Hosted content, also sometimes called pre-sell pages, makes your site look very good. The problem is, there are usually costs involved. Here's how it works.
You, the content expert, write an article. It should be longer than 600 words but no longer than 1200 words. It should be well-written, completely researched, edited, re-edited and finally proofed so that it's letter perfect. Okay, now you have host-worthy content.
Hosted content is content that's placed on another site for a fee. In other words, you rent a page on another site to display your work. Now, what do you get for your money?
First, position your article on a site that's (1) related to the topicality of your site and (2) has a tons of one-way links to content that's "deep" in the site (in other words sub-pages that rank well in SERPs based on their title tags, for example). These two factors are the best way to measure and quantify the strength your page has in the target site, and ultimately, the link love it creates passes to your site. As you already know hosted content creates editorial inbound links, also known as pure gold.
Second, because it's your article and you're paying for the space, you can embed text links directly to specific pages of your site. This does a couple of things. First, you spread your web net further. Links to your site now appear on other sites – some several incarnations removed from your own site. This, ultimately, increases your site traffíc as people read your interesting commentary and click on those embedded links to see what else is on your mind. That's good. More hits. More page views. Higher conversion ratios.
Third, if you spread your words across the web, you start to develop some name recognition within your niche. Unless you're Dan Kennedy or Skip McGrath, it's tough building name recognition. However, by crafting numerous, informative articles you'll start to be recognized. And wait until you Google your name and find 15 SERPs because your articles appear on dozens and dozens of sites.
The downside is the cost. Site owners charge you for the use of their space. If you're well capitalized, no problem. Spend the money to spread your words. If money is a problem, choose your host sites carefully. Use Google Analytics or ClickTracks data to determine not only number of unique visitors you create from these pages of hosted content, but quality of traffíc as well. Look for sites that match the two criteria above. Very important.
Okay, money is a problem. You don't have a lot. You can still get your name and your opinions out there through various article submission sites.
Once again, site owners need great content and many rely on article submission sites to pick up fresh content for free. Here's the deal. You write an article and go through the same steps of researching, editing and proofing until the piece is pristine and makes you sound like a savant. Perfect.
Now you place that piece on sites like www.goarticles.com or www.ezinearticles.com for free use by other sites. The plus side is, if the content is solid, you'll get picked up by literally hundreds (even thousands) of sites. And in return for the free use of your written brilliance, the sites that display your content are obliged to include a link back to your web site. So, you put out 10 articles on topics related to your business, each one gets picked up and used by 20 other sites and you've got 200 non-reciprocal inbound links. Well done.
But isn't this the same model as hosted content except it's free? No. There are two key points to consider. First, with articles you syndicate it's much more difficult to embed editorial links to your targeted web site. Instead, you take advantage of the target link and anchor text in your bio box that appears at the end of the article.
What does this mean? Ultimately syndicated articles are not unique content like hosted content is, and ultimately it's more challenging to place links to your own site editorially without appearing to be hyping your goods or services. So there's a tradeoff when you go the article syndication route. The key, just as with hosted content, is to have killer, useful information in order to entice webmasters to repurpose the article for their communities and give you credít, a bio and a back link.
But, it doesn't cost you anything but your time, assuming you can string words together into cogent sentences, or at least your brother-in-law can.
If you're good at syndicated content or article submission, you control the anchor text – the actual links readers click on. You can also embed editorial links in syndicated content. Now, these aren't links directly back to your site, but they will take the readers to a target page that you want them to read, so if you're building links for other sites in your portfolio, this approach has a proven track record.
Sites still exchange links. The concept isn't moribund, but it certainly doesn't have the impact a non-reciprocal link has. Reciprocal linking is simply an exchange of links. You link to my site; I'll link to yours. And since spiders follow links, it's not a bad arrangement.
A couple of warnings, however. Any site with which you exchange links should be related to the topic of your site. If you're selling baby clothes on your site and you've got a link to a transmission fix-it site, you'll get nicked by the search engine. Remember, the whole purpose of a search engine is to provide useful, relevant content to users so any links you exchange should be considered from the point of view of the site visitor. Is that link going to further the search of the site visitor or is it a dead end?
If a site appears to have a significant number of back links, and better yet, ranks well in the SERPs, it's a likely candidate for a link exchange even if it's a PR 2. Look for quality sites, or at least quality characteristics.
One-Way Link Building
This comes in several forms. First, there's the ever-popular 'link begging' where you contact a site owner (you can find that information in Whois, if it's not on the contact page) and basically plead your case to have that site owner accept your link. This is a tough sell because, naturally, the site owner wants to know what's in it for him or her. Custom written, tailored emails tend to do better than form letter emails, obviously, and there's definitely nothing wrong with a telephone call provided you make it abundantly clear what you have to offer.
There are paid links programs. For example, www.textlinkads.com lists web sites willing to sell links to your site. You can bid on the cost of the link, agree to the length of time the link will appear and where it will appear. There are other programs that will hook up sites – usually with decent PRs – with site owners looking for good deals on paid links. Again, don't forget to buy links with relevance to your site.
You can pay to advertise on another site with banner ads, though this has been shown to deliver lukewarm results unless you know your market very well. Do a competitive analysis and see what's working for the competition. The click-thru rate on banners is less than 3% but they aren't usually too expensive.
Finally, you can post your thoughts and opinions on forums and blogs related to your site. Each post will create a back link, but one that spiders will recognize as a blog back link – not a bad thing, just not a gangbusters way to build site credibility, especially considering that most links have a nofollow added and forums capable of giving any link love tend to moderate (and eliminate link sp@m) quite heavily. Don't be fooled though, links even with a nofollow attached still have some magic – even on Google.
From hosted content to blog posts, anybody can get a little recognition on the web. And if you've actually got marketing capital, you can pay for hosted content and watch your site grow quickly.