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Step 7 - Acquiring Links

Effective Link Building Packages + SEO Studio Enterprise Bonus

Introduction

One of the most misunderstood subjects about link building by new website owners is the concept of acquiring links. The usual questions new web masters ask is, "Why would my competitors link to me?" or "Why would any site would need to link to my site?” If you have carefully read our chapter on link analysis, you began to understand that inbound links from others sites form a consensus about your site's quality and topic. The search engines need to rely on the inbound links a great deal in their ranking algorithms since the commercial aspects of search marketing created a huge amount of spam on the web.

Think of the inbound links as a word of mouth recommendation in favor of your site the search engines can actually quantify and use in their ranking algorithms. The question then becomes, "How do new websites get links?” You may have heard the expression, "There isn't something for nothing" and this perfectly applies to link building. In other words, you have to give something to gain recognition in the form of inbound links.

Earned links

An earned link is given and never requested by the website owner. It's given because there is something of value the linking website sees in publishing a link to another resource on a similar topic.

Let's take a look at how your website could earn unsolicited inbound links from other sites.

  • Your site has some information or resource that's valuable to your market segment and can't be found anywhere else. We are talking about a how to manual, a white paper or even as a simple thing as listing of links to others sites within your genre.

  • Create a special tool, calculator or e-book and give it away for free. Sooner or later other sites will start recognizing the value of your work and will link to your site so they can serve their own website visitors better.

  • Create a top 10 or top 100 lists of tips for a subject you know well. People love these lists, and they are being linked to by other sites.

  • Create a blog and post regularly about your industry. People love to read blog posts that are opinionated, honest, and sometimes even controversial or humorous.

  • Write unbiased product reviews or submit testimonials about products you like to use. Your site will most likely get lots of links to product reviews as long as it appears honest and unbiased. When you submit testimonials to companies you like doing business with, they may reward you with an unsolicited link to your site.

Solicited links

Solicited inbound links are asked for by the website owner or inserted in other websites in exchange for contributing content or giving reciprocal links. Let's take a look at the ways you can "manufacture" links pointing to your site.

  • Exchange links with other web masters who have related websites to yours. Requesting a link from the potential link partner site should be relevant to your website's theme. Keep in mind the number of links acquired through link exchanges should be no more than 10%-20% of all your inbound links. In recent years the search engines have reduced the weight given to links that are reciprocated.

  • Write an article and publish it on well known e-zine sites such as EzineArticles, GoArticles and iSnare. Article submission not only will result in increased link popularity, but also could result in some additional click through traffic to your site.

  • Writing exclusive articles for a particular website. . In addition to article syndication on major e-zine sites, you can also submit exclusive content to specific target sites in your niche with a link back to your site. In the SEO industry, these types of content pages are also referred to as "presell pages" or "hosted marketing pages.”

  • Ask your colleagues, business partners, suppliers or friends to link to your site provided the sites are topically similar to yours. What could be easier than requesting a link from someone you already know? Links from industry related suppliers and business associates can have great link popularity boosting benefits.

  • Do some free charity work or give away products to charities and educational institutions for free. In return for your generosity ask the charity or school for a link to your site.

  • Join a forum that matches your website's topic and post regularly with your website address in your signature bi-line. Whether you have something to contribute or just ask questions of other forum members, it doesn't matter as long as you make a few posts in the forums. Your website links will be found by the search engines in the forums posts.

  • Signing up and adding your links to social book marking sites and user generated content sites. Add your site to Del.icio.us.com and Stumbleupon.com and hopefully other users will find it valuable enough to create their own bookmark to your site. Create a simple "lens" about your website on Squidoo.com and point links to your site.

  • Join Yahoo! Answers and contribute your expertise to provide answers to user questions. A back link to your site can be worth a great deal from Yahoo! Answers.

Other types of paid and unpaid links

  • Asking for links from related resources without reciprocating. If you think you have a really good website with lots of valuable information, tools, and resources but due to its age it has not been discovered yet by other websites, you should ask other webmasters and bloggers to link to it. Build a quality link exchange campaign using the SEO Studio Links Plus+ tool, by seeking out high ranking websites relating to the main theme of your website.

  • Directory submissions are an excellent way to gain link popularity and to give your new site needed credibility. Sites listed in well respected "old" directories are trusted by the major search engines because of the strict editorial review process they have to go trough. No doubt, you have heard about the Yahoo! directory, which is one of the most important directories to get listed in. In addition to the Yahoo! directory submissions, we'll cover the complete directory submission process in upcoming lessons.

  • Paid text links from related sites. The paid text links business had been booming for some years now and since Google had not found an effective fool proof way to detect purchased text links, the buying of text links for the purpose of link popularity building goes unabated. The top text link company is Text-Link-Ads, which has the largest inventory of links, closely followed by Text Link Brokers.

  • Press releases are an excellent way to get your name out and increase your site's link popularity. It's not the cheapest form of link building, but it can be affective to get your name out and get a few high quality links. The top press release site to consider in this category is PrWeb.com.

What are the best types of links?

A website’s link popularity score, Google's PageRank and "anchor text" in the incoming text links all plays a major role in how well it will rank in the search engine result pages. However there are a few other rules that you should keep in mind to maximize your link popularity building efforts.

  • The best links are one-way, earned and never solicited. These types of links suggest a strong editorial consensus your site has some value to offer it visitors. The links are usually embedded in a body of text of a related article or resource page.

  • Inbound links from domains with relevant topics should be your first and foremost aim. This requires the development of great content and a desire to contribute something useful to the World Wide Web. If you have something useful to offer, other websites will link to you naturally.

  • Inbound links from search engine friendly "crawlable" web pages. This rule is very simple, if the search engines can’t reach the web pages where your links are located, your website will not gain any link popularity. It’s not always possible to dictate how and where your links are placed, but in most cases you can request a link from a static, indexable web page.

  • Inbound links from older domains with high search engine ranking are classified as authority websites by the search engines. Obtaining links from these website is a great way to increase your website’s link popularity. You can find out how old a website is by using the Archive.org tool.

  • Inbound links form unique domains with their own class C IP address have a greater weight than multiple links from the same domain. Acquiring inbound links from different C class IP address blocks tells the search engines the domains are hosted on the different web servers.

  • Inbound links should be permanent, static with lots of links to sub-pages. The search engines can detect when inbound links first appear. A web site that removes and adds links at a frequent rate sends signals of low quality to the search engines. The SEO term is "link churning." The search engines love static hyperlinks, but they have trouble following links redirected through client side scripts such as JavaScript. Also keep in mind, the use of rel=”nofollow" links in the code will not pass the link popularity benefits to the target website. Some of the inbound links should also point to the sub-pages of the target site with different anchor texts in the links; this is called "deep linking.”

  • Inbound links nestled in the content of a web page are more effective especially when surrounded by text related to your website’s topic. When links naturally occur in a body of text, the search engines assign a higher link popularity score to those links compared to links on pages with hundreds of other outbound links per page.

  • Inbound links from .edu and  .gov domains are trusted by the search engines over .com and .net or other top level domains. The argument in favor of search engines giving a higher weight to .edu and .gov domain links is that the inbound links are much harder to attain. There is supporting evidence in patent documents filed by Google pointing to a document scoring system that takes TLD information into consideration.

  • Inbound links from authority sites directories like dmoz.org and dir.yahoo.com  have long been regarded as important building blocks of link popularity for any website. Since both of these directories employ human editors to review individual websites, the search engines place a greater trust factor on websites listed in these directories. Some of the other well established human edited directories include botw.org, goguides.org and joant.com.

  • The linking page should have less than 50 links on the page, but preferably even less than that. The absolute maximum limit is around one hundred links per page according to Google's Webmaster Guidelines. The more links the linking page has, the less valuable your link will become.

  • The link partner should link to websites with a similar keyword theme. Use the MSN "linkfromdomain" operator to find outbound links from the link partner site. Visit a sample of the links and look at the page titles and page content for similarities. If most of the outgoing links are pointing to sites the link partner has nothing in common with, a link will have very little value for your site. The MSN outbound links command is formatted like this: linkfromdomain:your domain.com.

  • Inbound links with a wide variety of anchor text. Most new website owners make the mistake of requesting links to their website using the same anchor text, which is very unnatural and sends a clear signal to the search engines about someone trying to manipulate link popularity and ultimately the site’s search engine ranking. Make your website “link worthy” and people will naturally link to your website using varying link text.

  • Inbound links from local websites can help better target keywords specific to a city, region, state or country. Obtaining links from local businesses, chamber of commerce site or local charities will help your ranking for regionally targeted keyword phrases.

Avoid "splitting" your inbound links and Google PageRank

Making certain that your inbound links are consistently formatted either (1) with or (2) without the "www" prefix will ensure your Google PageRank and link popularity will not be split. It may not seem like a big deal, but the search engines treat these two domain names as separate entities: www.mydomain.com vs. mydomain.com. What this means to you is, the search engines will store two different link popularity counts for your website, one for the "www" domain and the other one for the one without the "www" prefix. This can hurt your chances of ranking well since neither version of your domain has enough link popularity to beat the competition.

Our suggestion is to choose one format or the other and stick with it for all your links, whether they are internal or external. If you want to have some control over how the search engines index every inbound link coming to your site, you should use a "Re-write" rule on an Apache based server. There is most likely a file called ".htaccess" in the root directory of your Apache web server already. If the file doesn't exist, simply create a text file and name it ".htaccess." and copy and paste the information below.

Open the file, and insert the code below to remove the "www" prefix from any inbound links pointing to your site.

RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^mydomain\.com

RewriteRule (.*) http://mydomain.com/$1 [R=permanent,L]

 

Or, if you want to do the opposite, and want to add the "www" prefix in front of every inbound link, use the code below.

RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^mydomain\.com

RewriteRule (.*) http://www.mydomain.com/$1 [R=permanent,L]

 

Conclusion

Understanding the search engines' valuation of links and link relevance is a key concept to master. It's not an easy job for new websites to gain link popularity unless their website's launch is well publicized by other online or even off line media. As a webmaster, you have choices about how you will attain links. You can artificially manufacture links or develop great content, tools, and gadgets and let other websites decide if your site is "ink worthy." One thing you have to keep in mind is you can't successfully manufacture all your links without the search engines catching on. Your site needs a great amount of editorial links that are earned without any solicitation in order to attain high ranking.

Effective Link Building Packages + SEO Studio Enterprise Bonus

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