When it comes to building link popularity in order to promote your website, you've likely heard web marketers say, "Build it and they will come." In other words, all you have to is create an excellent website marketing strategy for a well-designed and properly optimized site that has loads of quality content. This, they say, will inspire other sites to link to yours.

Oh, is that all?

Unfortunately, it isn't.

Having a quality site with hundreds of pages of well-written, unique content is definitely a plus. But for most websites, that isn't enough to attract the quality and quantity of links needed to boost your search engine rankings these days.

So what do you have to do to get quality links that will actually count for something with the search engines? Here's Google's answer to the question:

"Make sure all the sites that should know about your pages are aware your site is online." (Get more tips from Google here.)

That means you shouldn't wait for these other sites to find you. You need to put your paws to the pavement and seek out organizations, associations and specialty industry groups--any and all sites representing groups that are considered credible and respected resources for your industry. Then get them to link to you.

Becoming affiliated with groups like these will not only shift your link popularity efforts into high gear, it will also help build your brand and expose your business to consumers in your precise target market.

Ready to get started increasing your link popularity? Here are the steps you should take:

1. Search for organizations that are already established within your industry. Most have a directory that lists companies like yours (you'll probably see some of your top-ranking competitors already listed there!). Many associations allow you to join either for free or a fee. Select the ones you think will benefit you the most, and sign up.

2. Scour your competitors' sites and see if they're affiliated with any associations you should be connected with but aren't yet.

3. Once you've joined these groups and have a link on their sites, issue a press release telling the world that you're now an official member of "XYZ Association." Be sure to include a link from the press release to the XYZ web page your site is displayed on as well as a link to your own site.

4. Commit to writing an article (or having one written) at least once a month. Then:

  • Upload it to your site.
  • Get it crawled by adding it to your Google and Yahoo! sitemaps.
  • Make a blog post about it, and link to it. (Waddaya mean you don't have a blog yet?!)
  • A few weeks after the article's live on your site and has been cached, submit it to some of the organizations you contacted earlier. In the "About the author" section, or biography, at the end of the article, add the link to that specific article on your site and on your blog. This will help establish your business as the authoritative source of the article. It will also build link popularity to that specific page and allow readers to post comments about it on your blog. If you have a forum on your site, mention it there, too, and point users to it with a link.
  • It wouldn't hurt to issue a press release about the article you wrote either. Make sure you link to the exact page where your article resides on your site as well as to your home page.

Paying for Popularity

Since Google is so averse to paid run-of-site links, it would be natural to assume that any sort of paid link popularity method would also be frowned on. But luckily that's not the case when it comes to association membership fees.

Some of the organizations you're interested in joining will charge you a membership fee, anywhere from $10 for a lifetime to $5,000 or more per year. Don't let those fees scare you off. If your funds are limited, consider signing up for just a few at a time and adding more as your budget allows.

Besides, a few links added judiciously over time are much more credible than a flood of sudden links that appear all at once. That will get you the kind of attention you don't want from search engines: red flags over possible link spamming.

Nobody said link popularity was a contest you could win overnight. But if you steadfastly use the ideas outlined above, you're sure to see a gradual--but very definite and satisfying--improvement in your link popularity, targeted traffic and search engine rankings.

Michael Pedone is the president and CEO of eTrafficJams.com, a search engine optimization and website marketing company in Clearwater, Florida.