the Link Popularity of your site
By Sumantra Roy
number of sites which are linking to your site, is an increasingly
important factor as far as search engine placement is concerned. Other
things remaining the same, more the number of links to your site,
higher will be its ranking.
What is important is not only the
links to your site, but also the types of sites which are linking to
you. A link from a site which is related to yours is more valuable than
a link from
an unrelated site.
In this article, I explore different
which you can improve the link popularity of your site. I start with
methods that you shouldn't bother using, then go on to the moderately
methods, and then end with the most effective methods you can use to
the link popularity of your site.
your site to Free For All (FFA) pages
A common misconception among many
marketers is that while FFA pages may not directly bring in traffic to
it will help to improve the link popularity of your site, and hence,
indirectly bring in traffic through the search engines.
Nothing could be further from the
FFA pages can contain only a certain number of links at a time. This
means that when you submit your site to a FFA page, your site will be
placed at the
top of the page. However, as more and more people submit their sites to
FFA page, your site will be pushed down, and finally, when it reaches
bottom of the page, it will be removed.
Now, since you can bet that plenty
people are also submitting their sites to the FFA pages, your site will
in these pages for only a short span of time. Hence, in order to ensure
that the search engines see your site if and when they come to spider
FFA page, you will need to ensure that you submit your site to these
pages on a regular basis - at least once a week.
Even if you used an automatic
program to do it, can you imagine a worse way to spend your time and/or
money? Furthermore, many search engines recognize these pages which
only contains links to other sites as FFA pages and may completely
ignore them. And while I haven't yet seen any evidence that submitting
to the FFA pages will actually penalize your site, there is every
possibility that this might happen in the future.
Hence, when it comes to FFA pages,
simple: don't even think about them.
Reciprocal Link Services
Some people have recommended that in
increase the link popularity of your site, you can join some reciprocal
link services. The basic idea behind these services is that you add
some pages to your
site which contain links to other sites which are members of that
and in exchange, these members will also add pages to their sites which
will contain a link to your site. Theoretically, more the members of
service, more your link popularity.
However, I have plenty of
using this method to boost the link popularity of your site:
i) Most of these services require
that you add
a visible graphical or text link from your home page to the pages
containing the links. If they require a graphical link, it can
completely destroy the general look and feel of your site. Even if they
require a text link, how would you feel if a visitor to your site
clicked on such a link and found one of your competitors (who is also a
member of this service) right at the
top of a page?
ii) Most of these services give the
containing the links to each of its members, i.e. the pages that you
are required to upload to your site are exactly the same as the pages
which all the other members of that service are required to upload to
their servers. Even the file names of the pages tend to be the same for
all the members. Most search engines are now able to detect such
duplicate pages in different domains
and may either ignore the pages or may even penalize all these domains
iii) Instead of linking only related
each other, most of these services link all the members with each
This means that lots of unrelated sites will be linking to your site.
I mentioned before, links from unrelated sites are simply not as
as links from related sites.
Hence, I don't recommend that you
reciprocal link programs.
links with other webmasters
Another way of improving the link
your site is to exchange links with other webmasters who have sites
are related to yours, but are not direct competitors. Here's how you
First, open a database program like
Access and create a new table containing fields like FirstName,
Address, URL etc. Then, make a list of the sites belonging to your
Then, go to AltaVista
, and type in the following in the
somesite.com is the domain name of one of your competitors. This will
give you a list of all the sites which are linking to that competitor.
find out in what context a particular site has linked to your
If this site is an affiliate of your competitor, then your chance of
a link from this site is limited, unless you offer an even better
program. However, if you find that this site has a Links page which
links to other sites, one of which is a link to your competitor, then
is an excellent prospect for exchanging links. Find out the name and
address of the webmaster of the site and add them to your database. In
way, go through all the sites which are linking to your competitors,
those sites which you think may want to exchange links with you, and
up your database.
you have done that, create a Links page in your site, and add the URLs
of these sites to the Links page. Then, send an email to these
introduce yourself and your site, congratulate them on building an
web site, tell them that you have already added a link to their sites
yours, and then ask them whether they would be kind enough to add a
to your site. In your email, emphasize the fact that exchanging links
this way will be mutually beneficial for both of you because it will
both of you drive traffic to your sites. Wait for a month or so to see
response. Some webmasters will agree to link to you. Others will simply
respond. After a month, remove the links to those sites who are not
in exchanging links and using the methods outlined above, try to locate
sites with which to exchange links.
you send the email to the webmasters, make sure that you personalize
each email. Don't begin every email with "Hello Webmaster", begin with
Mike". If you want, you can use email merge programs to automatically
personalize each email. You can check out some email merge programs by
going to http://download.cnet.com
and searching for "email merge" (without
main problem with this method of improving the link popularity of your
site is that it takes a lot of
time. You may find that the number of links you manage to get just does
not justify the time that you spend over it. The best way to automate
whole process is to use a program called Zeus. Zeus will allow you to
and exchange links with sites that are related to yours and manage
links on an ongoing basis in a fraction of the time it would take for
to do it manually. You can download a free trial version of Zeus at the
the program does take a while to get used to, the results that you can
obtain with it are simply phenomenal. I highly recommend that you
free trial version and try it out.
thing that you can do is to mention in your Links page that you are
willing to exchange links with other web sites. This allows other
come to your web site to propose a link exchange.
Starting an Awards Program
moderately effective method of improving the link popularity of your
site is to start an awards program. You can have web sites which are
to yours apply for an award from your site. The sites which win the
get the chance to display the logo for your award. This logo is linked
your site, preferably to a page which contains more information on the
you publish a newsletter, consider declaring the winners in your
newsletter. You can also perform a review of the winners' sites in your
This adds useful content to your newsletter and also gives more
the incentive to apply for your award, since you may review their sites
in your newsletter. This also gives them the incentive to subscribe to
newsletter to see if they win the award.
sure that you give awards to only those sites which deserve to win. If
you give your award to sites which don't deserve it, your award will
have little credibility, which will, in turn, hurt the credibility of
Furthermore, make sure that the logo you design for the award looks
If it doesn't, not many webmasters will want to display it in their
may sound a bit unusual, but giving testimonials for products or
services which you find useful can be another moderately effective way
of improving the link popularity of your site. If you really like a
product, simply write to the company and tell them why you liked the
product so much and how it has helped you. Chances are, the company
will write back to you to thank
you for your comments and will ask you for permission to display your
comments in their web site. Tell the company that you have no problems
if they publish your comments, but request them to add a link to your
site along with the testimonial. There is every possibility that the
company will agree since publishing the URL of your web site gives more
credibility to the testimonial.
course, please don't go about giving testimonials to every company you
can locate just because it will improve your link popularity :-)
Posting to Message Boards and Discussion
moderately effective method of increasing the link popularity of your
site is to post to online message boards. At the end of every message
that you post, you can sign off by mentioning your name and the URL of
your web site. If the message board allows it, you can even include a
blurb about your site at the end of your posts. However, make sure that
individual messages that are posted to that message board are archived
static HTML pages (i.e. the URLs for the individual messages should not
a "?"). Otherwise, the search engines will consider these pages to be
pages and may not spider these pages and hence, will not be able to
based discussion lists which are archived on the web in static HTML
pages can also be used to boost the link popularity of your site in a
manner. In this case, the signature file that you use with your email
should contain the URL for your web site.
Starting a Link Contest
good method of improving the link popularity of your site is to give
away prizes to other webmasters if they link to you. The prizes that
out should ideally be something which other webmasters will find
valuable enough to want to link to you, but which do not cost you too
much. For instance, if you publish a newsletter, and have unsold ad
inventory, you can give
away some free advertisements in your newsletter to the winners. If you
sell a software (or an ebook), you can give away a free copy of your
or ebook to the winners, since it doesn't cost you anything to produce
additional copy of digital goods like software and ebooks.
contests work best if you run the contest on a continuous basis and if
you declare new winners frequently. If you run the contest for a few
and then stop it, the webmasters who had linked to you will all remove
links. However, if you run it on a continuous basis, and declare new
every month or so, the webmasters will have the incentive to keep their
to your site.
make sure that you require all participants to have a link to your site
either in their home page, or in an internal page of their site which
linked to their home page. Also ensure that the page which contains the
is no more than two levels deep from their home page (i.e. it should
take more than two clicks to go from the home page to the page
the link). If they don't do this, the search engine spiders may not
the page which contains the link to your site, and hence, may not find
Writing articles and allowing them to be
is by far one of the best ways of improving the link popularity of your
site, and one of my favorites. Whenever I write an article on search
placement, I first publish it in my newsletter and then I publish the
in my site as a separate web page. I also submit it to the following
webmasters and ezine publishers frequent these article directories in
search of articles. Submitting my articles to these directories gives
opportunity of re-publishing my articles. While I have had some success
with each of the above directories, by far the best among them is the
at the end of each article, I mention that people are free to
the article as long as they include my resource box (i.e. my bio) at
end of the article. I always include the URL of my site in the resource
box. This means that whenever someone publishes one of my articles in
his/her web site, I have another site linking to my site. Also, many
ezine publishers archive their ezines in their web sites. If they have
re-published my article in a particular issue, I again get a link.
articles is also an excellent viral marketing tool. As some webmasters
and ezine publishers publish my articles, other webmasters and ezine
publishers will read my article. Some of them, in turn, will publish my
article, which will again be read by other webmasters and ezine
publishers, some of whom will publish it... and so on.
since only web sites related to mine would be interested in publishing
my articles, all these links tend to come from related sites, which, as
I mentioned earlier, are more valuable than links from unrelated sites.
articles, of course, has another very important benefit - if you write
good articles, it makes you known as an expert in your field. This
helps to improve your credibility, which makes people more comfortable
about buying your
products or services.
notes about writing articles:
I have learnt through experience
that some webmasters will publish other people's articles and will
display the complete resource box but will not link to the URL
mentioned in the resource box. In order to prevent this, you need to
explicitly state that the article can be published only if the URL
mentioned in the resource box is linked
to your site.
Your resource box should not be
too long - it should be no more than 6 lines long, formatted at 65
characters per line. Otherwise, other webmasters and ezine publishers
to publish your article.
Starting your own affiliate program
is another excellent way by which you can improve the link popularity
your site. When you have your own affiliate program, you give other
webmasters the incentive to link to you. In this case too, since most
of these web
sites will be related to the industry in which you are operating, these
links will be more valuable than links from unrelated sites.
when you start your affiliate program, you need to decide whether you
want to run the program yourself, or whether you want to outsource it
third party. While outsourcing your affiliate program has a number of
benefits, doing so will not help you improve the link popularity of
your site, because affiliates are going to link to the third party's
site. In order to improve the link popularity of your site, you need to
ensure that the affiliate
links are pointing to your domain.
affiliate program software that I highly recommend and have used for
affiliate program of our search engine positioning services is
Technologies' My Affiliate Program, which is available at http://www.1stSearchRanking.com/t.cgi?3319&affiliateprogram/
. Although this software is hosted in a
domain owned by Kowabunga Technologies, they give you the option of
having the affiliate
links pointing to your own domain.
Submitting to the directories
is by far the most important step as far as improving the link
popularity of your site is concerned. As I mentioned before, what is
important is not only the number of links to your site, but also the
quality of the links to your site. No links are as important as links
from some of the major directories like Yahoo!, the Open Directory etc.
However, Yahoo! currently requires
a payment of $299 per year in order to list any commercial site. Paying
them $299 per year just to improve your link popularity is probably not
cost effective. But, the Open Directory is free, and you should
get your site listed in the Open Directory.
you should submit your site to as many of the smaller directories as
possible. You can get a list of such directories at
11) Analyzing the
mentioned earlier, what is important is not only the number of sites
linking to you, but also the quality of the links that you have. Until
now, there has been no easy way of checking the quality and relevancy
of sites that are linking to you or the quality and relevancy of sites
that you are thinking of asking for links from. You could have done it
manually, but it would
take a tremendous amount of time. However, a new software product
Optilink automates this process to a large extent. In addition to doing
an excellent job in helping you determine the quality and relevancy of
that already link to you or might link to you, it also does the
analyzes the link structures of your top ranking competitors and tells
you why they rank well, so that you can emulate the same tactics that
your top ranking competitors are using.
allows you to do "what if" analysis - it tells you what sort of
you can expect if you adopt a particular linking strategy.
monitor the sites that you have exchanged links with to ensure that
are still linking to you and are linking to you the way you want them
you are thinking of improving the link popularity of your site, or are
already doing so, I highly recommend that you obtain this product
before you proceed. You can find more information on Optilink at:
Article by Sumantra Roy. Sumantra is
most respected search engine positioning specialists on the Internet.
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