You know you should have more links pointing to your site, but you're not sure what the best approach is to pursue them. One of my favorite approaches is to use the search results for terms that are important for my site.

I do a search at Google for a two or three word phrase that I wish I was ranked first for. Then, instead of treating all those other sites listed in the results like they were competitors, I think of them as potential link partners. Chances are not every site linked in those search results is a true competitor of your business. Those sites are competing with yours only for the search terms, not products and services.

Now, visit the sites with a link in the search results above yours that are not competitors for your products. Examine those sites for ways you can get a link on them. Do they have links pages? Do they offer a newsletter you could place an inexpensive text ad/link in? Could you swap links with them?

Here's a more tangible example. Imagine a professional fitness trainer who sells e-books via a Web site. The search term "lower my body fat" would be important to him. Rather than battle to be ranked first for such a phase (which probably will never happen) , look at the other sites listed among the search results. Most have nothing to do with personal training or fitness e-books. There are weight loss centers and vitamin stores, even liposuctiuon sites.

This technique is called "piggybacking". You take advantage of the high rankings of other sites. They have what you seek, a highly placed link for a specific search phrase. So rather than try to unseat their ranking, which could take you months and never happen anyway, do the next best thing: Pursue a link on the sites with the best rankings that don't compete with you.

Why do this? Imagine if you had links on every site that had a top 10 search result for phrases that you care about. You are building a network of links on high-profile sites that get tons of search engine traffic as a result of their high placement. The harder part will be figuring out why these sites should give you a link in the first place. If you sell products, you might ask if they want to be an affiliate.

If you are fortunate enough to already have some high-ranking pages, you could simply swap banner links: a you-scratch-my-back-I- scratch-yours scenario. Or you might simply use this technique as another method for identifying good targets you can advertise on. In other words, the sites that have high rankings for terms that are important to you are natural places for you to buy banner or button or even text links on. You might even get lucky and find they have a reciprocal links page. Your only cost would be a link back to them on your site.

Remember the key point of this approach: Identify sites that do not sell what you sell but that do have a high ranking for phrases that are important to you. Seek out win-win partnerships with these sites. They've done the hard work of securing highly ranked links. Reward them for it, and you reward yourself in the process.

Until next time, I remain,

Eric Ward

Link Mensch
April 10, 2002

What is link popularity? How do you get it? In several ways, none of which are easy. There are no shortcuts to the process of building links. Eric provides credible information about the art of link building, and dispels/debunks the many claims and rumors regading link popularity, especially as it relates to search engine rankings.

Eric Ward founded the Web's first service for announcing and linking Web sites back in 1994, and he still offers those services today. His client list is a who's who of online brands. Ward is best known as the person behind the original linking campaigns for Books, The Link Exchange,, Rodney Dangerfield, WarnerBros, The Discovery Channel, the AMA, and The Weather Channel. His services won the 1995 Tenagra Award For Internet Marketing Excellence, and he was selected as one of the Web's 100 most influential people by Websight magazine in 1997. Eric also writes the Link Building column for ClickZ, the NetSense column for Ad Age magazine, and is a 4-star speaker for iWORLD, Fawcette, and CNet.

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Search Engine Guide > Eric Ward > A Technique for Selecting Sites for Link Requests