Nathan Anderson

Article Summary:

Linking Strategy: Getting one-way incoming links

I get a lot of "elevator questions" when people find out that I'm a search engine optimization expert. The most common one is, "What is the one thing I can do that will most benefit my site's rankings?"

My answer is always, "Get Links".

Quality incoming links can drive your optimization all by themselves. One common example is the apple.com site. If you search the term "macintosh" in Google, the #1 result is obviously apple.com.

Seems pretty obvious.

But the real trick here is to look at the HTML for the apple.com homepage. There isn't a single instance of the word "macintosh". They've earned this ranking through the weight of incoming links alone. So many sites link to apple.com with the word "macintosh" in the anchor text of the link, that they come out #1 for the term.

So what are some ways we can get more links?

The tactic used by many SEO professionals and webmasters is to engage in a reciprocal linking campaign. Find other sites that relate to yours, link to them, and then ask if the other site will return the favor by linking back to you.

Pretty simple.

It is, however, pretty darn time-consuming. I personally use a piece of software that a friend developed to automate this process a bit. If you're looking for such a software, drop me an email and I'll tell you about it.

There is also a danger of these reciprocal links becoming irrelevant to Google someday. When Google was toying with dramatically different algorithms this last summer, they instituted one for a while that discounted completely any reciprocal links in your PageRank calculation.

That means that reciprocal links (where two sites link to each other) didn't HURT you, they just didn't count positively for you.

Obviously that algorithm wasn't producing quality search results, so it wasn't retained. But the lesson learned is obvious: Make sure to include the acquisition of one-way incoming links in your linking strategy.

I certainly wouldn't suggest abandoning reciprocal linking altogether yet - as it is still a very beneficial activity at this point. And it is a lot easier to establish a reciprocal linking relationship than to garner a one-way link.

So how do you get an oh-so-valuable one-way incoming link?

Here's a few tactics that I use:

1. Write articles in your area of expertise and submit them to online publications and re-publishing sites. Some forums also allow the posting of professional articles. Make certain that you can include a "resource box" at the end of the article that tells a little bit about you, and includes that all-important link to your site.

There are also services that will distribute your article for you.

2. Give testimonials. If you find a product or service or website that you like, make sure to send them a glowing testimonial - with a link to your site at the bottom. If you don't see other testimonials on their page that have links included, you might ask for the link to remain when you submit the testimonial.

3. When signing the guestbooks of other sites you visit, make sure to include your URL. Google currently spiders guestbooks, so these links count towards PageRank (for now). Don't rely on these in the long term, though. I have a feeling that Google will eventually remove guestbook entries from their calculation of PageRank.

4. Another method that has moderate effectiveness is to have an awards program; if your site concept is condusive to the idea. When you give an award, you obviously include a graphic representation of the award that the winner can display on their site - along with a link back to your site's awards program page. An award program is good for a lot of other reasons, too.

5. Submit your site to the Open Directory Project at www.dmoz.org. You can also improve your link popularity by submitting to the smaller directories on the web.

Several have small fees for submission. But some have a free submission feature, though there are no guarantees for how long it will be before your site is included.

And if you want to invest $299 per year, submit to Yahoo! as well. It has a nicely positive effect on PageRank (link popularity).

This leads to another philosophy in linking: paying for links. There are a number of sites that will link to you for a one-time or monthly charge. Tread carefully here, because Google is not fond of companies that attempt to sell PageRank (e.g. SearchKing) links, and may penalize these companies, as well as the sites associated with them.

The best long-term strategy for getting links is simply to have information on your site that is so unique or useful that other webmasters would want to refer to it in their own content. Whatever your area of expertise, you can distill the most useful information down to one page and make it easy to link to.

Many sites have a "link to us" link on their pages that goes to a short description of how the site likes to have links formatted. For example, you can describe that you'd like the link coming to you to have your keywords in the text of the link.

"When linking to Anderson Widgets, we would appreciate it if the words 'inexpensive widgets' were in the link".

You can also make it very easy for the visitor by having "copy and paste" HTML code for the link available on the page to make the process as easy as possible for the person linking to you.

These methods not only are helpful for Google, but other spidering search engines as well. Not to mention having links for visitors to follow to your site!

A linking strategy is an ongoing process. Stay diligent, make efforts consistently, and you'll be flooded with backlinks in no time!

Nathan Anderson is the owner of Anderson Agencies. An expert in search engine optimization of websites, Nathan is dedicated to being at the top of this field.

He can be reached at (719)485-4850.

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