Well actually, linking isn’t fun at all. In fact, it’s quite tedious. Seeking, responding to requests and adding links takes time and effort. But, if you’re not actively building links the RIGHT way you are going to be left behind. In other words, your site will be “Lost in Cyberspace”. The plain fact is Google, and to a lesser extent, other important search engines, reward sites with links from relevant and important pages.

If you want your site to deliver lots of targeted search engine traffic (and who doesn’t?) there are two equally important factors:

1) lots of keyword-rich, search engine friendly content
2) lots of relevant, incoming links from the RIGHT sources

For real success you need to cover BOTH of these strategies. Don’t concentrate on one and not the other.

So, how do you go about building your links? It’s not rocket science, but as I said, it does take time and effort. From my own experiences, here’s what you should do:

1) Download and install the Google Toolbar:

http://toolbar.google.com/

This will show you the PageRank of the page you are viewing. PageRank is a measure, rated from 1 to 10, of the “importance” that Google gives to that page. There has been a lot written about PageRank. You don’t need to become obsessed with it but it IS an important consideration when determining WHO to link to. A link from a PR-5 page is worth FAR more than a PR-0 page.

2) Establish a resource or links directory for your site. This lets potential link partners see that you are willing to exchange links. You should make it clear on your links pages what your linking policy is i.e. under what conditions you will agree to exchange links.

3) Your aim should be to build a resource directory that is relevent to your business. Don’t try to build a mini Yahoo with umpteen different categories. Keep your directory focussed on your site theme. When you first start out you will be inclined to link to anybody in exchange for a link FROM anybody. This is a mistake. Be patient and choose your link partners carefully.

4) Before requesting a link from another site, add that site to your directory. Contact the webmaster and tell them you added their link because you believe their site would be of interest to your visitors (and so it should). Give the url where your link is located and ask for a return link, along with instructions on how you would like your link worded. NEVER demand by saying things like “if you do not link to us we will remove your link”.

5) If you have not received a reply after 2 – 3 weeks send a polite follow up. Again, don’t demand. No one is under any obligation to link to you. If you do not receive a reply to your second request it means that the webmaster does not want to link to you, or they are simply too busy to respond. In that case, leave it and move on. I receive dozens of link requests a day. Sometimes it takes me many weeks to get around to responding. You’ll go mad worrying about links that have not been reciprocated. Your time is better spent.

6) When you receive a link request visit the site and check that it meets with your requirements as set down on your link pages. Is it a quality site with good content or just a “link farm”? If it doesn’t meet your requirements don’t link to it.

The webmaster SHOULD have already linked to your site but be prepared to overlook that breech of linking protocol if it’s from a good quality, high PR site.

7) Beware of webmasters who add your site to their “directory” which turns out to nothing but a link farm i.e. has no useful content, just a bunch of links, and asks you to link to an entirely different site, one that HAS good content. These webmasters are playing you for a sucker. The benefit is all theirs.

8) As I said in point #1, links from high PR pages are worth more than links from low or no PR pages. Seek out high PR linking partners but keep in mind it is the PR of the actual page your link is on that matters, NOT the PR of the home page. In other words if the home page PR is 5, but the page your link is on is several layers deep in the directory, it will probably have a PR of 0 and be of little benefit to you. Check the PR of the actual page your link is on, or is going to be on, before agreeing to exchange links.

Each page on your links directory should be no more than two clicks away from your home page, and your linking partner’s site should be the same. If your link is placed on a page which looks something like this – directory/category/subcategory/subcategory with your link – you will derive NO value from that link.

9) Be prepared to negotiate your links. Savvy webmasters understand the value of links from high PR pages. If you add a link to a PR-0 page on your site don’t expect your link partner to put your link on a PR-6 page, and your link partner shouldn’t expect the same from you. Exchange value for like value.

When you first start out your site may not have any PR due to a lack of incoming links. This reduces your bargaining power. However, you can overcome this by getting your site listed in as many large business directories as possible. Some of these you will have to pay, such as Yahoo and Microsoft’s Business Directory, but many others are free.

10) Be specific about how you want your link partner to link to you. It is MOST important that the link to you contain your targeted keywords in the anchor (linked) text. When I ask for a link to my site I don’t want the link title to be:

Steve Pronger Web Business Solutions

Instead, I ask for:

Small Business Website Designer

or whichever keywords I am targeting at the time. Note: Try not to have all your inbound links targeting the same keywords. This can raise an “over-opimization” flag.

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