One thing that rang loud and clear from the Search Engine Strategies 2001 Conference in San Francisco in August was the importance of building a good, solid link popularity for your Web site.
However, there are no free rides when it comes to building link popularity. It takes hard work and dedication, but it certainly is worth the effort. After all, how many ill optimized sites have you seen that are in the top 10 rankings, when the only thing going for the site is a strong link popularity?
So, let's look at some do's and don'ts to consider when trying to build your link popularity.
* Concentrate on related and important links only. Sheer numbers are no longer important. What's important is that the more popular sites on the Web link to your site, as well as making sure that the links pointing to your site are relevant to your topic area.
* Make sure that your site is listed in all of the major directories: Yahoo!, the Open Directory Project, and LookSmart. Also, see if your site is relevant to a particular About.com area, and submit it to the guide.
* Visit Search Engine Guide and search for vertical engines or directories in your focus area. Search Engine Guide features a listing of over 3,700 engines and directories, so it's an excellent resource for finding focused engines or directories to submit to.
* Visit Link Popularity Check and search for your competitors. Start visiting the sites that are linked to your competitors, and write to see if they'll consider linking to your site.
* Create a list of links before you ever contact sites for linking purposes. If the company sees that you've already added their URL to your list of links, they'll be more apt to add your link on their site in return. Again, concentrate on related links only.
* Consider what other fields are related to your particular industry and concentrate on getting links from those areas. You won't want to add competing sites to your links' page, but you probably won't mind adding links to sites that aren't direct competitors. For example, if you have a site that sells needlework kits, you won't want to list other sites that sell needlework kits. However, you probably won't mind linking to sites offering related products, such as sewing baskets, books on needlework, or online sewing classes.
* When you visit related sites, look to see if they offer guestbooks or forums. If they do, post a message, and include your URL in your signature.
* Consider setting up separate theme-oriented domains and link all of your domains together.
* Offer a discount of your goods or services for anyone who agrees to post a small graphic on their site that links back to your site.
* Create a testimonial page, and write a brief testimonial about any Web site that you'd like to get linked to your site. Inform the site of the testimonial, and encourage them to link to the page.
* Or, write testimonials of particular products, and sign the testimonial with your name and URL. Send the testimonials out to the individual companies, and tell them how much you've enjoyed using their products. Many companies will place testimonials in particular areas of their site, and they're delighted to get rave reviews about their products.
* Offer awards on your site, and give out little graphics that link back to your site.
* Set up an affiliate program, which is an excellent way to boost link popularity.
* Visit the Reciprocal Linkage Topics area of Webmaster World forums and look for new ideas for building link popularity.
* Become a content provider in your focus area, and get your articles posted across the Net in related areas.
* Are there any professional organizations related to your industry? If so, do they have pages of links?
* Develop a plan for boosting link popularity, and then stick to it. Pledge to get so many new links a week, and hire a high school student at minimum wage to work for you, if needed.
* If you need help in developing a linkage program for your site, consider hiring a company like LinkageXpress to do it for you.
* Though I haven't personally used it, I've heard good things about Zeus, a software program that is a reciprocal link generator.
* Remember to link to other important, related sites in your industry from your own site. After all, link popularity is both incoming and outgoing, and related, important sites are what you're after.
* Don't participate in link exchange programs or link farms. Google will ban sites that participate in link exchange programs, and many of the other major engines have also expressed their dislike of artificially created link popularity.
* Don't use hidden links on your page. Again, many of the major engines frown on the use of hidden links.
* Don't make the mistake of thinking that link popularity isn't important or necessary. A high link popularity is sometimes all it takes to achieve top rankings. It's crucial, in many cases, to the success of an online business.
* If you create separate theme focused sites for the purpose of boosting link popularity, don't use redirects on those sites pointing back to your main site. Rather, create a mini site at the new URL with several pages of good, solid content, and then visibly link back to the main site.
* Don't bother with free-for-all pages. Generally the only thing these pages will guarantee is an increase in email spam if you participate.
Devote some time and energy to the building of a solid link popularity for your site. Not only will it help your site in the rankings, but it will more than likely increase your traffic as well.
Robin Nobles is the Co-Director of Training of Search Engine Workshops, where they teach "hands on" search engine marketing workshops in locations across the globe. They also provide a networking community for SEOs called The World Resource Center for Search Engine Marketers and have expanded their workshops to Europe with Search Engine Workshops UK.
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