Search engine marketers are well aware that Link Popularity plays a significant role in determining a web site's search engine rankings. The number and quality of inbound links are measured by search engines and considered when determining a page's rank.
If you're already a link building guru, then this article is not for you. However, if you're fairly new to these ideas, then you should benefit from this introduction to the topic. I intend to summarize some information presented at the Search Engine Strategies conference in New York this year, as well as ideas presented years ago in these two excellent articles on link building:
Do's and Don'ts for Building Your Site's Link Popularity (by Robin Nobles & Brent Winters)
12 Essential Strategies for Building & Structuring Inbound Links (by Stephen Mahaney)
Offer Quality Content
The best (and most obvious) way to encourage other web sites to link to yours is to create high quality content! To present your content, create a web site that has a professional look and feel, and an easy-to-use navigation system.
Write articles of interest to others that host sites related to your own topic area. Provide additional information about the topic to make it easy for your visitors to learn or gather information. Create some kind of online tool that might be useful to others.
In short, give them a reason to link to your site because it's unlikely they will do so if they do not find your content worthwhile.
Submit to Directories
One of the first places to look for high quality inbound links is from search engine directories.
Of course, submitting your site to a directory does not guarantee inclusion. Submission to these directories are typically evaluated by human beings, and your web site will be judged based on their impressions. If your site meets their standards, it will be included in the directory. If the quality of your web site content is high, then the likelihood that it will be accepted is greatly increased.
Evaluate the Competition
After submitting to the search engine directories, the next step is to evaluate your competition.
Do a thorough analysis of your top competitors' web sites and make a list of web sites that are linking to them. Contact the webmasters of sites that link to your competitors, and try to get them to link to your site as well. If possible, convince them to remove your competitor's link in favor of your own.
Natural Links are Best
If anything has changed in the last few years since the above articles were written, it's the ability of search engines to detect artificial links.
It's therefore more important than ever to build your Link Popularity naturally and gradually to ensure that you are given the credit for those links. If search engines detect a sudden massive influx of inbound links to a web site, it will be assumed that these links were purchased or otherwise artificially generated.
Search engines prefer to see links gradually accumulate from various web sites that relate to the same theme or topic of the site being linked to.
This is reasonable, because that's the way inbound link growth would occur if a site is becoming known over time for the quality of its content.
Choose Quality over Quantity
It's much better to have a single link from a popular web site related to your own topic area than a great many links from unknown sites unrelated to your site's topic.
The quality of your inbound links is much more important than the quantity.
Your time is much better spent cultivating a relationship with quality web sites in your topic area that are themselves already well ranked.
Some things to consider when evaluating the quality of a link are:
- The amount of traffic the linking page actually receives -- a page that receives a great deal of traffic will expose your link to a greater number of visitors.
- The location of your link on the page -- if the link is prominently positioned, the likelihood that it will be noticed by visitors is increased.
- How many other links are on the page -- the boost your Link Popularity will receive from a given link is diluted by the number of other links on the linking page; the fewer links on the page, the better.
The Smart Marketer's Guide to...Evaluating the Quality of a Link.
For more information on link quality, read this informative article entitled
Post on Blogs Related to your Site Content
Blogs [like this one] or forums related to your own content area are excellent places to post material and include a link to your web site.
You should do this whenever possible because readers of the blog will at the very least become aware of your web site if they are not already.
Fairly recently, however, the power that links from blogs or forums have to affect your Link Popularity has been diminished with the introduction of the nofollow tag. This tag was introduced to discourage what Google refers to as "comment spam", which is essentially the use of blog posts to inflate link popularity even though the post was not really appropriate on the blog. If a nofollow attribute is used in a link, then search engines will not give the link any credit for Link Popularity.
Try for Links that are not Obvious
There are several places on the web to try to get links that are not obvious to those new to link building.
For example, links from .edu, .gov, or .mil domains are excellent sources for quality inbound links. These sites usually have good Page Rank and search engines will give these links high value.
Other great links to strive for are those from "Best of the Web", or "Picks of the Week" pages where new web sites are highlighted each week for their quality. Good examples are Yahoo! Picks and Forbes.com Best of the Web. These links are difficult to get, but are well worth the effort and will result in a good deal of traffic for your web site.
Try to be creative in your efforts to build links. Any web site that is somehow related to your site's content can be a potential link.
Keep URLs Consistent
To the extent that you can, try to make sure that your inbound links have a consistent format.
For example, make sure they say "http://www.marketposition.com" consistently, and not "http://marketposition.com" or "http://www.marketposition.com/". Despite the fact that all three of these URLs will lead a web browser to the same page, they are still 3 different URLs as far as the search engines are concerned.
If you focus on a consistent URL to link to, the benefit to your rankings will be maximized.
Don't Focus on Reciprocal Links
Although exchanging links with other web sites is a fairly common practice, it's not the best way to enhance your Link Popularity.
Search engines tend to regard reciprocal links as artificial. That's not to say that your site would be penalized for linking back to a site that links to you; it's just that the effect a link has on your Link Popularity is optimized if you do not link back to the site.
The reasoning behind this is that sites that link to yours in this way are doing so because they value your web site content, not because you have promised a link back to them in return.
Link building is a critical component in any search engine marketing strategy.
It's important to implement a link building plan and stick with it over time to build Link Popularity gradually. The ideas presented in this review are fundamental and should help any webmaster begin accumulating links for their web site.
contributed by: Richard Drawhorn [Article shortened]