Three years ago I wrote a blog post about cultivating links. This was a reaction to the direction Google was beginning to take at that time toward content and links. A direction that's become more pronounced.
I discussed how most links are just chaff, the stuff that surrounds the grain and what Google is really after is the grain, the signal. Guest articles created for links, sponsored links, scholarship links, student discount links; those are not true citations and that's not what a search engine is looking for these days.
Search engines aren't looking for links. Search engines are looking for citations. A citation is when a web page cites (and links to) another web page because the content on that other page is useful to the topic at hand. Period.
So instead of starting and stopping on keyword research, I do a fair bit of Topic Research. This is a process of finding out what problems people are having with a product, with a kind of tool, common problems associated with a popular activity; then I go about crafting solutions to those problems. Solving problems not repeating keywords is what makes a site rank better.
This is a long term approach, not something that fits into client links building. Basically, it's about focusing on what makes a web page worthy of a link.
To do this you have to take stock of what people are linking to and why.
Here are three aspects of a citation-worthy web page:
•What’s in it for them
When creating this kind of content I try to understand what problem a site visitor might have and how that content can solve it.