Link Building: more than just Link Exchanges

For years people have known that the number of links into your sites effects your rankings on search engines, such as Google (see their page on Google Friendly Sites). Thus started the mad dash to get as many links into a site as possible; through all sorts of tactics, but mainly looking for sites that had an “add a link” button. That brought the masses of spam emails of people sending thousands of emails to any address they could find requesting a link exchange. Sadly, this is still going on, even though we’ve found out that you need more than just a large amount of links to improve search engine rankings.

Now it is understood that is not just the quantity of links that’s important, but that the ‘quality’ of the links is most important. The site needs to be relevant to the topic and well ranked itself to bring any value to your site. There’s a long list of other considerations where there’s much debate on if they are relevant or how relevant, but are at least good to keep in mind: the Google PageRank of the page, the number of links on the page, using three way links instead of direct exchanges, etc. There are other factors to consider: your own internal linking structure, link text, etc.

So a good Link Building Programme, while not rocket science, takes a lot of thought and time. In this blog, I’ve given advice for running your own link building programme (see category Link Building), but while link exchanges are a way to get some links into your site, there are more efficient and effective ways to get links into your site; ways that will also help boost the overall presence of your site on the Internet.

I’ve spent many nights trawling the Internet looking for good link exchanges for clients, always thinking that there must be an easier way. All the easier ways, though, were dodgy paid links or link farms that were not going to get you quality links or may get you penalised or banned on search engines. Forums and articles on the topic across the net all pretty much said that it just takes time to develop this. When I went to the Search Engine Strategies conference in London this February I decided that Link Building would be one of the things to focus on while there. In many of the panels and talks, Link Building was discussed with all pretty much saying that, yes, it is still important and, no, there are no magic tricks to getting sites to link to you. The highlight of the conference, apart from having lunch with Jill Whalen, was the Link Building Panel.

While this panel didn’t give out any magic Link Building Techniques they did confirm that while link exchanges are a good way to get started, you need to get creative in getting more quality links and that the focus should be on the content and quality of the site involved.

Social networking sites and blogs have now become very important for link building, not just because they may bring valuable links to your site (in fact pages that can only be seen after login won’t get indexed by search engines and bring no link value), but they can spread the word about your site more easily than your standard site which in turn may get you a valuable link to your site.

Articles and Guest Posting on Blogs are a way that you can further push your site. Again you need to find quality, suitable sites.

Explore other types of sites and media that suit your topic: YouTube, for example is one of the most searched on websites. You can create videos to promote your business, more easily than you probably think. There’s also image site, podcasts, etc.

Other kinds of publicity, online and offline: One of the most interesting stories on the panel was from Dutch Link Strategist Peter van der Graaf, who had set up a PR ‘stunt’ just prior to the last World Cup. A client had wanted to bring more soccer related traffic into his site prior to the World Cup. The online marketing company set up a ‘demonstration’, outside the Dutch soccer team’s training camp, by women protesting the amount of time their men spend watching soccer – calling for the cancellation of the World Cup. A Brazilian news agency picked up on the story and it started getting mentioned on web sites across the world, eventually getting a spot on the CNN site — and that online marketing company had one very happy client. So this shows us that a bit of creativity can take you a long way. Some times this sort of ‘Website PR’ can come for free. Take Dublin web developer Jason Roe. His post on his blog about how he nearly found a way to get a free Ryanair flight, received strong comments from Ryanair staff and the Irish blogging community did not take it kindly. This story was noted on blogs and news sites all across Ireland and Europe, and, like the Dutch story, was picked up and posted on the CNN website (and here I am talking about it again here 5 months later).

None of these techniques are anywhere as boring as trawling the Internet in the wee hours of the morning, trying to craft non-spammy sounding link request emails and begging, begging, begging.

So define your target audience and what sites they go to on the Internet — and get creative. Don’t forget, that having a great site yourself, with a wealth of good content related to your business/organisation is going to better attract the best partners in this task.

If you would like a kick start, check out my workshop “Hands On: Your Own Website PR Campaign“. The next one takes place on Friday 7th August, in our Clonakilty offices. The workshop is limited to 5 people so that we can work one on one and actually set up your own campaign on the morning.