To provide you with a quick review, back links are important because Google and, to a lesser extent, the other major search engines look at back links to your site as “votes” saying that your site is relevant for particular keywords. The more relevant search engines judge your site to be, the higher your site ranks in the search engine results pages for those keywords. This makes it more likely for web surfers to see your site and actually pay it a visit.
You don’t want to have non-relevant links because the search engines will figure that you’re trying to get a high quantity of links to game the system. That’s called link spamming, and the search engines may penalize you for it. Your best bet is to build relevant content that people want to link to, which is often referred to in the SEO industry as “linkbait.” I mentioned some good examples of linkbait in my previous article, including lists, comprehensive “101 level” articles on a subject, and more; I even made some suggestions as to places where you can send your content that will lure people back to your site.
I’m going to dive back into our discussion with some advice that might help you if you’re still having trouble attracting visitors to your site, or getting them to do what you want them to do. If you want web surfers to link to your content, your content has to be worth linking to. While I gave plenty of examples of appropriate kinds of content, maybe it’s the look of the content itself, or your website, that is throwing people.
There’s a problem that plagues a lot of people who are very knowledgeable about particular topics. They forget that, to someone just approaching the field, they’re effectively speaking another language. If you don’t believe me, try talking to your grandmother about SEO. Even if she’s web savvy, I’ll wager she won’t know what you’re talking about unless she owns her own web site – and maybe not even then.
My point is, it’s very important to make your content easy to understand. People who understand something are more likely to spread it around. Before going live with an article, a tool, or other piece of linkbait, consider passing it to some of your intelligent friends who don’t eat, breathe, and live what you’re writing about. If they seem really puzzled, you might have to rethink what you’ve created. Of course, there’s a fine balance between making it understandable and talking down to people, so find someone who represents your target audience and let them check it over as well.
This next point is going to sound like it’s a pet peeve, coming as it does from someone who spends a lot of time editing for a living. But it isn’t just professional editors that get turned off by this problem. I’m talking about bad grammar, bad spelling, and other abuses of the language in which you’re writing. If you’re building linkbait aimed at any kind of professional, please take extra care to make sure your spelling and grammar are correct. You’ll lose the respect and attention of a huge chunk of your potential audience otherwise: professional writers, librarians, teachers, editors, voracious book readers…I could go on and on. It’s almost impossible to make it perfect – hand an article to any writer or editor and they’ll find a way to improve it – but you can minimize the errors.
Now that I’ve talked about the content of your linkbait, let me move on to your site. They say that people are judged by the company they keep; well, content is judged that way as well. If you want visitors to your site to trust your content and link to it, you need to show that the site on which it’s appearing – yours – is trustworthy. There are a lot of details that make users willing to trust a site; I’ll cover just two of them here.
Now I’m going to move a little further away from strictly creating linkbait and look at ways you can simply get links to your site out there. A lot of articles have observed that local search is on the rise, so even if your business is mostly online, you may want to try these tips to get yourself enmeshed in your local business community. Keep in mind that not all of them will work equally well depending on your part of the world.
If you’re based in the U.S., look into joining the Better Business Bureau. It’s a nationwide organization with local branches; visitors to regional web sites can look for businesses by key word. After you join, anyone searching for your line of business in your area will see a link to your site (along with a name, address, and phone number). It’s not exactly free in that you’ll be expected to meet certain standards, but it might pay off. I did a search on “florist” on my local BBB’s web site; only seven results came back. I can assure you, there are a lot more florists in the South Florida area; it’s just that only seven of them joined the BBB. Can you see how that might cut down on your competition?
Another good place to try to get to link to your site is your local Chamber of Commerce. You might have to do a little research, as these can be confusing; I discovered that chambers of commerce can exist at the state, county, and city/town level. There are membership fees, but once you join you’re listed in their members’ directory. In the case of the Broward County Chamber of Commerce, the directory is nicely organized by business category (accountants, bookstores, bakers, casino & gambling, etc.). Clicking on a category led to a list of members with their business names, addresses, phone numbers, links to their web sites, links for sending them email, and a description of the business (apparently written by the business owners).
You might also try to submit a link to your city and state government web sites as a resource. This could be more or less difficult depending on the governmental web site and the type of business you operate. Similarly, you might be able to get a link to your site on your local library’s web site.
These days “local” can mean more than just a geographical region. Think about the companies you do business with: manufacturers, suppliers, businesses who are your customers. Ask them if they would be willing to link to your site. (Some firms might be willing to do it if you say something nice about their company that they can quote on their site).
Search engines and visitors are attracted to your web site by fresh content. If you write a web log, or read them regularly, you know they’re a great way to make sure your site’s content is updated regularly. Blog entries also make excellent linkbait – if you do them right.
Blogs should be consistent; you need to post regularly. Your readers will know that they can depend on seeing new content from you and check back (or you can always set up an RSS feed). Blogs should also have excellent content. Don’t use it just to promote your site or specials (though that can be appropriate too); give your perspective of your field. Be interesting, be informative, be controversial, but above all, don’t be boring. Take Bob Parsons of GoDaddy; his blog is fun to read and makes you think even if you aren’t in the web hosting business.
If you’re going to blog, do as bloggers do: don’t be stingy with outbound links. Make appropriate mentions of other people and sites on your blog and link to them. You’ll find that lots of bloggers track who is linking to them and try to find out where their traffic is coming from, so they’ll notice you if you link to them. And if they notice you, they might check your site and/or blog, write about you, and link right back.
You should also comment on other blogs. I don’t mean the kinds of comments you see that all bloggers hate, that consist basically of somebody posting, in effect, “check out my site at (insert URL here).” I mean useful, insightful, relevant comments – the kind of comments that make other readers think “wow, who is this guy? I want to read more of his stuff!” This could give you the kind of direct traffic that will help make you less dependent on the search engines.
Here’s a small but useful tip: if you blog, tag your posts. It will make it easier for people who are interested in the kinds of topics you write about to find your blog. Blog search engines such as Technorati and others will reward you; you might also find your SERPs going up in Yahoo, MSN, and possibly even Google.
That brings me to one last point on this topic: if you do blog, you’ll benefit from getting your blog listed in a few of the blog directories. Again, it’s a matter of making your site easy to find. And isn’t that what you’re looking for after all?