What’s in a link? Why is it considered so important in search engine optimization? Linking is not considered the most important technique in search engine optimization, but it very well could be. What makes Google’s PageRank search algorithm unique is the position of importance it accords to sites that have a large number of links pointing to them. But it is not only Google which considers links important; all other search engine spiders travel along links to search and index web pages, so we could term links important to search engines in general and essential to Google rankings.
I believe honest and effective linking could very well be the single most important thing to search engine optimization techniques for Google, perhaps more important than keyword density and position. Effective linking strategies take time to develop, however, but the time spent developing links to your site could very well be the most profitable time you could spend on SEO. Effective linking could be your insurance against losing your ranking when Google tinkers with its search criteria, and could make your position consistent month in, month out. In these perilous times when businesses are built or destroyed according to their positioning on Google, this could very well be the Holy Grail of SEO techniques.
No matter what changes in Google’s search criteria, one thing has remained constant thus far, and that is the importance it attaches to incoming links (and even outgoing links). Google ranks individual URLs by the number of other URLs which have links to it, and also to the URLs that particular URL links to. One link pointing to a site gives the site one positive vote in the algorithm; two gives it two votes, and so on. Linking is important to positioning; nobody knows the exact criteria by which a site achieves number one status on Google, but I can bet my horse and his grandma that the top ranked site on Google for any category is the one that has the largest number of links pointing to it.
Not only is the number of links important, also important is the caliber (or quality) of sites which have links to your site. Your site is given a higher ranking if the site that links to yours is also a highly ranked site which offers rich and relevant content. But keep in mind, just linking for the sake of SEO can lead to a site being penalized by the major search engines. The sites that link to yours must be related sites. This shows the search engine that you are not only concerned about ranking, but that you want to provide the online public more information, and that you are really offering value. This makes the practice of contracting linking to companies that guarantee you links dangerous, as you are not aware of their linking methods (perhaps they just link all comers together) and a mistake could cause you to be banned from a search engine.
So how do you go about the business of getting links pointing to your site from others? There are a variety of ways to do this; as a writer by calling, all my favorite are related to writing. And apart from being my favorites, they have been found to work.
This is the favorite of a lot of web sites (especially those on Search Engine Optimization), however it should be used by every conceivable type of site. Articles relating to the content of your site should be written clearly and concisely. You should focus on providing information that is relevant to someone who is interested in getting information on that field. It could be in the form of current news about that sector, for example, a tattoo site that writes articles about new tattooing techniques, or an article that answers FAQs.
The more different your articles are from the norm, and the fresher they are, the more likely they are to be picked up by recognized sites. At the end of the article you include a brief footer talking about the writer (yourself) and your site, which you then include a link to; you should also be encouraged to put links to pages on your site liberally throughout the page, as the need arises. And how do you get these articles out? You submit them to article directories. These are large directories containing articles, and webmasters come to pick up content for their sites from these directories. Examples include www.ezine.com and www.articledashboard.com as well as others. You will not be paid for your labor, but for every site that picks up your article, that is one positive vote on the Google PageRank algorithm.
By submitting to a large number of directories, you increase your odds of being picked up, and note: you increase the number of links to your site, since the article directories are pointing to your site. This also increases your PR, as your name becomes associated with expertise on such matters, and it helps your site branding. It is a foolproof way of getting links to your site, and thereby increasing your page rankings.
This is an excellent and risk free way of getting links to your site. It requires a modicum of creativity and discipline. If you are personally unable to churn out one or two articles a month, consider hiring someone to write them, or selling your website (that may or may not be a joke).
This is similar to writing articles and distributing them across the Internet, but in this case, instead of waiting for webmasters to pick up your articles, you create blogs on topics related to your site’s content and then provide links to your site. Your blogs should be as creative as possible. Ideally they should be in ezine form.
With links to other topics which will help the individual looking for content, your blogs will provide inward links as well as related content. The content should be related; it does not necessarily have to be the same content. Blogging is free and ensures that you are not guilty of just building “shadow sites” which just link back to your site, a technique for which you could be penalized.
This is relatively speaking the hardest part of link building, since it involves you finding a relatively high ranking site, convincing them to link to your site, and you linking to their site. The latter is easy, since the Internet allows you to link to other people’s sites without permission. Getting a high ranking site to link to your site, however, is like getting a date with a supermodel. Even if you are rich, she still might not date you.
The first step is to find the most suitable sites. Sometimes the best candidates will be your direct competitors. You can expect them to definitely be unwilling to place a link to your site (then again, who knows), but you must still ask. There will probably be a firstname.lastname@example.org, also there may be a cell or layer for related link on their site. When requesting reciprocal linkage, you should provide your site’s URL and description (not too verbose), stating how such a link will benefit their visitors, and in return, their web site’s profile and/or profitability.
This stage cannot be rushed. If you pressure a supermodel for a date, she is likely to refuse; the same is true with a request for a reciprocal link. Be polite and subtle and you will be pleasantly surprised at the results. Be honest on your own side; if you are reciprocal linking with your direct competitors then don’t cheat, place their links on your page.
Without good content, no webmaster worth his salt will link to your site, so you must offer value, content and a website which truly helps the browsing audience. Avoid linking companies that offer you overnight results. “Overnight” on the Internet means six months studying and six weeks experimenting (minimum). They will probably just link you to a bunch of FFA (free for all) sites which may not influence your page rank by much. The rank of the site that is linking to you matters. It is not just the linking strategy, content is king (really, I hail him every morning).
Another way of ensuring that a large number of sites have links pointing to your site is to write e-books and offer them up free, while giving the web sites that pick it up the option of selling them to their audience or giving them away also. The browsing public love freebies, so this is an excellent way of ensuring that a large amount of websites, have your e books (anything from six to sixty pages) with loads of links back to your sites.
Offering others a chance to make money if they join your web site’s affiliate program (if you are offering a product for sale online) will also ensure a large number of websites provide a link to your site, all of them doing the initial pre-selling that is so essential to the sales process. Other linking strategies include submitting your website to directories and advertising on sites through link buying on their sites or on web journals. Press releases are also excellent ways of getting news sites to link to your website (it’s like getting the model to agree to a one off date).
Analyzing Your Traffic
After your linking strategies are in place, you must now use link analysis to see what works for your site and what does not. You can either use your server’s activity logs to track where most of your traffic is coming from, or you can use the search engines to track down referral links. And hence you know how popular your link is considered on line.
From your activity logs, you can tell which kind of sites are referring a large volume of traffic to you; hence you can focus on them (ergo Pareto’s Principle) and from this analysis you can update your linking strategies. Link analysis can be tricky and should be carefully studied before drastic changes are made. The demographics of your audience should also be investigated via forms placed on your site and posted to members of your opt-in database. This will ensure that you know the demographics of the searchers that make up the bulk of your traffic.
Content, Content, Content
All your efforts are moot if your content cannot keep the searchers referred to your site by your linking strategies and your new rankings. Content is king, so hail him in the morning and hail him in the evening. Good content will ensure the survival of your site, interactivity and value will also give you the biggest single piece of free PR you can ever dream of: word of mouth endorsement on forums, articles and newspapers, or cyber buzz.