Inbound links are now so important in the constant battle to achieve top search engine rankings, that tons of people are using every tactic under the sun to gain that one additional link. You must be careful when it comes to linking though. You could jeopardize your whole linking plan by getting links in a shady manner which could have an adverse affect on your search rankings. These inbound links are seen by search engines as votes for your site within a particular community of sites.
Anytime you're being voted for, you want to have as many votes as possible. However you want to be using tactics which are going to pay dividends in your linking strategy, not do more harm then good. Below I líst some of the best and safest methods around for generating inbound links for your website. Some can be more effective than others:
- Requesting Links: The oldest method of gaining inbound links is to request them. This requires that you study your market to find out who the players involved in the market are. Then, you contact each one of the sites and ask them to link to your site. In most cases, the person you contact receives your request, but providing links to other sites is the least of their worries, so you may never hear from them. If you do, it can sometimes be months later. So, you put a lot of time into requesting links from other sites for a relatively small return on your efforts.
- Writing Articles: One of the most effective methods of gaining inbound links is to provide an article for other companies to use as long as they include a paragraph at the bottom that includes credits for you as well as a link back to your site. This method of gaining inbound links works well, because web sites are always looking for good content to include on their pages. The catch here is that the article you write should be well written, accurate, and useful to other sites in your industry. Once you've produced an article that meets these requirements, you can begin to let others know you have content available for them to use for free; you can do this by having a 'free articles' page on your site or submit the content to article directories.
- Blogs: Another way to get links back to your site is from bloggers. What started as a strange phenomenon that was mostly personal has now become a powerful business tool; many businesses rely on links back to their sites from the various industry bloggers out there. In most cases, though, bloggers aren't just going to stumble onto your web site. It's far better for you to contact the blogger with information about your organization, some product that you provide, or with news that would interest them. This information then gives the blogger something to use in his or her regular posts. Keep in mind, however, that you can't control what a blogger might say, so it's possible that the review you get won't be favorable. Its possible to get reviews from small to mid-sized blogs without too much of a problem, but when it comes to getting reviews from the most popular blogger in your niche, it may cost you a few hundred $$$. For example, John Chow charges a whopping $500 for a review, which he doesn't even write himself.
- Press Releases: Press releases are one of the mainstays of any marketing program. It can be so effective that many organizations hire companies to do nothing but distribute their press releases. What's so powerful about a press release? It's just the facts, including benefits, sent out to publications and organizations that might publish all or part of the press release. Use press release marketing to send out new items of all types, and send them as widely as you can. New organizations, publications, newsletters, even some forums will post press releases. When you write it, make sure a link back to your site is included.
- Affiliate Programs: Affiliate programs are a type of paid advertising. You provide a link to people who want to link back to your web site. They place the link on their site and when someone clicks through that link and makes a purchase (or converts any other goal you have arranged), the affiliate - the person who placed your link on their site - gets paid a small percentage. Usually the payment for affiliate programs is very low ($.01 to $.05 per click or a small percentage of the sale). But some people make a good living being affiliates, and many organizations receive additional traffic because of their affiliate programs. The trick with affiliate programs is to not allow them to be your sole source of incoming links.
- PPC and Paid Links: Pay-per-click advertisements are an acceptable business practice. There is no problem with using PPC advertisements to achieve inbound links to your site. Remember that, like affiliate links, PPC links are not direct links to your site. Paid links, on the other hand, are different from affiliate links - you pay to have a direct, or flat link, placed on a page. Some search engines frown on the practice of using these types of links. Using paid links (especially those that land on link farms) is a practice that carries some business risk.
- Link to Yourself: Linking to yourself is a technique that sits right on the line between ethical and unethical. Linking to yourself from other sites that you might own is an acceptable practice. But if you set up other sites simply to be able to link back to your own site and create the illusion of popularity, you're going to do more damage than it's probably worth to you. If you are linking to yourself and you suspect that you might be doing something that would adversely affect your search engine ranking, then you shouldn't do it. There are plenty of links to be had without linking back to your web sites; you just have to work a little harder for the higher quality links.
Inbound links are such an important part of any marketing online strategies that some organizations find themselves caught up in the process of learning who is linking back to them. It's not a bad thing to want to know where your links are coming from. And one of the places you can gather that information is from your web-analytics application. A great and free analytics program available is Google Analytics. Check it out.
So there are my top link snagging tips which I actively employ for most of my online businesses. Which tactics do you use for your website, and have I missed out any good link-snagging techniques? Have your say by leaving me a comment.
About The Author
Andy MacDonald, CEO of Swift Media UK, a website design & search marketing company.