Most search engine optimization and Internet marketing people will tell you that building links back to your site from other sites is now one of, if not THE most important thing you can do for your site’s organic listing success. Personally, I feel that a site that itself is not properly optimized using best practices rules is not really going to serve your needs in the long run, and I consistently get great results for my clients in the organic listings with little or no back-links when I am brought in.
Yet in the long run, and in highly competitive fields, back-links are very important. If two sites are optimized identically within each site, the one that has the most high quality back-links will show up higher in the search engine results pages…
1. Article submissions for SEO Back-Links
There’s an entire blog post just on the topic of choosing quality article submission site candidates so I’ll leave that for another time. Here I’ll just cover the most important issues to consider…
Be very careful with this method. Evaluate every web site that provides links to a competitor because not all such web sites are legitimate – many are “link farms” or so super-saturated with “sponsored ads” or “ads by Google” that Google deems the entire site unacceptable. When they do so, at the very least they disregard the link to your site from a link-back value perspective. If you are linked from too many of them, it becomes a penalty. (And you will have wasted quality link-building time!).
Also – submit articles only to reputable web sites – if a site is too full with AdSense, or if you see spammy type content, that is an indication that it’s a poor link-back opportunity.
Avoid Duplicate Content
When you do submit articles, they need to be unique content – avoid posting duplicate content that already appears on your site, your blog or elsewhere. And always provide at least one link back to your site where the words that are linked, or the words next to the link are your top keyword phrase or one of them… And if you are discussing something relevant to a sub-page of your site, where the content and focus is complimentary, make sure the link goes to that specific page, for the most SEO value!
Type of sites to submit articles to
What type of site are you wanting to build links back to? If the site offers any type of product or service based on geo-location (say it’s a Hair Dresser or it’s a physical retail store, or a Doctor as just a few examples). There are many sites that aggregate articles from a variety of authors as well. There are any number of high quality sites that cover all manner of topics – your business focus included!
2. Geo-Location based Directories provide important SEO value
Find and submit to every possible location based directory that covers that geographic area.
High Value High Visibility across the U.S.:
- Google Local (and Google Maps)
- Yahoo Local
Note: AOL Local and Microsoft Live.com/LocalSearch are both now powered by Yellowpages.com’s directory system.
Each major metropolitan area, many counties and cities have one or more web directories that are focused on that geographic location, and offer great opportunities to obtain free listings. These require some footwork and research to locate, but they can be invaluable in providing links back to your site. Here’s when it becomes very important to properly evaluate the quality of the directory you are considering, but it’s well worth the effort. Here in Marin County, California, one such example is Marin.org
3. Paid Link Listings
Most sites that require a fee for listing inclusion can be deemed either good or bad – and you will most definitely need to avoid the paid listings that are on bad sites! For those that are high quality sites, the issue then becomes “is it worth the cost?” This is something that you will need to evaluate and decide. For the most part I don’t recommend paid listings, however once in a while, a great link building opportunity comes along both because of the high value and because people use a particular site in and of itself to find service or product providers….
One typical guideline for evaluating any such sites is the Google Page Rank. There’s some dispute as to whether this is going to matter in the coming years but it’s generally considered important in helping evaluate. The higher the page rank, the supposed higher the quality of the site. Google only updates the publicly available Page Rank data every few months, so it’s not always accurate either, as they are always changing their valuation methods. So if you use Page Rank, make it just one of several criteria.
One example of a great local directory here in Marin County California, is a site that has been around for a long time and used by local residents and business owners to find other local services – MarinDirect.com – why is this good even though the Page Rank from Google is only a 3?
Because it’s a valid link, I control my listing, and it IS a site that many people use to find local businesses.
Another directory that has high ranking and provides dual value for a reasonably low fee is CitySearch.
Link building – the bigger picture
So remember too – link building should NOT just be about SEO for it’s own sake, just like SEO should not be performed on a web site for it’s own sake. You will gain success if you combine your SEO efforts with building high quality content that visitors can actually understand and be motivated by, and brand building by getting your site out there to as many quality sites as possible in the most cost effectve manner possible.
And so that brings us to more potentially elusive listings that fit in both the link-back and quality visitor traffic categories – Specialty Directories. Whether they are geo-location related or topic related, Specialty Directories fit the concept of being related to your focus one way or another in a niche way.
MarinDirect.com is a good example – so look for directories that are specific to a county or region. Many news organization web sites offer free listings.
So if this is a local or regional based web site, or you serve a refined market, do a search for the top keyword phrases for your site where you also include the name of the town or city or refined market keywords – and look to see what directories there are that are quality sites.
4. Trade Publication And Business-Centric Sites
Regardless of whether the site you are working on is geo-based or not, the business is within one or more industries or markets. There are many very good trade, industry or market specific web sites out that are perfect opportunities for submitting a link. Some of them require a company to be a member. If that’s the case, and you are a member (or you may use this opportunity to consider joining) then you may want to be listed with a link to your site from that organization.
Many business owners are wise to join sites like LinkedIn – of course!
Chambers of Commerce are a good place to be found as well. Of course, you need to belong to your local Chamber, however if you do, be sure that their web site has a business directory with member listings and that yours is there – the description they provide / category you’re in need to be checked and don’t forget – you want that link back to your web site!
Don’t forget to provide out-bound links to the most significant of sites and directories that link back – high quality outbound links especially when within content that keyword relates to the outbound site, give great overall SEO value to your site as well (because it tells Google you are providing additional value / resources to site visitors or you’re providing supporting information) – helping to give authority weight to the page that has the outbound links.
5. Discussion Forums
Forums have been around for as long as the Internet as a marketing and public community arena. They may be web 1.0, yet many exist still and are thriving. Every time you submit a post to a high value discussion forum web site that’s related to your site, it may be an opportunity to embed a link in the signature file. If you use such sites to primarily promote your business, you will more than likely find that you are booted off – your participation at these sites should be one of community – sharing thoughts, insights, knowledge and opinions on topics related to your business, but without directly promoting your own company.
Social Networking is Discussion Forums on steroids. So sites like FaceBook, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, and countless other such sites are great places to make a listing for your company and put links in back to your main site.
Let your quality participation in any of these sites be enough to motivate people to click on the link in your signature file or from your profile. It works wonders for me and it can work for you as well!
Here’s a power-tip – set up a database (or at the very least a spreadsheet) with all the great sites you end up submitting links to or you may be considering.
Categorize them as to the type of site, the general market focus or keywords or tags…
Make the link to each site a hot link to launch a new web page – and ideally it’s to the link submission form on each site, not the site’s home page.
Keep track of which ones you’ve already submitted to.
Each site or directory that approves your link should then be flagged as such, along with UserId, Password, Secret Question, etc. so you can keep track of them and if needed, go back and edit when appropriate.
Over time you’ll be grateful for this link building aid.
And don’t forget to go back to each site submitted to and check to find out whether the listing is live! Check the link to be sure it goes to the right page on your site, and address any problems you see…
LAST suggestion – Protect Yourself
Get McAfee SiteAdvisor – it’s a browser hook and will show Green, Yellow or Red indicators for sites you visit for link building. If a site is questionable and it’s got a Yellow bar or a Red bar – click on the SiteAdvisor bar to see why – many of these just want your email address and will flood you with junk. Helps determine if it’s worth the bother for some sites… And if they have questionable downloads or require a toolbar before submitting avoid them like the plague!