The 5 W’s and H’s of Link Building for Search Engine Optimization

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We’ll go through several link-building tactics for SEO that you can use in this piece.

You may have read an article or two written by search engine optimization (“SEO”) specialists where they discuss the significance of link building to your website’s exposure in the main search engines. In response to the question, “How can I improve my site’s ranking?” Google’s “Webmaster Help Center” online documentation states, “In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.2”

“link building” aims to increase site traffic and search engine rankings by creating “inbound” links to your web pages. The sheer number of sophisticated internet link-building tools and methods belies the apparent simplicity of the concept. Furthermore, incoming links may become meaningless if specific strategies, including misused authorized techniques, are used.

The original plan for this article was to answer the “5 W’s”: who, what, where, when, and why. However, I felt the need to add “How?” to make it more useful, even though doing so could detract from the witty title. Therefore, the following questions are intended to be answered by this article:

1. Which sites should connect to mine, and why?

2. How should the connection be made?

3. Do this if and when you want a link on your site.

4. Which location is best for a link?

5. That’s why.

6. The question is, how can companies build their inbound links?

Undoubtedly, some of the ideas and recommendations in this article can be debated. Several articles I found helpful on the internet are referenced in the footnotes. If you want to come to your conclusions, I suggest reading the pieces above. I hope you’ve concluded that there are a few valid link development tactics you can try!

Why Should You Give a Damn?

I’m sorry I didn’t bother with the standard “who,” “what,” “when,” and “where” introduction and went straight to “why?” If I can’t convince you that link building is crucial, you won’t bother reading about it.

It is widely considered that the amount and quality of inbound links pointing to your site are indicators of the site’s worthiness in the eyes of the major search engines. It sounds like a popularity contest, and maybe it brings back bad feelings about voting for prom king and queen. You care less about your Page Rank and more about getting targeted visitors to your website and building partnerships with companies that provide related goods and services. This is precisely what link-building strategies aim to achieve.

Which Sites Should I Allow to Link to Mine?

The most credible links come from “authoritative” and “related” sites in the same business. Some examples of “authoritative” websites are those affiliated with universities and colleges (.edu), newspapers and magazines (.mil), government agencies (.gov), well-known authorities on a given topic (.gov), and trade groups and professional associations (.org).

The best prospects for “reciprocal linking” (to be described in more detail) lie with “related” sites, such as those of partners and vendors, but not competitors. The content of their websites should be relevant to what you’re selling.

Make sure your expectations are lofty. Look at the other links that lead to the page where you want your link to appear. Can we trust these sites to give us accurate information? In what ways may you investigate the backlink profiles of a prospective connecting partner?

Good SEO link-building resources are available. A free “Link Popularity Checker” can be found at http://www.netconcepts.com/linkcheck/, provided by Netconcepts. LinkPopularity.com is another option. Before requesting a link, use these methods to determine whether or not the other sites already link to the target page. Compare the link popularity of your website’s pages to those of your competitors while you’re there.

According to numerous professionals, too many links can hurt your SEO rankings. Is there a maximum number? Website Magazine advises readers to “… avoid any pages with more than 20 outbound links.”

The word “PageRank” was introduced earlier in this piece. A web page’s significance can be measured with the help of Google’s PageRank system. Google’s free ToolBar (http://toolbar.google.com) includes a built-in PageRank checker.

Should you think about a page’s PageRank before requesting a link? In his article “The Nitty Gritty of Link Requests,” Chris Boggs writes that PageRank is not as helpful as it once was but is “still a good guide.” One contributor to the online article “Over 125 (Legitimate) Link Building Strategies,” Dixon Jones, suggests that the PageRank of the web page where you would like your link to reside should be between 3 and 10.

It is still recommended by many experts in the field of Internet marketing that you submit your site to both the big search engines and specialized vertical search engines and directories. Yahoo! is only one of many examples of popular general manuals. Include GoGuides, JoeAnt, Gimpsy, BlueFind, and Gimpsy. You can submit your website’s URL for free to several of them. To be included in their directory, you may need to add a link to them first.

Stephan Spencer warns against obtaining links from “free for all” connections pages that are oversaturated with links in his article “SEO: Weaving a Web of Links.”6. Once more, prioritize PageRank and content relevancy. Be wary of submission software that mass-submits your site to unrelated search engines and directories.

What Should the Relationship Involve? What Should I Include in My Link Page? Once you’ve identified a promising inbound link possibility, you should recommend the page on their site where the link should appear and the specific phrase you’d want to see in the link. Include HTML on your site that your partner’s webmaster can copy and paste into theirs to implement your link.

Incorporate your keywords into the actual link itself. Although optimizing web pages is outside the focus of this article, you should still make sure that the page your link leads to (the “Target Page”) is “optimized” for those keyphrases. The landing page of your website is not required. Have no idea what the most significant keywords are for your company. To learn more about this topic, check out my “Web Page Keywords – Do’s and Don’ts” post at http://www.ebizmachine.com/seotips.html.

The implication of “What should you put on your link page?” is that the linked-to page will connect back to yours. Not all links need to go both ways; we’ll delve into link-building methods that prioritize producing genuinely helpful online content to stimulate “natural” link growth independent of any prearranged link exchanges. However, “reciprocal” arrangements are shared among partners, alliances, and specific directories. This means, “I’ll point to you if you point to me.”

You may want to construct your connection to their site to demonstrate the methods mentioned in this article before approaching a partner for a reciprocal link. According to the adage, “one good turn deserves another”; hence, you should take the time to write a descriptive paragraph or two for each link.

You should add a link to your site if and when you answer yes to these questions. For brevity, I’ll rename this section “How often should I add inbound links?” Search engine optimization (SEO) authority Chris Boggs recently wrote in Website Magazine7 about “emulating natural growth in link building,” which, if you think about it, sounds awfully “earthy.”

Some experts believe link growth should follow a natural, free-range, pesticide-free evolution (OK, I added the italics for fun), as link construction is a slow and steady grass-roots process. Suppose you suddenly add 100 new links to a site with five inbound links for six years. In that case, a search engine may penalize you for participating in a “link farm,” but adding a few relevant links occasionally appears consistent with natural growth, as Boggs explains.

Where Should We Put the Link? Your link should be embedded in dense material with exciting facts about the subject of the destination website. Your link partner may already have a “links” or “resources” page explicitly created for this purpose, so this request may be too much to ask. In return, you should supply a high-quality, descriptive link, and your prefab HTML link should have content beyond just a link.

Make sure the destination you’ve settled on is a page the main search engines indexed. In particular, it must not be a protected page requiring a username and password.

What methods exist for businesses to cultivate their inbound links? My 5 W’s and an H article’s conclusion could be crucial. A plethora of data about link-building tactics can be found on the web. The quality of the pertinent material on your website is primarily responsible for your success. Suppose your website is a reliable source of knowledge, and you have established yourself as an authority in your field. In that case, other professionals and academics will gladly link to it. Regarding how your site is evaluated, you may expect your peers to use the criteria outlined in this article. They will determine the number and quality of sites linking to yours.

Here are some tips that can help you increase the value of your website’s information and simultaneously attract more visitors.

1. Somebody in your company must be interested in writing; have them publish a “How To” or “Review” piece. Publish your article online and share it with the world! There are a plethora of free article publishing sites online. Quite a few will let you post a short bio alongside a clickable link to your website. To learn more about online article publication, check out the materials on the Article Banks website (articlebanks.com).

Feeling stuck for ideas? Find out what your consumers are most interested in by looking at their keyword searches. If you’re in the GPS device business, an excellent way to attract customers is to contrast and compare the two leading brands. As a Certified Public Accountant, could you provide us a “top ten” list of common mistakes individuals make while doing their taxes? Ensure everything you publish is original, insightful, helpful, and fun to read.

Make the article available in PDF format so readers can print it at home. Talk to your website’s developer to implement an “email to a friend” feature.

2. Participate Regularly in an Appropriate Online Forum or Newsgroup Post in an appropriate online forum or newsgroup and become an active member of an online community related to your website. Make sure your signature always includes your website’s URL.

3. Publish in a Useful Weblog? Blogging has been all over the news recently. Blog posts may contain links to your website, but use caution. Chris Genge, a contributing SEO author in the article “Over 125 (Legitimate) Link Building Strategies”, writes: “Even though blogging is all the rage these days, I think it will go the way of link farms in the not-too-distant future, especially if/when the SE’s determine that it is just another case of spamming. We’re avoiding it like the plague….”10

4. Publish in an “e-zine” If the most prominent sites in your industry don’t have a link program, offer to write a monthly article for their e-zine (email newsletter) on a topic of your choosing and include a link to your website in your author bio.

5. Compose a review of a reputable product or service and ask the company to publish it on their site with a link to your review.

Last but not least, keep tabs on your link-building efforts by using a spreadsheet. You’ll need to follow up on the requests you’ve sent out, so be sure to record information like the date the request was sent and the information you provided. When communicating with your link partners, be polite and remind them of their promise to include a link to your site on their own.

Link building is much easier if your website is a valuable source of topical information and you have achieved high authority in your field. This article discusses the who, what, when, where, and hows of search engine optimization web page link building.

How Can Organizations Create Their Backlinks? In this article’s “How to…” section, I offer several recommendations to help you accomplish this goal. However, as the adage goes, “The devil is in the details.” When it comes to managing the process of soliciting and adding inbound links to your web pages, many nuances will determine the success or failure of your program.

Last but not least, you must be both diligent and patient. It’s excellent to patiently cultivate relationships and form a community with sites complementary to yours. Still, there is mounting evidence that link building in an “unnatural” way can hurt your search engine rankings.

Footnotes:

We cannot guarantee the techniques described in this article work in all cases; they are provided as an introduction to important search engine optimization concepts and are provided for educational purposes only. 1 Thank you! -Bill Schwartz, EBIZ Machine

2 Check out google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=34432 for more info.

Website Magazine, 14 December 2005, websitemagazine.com/content/blogs/posts/articles/link_requests_boggs.aspx, Chris Boggs.

Over 125 (Legitimate) Link Building Strategies, Robin Nobles, Eric Ward, and John Alexander, Search Engine Workshops, searchengineworkshops.com/articles/leglinkpop.html.

Five Boggs – cf. up top

Spencer, Stephan. “SEO” (Search Engine Optimization): Weaving a Web of Links. Practical E-Commerce. March 12, 2007.

The New Holy Grail of SEO?, by Chris Boggs, Website Magazine, February 2007, page 12.

8. p. 13 of Boggs.

Website Magazine, 14 December 2005, websitemagazine.com/content/blogs/posts/articles/link_requests_boggs.aspx, 9 Boggs, Chris, The Nitty Gritty of Link Requests

Articles/articles/leglinkpop.html at searchengineworkshops.com by Robin Nobles, Eric Ward, and John Alexander, cited in 10

Website design, web-based application development, eCommerce platform integration, search engine optimization (SEO), and pay-per-click internet marketing program development are just some of the services offered by EBIZ Machine, owned and operated by Bill Schwartz (303-759-9000, bill@ebizmachine.com) of Denver, Colorado.

Contact EBIZ Machine to get a free audit of your site’s SEO if you think it could use some work.

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