Networking to Build Back Links to Your Web Site

If you’ve been doing SEO for a while, you know about the concept of linkbait. This is content that is so cool or useful or entertaining that people can’t resist linking to it, thus improving your page rank and your position in the search engine results pages. But how do you get the word out about your linkbait?

At base, the Internet is one big network – the largest in the world, granted, but still one big network. If you want your linkbait to attract visitors to your web site, you’re going to have to use the network to put it where they can see it. Quite literally, you’re going to have to network.

You don’t necessarily have to put all of your linkbait in places where it can be seen. You can set lures to your linkbait, in a manner of speaking. For instance, you may have engaged in pay-per-click campaigns. Have you considered starting one to promote your linkbait? To take a very basic example, if you put the term “mortgage calculator” into Google you get more than five million hits; you also get eight sponsored results on the right, including one with the words “Mortgage Calculator” as the active link.

I don’t often click on sponsored listings, but if I was thinking about how much home I could afford I wouldn’t have any qualms about clicking on those links. It’s obvious that they’re highly relevant to my search. If you can lure relevant traffic to your web site, there’s every chance that they’ll bookmark your linkbait, pass the link on to friends (after all, most of us have friends with similar interests), and maybe even link to it themselves.

In short, however you get visitors to your site, from whatever source or in whatever venue, once they’re at your site, they’re likely to link to it if you give them what they’re looking for. With a pay per click campaign, you may not have a lot of room in the ad itself, but you can focus it tightly to your linkbait. In this way, searchers will know you’re giving them what they expected.

There are lots of other ways to help the network work for you. It’s just a matter of knowing how it works. Some of the other tips I’m about to share with you are old techniques, while others are newer and have become important with the advent of web 2.0, social search, and user-generated content. As always, your mileage may vary, so try them out and monitor your results to see what works best for you.

Some may think that directories are a little outdated, but they can still have a positive effect on your traffic. Try submitting your site to DMOZ and other highly respected directories that allow free submissions. You may have to do a little research to find out which ones are the most reputable, but be patient. The work will pay off. Likewise, you may want to try some of the high-quality paid directories. Again, make sure you do your homework.

There’s nothing that says you can’t build your own directory either. If you’re really engaged in your field, you probably know of a lot of useful sites and online resources. Obviously you’ll include your own site in the directory – and there’s nothing wrong with deep linking to the important content and linkbait. You may be using it to help promote yourself and your site, but put the idea of being useful first and foremost. Then the directory itself becomes a form of linkbait, with visitors linking to it because they found it helpful.

Don’t be afraid to start looking at social search engines and other social sites such as Del.icio.us, Digg, and Searchles. Tag sites and stories related to the field your site covers. Try to tag really interesting sites and stories; if you engage the people who see your link, they’ll follow the trail back to your own site.

You don’t need to tag everything from your site – in fact, that would be seen in the community as spammy and too self-promoting. Think about the community’s interests. Full disclosure here: I’ve been participating on and off in the Searchles community since I reviewed them. I’ve found ideas for articles with their search engine, and I’ve posted links to some of the articles I’ve written (some, not all) that have appeared on SEO Chat. I’ve also posted links to Searchles that I thought were interesting and on-topic for the kinds of things I write about, in which I knew others in the community would be interested. It’s not scientific, but I’ve noticed increased traffic for the articles I’ve linked.

You don’t have to be the only one that’s tagging for your team. If you have created something that’s really outstanding, you might want to ask a few friends who are part of the same social community (or communities) to tag it for you. You could get your site seen by hundreds of people that way – and every surfer who sees and visits your site might link to it (I’m not saying they will, of course, but they might).

There are plenty of ways to get people to notice you, your site, and your content without having to pay any money to anyone for it. This is good news to those of us with low budgets (or practically no budget) for site promotion. For example, Craig’s List is available for many cities, and depending on the category you want to list under and what you’re offering, they’re a very cheap or free classified service. Surely you can come up with a creative ad that will attract eyeballs and visits to your site!

In the previous section I mentioned building a topical directory. That could be a great resource. You can also turn yourself into a resource. Look at Yahoo Answers and Google Groups. You can ask and/or answer questions there pretty easily and link to relevant resources. If you’re actually helping people rather than engaging in blatant self-promotion, people are far more likely to listen. Let them discover for themselves how great you are; you only need to provide a small nudge.

Another place you can turn to online is Wikipedia or other topic-specific wikis. You can create a page for your company, or contribute to an article about your industry and include links to your company as a resource. You’ll want to use this technique with caution; wikis are online communities, and like other communities often have their own rules. Articles can and will be modified, added to, edited, and even deleted if they’re not considered truly relevant or they cover the subject poorly.

I know of at least one allegedly scientific article that was deleted from Wikipedia because it was discovered to be a thinly veiled act of self-promotion by the creator of a particular psychological theory and his students. I would not be surprised if there were other cases where this has happened. A related caveat came to light in the news recently with the Wikipedia editor who claimed to hold a PhD in theology and be a professor at a university when he was nothing of the kind. I believe this will lead to a heightened interest in editor credentials at Wikipedia, so don’t claim to be something you aren’t — which isn’t bad advice no matter what community you’re entering.

Squidoo is another interesting online community. You can set up a topical page to display your expertise on your industry. You can create a nice resource, linking to tools and sites that are important and useful in your field. Naturally you’ll include a link to your own site.

Of course we can’t forget Digg. With its particular focus, you don’t necessarily want to submit your site directly, unless you have some really good, entertaining linkbait you can use. But you can submit a story to Digg that links to an article on your site.

If you participate in an online forum, check their signature policy. Most of them let you include a link in your signature or your personal profile. Make good, relevant contributions and users will track that link back to your site. You’ll have established your authority, and people like to buy from those they know and trust.

Many people will seek out reviews of products before buying them, whether the product is a book, a video, or an expensive electronic item such as a digital camera. Putting reviews of products and services that relate to your field on your web site is one way to attract visitors. You even stand a fair chance of ranking pretty well in the search engines for these reviews.

You don’t have to limit yourself to reviews on your own site to draw visitors in. Amazon.com carries just about everything, or so it seems. Find products that are relevant to your field and review them. If people find your reviews useful, they may follow up with you. Reviewers on Amazon get a link to their names and a link to all of their reviews; explore and you’ll find out more you can do with Amazon.

For example, you can create product lists on Amazon.com that review products and also mention your background. This is another place you can sneak in a link to your site. Again, if readers find your review helpful, they might follow the trail.

Amazon isn’t the only place where it might help to leave reviews. There are shopping search engines where you can review products and services. With the Internet being one big network, reviews are a little like word of mouth advertising. If you write good reviews, they’ll help build your authority in your field.

Try any or all of these tips as seems appropriate to you. Before you know it, you might find yourself with a ton of back links and all the traffic you can handle. Good luck!

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