As most small business website owners will know only too well, the days when you could turn up to Altavista and the other leading search engines at the time and hope to get a Top 10 ranking with ease are well and truly over. It is no longer sufficient to upload a good quality website, exchange a few links, and expect visitors to flood in. As more and more sites go live each day, the harder it is to achieve the Top 10 rankings every small business would like to see.
We have covered many aspects of web marketing in past Bytestart articles within this section. For your website to gain visitors, you will need to construct a good quality website, upload timely and relevant content, and take care when putting together the meta information which describes what each web page is about.
These are all important building blocks in the quest for search engine success. However, the art of building good quality links between your site and other web pages is now possibly the most important single aspect of a successful web marketing campaign.
Why is Link Popularity Important?
As web marketing techniques become more and more sophisticated, in an ongoing cat and mouse game with the ever-changing search engine algorithms, many search engines look at the links pointing towards websites to help determine the relevance of that site. Whereas it is relatively easy to stuff web pages with meta tags (whether relevant to the page content or not), it is much harder to secure good quality, relevant links from other sites to yours.
Google, in particular, uses link popularity a great deal in determining the relevance of web pages to any given search. As Google completely dominates the search engine market currently, it is vital that small business site owners take notice and dedicate time to building up their site backlinks. We also discuss the Google Pagerank system, and its relevance to successful link building, later in this article.
How to Build Links
The best links you can get are those from good quality, high traffic sites in a similar line of business to your own. For example, if you sell PC speakers on your site, a link from a competitor who specialises in PC audio goods will be far more valuable than several from an unrelated area, such as a credit card affiliate site.
Every day at Bytestart, we receive dozens of link exchange requests, but we probably only ever take up around 1% of all offers, as the majority are of no use to us. A whole link building industry exists on the web, with link exchange sites responsible for a vast number of “Link Exchange Request” emails. So, it is not necessarily a good thing to exchange links with everyone who asks.
As a starting point, we’d suggest you make a list of all the competitors in your industry and email the site owners to suggest exchanging links. Some may well reject your offer (or not even reply) – this is very normal, and should not put you off. If you contact 30 sites in your business area and just 10 take up your offer, you will have gained 10 useful backlinks. Clearly, a one way link back to your site would be fantastic, but in reality, most site owners will only provide a link if it is reciprocated.
Take care when composing your link request emails. Generic requests for link exchanges are far less likely to be acted upon than a well written email from someone who has clearly taken the time to look at the publisher’s web site. This may seem like a tedious process, but over time, as links are added organically and your site gets more and more established, you should see your search engine traffic increase.
You should also aim to get your site listed on the some of the goliaths of web directories – Yahoo and the Open Directory. Both can be quite hard to get into, but a listing in either is thought by many to be of particular benefit when search engines looks at the links back to your site.
In all cases, make sure you know where your link is going to be placed. A deep-buried links page containing hundreds of other links is pretty useless. Ideally, links pages should only contain a dozen or so links, preferably sensibly categorised to a single subject or business area. The same applies to your own links pages – try to break up your resource pages into categorised sections, and don’t cram them full of links. Create several pages if necessary.
This article continues in Part 2