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Let Your Audience Do The Work When It Comes To Building Link Popularity

By Damon Lightley

Building link popularity is one of the most important elements of search engine optimisation and also one of the most time-consuming. It amazes me that I still receive countless emails from so called SEO experts inviting me to participate in link exchanges. Some of them even offering to swap links with a site totally unrelated to what we do! No wonder our industry comes under such fire.

Let’s go back to basics and understand the concept of linking. Linking in its simplest form is about taking a user on a stage in their online journey, whether it be to find a product, piece of news and information or to learn something new. Now most of the time we know what we are looking for online, so our session has a goal, and with that goal in mind we look to trawl the web and put our trust in navigating around websites till we achieve our goal. Sometimes it can take minutes and a straight forward visit to a search engine and a destination site, other times it can takes us hours, with a journey that takes us in and out of a number of different websites.

Now if you keep that concept in mind when thinking about link building you’ll soon realise that the ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ approach to building link popularity is fundamentally flawed. Links should be awarded on merit and not through back scratching.

Seeking out link exchanges is an inefficient use of your time

What I am going to tell you next is going to transform the way you approach building link popularity. Let’s take a look at a classic link swap scenario. You first of all spend a few days looking for sites that have link swap directories on their website. You contact the webmaster explaining that you would like to engage in a link exchange. The webmaster agrees to link to you once you have placed a link back to his site first. You set up the link and email the webmaster. You visit the site to check your link and you find your link buried deep within the site on a page that has a low page rank and surrounded by 50 other web links. You then repeat the process with another site. Now here comes the killer, you’ve spent all that time building up those links, a few months later you return to some of the site’s where your link was placed and you find that some of them have been removed. You get in touch with the webmasters and ask them why your link has been removed. They get back to you and tell you it was an accident. Yeh right, they removed the link deliberately so they could gain a one way link from you. After a few months has passed you notice that your link popularity has not increased in Google – so again you revisit some of the sites that were linking to you and check your links (or by now you might have bought some link checking software to do that for you). You see that your links are still there, but you’ve read that sometimes webmaster’s adopt sneaky techniques to prevent the search engine spiders from following the link. Low and behold you see within the source code of one site that they are using a “nofollow” tag on the link.

Now tell me is all this effort worth it? Link exchanges open up a new can of worms for you – coming into contact with black hat SEOs!

Now consider the opposite. Why not spend the time on creating compelling content or interactive tools that people will naturally want to link to. Not only are they likely to provide you with a link from a page that is likely to be visited, but it will be a one way link, and a few one way links from respected websites are worth more than 50 reciprocals, take my word for it. Plus you’ll have something of real value on your site that visitors will use and may even tell other people about. With this approach to link building you’ll generate more ‘noise’ about your website and encourage other website owners to link to you, because you’ll have something on your own site, that will be of interest to their own visitors.

With link building it’s better to think about building a name for yourself and focus on growing your online reputation as opposed to growing your list of reciprocal link partners. So the message is clear: ‘quality over quantity’ is what counts when it comes to growing link popularity.

Damon Lightley is a director at search engine marketing specialists, SiteVisibility. SiteVisibility helps its clients attract, convert and retain profitable customers through their websites.

For more information on link building visit SiteVisibility

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