A linking campaign is a necessary step in the overall success of your website. You can put up a website, have great web design, and have great content; but without other websites linking to your website no one will know about it. Furthermore, the search engines rely on links in order to find new websites and new web pages. A proper linking campaign will not only increase your website’s online visibility and traffic, it will allow the search engines to find your site and help your website get indexed.
Back in the early 1990s, when there were no search engines (way before Google even existed), we “surfed” the web. We relied on other websites that had “link lists” that pointed to other websites that were “worthy enough” of being linked-to or were simply recommended. When we “surfed” the web we went from one website to another to another based on links. And if you had a good website you could typically get links from other websites that would ultimately bring you more “hits”.
Your website’s content is ultimately responsible for it ability or inability to get links from other websites. If your website has no content or has bad content then there’s not much of a chance that someone who owns another website will link to your website. If you have great content on your website then you have the potential to get links from other websites–you just have to tell everyone that your website exists so they’ll take a look at it and hopefully link to it or recommend it to others.
What is great content? In my opinion, great content is anything that people will link to with what I call an “unsolicited link”. An “unsolicited link” is when someone recommends your website or its content by writing an article about it, mentioning it in their blog, or just adding a link to your website without you having to ask them for the link. For example, many of the outgoing links (links to external websites) that are in the Wikipedia online encyclopedia (http://wikipedia.org/) are unsolicited links–people have created entries about certain subjects. To provide others with additional information about that subject Wikipedia entries typically include what they call “external links” at the bottom of certain entries. Hydroseeding is one example in particular (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroseeding). “Hydroseeding (or hydromulching) is a planting process which utilizes a slurry of seed and mulch”, planting process for establishing new grass where they “spray” a slurry of seed and mulch onto the dirt. In this Wikipedia entry, they include external links to TurfMaker’s lengthy description of the process. TurfMaker, a manufacturer of hydroseeders, has included a lot of great information on their website about the process which is great “link bait”. A Wikipedia link is a very valuable thing to have, as it’s a human-edited unbiased source of content. Link bait is essentially something that will entice someone to link to your website without you having to ask for it–link bait will help you catch unsolicited links. TurfMaker’s definition of the process, included on their website, is great content and great link bait.
Additional examples if great content or “link bait” would include content that stirs emotion. If someone loves it, hates it, or has an opinion about your content, they’ll link to it with an unsolicited link. People often link to rich media content that’s informative, humorous, or silly. An example of this would be the Subservient Chicken (www.subservientchicken.com), a rich-media website that was created by Burger King. So many websites link to that website that it continues to rank very well for the phrase “chicken”. Burger King created the website and people linked to it naturally with unsolicited links. Other examples of great “link bait” content would be the TurfMaker definition described above and content such as dictionaries, glossaries, blogs, or news related to your industry. Great content is just the beginning of a linking campaign–other websites must have a reason to link to your website. Give them a reason and they’ll hopefully link to your website, making it easier to use the other parts of performing a linking campaign I’ll describe in just a moment.
Once you have great content on your website, you first need to take care of your internal linking before dealing with getting external links from other websites. (“Internal linking” is the links on your website that you control–which web pages you link to on your website and how you link to them.) The internal links on your website must be search engine friendly. They must be “crawlable” links that include descriptive anchor text. For example, if you include a “telecom glossary” on your website as a resource, then the links that point to that telecom glossary should include the anchor text of “telecom glossary”, which describes what the visitor is going to find when they click on the link. It also helps that this is most likely the search term someone is going to use when they search at a search engine looking for a telecom glossary.
All the web pages on your website must be unique (don’t duplicate content or copy content from someone else’s website), and all pages must have at least one link from another web page in order to remain in most search engine indices. Keep in mind that your website’s most important pages (including your great “link bait content) should have more internal links from other pages than your least-important pages. Your home page should link to your most important pages (like your products page, your categories page, and your great “link bait” content pages). And all the other pages on your site should link to your most important pages, as well. Think of it this way–the more links a page has the more important it appears to be from a search engine perspective.
Great internal linking also means that you link to your related topics and your most important products (if you sell products on your website). When someone visits a page on your site they might not enter from the home page–they might first visit your great “link bait” content. If that great “link bait” content doesn’t link to related products that you sell then you’re missing the opportunity to sell those products. You’re also missing a great opportunity to appeal to the search engines, as the search engines will find your great “link bait” content and then move on to your products if you include links to them. Once you’ve added the great “link bait” content to your website and are comfortable with your internal linking structure on the site, then it’s time to move on to external links from other websites.
One of the first things you can do is go on over to WebmasterWorld and read a great explanatory thread about external linking by Sugarrae titled “Link Development versus Traffic Development and Staying with the Times” (http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum12/3047.htm). Rae Hoffman (http://www.sugarrae.com), prominent Search Engine Marketing Consultant, explains that linking in 2006 has changed:
“If you’re sending out hundreds of reciprocal link requests each week and have a 14 page links section on your site, please do the following:
1. Find the time listed on the bottom right hand side of your monitor.
2. Place your mouse cursor over it and double click
3. Please change the year on your calendar from 2003 to 2006
Now you might actually get to focus on doing some productive marketing for your website. Notice I said marketing, and not link development. The bar has been raised. You can fight it or meet it â€“ the choice is up to you. There is more sophistication in the algorithms of today, there is more sophistication in the level of competition and there is more sophistication from our sites expected by visitors. ”
Ms. Hoffman goes on to explain that there are several things you need to be doing, such as getting on topic links to your website and buying links that will result in clicks (i.e. traffic). You can write “800 word” articles that add value and articles based on your keywords. You especially need to diversify your anchor text, as well. And don’t forget about contributing to a select few communities online–and making yourself known. Something else that you can do is create (and post regularly) in a blog.
Start researching your industry. Find other websites that will link to you without the need for a reciprocal link back to their website. The following is a list of searches that you might use to find websites that might link to your website that are on-topic and share your same keywords:
“Suggest link” +”keyword”
“Suggest a link” +”keyword”
“Suggest site” + “keyword”
“Suggest a site” + “keyword”
“Suggest URL” +”keyword”
“Suggest a URL” +”keyword”
“Add link” +”keyword”
“Suggest an URL” +”keyword”
“Add a link” +”keyword”
“Add site” +”keyword”
“Add a site” +”keyword”
“Add URL” +”keyword”
“Add a URL” +”keyword”
“Add an URL” +”keyword”
“Submit link” +”keyword”
“Submit a link” +”keyword”
“Submit site” +”keyword”
“Submit a site” +”keyword”
“Submit URL” +”keyword”
“Submit a URL” +”keyword”
“Submit an URL” +”keyword”
“favorite links” +”keyword”
“cool sites” +”keyword”
“cool places” +”keyword”
“your location” +”add url”
“your location” +directory
“your location” +”submit site”
“recommended links” +”keyword”
“your location” +”suggest a site”
I recommend staying away from any website that talk about “reciprocal links” or “exchanging links”, as the search engines are beginning to discount or ignore those links. Search engines tend to ignore, discount, or even penalize websites that are participating in what I call “link schemes”, any type of linking that is done for the purpose of getting better search engine rankings–and not for the benefit of a website’s visitors. Reciprocal linking and exchanging links falls into the category of a “link scheme”.
Link Building for New Websites
If you’ve got a completely new website that hasn’t been around for a while then there are things you can do to help promote that new website and help it get noticed fairly quickly. I recommend first making sure that your site is submitted to the top web directories (always hand edited), including Yahoo!, DMOZ.org, botw.org, sbd.bcentral.com, and industry niche directories that are related to your industry. If you’re a business, then don’t forget about Business.com.
Next, write and distribute a press release about new website. You don’t have to pay a lot of money to hire someone to write the press release as there’s a lot of people out there who will help you write it. You can save money by writing the press release yourself. If you need some hints about writing a good press release, you might try searching for recent press releases that were written about website similar to yours–and look for website press releases that have recently launched to get some ideas. Once you have a polished press release (don’t forget links to your website and internal links to your great “link bait” content), you can distribute it for free or use a service like PRWeb.com, Eric Ward’s URLwire.com, BusinessWire, or PR Newswire.
Start advertising your website by buying a few text links if you have the budget. If you’re on a limited budget then you might consider starting a PPC campaign. Paying for visitors via PPC doesn’t help with links necessarily, but you will get traffic and perhaps noticed in your niche. You could even pay for traffic to your great “link bait” content, which might in itself get some links from other websites. The whole point is to get noticed in your industry. Another thing that I’ve mentioned earlier was to add a blog to your website and get blog search engine traffic and links from other bloggers in your niche. Make sure your blog has an RSS feed; when you post something in your blog make sure your blog software sends out a ping to the major blog search engines, including Technorati; that will help get some traffic to your site.
Link Building for Older or Established Websites
Before starting a linking campaign, make sure that you’ve analyzed your current internal linking structure. If you don’t have great “link bait” content on your site, consider adding it–if you’re a major corporation then you might even consider writing a white paper, doing a survey, or creating some sort of other content, such as a glossary for your industry’s frequently-used terms. Take a look at the current links to your website from other websites and read the Sugarrae thread at WebmasterWorld mentioned above. If you’re participating in any sort of link scheme, stop it. Remove any type of linking on your site that you’ve done to “game” the search engine rankings. Linking out to other industry resources is good and expected by your website’s visitors but “trading links” just to “game” the search engine rankings or having long links pages is not recommended. Jumpstart your website with new links; make sure your website is listed in the major website directory listings. Consider writing and distributing a press release and adding a blog to your site. Did I mention adding some more great “link bait” content to your website? I don’t mean to mention it again, but it really is an important part of getting additional links to your site. Lastly, if you’ve got an established website, consider advertising on other industry sites and writing and distributing useful articles on a regular basis.
Linking Best Practices
There are several things worth mentioning when it comes to linking. Don’t be afraid to link out to good content. If you see something in your industry that’s helpful to your website’s visitors, then link to it and tell them about it. After all, it’s a two way street: you have good content on your website that you think other should link to. And other websites have good content that they think you should link to. So, don’t be afraid to link out to good useful content, especially if it’s relevant to your industry.
Try to use links in context. In other words, links in the middle of a paragraph and in the middle of a sentence is worth more than a link that’s buried in the sidebar navigation or at the bottom of your web page all by itself. The search engines can distinguish between a link in a sentence and a link that appears in your site’s navigation or all by itself on the bottom of the page without any text around it.
Get free publicity (http://www.jeffcrilley.com) for your website and your business. Jeff Crilley, an Emmy Award Winning television reporter, will tell you how to write a “killer” press release, how to come up with ideas that are guaranteed to get media coverage, how to hold a news conference the media will love, and how to keep reporters coming back for more. I’ve used many of his methods to get a lot of media attention for some of my websites and client websites, and using the media to get free publicity is a great way to get noticed, get links, and get articles in major online publications written about your site.
Don’t forget about analyzing the links of your competitors’ websites, especially the ones who rank well for search phrases that you’d like to rank well for. Oftentimes, you can identify links to their website that are valuable to them–and you can get a link from that website as well. Many â€˜resource’ type of websites in certain industries will gladly list your site especially if they’re unbiased and list several companies in your industry; you just have to ask. Additionally, if you have an ecommerce site, adding your products listed and product feeds listed in Google Base, Froogle, and other shopping search engines may help, as well.
Linking Worst Practices
There many things to stay away from when you’re building links to your website. The search engines are very smart when it comes to identifying links that you control. In other words, the search engines are looking for unbiased links; they do not care much for links that you have control over like links from one website you own to another website you own. The search engines use any means they can to identify links that you control; they usually discount them or penalize for it; and in extreme cases they might outright ban websites that are trying to “game” their search results.
I would stay away from linking two web pages together that are hosted on the same IP address or the same Class “C” block of IP addresses. If you haven’t gotten any new links to your website from other websites then your site might become stale. The search engines don’t generally reward websites that become stale, as that might be an indication of bad content. If you’re buying anchor text links or advertising on other websites, then stay away from “site-wide buys”. The last thing you want is the same text link on every page of someone else’s 30,000 page website; it just looks too suspicious or too “spammy”. I also recommend staying away from paid links that don’t share your site’s own topic. Why would you promote your travel site on a website about Alzheimer’s disease? That doesn’t make sense, and the visitors to the Alzheimer’s site are probably not going to be interested in the best travel deals.
I’ve already mentioned that you should stay away from link schemes and any sort of linking among websites or web pages that are just there to “game” the search results. Stay away from bad neighborhoods and don’t participate in link networks. I’ve also already mentioned that orphan pages on your website won’t stay in the search engine index; so if it’s a valuable page to you, then make sure it has links. Finally, don’t even think about blog spam, log spam, guestbook spam, and message board/forum spam. Those types of links won’t get your website anywhere in the search engine rankings.
When it comes to a linking campaign, we all must realize that we cannot build links to our website and stop–it’s a constant process that needs attention just about every day. Although you might not add new content to your website every day, it’s important to always be in the “mode” of thinking about links. Building new links to your website is like branding your company and branding your website. Always be on the lookout for new business opportunities and new places to get links to your website–doing that will keep your website on the top of your potential customers’ minds and at the top of the search engine rankings.
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