Linking is Queen
If content is king, then linking is the queen that shares his throne.
We have all heard about adding content to your site to give the search engines fodder to consume. But the secret to luring the search engines is the links to your site. Today's search engines look very carefully and critically at who is linking to you, and what it is that they are saying about you. A link from a leader in your industry carries a lot of weight and means that your site is important. Two links from industry leaders means your site is even more important. 100 links from random web sites, from industries you are not even related with, means almost nothing. Thus, getting links is only the start; the important thing is getting good links from quality web sites.
Why do links matter?
Since the arrival of Google and their PageRank, search engines have put a lot of weight on links to a site. There used to be simple ways to get good rankings: Meta tags, titles, keyword density, etc Today, things have become more complex, with search engines now using a very complicated algorithm that involves:
- links to your site,
- what is written in those links,
- who is linking to the site that links to yours,
- what are the keyphrases used in those links,
- what is the quality of the site that is linking to yours,
- how many other links does that site have,
- how many links out (and to what sites) does your site have,
and other such criteria.
To use a rather appetizing analogy, these new criteria are added to the stew that is your site, along with the quality and quantity of the content. Left to simmer on the worldwide web, this stew is then eaten up by the search engines depending on how well your site matches the aforementioned criteria. Put differently, the king and queen must join together to turn your site into a number one result.
How do we get links?
It all starts with content. No one will link to you unless you offer quality information about a particular subject. If you are in real estate, you must offer information about the area you sell. If someone wants to buy in your area, first s/he will want to learn about it, so you will need to have good resources about that area. The next step is to find new sites that would benefit from your site's information; new sites whose clients would potentially buy your real estate.
For example, one of our clients (www.monlac.com) sells real estate in the Laurentians area of Quebec. Their site has content on activities in Quebec and the nearby Laurentian mountains. Thus, we will be soliciting links from web sites such as the nearby water parks and ski hills, nearby towns, lake and boating associations, and local construction web sites to name just a few. To these web sites, not only will linking to www.monlac.com make their customers happier, but it is in their best interest that the site sells real estate since it brings in more business for them.
How do you solicit links?
To solicit sites you have to use a lot of elbow grease. Send out personalized emails to these sites. Don't send out mass emails or spam. Be friendly, and point out the benefits of linking to your site. If you are lucky, maybe 1 in 3 emails will get a response. It is frustrating and discouraging, but keep your spirits up. Many times a site is perfect but they don't ever update it, so your site won't get the link in because nothing ever changes on the solicited site. Don't waste too much time on sites that haven't been updated in years.
It is also important to follow up. Until you get a flat out denial, keep saying "Hi", and keep it personal. Keep track of who you have contacted and what you have written or said because you have to make it seem like they are the only person you are contacting. As soon as they get a sniff that you are sending out a mass email, or that you are using the exact same approach with other sites, you will probably lose their respect - and their business!
Do not forget to submit to the directories such as the Open Directory Project (www.dmoz.org), because getting listed here counts for a lot in all the big search engines. Take your time and choose the right category to submit to. Also, read about how they want their descriptions and titles written, and write them that way. These are the keys to getting into the directories.
Soliciting links is a very time-consuming (and frustrating) venture, but it is essential to getting good rankings in the search engines. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of time. Getting your first link is like getting your first sale. It is just as hard - and just as satisfying.