July 24, 2008
In today’s race to the top of the Google SERP’s (Search Engine Result Pages), there are a number of factors that can help you achieve those coveted spots. While certain techniques may weigh better than others based on your industry and level of competition, there is no questioning the power of links.
There are several methods, some common and some yet to be discovered, you can try out to help boost your link density and search rankings. While it would be near impossible to go into great detail on all methods (that would require a book) below I have outlined some of the more common techniques a web site owner can use to increase their site’s popularity.
1. Reciprocal Links
Reciprocal links used to be a huge asset and played a significant role. Today, fewer sites are employing this technique as it is thought by many to have no role in the eyes of Google. This is simply not true. While the overall value of reciprocal links has declined over the years, they can and will still help your rankings if done correctly.
The key with reciprocal links is very simple – relevance. If you trade links only with highly relevant sites, you will get value from this. There are some things to watch out for: ensure that the links returning to you are spider friendly, that they reside on pages with as few links as possible, and are contextualized, meaning the content on the page, and preferably the site as a whole, is related to the content of your link and site.
If you contact a relevant site to request a link exchange, keep the email personal to help grab the attention of the webmaster. Most link exchange emails are spammy automated submissions and are deleted without being read. Write the subject and entire email in such a way as to entice the user to read on, but keep it short. Offer to put their link up first, or even better yet, put it up before you contact them.
2. Purchasing Links
Google has been devaluing links, and in extreme cases, even penalizing sites for selling links, but there is no denying that this technique still works as many sites have skyrocketed to the top of the SERP’s through the art of buying links.
Many high profile sites such as major and local newspaper publications sell text links, yet nobody seems to be penalized for it as the publications rank well with high PR and the site they link to ranks well as a result.
If you choose to take the gamble and purchase links back to your site, check out how they are linking back, how relevant they are, and try to get a sense of how their site is treated by Google. If you see other sites that appear to have purchased links from them, check their back links and see if the linking site appears (although it may not be displayed as Google displays very little of this information to the public these days).
It is thought that if penalties will arise from the sale of links, that only the selling site will be penalized. Even if this is the case, Google’s policy could change at any moment, so be warned that this could potentially come back to bite you.
3. Industry Contacts
Get in touch with your industry contacts and ask them if they will link to your site. You just never know, and the worst they can say is no. This is usually best requested in person or by phone if it is someone you have a good relationship with. It may include manufacturers or retailers of your products, or various business partners and companies you have a relationship with.
4. Good Old Fashion Content
Believe it or not it works. If your site is loaded with original, valuable content, you will get some people linking to your site on their own. While you can not base your entire linking strategy around this concept, as it could take forever to get enough links, rest assured knowing that if you build it, some will link.
5. Build a Blog
Everyone and their dog seem to have a blog these days, and for good reason – they work. Blogs help you create a never ending stream of content, and if updated regularly, written well, and interesting, you will find people will link to it. Not only that, others may pick up your blog through your RSS feed – this can result in an increase in both links and site traffic. Be sure to utilize your Digg and other social media accounts within your blog to help gain a little extra attention.
6. Social Media
Promote your site and your blog using various social media tools. When someone “Diggs” or “Stumbles” your article you can not only get a link back to your site from the media platform, but you can also see traffic generated by this. The more people that flag your article, the more traffic you can get, and the higher the value of the link.
Creating company profile pages on platforms such as Squidoo, Facebook, MySpace, and even uploading photos and videos to Flickr and YouTube, can all count as back links to your site, so be sure to utilize these platforms to the fullest extent. Do not use these networks to spam them full of links, but rather to inform. Build unique relevant content and become a member of the community, and you will find your links will work much harder for you.
7. Article Syndication
When you write worthwhile articles, submit them to any known article aggregation websites in your industry or great general portals such as ezinearticles.com. When submitted to the right places you can drive traffic and increase your links. Again, be sure to include a link or two within your article that links back to your site when possible.
8. Press Releases
Press releases are still doing wonders. When your business hits a milestone, releases a new product, or has anything worthy of a press release, issue one through the services of PRWeb. You will get a link back to your site, and you may also get some targeted traffic from those interested when reading your release.
If your press release is of significant news, you may also find bloggers and other writers referencing it and linking to it from their articles, providing even more value. Ensure that with any press release you include deep links back into your site. Links from within the bio are helpful, but those integrated into paragraphs of the release are worth much more.
I know I am going to get a hard time for this one, but if used wisely, it can help. When reading relevant blog posts, if you have something useful, constructive, and worthwhile to say, leave a comment and include your link if they provide the option. A comment like: “nice post” is inappropriate, but if you have something to add or contribute that others will find of interest then go for it. These links can add up, and they do add some value. Don’t stuff your comment or name with keywords, keep it natural, and use your real name.
10. Form Posts and Signatures
This is an area where you may be able to grab a few links, but it is also one you need to be careful about as it can backfire. I do NOT recommend going out and wildly posting in random forums and including your link.
Where this area can be useful is if you establish yourself as a solid contributor to a particular forum directly related to your industry. Once you are established, and people know and trust your name, and understand that you are not there as a spammer, then you can consider adding your link to your signature file, and including the odd link in your forum posts when it is fully in context. This will allow you to get the odd relevant, inbound link. Check with the terms of the specific forum though before you start. Some do not allow links of any kind.
You see them on many sites offering products or services, and quite often they include a link back to the submitter’s website. If you have used a product or service, don’t be afraid to write a testimonial for the company. In many cases online businesses will post your testimonial along with a link. The testimonial helps that business instill confidence in their customers, and you get the valuable link back.
12. Directory Submissions
Yes, do still submit your site to the major directories. While DMOZ can be very difficult to get into, once you are there, it is like gold and will play a part in your top rankings. Yahoo directory has a high price $299US, but can also provide you with a valuable inbound link. Consider submitting to the major directories, as well as any industry specific directories. These links add up and will contribute to your site’s well being.
13. Link Bait
We have heard this phrase thrown around for a while now, but the technique has worked long before the phrase “link bait” was coined. Why all the hype? Because it works.
Take a look at your web site, your business and your industry. See if you can think of some way to attract people to link to your site. Perhaps sponsor a contest, add an elaborate and unique tool, write a controversial article, provide something useful for free – whatever you do, do it well, and promote the heck out of it, and people will naturally link to you.
A Few General Rules:
Before you actively seek out a link from a specific site do some investigating to ensure that the site is not spamming or using any black hat techniques. If they are, run.
If the link you are seeking is merely for you to try and boost your link density, then also check out how they are linking to other third party sites.
And a note on Google PR (Page Rank) – the PR you see on your toolbar is outdated. While it can give you some insight, just because it says 0, doesn’t mean it is. Also what has a 0 or 1 today, could be a 4 or 5 tomorrow. Don’t use PR as your sole means of deciding if you should obtain a link or not.
Using any or all of these linking methods will help you to increase your link density. There is power in diversification. Use variations on anchor text and descriptions, use inline text links within articles, and gain links in as many different venues as possible. By being diverse your site will stand the best chance of being around well into the future.
Today, blogs are huge and can be a strong asset, but what would happen if tomorrow Google decided to ban blogs? Highly unlikely, but it could happen, and if it did, would your site survive? By being diverse, your site has the best chance to survive change.
Scott Van Achte is the Senior SEO at StepForth Web Marketing Inc.; based in Victoria, BC, Canada and founded in 1997. You can read more of Scott’s articles and those of the StepForth team at http://news.stepforth.com or contact us at http://www.stepforth.com/,