Links are the Internet’s form of ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing. When someone links to your website they are, in a sense, endorsing your website.
Links are currently the most important component that a search engine uses to rank a website. Search engines assess and measure the quantity and quality of inbound links to help them judge the quality and poularity of a website.
Incoming links (links to your web page from another website), are highly valued by search engines as a ranking factor, as they are difficult for a Webmaster to control and manipulate the ‘results’. Because of this they are considered by the search engines to be genuine indicators as to the true nature of the content of your website. There are four key things that a search engine considers when assessing your incoming links:
- Quality - Search engines place a lot of emphasis on good quality websites linking to yours (if they’re all ‘deemed’ relevant to what yours is about). Obviously a good amount of quality websites linking to yours is going to increase your traffic.
- Relevancy - How relevant is the website that is linking to your website? Is its content in some way relevant to your website’s content? Is it in a similar subject space, but slightly different? Is it targeting similar keywords and about similar subjects?
- Link Text - The text that is used within the link that is linked to your website is also very important (especially to Google). Try to include your keywords or phrases into the text that is linking to your site. Also think about the text that surrounds the area ‘linked-to’ on your site.
- Trust - Are the websites that link to yours trustworthy? Websites such as government sites, large media sites such as CNN or BBC et
If good search engine rankings are a crucial part of your website promotion then it is well worth spending time and effort on increasing the number of links to your website. The best way to do this is to set up a great website that attracts the interest of other website operators.
Building a large network of quality links from authority sites that link back to your site is an extremely powerful way of generating good traffic and improving your search engine ranking. Here are some ideas for building and managing a large network of quality links:
Measure your link building efforts
Before you start you need to establish a baseline and measure the success of your efforts. Some methods will be more effective than others and you want to know which ones work best for you and how to tune them. The metrics you want to measure include:
Inbound links. How popular is your website? Do you have a lot of people with links to your site? Are these sites trusted? You can check your link popularity with each of the search engines by going to: tools.marketleap.com/publinkpop or, www.linkpopularity.com
Or you can check your link popularity directly with the search engines themselves:
Yahoo: http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com Enter your website address IE. "www.zeald.com"
Google: Visit www.google.com Enter the website address with "link:" at the beginning. IE. "link:www.zeald.com"
Be sure to also check who these people are that are linking your site. Understand that one quality backlink is worth a handful of normal, standard backlinks.
Please note: Google will nearly always under report the number of inbound links. Google provide a more accurate report for the number of inbound links through your Webmaster tools account.
Build Reciprocal links
Build up a list of target websites that you would like to receive links from and then send an email or letter to their Webmaster or owner. A template for this email is provided on the following page.
Expect a low response rate to these emails. Many Webmasters are very busy and sometimes they are just not concerned with their search engine rankings. However, the results that you can achieve from the extra links to your website can still make the effort worthwhile.
- Research Possible Websites
The first thing you need to do is research the possible linking websites. Think about your target customer and where they are likely to visit. Try to find places that are a hive of activity (lots of traffic!) and places that are known and trusted. Use the search engines to locate different websites and don’t forget the New Zealand search engines:
Also, use a tool like Alexa (www.alexa.com) to analyse each website and to check out how much traffic each of them is getting.
- Prepare a List
Based on your research; prepare a short-list of websites that you would like to approach. Don’t be afraid to approach people for a link. Be courageous! You have nothing to lose. Make sure the websites that you list are complimentary and not competitive.
- Prepare your Email
Use an email template that has been prepared specifically for approaching websites for a link. We have provided an example email template for this purpose on the following page.
Make sure your email focuses on ‘what’s in it for them’ (Remember, WIIFM)! They need to see what the upside is. Why should they go to the effort? Your website should offer something for their customers.
Make sure you follow-up, because persistence does pay. Follow-up at weekly intervals and be prepared to follow-up many times if necessary.
Link Request Template
Hi [Target's Name],
My name is [Insert Name] from [Insert Business Name]. I was recently browsing the Web and came across your website ([Insert Website URL here]). [Say something positive about their website here].
We have a website that [insert what your website does here].
I was hoping that you might consider linking to us and would like to invite you to review our website for the same purpose here [insert website address].
I believe that linking to each other’s website would have a number of mutual benefits:
- we can help increase each other’s website traffic
- we can help increase each other’s search engines rank (search engines currently put a lot of emphasis on links between websites).
If you believe that a link to our website would be appropriate, then please add it at your discretion- perhaps I could suggest the following link and description:
[Your site name and URL] - [Your site description]
Please let me know if you would like to proceed and I will set up a link on our website too.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this. If you have any queries please don’t hesitate to contact me.
[Insert email signature here]