Linking: Viral Advertising is a Good Virus

You’ve built your website. I don’t think I need to explain to you that you won’t get anywhere with your online business if no one ever sees it. So traffic is what you’re looking for. Ideally, targeted traffic. What’s that, you ask.

Targeted traffic is people who know what they’re looking for and have been led to believe that they’ll find it on your website. How did they hear about you? Word of mouth? An ad on another website? Search engines? An ezine ad, safelist email, traffic exchange splash page?

Let’s take one of those, search engines, and talk about it for a bit. Let’s face it, that’s the starting point for a lot of people looking for information online. But how far do they search? Here’s what I usually do when I’m looking for something. Like yesterday…sigh…I spent hours looking for the driver, then the image editing software, for my scanner.

Adventures with Search Engines

I typed something into the search box. I looked at the first page of answers to my query. Not much was useful, but I did pick up on a few more targeted terms to type into the search box. Back and forth I went for a couple hours until I finally found what I was looking for.

Not my idea of a good time.

But ultimately I achieved my goal, once I had found the highly refined search terms I needed. For example, I didn’t know to use “image editing software” when I started my search, but figured it out as I went along. And trust me, I didn’t go much past the first page of any query during my hours of searching.

Your website needs those highly targeted keywords, so that when someone types them into a search engine, they find a listing for your website and it’s one of those “Eureka! I’ve found it!” moments for them.

But even if you’ve got the keywords, how do you get your website into that first search page on Google or Yahoo! or AOL?

One way is called back linking, one of many online versions of word-of-mouth advertising. Some website already esteemed by the search engines for the same keywords as yours recommends your website as a good place to go for more info. Google or whoever sees that link, visits your site, and decides that yes, your site IS an excellent place for more info on image editing software, or whatever. Your site then “rises” in esteem in the search engine world.

So if your site is about image editing software, your url appears on other sites about that same topic, or related to it strongly, such as sites about scanners or cameras. These related sites tell their visitors that your site is a good place to go for their image editing software needs.

I’ll Scratch Your Back If You Scratch Mine

How do they do this? They don’t have to actually say anything, although testimonials carry a lot of weight. You can exchange links with them; “I’ll put a link to your site on mine if you do the same.” Hence the name, reciprocal linking.

It’s a time-consuming process, finding the most appropriate sites, communicating, posting the link to your site, checking to make sure they post your link, but it’s worth it because it works if you’ve picked good sites. It doesn’t work if you link to a site about used cars or baby showers if your site is about image software.

The best way to find targeted sites to link with is to type this into a search engine: “your site’s keywords” “link to us”. Or variations on that, “your site’s keywords” “add your link”. Or use related keywords. Use your imagination here. In the image editing example, the keywords you use can relate to uses for your software, such as “scanner software” or “photograph editing software”. But be sure to include the ” “, that’s what will make your search the most targeted by using those exact phrases within the parentheses.

There are programs and software that make linking easier. There’s a website where you can sign up, enter your keywords and site description, and then receive emails notifying you when there is another site or site with the same keywords as yours. You log in and there’s a simple way to visit these sites and send automatic emails asking them if they would like to link with you. Here’s the link, the service is free, the site is called Value Exchange.

Once a link to your site is on another website, it’s there for good (barring unforeseen circumstances, such as you not upholding your end of the deal, or vice versa). People will continue to see that link for years to come. So will the search engines. They will continue to return to your site as long as the content is still relevant, and as long as you continue to add new content. The search engines love new and unique. Which is why, for example, you will continue to find new articles such as this one on my website. :^)

Besides reciprocal linking, there’s one-way linking, such as when a website uses this article and it includes the resource box at the end with my link or links in it. Sweet, this is the best kind of link, a trade of free website content for a link back. My name gets a bit of branding, I get a link back, and the website owner gets fresh content for his or her site. And even more so than a static link on a website, this one is truly viral, as this article gets passed around forever, reaching more and more people every day.

So that’s linking in a nutshell. There are other methods of word of mouth online promotion, but that’s for another article another day. Here’s a hint of things to come, though. There’s a new fun way to get around Google and the others that’s just starting to spread, it’s a way to create your own search engine and it’s called tagging. Yes it’s fun, you run around the ‘net saying “you’ve been tagged”. More on that another time.

Till then, have fun linking and watching your search engine ranking soar!

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