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Link Building - Building Inbound Links for Your Web Site

The following is from a series of round table discussions I [Frank Baxter] chaired at the NEPA conference in Washington, DC (June 2006). NEPA was the Newsletter & Electronic Publishers Association (http://www.newsletters.org/), now known as SIPA (Specialized Information Publishers Association).

Linking - Is It Still Important?

The short answer … YES!

Depending on who you listen to, or what you read, Inbound links to your web site are…
* no longer important
* not a factor with Google page rank anymore
*a waste of time
* A major factor in search engine algorithms
*A great source of traffic and leads

The truth of course lies somewhere in the middle.

Building a network of relevant sites linking to your site is most definitely worth the effort. Why?
For the search engines that do still factor inbound links in their algorithms (and we think all the major engines still do), it shows that other people think enough of your sites content to link to it. Inbound links from other sites bring their own (often well qualified) traffic. They represent your site as the SME (subject matter expert). It's a referral, a recommendation (or possibly a citation).

What Constitutes a Good Link?
From a Relevant content site (or a hub or directory, like the DMOZ).
Age of link (Google may not even count new links, but will once they age)
Page Rank of referring site (not critical, but one indicator of the sites popularity)
Keywords/phrases in the anchor text (rather than just your site name)
Inline on a content page (vs links page) [contained within a descriptive paragraph]

Are All Links Created Equal? No...
The Good:
The best links are from relevant "authority" sites (sites that rank well and are considered experts or authoritative).
The Bad: Stay away from "link farms" and non-relevant sites
The Ugly: I probably don't have to tell you this, but I'm going to just in case. Never place links on questionable sites (online casinos [unless you are running an online casino site], porno, pyramid schemes, etc. . Links from these will do more harm then good. If you find one of these sites if linking to you, ask them to remove it.

How to build a network of relevant/worthwhile links:
You need to have a plan. I could write an entire book on this, but I'll try to keep it short and use our roundtable discussions to expand.

1.) Decide where you would like to have the links point.
Many people make the mistake of pointing everyone to their home page. Don't do it! First, you will probably have trouble convincing other site owners to point to your home page (they don't care about you), second it waters down the effect of linking. Instead, vary the "landing pages" you use, choosing good content, helpful hints, tools, etc. In other words, something the other sites visitors might find valuable and/or topical (as would your own visitors).

2.) Work on the copy for the email you will use to ask for a link.
This is important, don't just say "I saw your site and think we should exchange links". Whoever is doing your link building program needs to take the time to look at the site, decide how relevant it is, and personalize the request as much as possible.
If the site has instructions for requesting links, follow them!

A better example:
My name is Frank Baxter, and I am contacting you regarding your snail racing site at www.snailracing.com. I'm working with SnailCare.com to announce a new section on the care and feeding of your pet snail. SnailCare.com is located at http://www.SnailCare.com and the new snail care section is located at http://www.SnailCare.com/care-and-feeding.htm.
Per your linking instructions I would like to request a link to our care and feeding page in your Links to All Things Snails section.

I can be reached via email at frankb@snailcare.com or my direct phone is (555) 555-5555

If the site looks worth it, CALL THEM. Offer them content, offer them a link, work with them.
And if it really looks worth it, offer them money

3.) Find sites you'd like to have linking to yours.
First, what are the most relevant keywords/phrases for your business [What do people search on to find you]? If you have a successful ppc campaign going, you can also refer to it for keywords Use tools like Web Position Gold or AddWeb to discover who ranks above/below you for keywords. Also use some of the tools listed below in the Resources section.

Another trick I like to use is the Google link: tool.

Next, I type link:www.amadeuspianos.com into the Google search window. This returns all sites linking to amadeuspianos. I can then look at these sites and decide if I want to ask them to link to me too.

Link Sources:
Request a link (manual process, see spread sheet example)
While the most tedious, this is probably the best method. You have to have something to offer them in return (linking to your valuable content will be good for their visitors).
It is ok to link directly to a product page, IF the page also contains valuable content/copy.
RSS Feeds
Post your articles
Write for other people's newsletters/Ezines
Press Releases
Get listed in major directories (DMOZ)
Submit articles/newsletters to Article/Newsletter directories
Pay for links (not as good, rumor has it Google can tell, though I question how well)

Further Reading:
Links to Helpful Resources:
World Tracker www.wordtracker.com/index.html
Wordtracker helps you find all keyword combinations that bear any relation to your business, service or product - many of which you might never have considered. Why: Twofold... Use keywords to discover other relevant sites for links, use for your PPC and SEO.

SEO Tools (good list, but I tend to us it to navigate to the services actual web sites)
Interesting list of tools, but... they tend to try to keep you within their site to use the tools. Better to go directly to the source (use the list to give you ideas of what to look for).

Overture Keyword Suggestion Tool
inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/ While this tool is designed primarily to help you discover keywords to bid on, it also produces a list you can use to search for sites related to yours.

Arelis Link Building Software
A tool for locating sites you would like to have link to yours. I would use it only for the discovery phase, don't use the auto link requests or the link page building.

SEO Link Building With Web Content Secrets
by Joel Walsh (c) 2006 [SEO-News]

Reciprocal Linking vs. Mutual Linking
By Scottie Caliborne (c) 2005 [SiteProNews]

Untapped Linking Tactics
By Kim Roach (c) 2006
Great article, hightly recommend reading this one.



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