Feature Article (Pub: February 05) Everything you need to know to start link building (Part 2) by Paul Rudman

Welcome to part two of this very important part of search engine optimisation - link building. Now we've already covered the outbound linking policies you should consider if you are creating a hub site like a business directory, now we'll take a look at the inbound link strategies you should think about when creating an authority site.

Inbound links

An authority website can be defined as a respected online source of information about a topic or range of subjects. Naturally the search engines are keen to provide the most useful websites at the top of the search results, so that people will keep using them when they are happy with the results they receive. So one method of achieving high ranking positions for your website is to follow various linking principles in order to be regarded as an authority site. The points below should help you get someway towards this with your inbound linking policy.

Link Exchanging

A very common method of increasing the number of links that point to your site is to conduct a link exchange strategy, this involves you offering a link from your site to another one as long as they give you a link back. Link exchange advice is literally a section in itself, so read the useful tips if you embark on a link exchange policy with your site:

Target similar sites to your own
The best links to have pointing to your website are relative ones, these are sites that have a similar theme to yours, so for example if you sell CD's then target websites that are associated with the music industry. Following the principle of being an authority site it makes sense that if websites in a similar business link to you that you might have something important on that subject about your site.
Be sure your links section is well laid out
A direct "your site and my site" link exchange is probably the easiest 'artificial' link strategy to be identified by search engines, if you have a link to them and they have a link to you then it can appear like you are trying to gain ranking placements (which you are). One method of reducing the risk of being penalised for link exchanging is to build a mini-directory within your site, with various sections and pages for each company theme that you want to link with. For example, you might want to include sections for finance, health, IT, etc. Although your website is not on a similar theme to the sites you link with, you will have all your relative themed links together to create a more acceptable form of exchanging links than just "link page one" and "link page two".
Use Search engines to find potential link partners
Engines represent an excellent way of identifying potential link partners, as if a website comes back high in the rankings for a phrase that is relative to your site, then a link from it will be valued by that specific search engine.
Keep a spreadsheet of link partner details
After a while you can become quite overwhelmed with link exchange requests, links added, and emails sent to various websites so keep a record of the website you have contacted, the email address and response. If they add your link then record the page it is on as well for future reference.
Create a "staging section" for links from your site
A lot of potential link partners may insist on their link being on your site first, so you don't want to give away free links to people that don't reciprocate. By adding their link to your staging area rather than your live links section then you will always be aware of what transactions are in progress while you get on with contacting other sites. You can then come back to this area in a few days and if your link hasn't been reciprocated you can delete the link, if it has you can add it to your main section.
Always provide the link first if you contact someone about a link exchange
This represents good manners and linking etiquette that since you are the one making the request, you add the link first.
Make sure that once your link has been added to a link partner's website that this page has been cached by Google
This is one of the most commonly ignored principles. If the link page has not been indexed then why not? Have other pages on the site been indexed? If not then it might be a new site which is fine, if so then ask yourself whether they are using a technique to avoid their link pages being indexed. The reason for doing this would be to appear like they were reciprocating links but actually they were getting the value of your link without giving any value back.
How many links are on their page?
The value of the link given to you decreases with every extra link on the page, so don't accept a link from a page with over 30 links on it, as it won't represent good value in a link exchange.

Triangular linking

Rather than directly exchanging links with other sites, you could offer a website a link from one of your sites on request that they provide a link to one of your other sites. This way you never reciprocate links between websites, and all links appear one-way only which is far superior to a direct link exchange. In order to embark on a triangular link exchange you have to have at least 2 websites, both of which will be of interest to particular link exchange partners. Any open-minded webmaster will be aware of the benefits of this option and it is highly recommend so all sites concerned appear to have unique, one-way links pointing to their content.

Automated link management software

If you want a lot of links fast and aren't too concerned about assessing the quality of those links individually, then there are plenty of subscription-based tools available on the net that will take control of your link building strategy for you. They will help you identify suitable link partners from their database of other clients, automate the link request process and monitor your link exchange partners link pages to make sure your link is there and remains there, as some unscrupulous exchange partners may drop your link after a week thinking you will not check and notice.

Buying links

Text link ads are now commonly available on the net, this involves paying a fee for a specific quality URL or for a bunch of links paid on a monthly basis. This is a good method of getting quality inbound links to your site that are one-way. Of course you need to designate a budget towards this and hence the cost can sometimes seem prohibitive to site owners, or people may well just prefer to spend their own time building the links to their site.

The link text

You may have heard of the benefits of having inbound links to your site: the more quality links you have, the better your search engine placements will be. This is true, but it is also key to remember that the phrase that benefits the most for your placements is the one that is hyperlinked to your site. Make sure you identify a primary keyword or phrase to request the link being hyperlinked with, so for example, if you sell CD's then "Cheap CD's UK" could be a phrase you want to be hyperlinked.

keep a record of how many inbound links you have

It is important for you to regularly check how many links you have pointing to your website. Do not use the "backward links" checker on the Google toolbar for this, it is never accurate, (deliberately so if you believe the reports that circulate the SEO forums and chatrooms). Use alltheweb.com to keep track of inbound links using the command link:www.yourdomain.com. It will provide a list of all pages in its database that link to pages on your site.

Get some inbound links to your sub-pages

It is not always necessary to encourage inbound links to your homepage or just to your domain name, you should also request links to important sub-pages within your website. This is to give the appearance of a more genuine linking pattern to the search engines and also to increase the Google PR of your sub-page which can then have a knock-on effect by increasing the PR to your website as a whole.

Well that's it on the link building for an authority site and I hope you find this information useful! If you follow these points you won't go too far wrong in improving the search engine presence of your website - good luck!

Paul Rudman is the director and head of optimisation at CommerceTuned, he's been involved in developing search strategies and search engine optimisation for 7 years. He can be contacted at paul.rudman@Commercetuned.com.

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