Link building is essential for effective SEO. All the major search engines utilise some kind of link scoring mechanism within their algorithms to determine the importance of a web page for specific keywords. This means that you need links pointing to your site to be taken seriously by the search engines.
The basic idea is quite simple. If someone links to your website, this counts as a vote in favour of your site. Equally, if you link to another site this counts as a vote for them. However, bear in mind that not all sites are seen as equal and this affects the way links are treated by the search engines. Links are weighted according to the importance of the website providing the link and this gets factored into the equation. As an example, a link from Amazon will count for more than a link from Bob's Bargain Bookstore! So building links to your site is not just a numbers game. The quality and relevance of links to your site are more important in the long run.
While gaining quality links from other relevant websites is the ultimate long-term goal, there are a number of things you can do when you are just starting out which will help to build your link profile.
If you are developing a new website or just starting your link building campaign, directory submissions are a good place to start. Submit your site to a mixture of general directories, regional and country specific directories, and niche directories relevant to your market or industry. With the right approach you should be able to obtain at least 20 - 30 good directory links to your site within a couple of months.
Writing articles about your business or industry is an excellent way to provide good quality content for your website. It helps with SEO and keeps visitors interested in what you have to offer. You can also use articles to develop backlinks to your website by submitting your articles to article directories. At the end of the article you include details about yourself and your business including a link back to your website. Other webmasters can also publish your article on their own sites as long as they include your resource box, thus providing further backlinks to your site. In this way, every article you submit to an article directory can potentially provide multiple links to your site as well as additional traffic direct from the publishing website. You can find a list of popular article directories on our SEO Links page.
Another good way to raise the profile of your business and to increase incoming links to your website is to write and distribute press releases. Your press release should of course be professionally written and should contain newsworthy information of interest to your audience and industry. Topics might include, the introduction of a new product or service, a new promotion, a new partnership, an upcoming event and so on. Once you have written your press release, submit it to one of the online PR distribution networks such as those listed on our SEO Links page.
As with article marketing, make sure you include your contact details and website address within your press release to obtain maximum publicity as well as a link back to your site.
Link building can be a time-consuming activity, so make sure you dedicate the resources you need in order to meet your objectives. Decide in advance how much time you want to spend on link building and then put aside the time to follow through with your plans. For best results, link building should be seen as an ongoing activity.
So far, we've looked at ways of building one way links to your website by using directories, syndicating articles, and distributing press releases. These are great methods to start building links to your site. However, there are likely to be many other potential link partners within your industry who may be willing to link to your site.
So where do you begin looking for potential link partners?
The first thing you can do is to find out who is already linking to your website. To do this, go to Google and type the following into the search box: [link:www.yoursite.com] - For the most effective results you should use a dedicated link analysis tool such as those listed on our SEO Tools page. A backlink analysis will give you an insight into the sort of companies and websites that are linking to you already and should give you some ideas about other websites that you could approach. Make notes about the results you find, and create a spreadsheet to list the relevant details.
Assessing Your Competition
Next check out your competition. To do this you need to determine who is competing for your main keywords. First, enter your keywords one at a time into Google and note the web sites which appear on the first page. If you wish you can do the same in Bing and Yahoo! Some of these companies may be good candidates for you to approach for a backlink. As they are already leading the field for your keywords, links from their site to yours would be a powerful endorsement. For each website that you have listed (per keyword), you can now check who is linking to them in the same way you've already done to check out links to your own website. Make sure you add all the relevant details to your spreadsheet.
Assessing New Link Partners
You should now have dozens if not hundreds of potential link partners, all related to your industry. Many of these websites will offer good potential for links, but it's important to make a proper assessment. Visit each of the websites on your list and decide whether they are relevant to your business. Use common sense to determine which sites are most relevant. For example, direct competitors are unlikely to link to your website. Companies offering related services may offer a better fit. While visiting the websites on your list you should also check the site's Google PageRank, which you can see if you have the Google toolbar installed. If sites have a very low PageRank or a PageRank of zero, you may want to remove them from your list, or give them a low priority. On the other hand, sites with a high PageRank should go to the top of your list. This is because sites with a higher PageRank are seen as more authoritative by Google and a link from these sites is worth more from an SEO point of view.
Asking for Links
At this stage you are ready to make contact with the websites you've selected. You can write a standard letter which is more or less the same for all sites you approach, but make sure you apply a personal touch. Try to establish in advance who is the best person to contact within the organisation, or else your correspondence may never arrive. Ensure that you are polite and professional at all times, and be positive about your own website and why you deserve a link. If you have something great to offer then don't be afraid to sell yourself. While email may be the easiest way to communicate, consider the benefits of a phone call, especially for potentially important link partners. Finally, make sure you keep good records. A log detailing who you have been in touch with, including dates of any correspondence will be very useful when it comes to following up. If you haven't had any response after 3 or 4 weeks it may be worth trying again. A simple reminder may be all that it takes to get you some important additional links.
One good way to obtain links from other sites is to offer to write an article for publication on the other website in return for a link. Guest blogging is a good example of this strategy in practice. This method combines article marketing with the targeting of specific websites to obtain potentially valuable backlinks. This sort of arrangement can be appealling to other website owners because they benefit as well from the addition of good quality content for their website.
One-Way Links vs Reciprocal Links
Some sites may be happy to provide a one-way link to your site, others may ask for a reciprocal link. In other words, they will ask you to link back to their website in return. Although one-way links are far preferably from an SEO point of view, reciprocal links are also acceptable within certain limits.
- Reciprocal links should always be relevant to your business and useful or interesting for your visitors.
- Only exchange links with good quality and reputable websites.
- If the site has a high authority within your industry a reciprocal link may well be advantageous.
- Bear in mind that excessive reciprocal linking is frowned upon by the search engines and ensure that reciprocal links are kept to a minimum in comparison with other kinds of links.
There are many other methods and strategies for obtaining links to your website including: blog and forum commenting, social bookmarking, profile links, link baiting and many more. Check out our SEO Tips and Link Building pages for more articles and ideas.
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