SEO and Link Building: Good and Bad Plans

So you want to get your site ranked highly by search engines and you know that one good way to help your site to get there is to build links. What you may not know is that not all links are created equal. Keep reading for a full explanation and some help in planning your link building campaign.

Some links are more valuable to you for site rankings than others, and certain categories of links can even take your sites rankings down. Rather than navigate the mine field and find a mine by stepping onto it yourself, let’s see if we can’t whip out the metal detectors and create a map of the landscape of link building.

Step One: the types of links

When it comes to links there are a few different types, some which you may be aware of and others to which you probably have not given a lot of consideration, so before we start talking about the types of links you want and the ones you don’t, let’s get a little glossary going. This will help us to be sure we are all on the same page here.

Outbound links

Outbound links are the ones that you have on your site which lead to other sites. For example, if you were writing about taxes and you linked to the IRS site so your readers can access forms or get more detailed information about a topic, that would be an outbound link from your site.

Inbound links

An inbound link is a link to your site from another site. To give you an idea, if you have a friend who has a site of their own, and they find a useful article or page on your site and link to it, this is an inbound link.

The grey area

Now what if in one section of your site you link to another section of your own site; is that an inbound link or an outbound link? Well, it depends. Most sites count it as an outbound link, otherwise you would get inbound link credit from yourself, which isn’t really that accurate. To be honest, some search engines will not count them at all, so only use them when they are necessary.

General links

A general link is a link to your main home page or your site’s index page.

Specific links

A specific link is a link to a specific section or posting on your site. For example, if you run a blog and someone links to the URL of a specific posting, in order to use your site as an example, reference or to provide information, then they have given you a specific link to your site. It should be noted, of course, that both general and specific links can be either inbound or outbound.

From low ranking and high ranking sites

Now, before we begin it is important to know that not all sites worry about the places where your inbound links come from, but some do. Just to be fair.

Low ranking sites

This isn’t really a fair term. It just means that the site that has linked to you does not have a high traffic flow. This will be the bulk of sites.

High ranking sites

These are sites with a high traffic flow, and high rankings in search engines. These sites are usually also very well known. A good example of one of these high ranked sites is CNET.

So, which ones are the most important?

Well, that depends. Each of the search engines has an algorithm that determines how a site will be ranked. We won’t get into talking about the specifics of those algorithms, most of which are guarded like state secrets, but for now it is important to know that there are two main types of algorithms: those that count your inbound links and those that do not.

The theory behind the ones that do count your inbound links is that these links are an expression of your popularity, and therefore your relevance to readers. The non-inbound links counters have the philosophy that, as a site administrator, you have no control over who, if anyone, can link to your site, and you should not be penalized for that. Since it would be foolish to cater to one philosophy of ranking over another and run the risk of losing rankings because of it, we are going to take a balanced approach to building links and creating a solid link strategy. That means striking a balance between the links you make, both from and to the site, within the categories we talked about. We will talk about the ways to do this, and more importantly the ways not to do this.

This a double-edged sword. Of course we want to build inbound links to your site, but some methods will cost you in ranking.

The bad plans

Hire a link building service. At first glance this seems like it would be a great idea; after all, you are guaranteed links to your site. The thing is that most search engines have a mechanism in place to recognize when a site is link spamming, which is what these services are actually offering you. When you turn the work over to a third party, you lose control of the situation, and that is a problem because it leaves you unable to control the quality and relevance of the links to your site.

Build hundreds or thousands of links yourself. Build links with every site you can get to agree or make a comment on. Well, this idea is getting warmer. You have the ability to exercise control, but you just aren’t doing it. Before you go off half-cocked you should think about why we practice SCO in the first place. We do it because higher rankings draw in readers, which brings in advertisers and revenue. Linking to or from an irrelevant site will not help you in the long run, and may cause search engines to mark you off as surely as if you had paid a service.

The good plan

Build your links judiciously; worry about the long term and not flash-in-the-pan results. The path to doing this is surprisingly straightforward.

First I want you to make two lists. The first list should be of sites that you can build links to by yourself. The first list will include blogs in which you can post comments (and links), and the second will be populated with sites with which you want to build a linking relationship in the content that the site publishes. Now choose your top 10 from each list.

On your self link building list, be sure that your comments or postings are not spam-like in nature; be relevant and thoughtful. For you second list, get the contact information and send polite and professional emails suggesting a shared linking arrangement. You have to be able to give as well as take here.

Build your self posted links slowly, focusing on one or two comments a day over a few weeks or months. For the second list, once you have sent out the emails, all you can do is wait. After a few weeks have gone by you can move on down your list to the next 10. Just be sure to honor your prior agreements or you may find yourself with angry link partners on your hands.

This strategy has a lot of base potential. After all, if a site sees that you are linking to it regularly, they are bound to reciprocate. Right? Well, maybe — if you do it right.

Bad plan

Just quietly build your links and hope that someone notices. It could work, but the odds are very low that this will be a great plan. After all, how will anyone know you are linking to them? No, this won’t do; let’s move on to a better plan.

The good plan

Make known links to sites that do not fall into the heavy traffic category. Heavily trafficked sites get so many links that they won’t care. Then, once you have made your link, find a way to make it known to the author of the other site that they are getting inbound links from you. This should be done in a subtle or at least a tactful way. What are some of those ways?

  • Post a comment thanking the author for posting so much great material and mention that you often link to the site.

  • Leave a track back on the site.

  • Send a private message to the admin or author making them aware of the links, if no track back feature is available, with some kind of kudos on recent postings.

The one-two combo punch

I bet you already figured this out, but by combining your approach to the sites from which you want to get links and the sites to which you build your own links, you can double your productivity and increase your chances of getting these sites to link to you without being asked. After all, you will be seen as a frequently-contributing member of the community who has increased that site’s value by linking. Then again, you may not even need them to post your comments; after all, with the two in place, you have a reciprocal link in place already – it is just not as high profile as it could be to readers, at least with an in-text link to your site.

I’m going to give you a short list of some final link building don’ts. I know that these seem like common sense, but we didn’t cover them earlier.

  1. Don’t be rude or inflammatory for no reason.

  2. Don’t be impatient. This process will take some time.

  3. Don’t post on sites that are targeted to a different age. Avoid sites for tweens if you’re writing for boomers, for example.

Now that we have all of this cleared up and you have a solid plan for what to do, and more importantly what not to do, when you are building the links for your site, you can go on to take your site to new heights of rankings and get fat on the money of your sponsors.

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