Effective SEO Link Building
This is the seventeenth module in the ‘Journey Into Internet Marketing’ tutorial series. In this one, we are going to take an in-depth look at effective link building, what it’s all about, why it matters and most importantly, how you do it.
If you have not done so, it is recommended you read over Part 16 – Joint Ventures first.
As a quick reminder, we considered various Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies, highlighting the major features of on-site and off-site SEO in tutorial 8.
I mentioned that whilst for most of the search engines, on-site SEO (the way your site is built) is still vital, it’s far less so for Google. For Google, it’s off-site SEO that is most important which basically comes down to the link structure that surrounds your site.
Sure, you still need to have the basics of on-site SEO sorted but essentially, Google focuses on incoming links when it comes to ranking your site.
In terms of the link structure that is associated with your site, there are several factors that Google takes into account:
The number of incoming links pointing to your site; What kind of links they are; The Page Rank of the page that sends the links to you and The keyword authority of each link.
In short, if you have ‘good’ links (using these factors as your guide), Google could rank your site highly but if not, you’ll get a poor ranking.
Why are quality links so important?
The reason why Google attaches so much importance to quality links is easy to grasp once you understand the Google business model. Google is the overwhelmingly dominant search engine with approximately 80% of the global marketplace.
However, they do not generate the billions of dollars they make every year from the search engine. Instead, this money comes from advertisers who want to place advertising on the Google search results pages because of their popularity.
Google recognized a long time ago that attracting major advertisers is where the big money is.
They also realized that if they could convince more net users to use their search engine instead of Yahoo! or MSN, they could attract more advertisers willing to pay more money. To attract more users, they set out to make their search results pages more user-friendly. In an effort to continually enhance this user friendliness, they constantly tweak their search algorithm to ensure that the SERPs (search engine results pages) offer every visitor the most targeted results possible.
Google suggest that their number-one priority in terms of results pages is to provide users with the highest value experience possible. Of course, the real number-one priority is generating as much advertising revenue as possible, but that’s another story…
Okay, so now Google come to your site to see whether it offers users value if they place it near the top of the rankings.
What better way could there be of assessing the quality of your site than by looking at what other websites think of it?
They do this by looking at the number, quality and relevance of links pointing to your site, primarily those links from other sites related to yours.
Link building basics…
A link from another site to yours should be an indication that the site owner has chosen to link to you because they like your site, and find it beneficial.
At the same time, Google recognizes that as part of normal Internet marketing, you creating links from other sites to yours is almost a by product of what you do.
For example, it was highlighted in tutorial #7 that when you market by publishing your articles with EzineArticles, the signature link you want the reader to follow to your site is also recognized as a link by Google.
Publishing articles to create incoming links is however only one link generation strategy. This tutorial is going to highlight many others.
Before doing so however, you must first understand more about links and particularly about the Google perspective on links and link creation.
Whilst Google understands that your marketing efforts will generate links, they do not want self-generated links to be the only ones your site has.
Quite logically, they believe that if every link your site has is one that you generated, it completely distorts the all-important ‘user-value’ picture on which Google are so focused.
They want the majority of links to be created by other site owners who voluntarily choose to link to your site.
Unfortunately, if this happens (and it’s a big ‘if’), it takes a long time.
No one is going to link to your site until you have acquired some recognized authority (i.e. Page Rank) but you don’t get Page Rank without links! It’s a vicious circle.
So, you have to create links through your own efforts. More importantly, you have to do so in a certain way.
The key is for the growth and structure of your link network to look natural to Google no matter what link generation tactics you use.
For instance, if you build a site today and then use some ‘trick’ link generation software to create 1000 links tomorrow, your site is already dead in the water. This would never happen naturally. You have just waved a huge ‘red flag’ that Google cannot fail to spot.
Instead, it is far more effective to launch your site and add content to it for a few days before starting to generate a few links in a relatively random fashion. You can of course accelerate this process as your site matures but in the early days, it’s ‘start slowly, build slowly’.
Similarly, a natural link network will have a variety of different types of links.
For instance, the most powerful links your site can enjoy are one-way incoming links from web pages that have good Page Rank where there is a (keyword) anchor text link that is related to your sites content. If however every link your site has is like this, it’s another red flag because this would not happen naturally.
Consequently, you create some one-way incoming anchor text links from high PR pages, but there should also be links that use ‘click here’ or ‘this page’ as the link text, links from pages without Page Rank, and so on. Anything to make the link building process look as natural as possible.
In addition, there should be reciprocal and outgoing links as well. Once again, this is the way a natural link network would grow, so this is what you must do.
Okay, you’ve got the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of link building, so let’s start to consider the ‘how’…
Remember how in the article marketing tutorial, you created a Squidoo lens and a HubPages hub, each of which had an anchor text link to your main site?
The primary purpose of those links in your lens and hub was to encourage other users to visit your site.
However, those incoming links to your site are also very powerful because the IP address that is linked with both Squidoo and HubPages is different to yours. This suggests that these links are ‘independent’ of your site, hence, they carry ‘link juice’ (i.e. ‘link power’).
The more links of this kind you have, the greater the link juice. Hence, you should open an account with a few (or all) of these resources:
Every one of these resources allows you to create a mini-site or blog using their hosting. Every one therefore has a different IP address.
Each mini-site you create should be populated with appropriate content so that you can insert your keyword anchor text link to your main site into this content.
To create a unique article for each, take your Squidoo or HubPages article and ‘spin’ it using a free article spinner, such as the one available in the Academy member’s area. Twenty minutes work with this tool (or any other spinner) will generate dozens of unique articles which are perfect for mini-sites like these.
In terms of linking, using duplicate articles for each mini-site is acceptable. However, if you want Google to accord each mini-site maximum ‘credit’, using unique (albeit ‘spun’) content is more effective.
Each of the mini-sites in your network should one-way link to another and they should be linked to your main site as seen here:
Another vital feature of your link network is that you should not point all of the incoming links at the same page of your main site or use the same keywords for the anchor text.
A natural network has incoming links that point to internal pages of your site using anchor text that is appropriate to those particular pages.
Consequently, you should use some of your link building activities to generate internal page links using appropriate anchor text to enhance the natural appearance of the network you generate.
Building a network of incoming links using mini-sites in this way is a very powerful way of starting your link building activities.
However, it is only a start…
You have already seen that publishing articles on directory sites like EzineArticles will generate one-way incoming links for you.
Consequently, if you submit articles to a large number of article directory sites, you generate one-way incoming links in exactly the same way.
Submitting the same article to many different directory sites will generate an incoming link in just the same way as a unique article would. If however you want your article submission efforts to generate targeted traffic to your site as well, use unique articles whenever you submit to a article directory site.
There are more than 1000 article directory sites on the net. You could therefore spend a huge amount of time submitting articles to all of them.
But the fact is that the majority of article directories have no Page Rank and very few visitors. Sticking to EzineArticles and those in the list at the bottom of this tutorial will be enough.
When you publish articles to generate incoming links, most of those links should point to the most important pages on your main site.
However, when using articles and other free resources, you should also be thinking about boosting the overall ‘link juice’ of your network as well. The way this works is illustrated in this diagram:
As you can see here, some of your ‘auxiliary’ links from articles, videos, blog comments and the like should send links to your main site but also to your mini-sites and to one another.
A proportion of the ‘link juice’ that these incoming links give your mini-sites is passed on to the sites to which they link. Consequently, the outgoing links passing from these mini sites to your main site are a bit more powerful because of the incoming links from articles etc.
This is an extremely important concept to understand. By layering your link network in this way, you funnel maximum ‘link juice’ to your main site.
In effect, every outlying site is directing Google’s attention towards your main moneymaker either directly or indirectly. This looks natural, whereas if every incoming link pointed directly to your main site, it would not. Hence, building a network in this way is the way to do things.
Another way that you can add additional incoming links into your network is by using niche targeted forum sites.
Start by finding the most popular forums in your market niche by searching Google for ‘topic + forums’. For instance, a search for ‘dog forums’ would produce these at the top of the page:
When you find the most active forums in your market, check whether they allow you to create a signature file in your profile. If so, you can use your signature file to create anchor text links to any site you want.
As many of the top niche forums are very highly rated by Google (forums always have a ton of new user-generated content), creating links in this way is both easy and highly effective.
Another way of creating valuable links is to find blogs that focus on your niche to which you can add comments. Most blogs are moderated nowadays so your comment won’t be published if it is junk, but as long as you add a comment that adds value, it will be.
Many blogs also have the ‘no follow’ attribute activated so comments on these blogs will not be followed by the Google spider although Yahoo! and the other engines will follow them.
If you use Firefox as your main browser, install the free Search Status plugin. You can then see whether the blog is a ‘no follow’ or not after right clicking the Search Status menu icon at the bottom of the page (1 – looks like @) and then the ‘Highlight Nofollow Links’ (2) :
Page Rank is important with all incoming links you generate, so although you should not ignore pages with no Page Rank completely (remember, it’s got to look natural), posting links to high Page Rank pages is always valuable.
If you use Firefox, you can download the excellent free SEO Quake plugin to check this:
Alternatively, the free Google toolbar that you can use with both Firefox and Internet Explorer displays the same information:
Post blog comments to send links both to your main site and to other sites in your network to increase the overall ‘link juice’ that your main site receives.
Another highly effective way of generating links is to register for free membership at Web 2.0 sites so that you can plant anchor text links within your member area that point to a site in your network.
Many of these Web 2.0 sites are extremely popular with Google, hence generating incoming links from them is very effective.
The best place I know of for finding Web 2.0 sites where you can create incoming links is Go2Web20.com. On the site, there are hundreds of Web 2.0 sites and applications which are categorized on the homepage:
By selecting a category, you ensure that your incoming links from these Web 2.0 sites and related sources are highly targeted. Remembering that incoming links from sites that are obviously related to your main topic are accorded more value, this is a very significant consideration.
By using all of these resources, it is easy to gradually build a very powerful network of one-way incoming links that ultimately passes maximum link juice to your main site.
But as suggested earlier, a natural link network is not only one-way incoming links. You therefore need to generate some reciprocal links as well as posting outgoing links too.
You need reciprocal and outgoing links to make your network look natural. But as it is one-way incoming links that do the most for you, you should not waste too much time on either of these requirements.
For this reason, I would use a link building network for reciprocal links. Link Metro is one very effective network that enables this.
Although there is a paid upgrade available, you can take advantage of the basic membership at no cost. Once you have done so, you can propose link exchanges with nearly 20,000 member sites and many of them will propose a link exchange with you.
And because every member site is categorized, you can select the sites to which you link from the directory listing:
As always, it pays to ensure that most of the sites with which you exchange links are relevant to your market or business.
However, a few random links from sites that are little to do with your subject matter can help to enhance the natural appearance of your network, so accepting a very small number of seemingly irrelevant link exchanges is not a bad idea.
The final thing you need is at least one anchor text outgoing link. This could be directed at an authority site in your niche, or you might point it at the most appropriate Wikipedia or Yahoo! page.
The main thing is that every page on your site should have an outgoing link and they should use the anchor text that is most appropriate for that page. This re-emphasizes that this is the keyword term for your page.
Top article directories
The key to successful, effective link building is to slowly generate a natural looking link network around your site.
It never pays to try to do things too quickly or to generate too many links at once. Anything that sends negative vibes about your link network to Google is a very bad thing if you want your site to appear on the #1 natural search results page.
It is now recommended you proceed on to Part 18 – Social Bookmarking.