Link Building – The DIY Way

For best results on search engines, you need a number of incoming links from sites that are related in topic to yours and that do well on search engines themselves. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve seen proof of this in the sites that I’ve developed. All other things being equal, the sites with more, better links get better results in search engines.

We offer Link Building as one of our Search Engine Optimization Services, but getting links is not brain surgery, there are no magic tricks or dodgy methods to get the job done — it just takes hard work, perservence and a bit of organisation (to keep you from going insane). Many of our clients hire us to do this for them, but you can do it yourself:

  1. Identify the key phrases that you are targeting on your site. (What phrases do people search on looking for your business?)
  2. Search on those phrases on Google (or your preferred search engine, but Google is the most used by far) and see which sites rank well for those phrases. These would be the best link partners. If there are directories that you can submit your site to for free, submit to those straight away. If there are competiting sites that you don’t want to link from/to, check to see who is linking to them (they may be good link partners for you, too).
  3. Contact the owner or webmaster to request a link. Keep in mind that these people probably get a lot of requests for links by email so you want your message to be personalised and direct. (I will follow this up with a specific post on wording your request letter as it is very important). Also keep in mind that the owner may need to pay someone to update the links page so may not be able to do so immediately.
  4. As you receive positive responses add the links to your site as requested. You can have a links page for this, but it is more effective if the links are on a related page (car hire site on a transportation page, wedding services on a hotel’s wedding page, etc.). File away the negative responses to be sure that you don’t contact them again.
  5. In two weeks time, send a gentle reminder to the sites that have not responded. If it is someone you know, perhaps located in your area, you may want to give a ring — if you think it’s appropriate. As I said, site owners get a lot of these requests and often put them to the side and forget about them, a reminder may help, but you don’t want to annoy.
  6. Use a spreadsheet to keep track of the sites that you’ve identified, contact details, each time you’ve contacted each and the responses received. (You can get very detailed with this, but keep it simple so you don’t get too bogged down with it.)

A few things you should not do:

  1. Don’t request links from random sites — it’s best if the site is related to the content of your own.
  2. Don’t accept a link from a site that is going to put you on a page buried way down in the site where no search engines or visitors will find you. It’s not worth your effort. Instead try to negotiate the best placement possible. This will usually depend on the quality and ranking of your own site, but you may have something else to offer.
  3. Don’t ‘blackmail’ a prospective link partner by saying, “I’ve already added your link to my site. If I don’t hear back from you in two weeks, we will remove your site.” That will probably just annoy the person. Don’t forget that you are asking them for a favour so you cannot expect to always get a response.
  4. Don’t pay to be listed on a directory unless it is the definitive directory for your industry or region; has proven results on search engines, with stats or a known profile to back it up; and you get a link back to your site. I usually only advise my clients to pay for a Yahoo Directory Listing ($299/year). This is a valuable link in Google’s eyes and worth the investment, especially if you don’t have a number of other quality links.
  5. Don’t get involved with sites or businesses requesting/offering paid links or link farm. Search engines, Google in particular, consider this an undesireable way to get links and may ignore the link or even worse, penalise or ban your site. Read Google’s article on Link Schemes.

As professionals doing this for our clients, we have a more refined technique, but I think it’s best to advise you to keep it simple so that you can get going and start getting those links. If you are ready for a bit more of the lesson, here are two more things to keep in mind:

PageRank

  1. This is one of Google’s methods to determine the importance of a webpage considering “over 500 million variables and 2 billion terms”. Each web page gets a PageRank (PR) of 0-10 (5 is pretty good, more than that is very good). “Pages that we believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results.” (Read more on Google’s Technology Overiew Page.)
  2. For this reason it is beneficial for you to try to raise the PageRank of the pages on your site, by getting links from sites that have higher PageRanks. It’s important not to get too obsessed with this, but if you get links for sites that are all PR0-2 it wont be as helpful as sites that are 3 and above.
  3. How do you know what PageRank a page has? You can download the Google Toolbar for your web browser and change the settings to show PageRank and you will then see the green bar. Many experts feel that this isn’t the true PageRank that Google uses, but it will at least give you guide. If the bar is greyed it means that there is no PageRank, which is the case for very new sites. PR0 often means the site has been live for awhile, but there are no links to the page. (You can also see the published PageRank for pages in the Google Directory but it would be more work to search through that for all the sites.)

Link Text

  1. Search Engines track the text of links and it is best to use your targeted search phrases in the text of links to your site. When targetting ‘web design’ — web design is better link text than www.e-business.ie or O’Mahony Donnelly so I ask for people to link back to me that way. Perhaps ‘Web Design by O’Mahony Donnelly’
  2. When requesting a link, indicate how you would like your link added. Not all sites will honour this request. Many have their own style of adding links (either just the business name or domain name), but many will understand and follow your request.
  3. Make sure you add links to your site in the way requested by the other party — as long as it isn’t too long or over powering to your page. Loads of people ask you to put really long descriptions. If you are trying to do a concise listing, just indicate this to them and they probably will be satisfied if you do the main link text they way they’d like.

The best way to get links? To have an interesting, informative, up to date site — and everyone will want to link to your site.

If you are exhausted already after just reading this article find out about our Link Building Service.