Monday, June 7, 2010

Managing A Link Building Campaign


There are two main classes of links, one-way and reciprocal:

One-way links. These include links in search directories, ezines, blogs, news sites and any other site that doesn’t request that you link back to that site. Google currently values one-way links more than two-way (reciprocal) links.

Reciprocal (two-way links). These are links where a site links to you in exchange for you linking back to that site. Reciprocal linking has been abused in the past by everyone madly linking to each other, regardless of whether it made any sense from a visitor or business standpoint. As such, reciprocal links are not valued as much by Google. It still is an important method of obtaining links however when done right.

The primary, most-effective means of obtaining links to your website include the following, in order of priority:

1. Submitting your site to search directories, both general and industry-specific.

2. Publishing articles and other content to feature in ezines, articles sites and blogs.

3. Writing online press releases for the News search engines, like Google News.

4. Reciprocal linking, where you link to a site and that site links back to you.

Reciprocal linking should come last. You need to generate some PageRank first before most sites will consider linking with you. PR = 4 on your home page is usually the cutoff people look for. So get some listings in the search directories first.

Tip: Don’t worry about whether you should spend more time getting a few links from pages with high PageRank or whether to get lots of links from pages with low PageRank. Today’s site with a low PageRank can be tomorrow’s site with a high PageRank, and even vice versa.

How To Rate Sites For Linking

Not all sites and the links you may obtain from them are equally important. Some links are free, some charge a one-time listing fee while others charge monthly or annually. Especially for the sites that charge money, here are some criteria you can use to help make the decision whether to pursue a link:

1. Make sure the site allows you to use the exact anchor text you want for your link so that it can contain your most important keywords.

2. Make sure the link use a simple HREF code format. Javascript-based links or links that redirect to another page are worthless. Also, links that display funny tracking characters in the URL are worthless. Do a View Source on the page your link will be placed on and check for the following:

1. That no redirection is used on the link (won’t pass PageRank).
2. That Javascript isn't used to code the link (Google won't see the link).
3. That the rel=NOFOLLOW attribute is not used (Google won't follow the link).
4. That the META robots tag for the page doesn't contain “NOINDEX” (page won't be indexed).

3. Use the tool at http:/ to determine how many backlinks (incoming links) the site has. This is an important indicator for how important Google deems a link will be. A link from a page with many inbound links can be as important as the PR value of that page.

4. Check the PageRank of the actual page your link will be listed on - not the PageRank of the home page, which can be vastly different.

5. The Alexa Traffic rating of the site. This provides a rough indication of the traffic the sites receives. Lower numbers are better. Note that the Alexa rating can be manipulated so take this with a grain of salt. It is better than nothing however.

6. Is the linking page in the index of Google? A link from any page not indexed by Google is worthless. Copy and paste a section of unique text from the page in the search box of Google and see if the page appears for the search.

7. Are links displayed in the cached version of the page? If not, the page probably uses some trick to keep search engines from seeing outgoing links.

8. Content on the page your link will be placed on as well as the anchor text of other links on the page. Are all the links in the same general category or does the page contain tons of links in every conceivable category and lots of spammy ads?

Link Analysis and Management Tools

Although you can manage a linking campaign by hand, there are two software programs that can make your job MUCH easier – SEO Elite and Arelis. SEO Elite allows you to see the actual linking structure of any website (such as your competitors), including seeing what the link text is on sites, which sites are authorities, PageRank and Alexa ranking, all in one interface. It also helps you track and manage who you linked to, if they linked back to you, and so forth. It is a comprehensive link research, analysis and tracking tool. Arelis on the other hand is primarily used to track and manage reciprocal linking partners.

About SEO Elite

SEO Elite is a powerful tool that allows you to reverse-engineer the linking structure of any website – including your competition. Some of the more important features that SEO Elite has that make it a must-have tool include:

• Shows you the incoming and outgoing links for each page on a site.

• Tells you what the link text is for each incoming link as well as the page title of the linking page.

• Tells you the Google PageRank for each page.

• Shows you the Alexa rating for the site

• Allows you to look up the domain record for a site for the email address.

All results can be sorted, so that you can tell at a glance which sites are authorities – that is, which have the most links that point to them. You can also tell at a glance what your link text is for all sites that link to you.

In a nutshell, SEO Elite allows you to quickly determine which sites you should target. If a site links to your competitor’s site, they will likely link to your site as well. It also shows you the internal linking structure of a site. Best of all, you can save and export your results to a spreadsheet.

The General Link-Building Process

The general process for setting up and managing a link-building campaign is as follows. There is an expanded process that applies to reciprocal linking campaigns that will be discussed later. I recommend you use tools such as SEO Elite or Arelis to help you out, but you can do this manually too.

1. Do a search of your most important keywords on Google. Look at the top 30 results. These sites are either your competition or are complementary sites to yours. Also look at sites that are listed in the ODP and in Yahoo in the same market as your business.

2. Determine which sites link to you now. You can use SEO Elite or Arelis, or you can use the Yahoo backlink command as follows: Go to and type the following in the Search the Web box:

linkdomain:www.YourDomain -site:www.YourDomain

3. Similarly, determine which sites link to your competitors. Since these sites are linking to your competitors, they should link to you as well.

4. Visit each site on the list to see if you want a link from that site. Pare down the list as needed to leave only on-topic sites.

5. Create a system for managing your ongoing efforts. You can use a spreadsheet that lists each site, who you have already contacted, whether they have added a link to your site, whether you have added a link to them on your site, etc. You can use Arelis for this purpose or you can create a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.

6. Systematically manage, track and expand your efforts. Get in the habit of spending at least one hour per week looking for new link partnerships. Your goal is to find new targeted traffic in as many different relevant locations as possible.


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