Unless you're a total search engine optimization newbie, you know that the secret to higher rankings for your website on the return lists rests predominantly on the number and quality of websites that "link" to your site and its pages.
If you want to overthink SEO and make it more complicated, go ahead, but you, me and everybody else that's ever been granted a first position think that you're just bananas. Spend your time wisely and invest in acquiring more links/citations - you'll be glad you did.
That's easy to say, of course, and far more difficult to execute, right? Well, not really.
Link building is, of course, challenging and time consuming and as a result, many webmaster/brands/SEO's just don't engage in the practice whatsoever. Doing a little early stage link research however, and doing it regularly will go a long way toward helping any enterprise achieve success. So, how should you begin?
+ KEYWORDS: Analyze & Identify Search Opportunities
The days of optimizing for non-relevant terms just doesn't make sense any more. Engage in a rigorous review of your own site's analytics and keyword research tools to find and identify how website traffic could be acquired and through what search terms and phrases that most will most often and most likely happen. Starting any SEO campaign without this vital step is similar to running a marathon without training. Investing in keyword research software is, while not mandatory, certainly helpful.
+ CONTENT: Align & Develop Linkworthy Assets
Content is king (and links are the queen) and if you think otherwise you're in for a world of hurt and low rankings. You need good content and that content needs to be aligned with the search opportunities. Doing so not only means you'll be able to deliver what the audience is interested in but will actually have something in hand (virtually, of course) that can be offered up to those you're trying to acquire links from - i.e. other websites.
+ CITATIONS: Locating & Engaging Link Prospects
Once more, links are the single most influential ranking factor and SEO's would be wise to realize this if they haven't already. That is why locating potential link sources and engaging those link prospects is of such immense importance. Fortunately, there are millions of websites that could link to you - it's just important that you find them and make the case to acquire a citation from their site. The best use of your time is employ certain search strings that identify resource pages, unlinked mentions, review pages, directories, etc.
At this point, it is important to realize that those responsible for link building are going to need to put in the work to identify those capable of bestowing a link. There are a variety of methods to do that, and while it is no simple task, it does pay dividends to have a process in place (keyword research, content development, and outreach) and commit to continually refining it. If there is a secret to SEO, that is it.