When it comes to SEO, there’s a lot that’s known, and a lot that’s unknown.

The unknown involves a lot of luck, and educated guessing. What will Google’s next algorithm change be? What exactly is it based on now? Marketers have figured out some aspects by experimentation, and Google itself talks freely (though not exactly revealingly) about how its process works, but still — much of that is unknowable.

Luckily, there are certain definite known aspects to SEO that can be accomplished with nothing more than hard work and perseverance. And if you were to break down these known aspects of what does work in SEO, you’d have an equation with two certainties: links and content.

We’ve discussed the benefits of creating compelling, unique content to drive your SEO efforts here at the Casino Affiliate Programs Blog. The other side of that coin is the ability to get that content spread throughout the net — and that involves link-building efforts.

Building backlinks and striking up link exchanges are proven methods of putting your website squarely in the sites of the search engines that spider the Internet every day. The more links to your site exist, and the higher quality they are, the better your site will rank in the all-important search engine searches.

A note on quality
Moreso today than in the past, the links you exchange have to be quality links to provide real SEO strength. The days of buying big lots of shady backlinks for dirt cheap and getting an instant SEO high are gone or fading fast. These days, Google has reworked its methodology to eliminate the importance of unoriginal sites and “link farms”.

What’s quality, then? Sites that offer real value, and themselves have some sort of SEO power already. (That’s ideal, but don’t be discouraged if you, like most of the rest of us, have to start small.)

Link exchanges: The early stages
In a certain sense, working to get backlinks should be a natural part of your online marketing efforts. Building link exchanges with other relevant, quality websites should come naturally as you build your social media presence and get acquainted with the competition.

Your earliest link exchange building efforts should center around these most proven methods:

Forums and Directories. This is still a natural strategic starting point for link building, although these services don’t hold quite the SEO power they used to. They’ve been largely eclipsed by social media, but don’t rule them out entirely. Particularly when speaking to members of your chosen niche, forums and directories are still an effective way of reaching the right people quickly.
Start here: DMOZ, BOTW, Yahoo! Directory

Social media. If directories and forums are slowly dying, what’s killing ‘em? You guessed it. Most people today prefer to get together at Facebook to trade comments and shoot the breeze. There’s no denying social media’s sheer power: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn combined have more than a billion registered users. That’s a lot of separate pages, each one of them a potential link exchange. But is social media’s power really here to stay? Do the short-lived bursts of conversation they provide really replace the meaningful debates forums still offer? That remains to be seen, but the wise marketer should give both their due.
Recommended: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and these other gaming-friendly social media sites.

Blogging. Everyone working on improving SEO should be blogging, if only to keep your site fresh. And if you take your blogging seriously, it becomes a powerful link exchange tool, as well. Encourage comments in your blog posts, and talk to the people that do comment. When it’s relevant, link to other blogs in your articles, and comment on the blogs that you read. All those links will spread your site’s URL throughout the net and provide further SEO power.
Related ideas: Guest blog exchanges

Bookmarking and tagging your content on other sites. Spread specific elements of your content out to bigger audiences by social bookmarking, which opens up link exchange opportunities in an almost exponential way (if the content is good enough to support it).
The usual suspects: Technorati and Digg

Writing content for other sites. Some online marketers have built SEO empires on article submission sites. Like guest blogging, it’s a key way to offer your expertise in other venues, not only creating links but building an audience for yourself in the process. Consider also writing press releases about your site and distributing them on one of the web’s many low-cost PR channels.
Recommended: 24PressReleases.com, GoArticles, EZineArticles

Booking flights and shaking hands. Luckily for gaming affiliates, the online gaming affiliate world is very conference-oriented, meaning that, with a marginal investment for travel expenses, you can spend a few days meeting other webmasters, affiliate managers, affiliates, and pretty much everyone else in the online gaming industry for some unbeatable link networking. It’s old school, but it works.
The can’t miss list: iGaming Super Show, iGaming North America, London Affiliate Conference

Link Trading. The current state of SEO discourages the large-scale swapping of links so widespread ten and even five years ago. Still, though, keep your ears open for opportunities for targeted, relevant link trading, with other affiliates, or with other webmasters you meet through social media or at conferences. Done in a white-hat way, targeted link trading can still be a powerful link exchange too.

Link exchanges: The advanced stages
But is all that enough? If you’re ambitious, looking to build multiple powerful, search engine dominating sites, most of these methods in and of themselves probably aren’t going to cut it. You want to win more links for your sites than natural networking allows.

The question is: How?

Some affiliates may claim to have a secret formula. If they do, they’re not likely to give it up. Without any kind of magic formula, there is one sure path to backlinking supremacy: Spending hours building links. That involves following the methods outlined above, but on a larger scale. To do so, you may have to hire a friend (or recruit a spouse) to help you get all those links out. But it’ll take work; shortcuts are rare and rarely trustworthy.

Beware of spam
The trick here is not to overdo it and appear spammy — this happens often to marketers trying to blanket the web with links. Be tactful, and be tasteful: If you feel you’re taking advantage of any one aspect of the above link exchange techniques, trust your gut and switch over to something different for a while. Getting marked as spam is a quick way to absolutely sink your reputation, your brand name, and your website.

Questions? Comments?
What do you think? When it comes to link building, do most of these tried-and-true methods still hold their power? Has social media eclipsed all this? Do link wheels still work? We love to hear your opinions; weigh in and let us know what you think.

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