Links can be defined as:
- those URLs embedded in your site that take people to other sites with useful content, or, even better;
- those URLs embedded in other people’s sites that send them to your useful content.
Links serve two purposes:
- Generating traffic and user interest – the more inbound links, the more people are looking at your merchandise; the more QUALITY outbound links, the more useful your site is to people, encouraging them to return for additional value.
- Earning points towards ranking in search engines – Search engines look not only for content and frequent updating, they also rank your website based on how many HIGH QUALITY websites/pages link to your site.
Because of the importance search engines place on quality links, linking strategy has become a key tool in the webmaster’s kit for keeping a website out front in search engine rankings. Now that we’ve explored the page content optimisation strategies in our earlier SEO articles, let’s take a closer look at this second critical component to gaining high search engine rankings.
Why the emphasis on high quality links? And what’s a high quality link anyway? High quality links can be summed up as follows:
- Links from trusted/authority sites;
- Links that can be crawled;
- Links that can send direct traffic;
- Links with relevant anchor text;
- Links to deep pages;
- Links that are contextual;
- Links that have aged;
- One way inbound links.
In general, a high quality link is relevant to your site, from a source that is content-rich or otherwise deemed to be expert by the search engines.
Alternatively, a low quality link is a link from a non-relevant site, or a link to a site that practices bad behaviors or has been banned by search engines.
Who’s Linking to My Site Now?
To find out who’s linking to your site right now, go to Alexa.com and enter your domain name. This site will provide a free report on linkages to your website.
Obtaining Quality Links
There are several ways to obtain quality inbound links to your site.
First you need to determine which sites make sense to link to your site, e.g., complimentary information. For example, if you sell house wares, you may want to link to cooking sites, interior design sites and so on. The most effective way to find authority sites on your target keywords is to search your target keyword in Google, Yahoo or MSN, and ask the sites you find to link to your site.
When requesting a link, bear in mind each webmaster receives many requests every day. Find ways to make your request more appealing, for example by offering them free relevant content for their website (in exchange for a link at the bottom of the free article you are offering them), etc. Be inventive and you will get the links you need.
There is some controversy over the value of reciprocal links, i.e., sites that you link to and that link to you as well. Google generally disregards reciprocal links so they are not necessarily beneficial to all search engine rankings. (The theory here is that when you link to a site and the site links back to you, it’s more in the nature of trading favours rather than casting a vote.) However, others believe that in many cases it simply makes good sense to create reciprocal links with sites where there’s common utility to viewers. Since we believe that the more customer-directed you are, the more successful you will be, we believe that appropriate reciprocal linking should be included in your linking strategy.
The best way to use links to your greatest advantage is to remain customer-driven in your approach; when your customers benefit, you will also benefit. Don’t just think links, think links on websites that are relevant to your target keywords, and that can be bring relevant traffic to your site, while at the same time increase your search engine rankings.
Our series so far has explained search engine spiders and the ranking process, shown you how to establish key words and construct your site with strong content and how to go about establishing links that will boost your rankings. The final steps in a strong SEO strategy include tailoring your SEO techniques to optimise for the search engines that are most relevant to your site. Our final articles in our SEO series explain how the major search engines differ, and offer tips for appealing to each.