Once you have great content on your web site, you first need to take care of your internal linking before dealing with getting external links from other web sites. ("Internal linking" is the links on your web site that you control—which web pages you link to on your web site and how you link to them.) The internal links on your web site must be search engine friendly. They must be "crawlable" links that include descriptive anchor text. For example, if you include a "telecom glossary" on your web site as a resource, then the links that point to that telecom glossary should include the anchor text of "telecom glossary", which describes what the visitor is going to find when they click on the link. It also helps that this is most likely the search term someone is going to use when they search at a search engine looking for a telecom glossary.
All the web pages on your web site must be unique (don't duplicate content or copy content from someone else's web site), and all pages must have at least one link from another web page in order to remain in most search engine indices. Keep in mind that your web site's most important pages (including your great "link bait content) should have more internal links from other pages than your least-important pages. Your home page should link to your most important pages (like your products page, your categories page, and your great "link bait" content pages). And all the other pages on your site should link to your most important pages, as well. Think of it this way—the more links a page has the more important it appears to be from a search engine perspective.
Great internal linking also means that you link to your related topics and your most important products (if you sell products on your web site). When someone visits a page on your site they might not enter from the home page—they might first visit your great "link bait" content. If that great "link bait" content doesn't link to related products that you sell then you're missing the opportunity to sell those products. You're also missing a great opportunity to appeal to the search engines, as the search engines will find your great "link bait" content and then move on to your products if you include links to them. Once you've added the great "link bait" content to your web site and are comfortable with your internal linking structure on the site, then it's time to move on to external links from other web sites.
One of the first things you can do is go on over to WebmasterWorld and read a great explanatory thread about external linking by SugarRae titled "Link Development versus Traffic Development and Staying with the Times". Rae Hoffman, prominent Search Engine Marketing Consultant, explains that linking in 2006 has changed:
"If you're sending out hundreds of reciprocal link requests each week and have a 14 page links section on your site, please do the following:
1. Find the time listed on the bottom right hand side of your monitor.
2. Place your mouse cursor over it and double click
3. Please change the year on your calendar from 2003 to 2006
Now you might actually get to focus on doing some productive marketing for your web site. Notice I said marketing, and not link development. The bar has been raised. You can fight it or meet it – the choice is up to you. There is more sophistication in the algorithms of today, there is more sophistication in the level of competition and there is more sophistication from our sites expected by visitors. "
Ms. Hoffman goes on to explain that there are several things you need to be doing, such as getting on topic links to your web site and buying links that will result in clicks (i.e. traffic). You can write "800 word" articles that add value and articles based on your keywords. You especially need to diversify your anchor text, as well. And don't forget about contributing to a select few communities online--and making yourself known. Something else that you can do is create (and post regularly) in a blog.
Start researching your industry. Find other web sites that will link to you without the need for a reciprocal link back to their web site. The following is a list of searches that you might use to find web sites that might link to your web site that are on-topic and share your same keywords:
"Suggest link" +"keyword"
"Suggest a link" +"keyword"
"Suggest site" + "keyword"
"Suggest a site" + "keyword"
"Suggest URL" +"keyword"
"Suggest a URL" +"keyword"
"Add link" +"keyword"
"Suggest an URL" +"keyword"
"Add a link" +"keyword"
"Add site" +"keyword"
"Add a site" +"keyword"
"Add URL" +"keyword"
"Add a URL" +"keyword"
"Add an URL" +"keyword"
"Submit link" +"keyword"
"Submit a link" +"keyword"
"Submit site" +"keyword"
"Submit a site" +"keyword"
"Submit URL" +"keyword"
"Submit a URL" +"keyword"
"Submit an URL" +"keyword"
"favorite links" +"keyword"
"cool sites" +"keyword"
"cool places" +"keyword"
"your location" +"add url"
"your location" +directory
"your location" +"submit site"
"recommended links" +"keyword"
"your location" +"suggest a site"
I recommend staying away from any web site that talk about "reciprocal links" or "exchanging links", as the search engines are beginning to discount or ignore those links. Search engines tend to ignore, discount, or even penalize web sites that are participating in what I call "link schemes", any type of linking that is done for the purpose of getting better search engine rankings—and not for the benefit of a web site's visitors. Reciprocal linking and exchanging links falls into the category of a "link scheme".
Link Building for New Web sites
If you've got a completely new web site that hasn't been around for a while then there are things you can do to help promote that new web site and help it get noticed fairly quickly. I recommend first making sure that your site is submitted to the top web directories (always hand edited), including Yahoo!, DMOZ.org, botw.org, sbd.bcentral.com, and industry niche directories that are related to your industry. If you're a business, then don't forget about Business.com.
Next, write and distribute a press release about new web site. You don't have to pay a lot of money to hire someone to write the press release as there's a lot of people out there who will help you write it. You can save money by writing the press release yourself. If you need some hints about writing a good press release, you might try searching for recent press releases that were written about web site similar to yours—and look for web site press releases that have recently launched to get some ideas. Once you have a polished press release (don't forget links to your web site and internal links to your great "link bait" content), you can distribute it for free or use a service like PRWeb.com, Eric Ward's URLwire.com, BusinessWire, or PR Newswire.
Start advertising your web site by buying a few text links if you have the budget. If you're on a limited budget then you might consider starting a PPC campaign. Paying for visitors via PPC doesn't help with links necessarily, but you will get traffic and perhaps noticed in your niche. You could even pay for traffic to your great "link bait" content, which might in itself get some links from other web sites. The whole point is to get noticed in your industry. Another thing that I've mentioned earlier was to add a blog to your web site and get blog search engine traffic and links from other bloggers in your niche. Make sure your blog has an RSS feed; when you post something in your blog make sure your blog software sends out a ping to the major blog search engines, including Technorati; that will help get some traffic to your site.
Link Building for Older or Established Web sites
Before starting a linking campaign, make sure that you've analyzed your current internal linking structure. If you don't have great "link bait" content on your site, consider adding it—if you're a major corporation then you might even consider writing a white paper, doing a survey, or creating some sort of other content, such as a glossary for your industry's frequently-used terms. Take a look at the current links to your web site from other web sites and read the SugarRae thread at WebmasterWorld mentioned above. If you're participating in any sort of link scheme, stop it. Remove any type of linking on your site that you've done to "game" the search engine rankings. Linking out to other industry resources is good and expected by your web site's visitors but "trading links" just to "game" the search engine rankings or having long links pages is not recommended. Jump start your web site with new links; make sure your web site is listed in the major web site directory listings. Consider writing and distributing a press release and adding a blog to your site. Did I mention adding some more great "link bait" content to your web site? I don't mean to mention it again, but it really is an important part of getting additional links to your site. Lastly, if you've got an established web site, consider advertising on other industry sites and writing and distributing useful articles on a regular basis.
Coming up in part three, I'll address best practices when it comes to linking. I'll also cover worst practices to help you know what techniques you need to avoid for the long term link health of your web site.
Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
Bill Hartzer currently runs a Strategic Online Marketing Consultancy that includes services such as search engine optimization, social media marketing, and online reputation management.
Bill Hartzer formerly managed the Search Engine Marketing division of Vizion Interactive and MarketNet, leading interactive marketing and website design firms in the Dallas, Texas area.
Hartzer is a successful writer, blogger, search engine marketing, and social media marketing expert. During the past fifteen years, some of his many accomplishments include: Search Engine Marketing Manager, Vizion Interactive, Search Engine Marketing Manager, MarketNet, Search Engine Optimization Strategist, Intec Telecom Systems PLC, Webmaster, Intec Telecom Systems PLC, Founder, Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association, Owner/Author, Corporate Web Site Marketing, Administrator, Search Engine Forums, Frequent Speaker, Search Engine Strategies Conferences, Frequent Speaker, WebmasterWorld's PubCon Search Engine and Internet Marketing Conference.
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