Link development is one of most overlooked components of a successful search engine optimisation campaign. Web site owners can put all key phrases they wish on a page, develop killer content and a search-engine friendly navigation scheme, but without a well-planned link-development campaign, crawler based search engine visibility is difficult to achieve and high listings are virtually impossible. This month we will be covering importance of inbound links, how to get them and what they mean for your web site.
We have all heard that adding quality content to your web site will give search engines a good idea of how to index your web site, it’s a topic we covered in “Content, Content, Content” back in November 2004. But secret to luring search engines to your web site, and in part to improving your position within those listings is your inbound links.
So what are inbound links? Inbound links are simply links from an external web site to your web site. You will also hear phrase “link popularity” which is simply a search engines measure of number and quality of links pointing to a single URL. We will cover “quality” later in this article but a site's home page usually has highest number of inbound links, or highest link popularity, because site owners tend to link to home pages rather than any other content page.
What makes a quality link? Achieving good rankings using links used to be simple; today things have become more complex, with search engines using very complicated algorithms to measure quality of links that involves: ·Number of links to your site? ·What is written in those links? ·What key phrases are used in those links? ·What is quality of site that is linking to yours? ·How many other links does that site have? A link from a web site that search engine recognises as a leader in your industry carries a lot of clout and means that your web site is important. Two links from industry leaders means your site is even more important. But 100 links from random web sites, from industries you are not even related with, means almost nothing. Thus, getting links is only start; important thing is getting good links from quality (high ranking and relevant) web sites.
How Do We Get Links? It all starts with content – yes we’re back to that again. No one will link to you unless you offer quality information about a particular subject. If you are an estate agent, why not offer information about area you are selling in. People will be interested in local schools, clubs and associations, crime rates, etc. Once you have completed your information; find web sites whose visitors would benefit from your site's content; solicit links from nearby leisure facilities, local towns, builders, gardeners, removal companies, etc.
How Do You Solicit Links? To solicit links takes a lot of work. First you need to find web sites that are appropriate to your audience and also bear in mind that often, web site owners will require link to be reciprocal; i.e.; they want one back from you. As a general rule, if you think your target market may visit a web site, you would benefit from a link from it. Type your search phrases into a search engine like Google.com and see what sites are listed in first page of results and if appropriate, ask them for a link. Also check which sites are linking to these well-listed web sites and ask those sites for a link. For a list of inbound links to a third parties web site type in "link:theirdomain.com" in Google.
Send out personalised emails to web sites you have identified giving some evidence that you have actually visited web site. Don't waste time on approaching web sites that haven't been updated in years, many web sites are perfect but if they are rarely updated, your link wont be added. Be friendly and polite in your approach, and point out benefits of linking to your web site. If you are lucky, around one third of your emails will get a response. It can be frustrating and discouraging when you get little response or a whole string of no’s, but it’s important to keep going.
It is also important to follow up. Until you get a definite no, keep in contact and keep it personal. The trick is to let recipient of your emails think that they are only web site that you are approaching for a link so make sure you keep track of who you have contacted and what you have written or said. If your linking prospects think that you are sending out mass emails, or that you are using exact same approach with other sites, you will probably lose their respect - and any chance of a link.
Directories and Links Do not forget to submit to directories, relevant business directories and local listings. Getting listed in some of larger directories such as Open Directory Project counts for a lot in major crawler based search engines. Take your time and choose right category to submit to. Also, make sure you read advice about how to write descriptions and titles and write them in way they ask, bear in mind that human beings edit these directories! Also consider submitting to Yahoo and Business.com, both charge annual subscription fees but both would provide high quality links. If links turn out not to be cost effective, simply don’t renew your subscription.