One important factor in the organic ranking of your website are the number of links from other external sites that direct back to your website. In the ‘old days’ of search engine optimization, Google used to take this into account as one of the primary factors for organic ranking with very little policing, which lead to widespread ‘cheating’ where SEOs and webmasters would create thousands of ‘spam’ backlinks on comment forums, directories, and fake sites that pointed back to their target site.

Over the past several years Google has made great efforts to squash ‘black hat’ back-linking practices, and they’ve made quite a bit of headway. Even major companies like JC Penny were caught red handed utilizing some of these illicit link schemes, and punished thoroughly with demoted organic rankings and the loss of millions of dollars in business.

There is, however, still a big SEO benefit to having external links pointing back at your site.  The key is that these links should be natural and relevant to your site’s content and industry.  This is why creating a partner links program is a great strategy to boost your site’s organic ranking.

It’s as simple as creating a list of your business partners – clients, charities, companies you collaborate with, or other local businesses that you have relationship with.  Next, determine which of these businesses have a website.  If they do have a website, or even better, a page specifically devoted to business partners or resources, make contact and ask if they might put a link up to your website.

Creating anchor tag keyword links is SEO best practice, however, in the case of most local businesses the easiest path is often the best taken. If they agree to put a link up, simply ask your contact to list your business name and link it to your site URL, along with a basic description of what you do alongside that. You should provide them with all of the details.

If you think you might do better with a ‘you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours’ approach; the best strategy is to create a partner / resources page on your own site where you can list and link to other businesses.  With this approach you can contact the business with a link to their site already in place on your page; saying something to the effect of: “Hello, I’ve listed you on my site as a local business partner, I was wondering if you’d do the same for us.”

Keep in mind – the staple of this strategy is that you don’t want to go overboard.  Determine your link partners based on logic:  who would you actually want to have up on your site as a partner, even if you didn’t have any SEO targeted goals?  Whose site would you want your business to be listed on?  Also, when you are contacting your potential partners – be sure to keep your emails fairly personalized – we’ve all received annoying messages in our inbox that seem like they were written by a robot.