SEO is all about optimizing your website, but a significant amount of SEO actually occurs off your site, when other people voluntarily place a link to your website on their own. Enough of these “backlinks” can convince a search engine crawler that your site is relevant to a specific topic, and deserves to be highly ranked when a search is performed. But actually getting those links can be a delicate process.

In the early days of SEO, agencies told clients, “We can get your site to the number one search ranking in no time at all,” and most of the time they actually were able to do it. But only briefly, and in a manner that was in no way sustainable. The majority of these “black hat” professional link building companies were simply paying websites to place links. The search engines figured this out early on, and clamped down hard on anyone trying to buy their way to the top.

With the advent of social media, some professional link building companies turned to automated social bookmarking tools as a fast and easy (and dishonest) means to spread a single link over many social media sites at once. The search engine algorithm quickly adjusted for this tactic as well.

Then there are some tactics that do not necessarily hurt your chances of being ranked, but fail to do anything to help them either. Networks of “reciprocal links” were popular for a while, as people could boost their backlinks by agreeing to link to other sites in a kind of large scale quid pro quo. Search engines no longer pay any attention to these kinds of links. Some people also leave a link to their website in the comments of blog posts or forum discussions. While this kind of link (called a “no follow” link) is also ignored by web crawlers, it does provide a way to gain ACTUAL links, if the comment is engaging enough to convince actual readers to click the link.

Some of the best ways to organically (i.e. naturally) boost your links are to A) make sure they are relevant and useful to someone searching for information, B) honestly procure them, through genuine desire to share your information with a wider audience, and C) hire trusted, reliable, and completely “white hat” professional link building experts to do the job for you.