The Importance of Building Links

Links make the World Wide Web go round. Links are how we get from place to place on the web and they’re the vehicle that allows us access to an infinite amount of information. Links also give us more traffic to our sites. This article will explain why you should increase the number of links to your site, and how to do it.

It’s only logical that the search engines take the number of links pointing to a particular web site into account when ranking the sites in their index.  A link to your web site is seen as a vote for your web site.  It’s a simple concept really.  I always like to use the example of a party when explaining the idea of how and why linking works.

We’ve all been to a party and started, or overheard, a conversation with someone taking about a great product or service.  Depending on how much you trust that person, you may or may not buy the product or service, but you will definitely check it out.

Word of mouth advertising is the most effective form of advertising.  The idea of linking to other web sites was intended to be the web’s form of word of mouth advertising.  I say "intended" because in the early days of link exchanging the search engine algorithms could be easily manipulated.

Many web site owners figured out that it was relatively easy to artificially inflate the number of sites that the search engine thought linked to you.  This was accomplished in many different ways but the underlying problem was that the sites that were linking to one another had nothing to do with one another.

Let’s go back to our party for a minute and let’s pretend you and I were in a nice discussion about our yards and the ideas we have to improve the curb appeal of our homes.  Then I blurt out, "Hey!  You know, I know a great pastry chef who makes killer crème roulette."  The look on your face is probably priceless at this point.

That’s pretty much what was happening on the Web.  Poker sites were linking to diet pill sites and cooking sites would like to car dealers.  The fundamental problem with this behavior was that it did not serve the human interests and only catered to the search engine robots.

Thankfully the search engines stepped up and began to recognize that unrelated links not only made the web less organized and more of a mess to navigate but it also diluted the content of web sites and made it more difficult to classify those sites in their index.  The position taken by Google and Yahoo! in the early days was a great one in my humble opinion.  Who knows what the web would look like to today if they didn’t?

Before I begin, it is important to note that a link to your web site can not "hurt" your rankings.   Google devalues links but the search engine will not penalize your site for a link that points to your web site.

A major part of search engine optimization is link building.  Link building is the process of getting other web sites to place a link to your web site on their own web site.  Over the years there have been many linking strategies developed so that web sites would rank well in the search engines.  Many of these strategies, while still used by some SEOs, are just "played out."

The most played out linking strategy is automated reciprocal linking.  Reciprocal linking involves actively searching for related web sites, placing a link to a web site and then sending the web site owner a canned e-mail asking them to link back.  A web site owner who has a popular site is more than likely being inundated with link exchange requests.  Chances are your canned e-mail is being used by thousands of other web site owners looking for sites with which to exchange links.

Another reason a link swap is played out is because the process simply doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to.  Search engines like Google and Yahoo! do not value links that are bartered for, and a link exchange is just that, an agreement to place a link on your site for something in return.

Another played out linking strategy is purchasing links from an automated system or link farm.  The fundamental problem with automated linking systems and link farms is that they are based on swapping links with another site; in other words, it’s another bartered link.

Additionally, most of the automated systems available on the market only allow you one link per account.  This means that all of the text in the anchor tags of your link is the same.  For example, let’s say my target keyword is "Quit smoking now."  If all of the links that point to my site look like this:

<a href= http://mysite.com> Quit smoking now></a>

Then I would have thousands of links to my site all with the same anchor text.  This does not look natural to the search engines.  Over time, these links will be de-valued and my rankings will drop.  As the search engine algorithm becomes more sophisticated the ability for them to detect unnatural linking strategies becomes better.

Every day there are new ideas popping up all over the Internet that help sites link to one another.  So which strategies work best?

As I said earlier, search engines have definitely evolved over time.  Over the past seven years or so we have seen the important aspects of links go from simply quantity and evolve into a sophisticated computer algorithm that measures quantity and quality of links.  So the days of just swapping ink with every site known to man are over, boo hoo!

Your ideal linking strategy would be one that successfully generates thousands of related links to your web site and also ensures your anchor text is not duplicated over and over.  So I’ve come up with some effective linking strategies for you to try.  While these strategies involve more work than simply finding a site and sending an e-mail asking for a link swap, I am sure you will find they are effective and will really boost your rankings.

Not all linking strategies apply to all web sites.  It is important to determine what strategies actually work for your web site.  Of the two strategies I will discuss here, one can be applied to an e-commerce site and the other is primarily used for service providers/informational sites.

So let’s crack the second nut first and discuss how to effectively build links that will actually increase your web site rankings if you have a site that provides information or a service. 

Many people fail to realize that more people go to the web for information and research compared to the number of people who go to the web to buy a product.  If your web site sells a service you should be offering expert information about your service FOR FREE.  Providing free information not only provides your audience with what they want, you are also giving the search engines what they want, which is lots of content!  Additionally, you are building trust with your readers.

Try writing some articles and posting them to article web sites that allow other web site owners to put your articles on their web sites.  Find article submission services that allow you to add a one or two paragraph signature at the beginning or end of each article.  Every article you write should have a different signature and, most importantly, it should have links to related information on your web site.  The related information on your web site can be more articles, discussions, blog entries, and so forth.  Most importantly, make sure you submit your on-site content to the major news feeder sites like del.icio.us, dig, and nowpublic.  These are another great way to get exposure and links to your content.

Finally, make sure the article submission service you choose requires web site owners to put your signature on their site.  Some don’t; these will not help your rankings and you are wasting your time with them.

If you sell retail products you may find that the first linking strategy I suggested is a little difficult to accomplish.  Many e-commerce and retail web site owners have difficulty coming up with articles that do not sound like a long drawn out advertisement.  And I couldn’t agree more.  The most effective strategy for retail sites to develop high quality links is by the use of a direct affiliate program.

A direct affiliate program is an affiliate program that is not managed by a third party affiliate program service.  The main problem with third party affiliate program services is that they provide your affiliates with links that point to their web site first, and then redirect the user to your web site automatically.

Since the link points to the affiliate program company’s web site and not yours, the search engines do not see this as a link to your site — and it’s not.  Running an affiliate program that provides your affiliates with links that go directly to your site is the only way you want to go.

Now that your affiliate program is set up to point directly to your site, the next step would be to develop a link generation strategy that provides your affiliates with links that are not replicated over and over again.  This can be accomplished in a number of ways.  Some ideas you can experiment with are providing 20 or more different HTML link samples for your affiliates and changing them, or rotating them into 20 new HTML link samples each month.  Each month you can focus on targeting a new set of key words, web pages, or products.

Whether you sell a product or provide a service you can effectively build links to your web site without using played out techniques like reciprocal linking.  Try some of the ideas that I mentioned above and I am sure you will see the number of links to your web site increase dramatically.

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