Interview Top Users
The key to interviewing members is to promote it well. If you position the interview prominently on the site, the contributor will feel a sense of accomplishment about the interview, the article will get more attention because of its position too. With this sense of pride attained from their interview, the user is likely to blog about it.

Interviewing experts is often a way to get links as experts will want to mention these interviews either on their blog or Twitter. Take this concept and apply it to your users with blogs and strong social media accounts.

11) Syndicate Your Content
There are a lot of sites looking  for content and would be willing to feature content with an attribution link. For example if there is a popular news site in your industry, you could ask them to feature a weekly article, review, blog, photo on their site. Make sure you get attribution links out of it though.

To get users to syndicate your content, perhaps offer them custom widgets that would highlight their recent contributions to the community and these widgets should then be easily placed on blogs or websites. The widget then acts like an RSS feed that would sit in a user’s sidebar.

12) Ask Your Community to Help Grow the Site
If you have a strong bond with your community, explain the basics of SEO and ask them to help you! You can ask them to link to your site and share the content through social media. If you are feeling bold, you can even ask them to link to you using your keywords. In this instance it is really important that you highlight the benefits for the community. Having a page to help a new site grow isn’t that uncommon, on these pages, sites will often ask users to link to the community and offer the user badges they can put on their site to show support.
While not all of the strategies mentioned above will work great for every site, there should be at least one or two that will work for you. Apply the relevant strategies for you and have your community bear some of your link building burden.