Visitor growth essentials
Why you must build natural web links
Sept 20, 2010 by Steve Cassidy
Why should you bother trying to get other sites to link to yours?
At its core the Internet is all about connectivity – the easy sharing of information and ideas. Website linking is the mechanism that enables this to happen. So, search engines place great importance on sites that enable information to be found and shared easily.
This means that search engines love sites that have fantastic content that many other sites reference, i.e.ones that other sites link back to. Search engines see these links as votes of approval – the more votes (links) you have the more valuable (useful) your site is deemed.
In effect, your site receives "link juice" from other web pages that link to it. And when your site becomes highly valued, you get a significantly better position in the search listings.
So if I have 100s of links coming into my site, job done...
Nope – sorry it’s not that easy! You must have high quality links too. In a perfect world you’d have 100s of quality websites linking back to you. However, in my experience, it’s better to concentrate on getting premium links than 100s of so-so links. But, how do you suss out a great link from a bad one? Read on...
How do you tell a quality link from a
On the web not all pages and links are equal. A simple way to get a feel for the popularity of a webpage, is to download the Google Toolbar. Once installed to your browser, you can see the Google Page Rank (PR) score for a webpage. In essence this gives you a feel for the importance (number of links) for that page. The range is 0 to 10, with 10 being the best.
Ideally, you should try and court links from sites with an average PR score of at least 4-5 across their pages. (Note that Google’s UK homepage scores 8 out of 10, so do be realistic!) Also, links on informational sites (.gov, .ac and .org) often carry a lot of extra clout with search engines, so these are usually good targets.
And, be cautious of linking to sites that are new and haven’t yet built up a PR score. Search engines, certainly Google, downgrade the position of new sites until they’ve proven themselves. If you are unsure about a site you want to link to or that you want linking to you, you can use the WHOIS register to check site ownership and how old a site is.
Can’t I just pay for links and be done with it?
There are all kinds of link farming schemes to grow links and there are numerous link exchange sites (known as reciprocal linking). My advice is stay well clear! Search engines are very effective at working out the difference between earned (1-way, anchor text rich links) and 2-way shared links.
Think about it. If a site goes from a few good quality inbound links to 100s of similar links in a few weeks – is that natural? No – the search engines consider this spam. You may find your site disappears from the search listings altogether! Why?
The Internet is a meritocracy. And therefore, in my opinion, you should not buy votes for a higher search engine position. Rather, people should give you their vote in exchange for some truly useful content that you offer.
Don’t get me wrong, while it's perfectly legitimate to link to high-quality sites that also link to you, the key here is to grow a mix of links over time. Play fairly and have a little patience and you’ll be rewarded in the long run.
Are you aware of the dreaded no-follow tag?
The no-follow tag is a pain for link builing efforts. Essentially, it makes links back to your site invisible to search engines – ouch!
The search engine optimisation (SEO) value you think you’re getting from Linked-In, Twitter, Facebook posts is zero.
However, your customers will still find these posts valuable so do keep doing it to drive traffic. Also, be aware that no-follow tags may be applied to your paid adverts, blog posts and directory listings.
Some tips for building natural web links
Create something others want to link to and share
Known as “link bait”, you need to make sure your content is useful, inspirational or so funny that people will want to tell others about it. I’m not saying this is easy to do, but this is the best way for building a large volume of natural incoming links.
Ways to spread the word - SEO link building
Balance is the key to good link building. This ensures that the links coming into your site are not treated suspiciously by search engines. Yes, you can pay for some links – just don’t go overboard. A good mix should include:
Directories – Business directories, professional organisations, and online forums can all be good link prospects. The best ones like DMOZ.org, Yahoo, business.com, Best of the Web should be on your hit list. Note - you will need to pay for some listings, but it’s money well spent.
Articles and press releases - Writing and submitting articles and press releases are a great way of promoting your business news. Concentrate on offering something genuinely newsworthy or useful to the reader. This will help get your site in front of more people and build links to your site.
Blogs and forums – If you have good content to share a blog is easy to set-up. Link to relevant pages on your own site from your blog. Try and build relationships with other bloggers and forum members to grow links back to you. Relevant blogs/forums with high visibility and large followings should be your focus.
Blog and forum participation can be time consuming, so pick only the most relevant and don’t feel pressured to contribute continually - do so when it’s appropriate and helpful.
Quick ways to check who’s linking to you
Use Google's free webmaster tools to see who links to you. This is more comprehensive than the 'link:' command in Google itself. Also try the free Yahoo! Site Explorer to see what links Yahoo! shows pointing at your site.
Each month, make it a part of your link-building plan to check for new sites linking to you. Remember, a link is a vote of approval – so make time to contact them, thank them and foster a relationship.
Never lose site of the bottom line when link building!
WARNING! Don’t be over zealous on ruling out sites with a low PR score. Particularly, if those websites are likely to drive good quality visitors to your site long term. After all, you need a regular flow of visitors who spend money at the end of the day!
Always ask yourself – is the website that wants to link to mine directly relevant to my business? If it’s marginal – walk away!
I hope you found this article interesting and useful. If you need help building links for your site, we offer affordable SEO Link Building Services.
If you’d like to comment on this article, please email Steve Cassidy.
About the author:
Steve Cassidy is the Founder of SEO 4 SMEs – a London based search marketing consultancy. Its focus is to help small and medium UK business profit from their websites and optimise PPC campaigns. He was one of the first UK marketing professionals to become an Institute of Direct Marketing (IDM) qualified E-Marketer – Cert.EM back in 2001. The majority of his commercial internet marketing expertise was gained whilst working at the informa group plc (a FTSE 150 company).
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