It’s no secret to today’s marketers that links are beneficial to SEO – but only sometimes. If your marketing is too self-promotional, it could be harmful to your search rankings. If you’re liberal about getting links – or you’ve actually paid for them (gasp!) – this is also harmful to organic rankings. Strong links play a large role in good placement, but the key is to generate them in a natural manner. If you don’t, the Penguin is going to get you.

So, how exactly do you generate high-quality, relevant backlinks? Social media is a mighty helpful tool in this instance, and when used correctly, it can have a huge impact on your link quality. With better links come better placement, and with better placement comes the world. (Well, almost.)

Let’s get started.

What’s a Backlink?

First, let’s clarify what a backlink is. Backlinks are links that connect back to your site because someone found your content interesting or funny, and they want to share it with others. The search engines figure that if people found the content to be worth sharing, then there must be something to it. So, the search engines recommend it to other users, and so on.

Now, that’s not to say that there’s not plenty of great content out there that never gets shared. After all, with so much noise on the Internet, it’s hard to get noticed. That’s where social media comes into the picture.

Post Content and Get Noticed

When your company creates content – a blog post, article, press release – you need to get the content out there. Don’t be afraid to post a blog on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and LinkedIn. Make sure there are share buttons on your content, too. Include video when necessary, and consider location-specific sources that could market your content to a local audience. The goal is to get your content read and shared so that people link back to it, and possibly even quote you. Of course, there is a fine line between being a nuisance and being persistent, but try to find it. Persistence pays off, after all.

Start a Conversation

Next, you’ll need to keep the conversation going by taking the time to interact. Ask readers what they think of the content: do they agree or disagree? Respond to comments and thank your followers for their support. Even address the negatives in a nice manner. Remember, everyone is watching. The objective is to show your readers that you are engaged and listening to what they have to say. If your followers know there’s someone on the other end, they’ll be more likely to respond and share.

Add Value to Your Content

Many webmasters publish content for the mere fact of “getting it out there”, but they don’t take the time to add value to what’s written. Instead of addressing general topics, consider some of the areas that are lacking information. Are there certain topics that your niche community is constantly asking about? If you can cover topics that clear up questions or confusion, your content is more likely to have happy customers who like and share it.

Finally, be a good sport in the game of link building. Remember to repost and link back to quality content. You’ll build relationships, be doing a good deed and learning in the process!