If you want to get serious about driving more traffic to your website and improving your search engine rankings you need to develop a linking strategy. There are three primary linking strategies:
1. Reciprocal Linking
2. Purchasing text links
3. Employing a link finding service
A fourth linking strategy is to encourage free links from other websites that don’t involve any of these three methods. Purchased and reciprocal links don’t rank as well in search engines as free links do. A free link is simply a one-way link from another website that you don’t link to or that you didn’t purchase. One thing you definitely want to stay away from are link farms. They will not hurt you at in and will, in fact, drive your page rankings south. You can tell a link farm by how many links are on the page. Too many is not good.
This month’s issue of BizAtomic Advisor focuses on Reciprocal Linking – How it can help. When a trusted site links to yours, people follow that recommendation.
Reciprocal link means your website links to another website and that website links back to you. Search engines use link popularity to rank websites. Exchanging reciprocal links with other sites will build a great link directory that will motivate visitors to bookmark your website to get access to your link directory.
One of the factors search engines use to determine your relevancy to a search term is the number of websites linking to your website. This is an effective way to increase your search engine rankings.
Three key success factors for a reciprocal linking strategy are:
1. Quality of links should outweigh quantity
2. Link partners must relate to your site content
3. Partners should link to you from pages listing as few links as possible
Linking is what the web is all about. It helps you move from one document to another and from site to site while maintaining your focus on a particular subject. The ideal situation is to have one way links from related sites without you pointing back to them. However, you would have to have a lot of valuable information, tips, tools, articles, resources, etc. in order to motivate people to link to your website. Unfortunately most sites don’t fall into this category and reciprocal linking is a requirement.
Reciprocal linking should be used as an adjunct to everything else. Don’t focus a lot of time and energy on reciprocal links. You’re better off with a few high quality linking partners than with a lot of low quality or mediocre ones. Build your site content. That should be your main focus. If you do this well, you’ll get some inbound links and those will be far more valuable than anything else.
Step 1 – Get people to want to link to your website. Generating quality inbound links to your website requires a systematic approach and hard work. But the payoff is worth it. To begin with you must have good content on your website. Step one is to analyze the value of your content in relation to competitors. You will also need a page of outbound links on your website that visitors will find valuable.
You don’t need a page of outbound links. That’s an old strategy that is becoming a fashion of bygone days. You’re better off with in text links. That’s the new method and, by far, a more successful one.
Your site content, however, must be superb. Once you’ve built up great content start writing articles and submitting them to article directories. If your articles are dynamic and rich content themselves, they will be picked up by ezine publishers and webmasters, which will make for more inbound links.
Step 2 – Research websites that are worth linking to and that will bring relevant traffic to you. You need to identify the portals, directories, news sites, ezines, blogs, and other information sources specific to your industry. You can let your fingers do the walking across the keyboard or you can purchase one of the many software tools on the market designed to locate relevant sites. They also help collect email addresses and even prepare letters requesting that a site add a link to your site. Without making any recommendations you may want to look into the following tools:
- Arelis Reciprocal Link Solution
- Zeus Internet Marketing Robot
- Linking 101 Linking Management Script
- Duncan Carver’s Link Management System
- Hot Links SQL V2.3
- LinkMaster Pro
- Links Manager
Make sure you at least visit the sites these tools generate. However, the best way to build long-term link popularity is to offer good content and features providing real value to your visitors. People will discover your website.
Yes, and on scouring the web, use both methods. You can use a tool such as the ones listed above but you still want to do some browsing of your own. The Web is always changing. You could discover a new site that isn’t found by the tools you use.
Google is a great help with your research because it ensures your partners are properly indexed. Look for sites closely related to you in terms of theme and keywords. Google’s ranking algorithm takes into account each link’s importance along with other factors like the proximity of your search keywords in the documents. In other words, it’s not just about the number of sites that link to a given page, but also the importance of those sites (measured by the links to each of them). Google has given a name to its ranking algorithm for determining a web page’s importance; it’s called PageRank(TM) .
Human based directories like Yahoo and the Open Directory project have a lot of influence over search results. List your site in the correct category with a good description.
This is outdated information. Yahoo isn’t such a directory any more as it is a search engine. It’s purchase of Inktomi gave it access to a spider that crawls the same way Google’s spider crawls so submitting your site to Yahoo isn’t as necessary as it seems. Yahoo will find it anyway. Not that you shouldn’t submit your site to Yahoo, but it just isn’t quite as necessary as everyone makes it out to be. Plenty of successful websites are picked up by the search engine without anyone ever submitting the site because the crawlers will crawl. Make no doubt about that.
DMOZ (Open Directory Project, or ODP) is outdated. In the old days, DMOZ had a lot more sway than it does today. Google feeds off of DMOZ but it doesn’t have to. It’s web crawlers are the most active in the industry. If you have a website, they will find it. Toward the end of Last year, DMOZ had some problems with being down any way. The technical difficulties didn’t do it any justice. Because of its methods of site review and acceptance, many webmasters don’t trust them and refer to the website’s editors as “prima donnas.” The epithet is well deserved. Many successful websites never submit to DMOZ.
You would get more mileage from finding niche directories for your industry or topic. Submit your website to those. You’ll benefit from the link and the traffic. If you want to submit to Yahoo and DMOZ, go ahead. It won’t hurt you. But it isn’t 100% necessary.
Next, make sure you are linked to and from topic specific and niche directory websites. These are sites that provide information that is an exact match for what you provide.
Don’t forget partners and vendors from your business. Since you already have a relationship you are more likely to be able to request and receive a link from their websites.
Step 3 – Implementing your strategy. Like any marketing campaign you need a plan.
- Set business benefit objectives for your Linking strategy. Think about what you are trying to achieve and write it down on paper.
- Develop a content plan for populating your website with valuable content.
- Set linking policies, pages, and linking code you can give to link partners for your site.
- Monitor the progress of your linking strategy so that you can see what results have been achieved and adapt or tweak what you are doing to improve results.
- Benchmark your site’s link popularity against competitors.
A good website to use for this last point is www.marketleap.com.
A Reciprocal Linking Program will require that you manage the following:
1. The name of the site
2. The URL
3. The name and email address of the person who runs the site
4. The date you contact the person who runs the site and the date he or she responds
5. The resulting deal (Some will say yes, some will say no, others will not reply at all, others will want a link back from you, some may want money for links, some will be out of town and take weeks to reply, etc.)
6. The status of the deal
7. Verifying that the link is in place
8. Checking the site periodically for the link (Yes, some folks swap links and then pull yours for odd reasons.)
Remember the most important benefit of a link exchange is the traffic resulting directly from these links. Search engines are highly unpredictable. They keep changing their algorithms every now and then. Your site is on the top 10 results today, but it may not be so tomorrow. Of course, you don’t want to exclude search engine optimization but your main concern should be getting traffic from direct links.
Actually, we believe this is backwards. Your main concern should be SEO but you don’t want to exclude getting traffic from direct links. Studies show that most website traffic comes from organic searches. That means SEO should be your top priority. Next, focus on building traffic through links. If it makes sense for your business, you might also incorporate some PPC campaigns for more targeted traffic.