Practical linking strategies that work
Thinking like a search engine.
Linking to different sites will have different results for your site's rankings. A key factor to consider when choosing your links is relevancy. Think like a search engine for a moment. As a search engine, you are on the job to provide accurate results to people searching for things. You want to find those sites that are providing valuable information to visitors and rank them highest. If you come across a site that links to many other relevant sites on the same or related topics, this indicates to you that this site is more credible and serious about providing valuable content. So what do you do? That's right, you notch it up in rankings. The search engines are pretty smart.
Are the links on your site credible and relevant to the content in your site? If they're not, they won't do you much good. Businesses that you partner or work with, including your suppliers, are examples of good sites to exchange linking with. Even better are large industry association sites or government sites that relate to your industry. The search engines know which sites are important by the amount of visitor traffic they receive. The larger and more important the sites are that exchange links with you, the more weight they will have in bringing your rankings up.
Links you don't have to ask for.
Aside from getting businesses to exchange links with you, there are some other avenues you can take to increase your link leverage. One of these is to get your site listed in the search engine directories. The search engines know that sites in these directories have already been reviewed for content in order to be listed under a particular topic. Therefore these links from the directories to your site carry significant weight and credibility. Keep in mind that pay-per-click ad campaign links can be very effective at driving traffic to your site, but as they direct your visitors to a click counter before redirecting them to your site, they don't increase your actual rankings.
Another way to get yourself linked to higher profile sites is to include your URL on all your press releases. If a release is picked up by a reputable source, your link will appear on their site and will be working to get you higher rankings.
Linking to yourself.
A final linking strategy that is quite easy to implement but often overlooked is creating strategic links between the pages of your own site. Including a site map is also a great way to provide relevant links for all of your pages. If done in a strategic way, linking pages within your site can provide a better visitor experience and increased rankings, all at the same time.
If it smells like a rat, it probably is a rat.
We have covered a lot of tips on strategic linking. Now we'll hit the other end of the spectrum. The basic rule of thumb here is that if the link seems like a way of tricking the search engines, then you are not going to get much mileage out of it. For example, some people have started link farms, which are a site or series of sites built for the sole purpose of generating links. Link farms carry very little credibility as links and can actually get your site penalized by some search engines. Obviously, they should be avoided. Some website marketers have gone to great lengths by creating a number of mini sites on different domain names that all link back to their main site. As these mini sites lack popularity and credibility to the search engines, this technique has proven time consuming and ineffective.
Keep your eyes on the prize.
News travels fast over the internet, and since the news came out that linking can increase your rankings, people have been trying just about anything to increase their links. My advice in this area is to stay focused on the core purposes of your site, and don't get carried away. Rankings are important, but the quality of your content, which includes your links, is what is going to attract the most business. While strategic linking can provide excellent benefits to you, never forget your visitor's experience. Choose links in your site that will provide value to your visitors. Always remember that when you link to another site from your site, you are in essence endorsing that business to your visitors. Choose your links wisely, as they can have an impact on your business's reputation.
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