Incoming Links are the Holy Grail of Search

Unless your content is absolutely the most complete and compelling resource of information in the world for your business niche or sector, or your brand is as well known as Microsoft, Levi's or Coca Cola, incoming links will beat nearly any strategy you could possibly implement.

Never, in the history of the internet has the value of incoming links been more important than now and that importance will continue to grow exponentially.

Once upon a time, this was not true. You could pretty much reverse engineer any search and see exactly what to do to your web page to make it vault up the rankings. What made it even more fun was that you could see results in a matter of hours! You could design your page, submit it to Infoseek, Excite, Alta Vista and a few other dinosaurs of the '90's and they would immediately crawl it and add it to their body of search results. In a matter of minutes, at worst hours, you could see how well you did and perhaps tweak it to gain a few more spots.

It was so easy, it was bound to be exploited - and it was, badly. People would pounce on popular topics of the day, craft a page to dominate the listings and then present the viewer with something entirely different, often offensive. The search engines had to react and react they did!

Analyzing their own data, the search engines were able to easily see the sites that actually offered good content because the person who did the search would go to that site and stay there. The poor sites, or those that were not what they pretended to be, would tend to bounce viewers back at an alarming rate. So began Page Rank and Popularity as a measure of a pages worth.

They needed more though, because the goal was to foil the spammers and black hat SEO companies and make their jobs hard enough that they would ultimately give up.

The key was right there in their cache of the webs content.

Searching their own cache, they were able to determine which sites were linked to where. It is not a difficult concept to grasp that if literally thousands of websites linked one particular website that it was a good and important site and so those sites began to move up in the search results.

Even more important though than the fact that a site was linked, was HOW it was linked. What words were used to describe it? It stands to reason that if the words 'red widgets' were linked to a particular page, that page would feature 'red widgets'.

Want an example?

Go to Google and search for Click Here . (Really, click there!)

#1 - Adobe Reader
#2 - Adobe Flash Player
#3 - Google Maps
#4 - Apple Quicktime
#5 - Currency Convertor

These companies have not purposely crafted a page to rank well on 'click here'. Indeed, the phrase does not even appear on any of those pages. The reason for their rank therefore is 'off page'. It is the incoming links that does it. There are literally MILLIONS of pages with those words linked to those sites and that is why they rank the way they do.

Doing the same search at Bing shows that they still put significant weight on content versus Google's approach. The number one result is actually a company named "Click Here". The second result is a Wikipedia page that explains this very concept. After that, the results are similar to Google in that it is obvious that the pages listed have been linked by others with this phrase.

So how do you make it work for you?

First of all, get informed. Understand what you need and why you need it and have a plan of what your links should look like. A good place to start is with WikiPedia by reading their Backlinks page and then this one Link Popularity. They will give you a good sense of how and why incoming links work. Then you can either roll up your sleeves and get to work or hire someone to do it for you. Beware though, that there are some significant pitfalls to hiring it done. There are many, many companies out there charging exorbitant amounts to run a linking campaign who are at worst doing nothing at all and at best very little, or at least very little of worth.

If you are looking at hiring someone to do this, ask for references, and follow up on them. Ask also for a list of sample sites where your links will be featured and sample progress reports that they have sent to other clients. Check out the sites where they are placing links. Are they legitimate sites? Do they feature objectionable content?

Search for the company on Google and MSN. Are there real websites mentioning them or is it just page after page of sites that obviously belong to that company? What are the websites mentioning this company saying? Are they happy? Call them or email them and ask.

Regardless of whether you do it yourself or pay for the service, come up with a succinct list of keyword phrases that you want to target and then stick to it. The more precise you are, the greater the result will be.

Get in for the long haul

Time is your ally. Do not expect immediate results. It takes time to build a catalog of quality links and it takes more time for the search engines to notice but the great thing is, if they are quality links, they don't go away. Over time the numbers build and build and the effect is exponential.

Search engines like consistency. They tend to trust websites that are both popular and long lived because the last thing they want to do is include a link to a missing page in their results. As your site ages, and as the sites which link yours age, the importance of both increases. Importance = Rank.

Beware of Bad Neighbourhoods

In your zeal for more links, be careful of the choices you make. Companies that are using or selling software that automates your link submission may be inexpensive but they are concerned more with volume than quality. Your number of links will grow but you may find that they are actually on pages that are nothing more than a list of links that have nothing in common with yours. They are pages that will never see a visitor and the search engines can easily see that. If this is the type of linking that you are doing the best case scenario is that it does nothing for you at all. The worst case scenario has your site featured with a bunch of spammers and objectionable sites and that could be disastrous.

YouTube

One of our clients has done a remarkable job of putting YouTube to work for him and his websites. Dr. Hoover's Essential2Healthwebsite features dozens of YouTube videos which are available directly at YouTube.com and posted simulateously on his websites. Each video mentions one of his websites and his YouTube Channel links them. The results are impressive.

Dr. Hoovers YouTube channel is quite popular which of course directly impacts the quality of the links to his sites but even if your video is not very popular the massive popularity of YouTube will make any link from there to your site a good one.

Cost

This service is not cheap. It is time consuming, labour intensive work. There is nothing automated about a quality, comprehensive incoming linking strategy and a review of the companies work will quickly make it evident whether the work is selective and manual or automated. What that means is that the more you spend, the more you get.

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