Link popularity is another important measure search engines look at in ranking your site in their indexes. Although the primary source of traffic for the majority of websites is through search engine results, links to and from other websites can help you to increase your search engine rankings, even if they might not generate as much traffic themselves. Therefore, link building should be part of your overall strategy. Remember to keep good records on where you have listed, with details on submission dates and content descriptions.
What can you do on your own site to enhance link popularity? Keep creating ongoing, quality content to which other sites want to link. Conversely, provide relevant, outbound links to websites you find useful and would recommend. As you establish linking relationships, be sure to inform those who link to your site whenever links change on your site. Avoid reciprocal linking, link farms and paid links; although they worked in the past, search engines now downgrade sites with such linking strategies.
Submit your site to key directories
Directories are different from search engines in that they are overseen by human editors. Your site may or may not be selected for inclusion depending on the site’s criteria and accuracy of your submission (for example, you might not have selected the best category for your site). A key directory to be listed on is the free Open Directory Project (DMOZ), which provides feeds to all the major search engines, and is a site that Google deems important.
Yahoo! Directory is another important one. Non-commercial sites can submit for free, but business sites are required to pay a $299 annually recurring fee. Business site submissions are reviewed and expedited for inclusion within 7 days.
Submit your site to industry directories and trade organizations
Do some research and discover what directories exist in your industry and register with them. Look within your own circles as well. What trade associations and professional networking groups do you belong to that may be able to place a link to your site from theirs? You may have to pay a small fee for some of these, so be sure to evaluate which are worth doing. Be wary of sites that ask you for “upgraded listings.” These premium ads don’t necessarily help get you new business, but the link may help boost your page rank in search engines. Again, evaluate how trustworthy a site is and whether paying a premium for the listing is effective overall. Don’t overlook relevant blogs in your field as they have become powerful tools in generating traffic.
Research competitor site back links
See who is linking to your competitors’ sites. Use the back link method on search engines to come up with a list. Then introduce your website to the sites relevant to your business and ask for a link, review, etc. An easy way to see back links is to go to a search engine, and in the search box type either “link:www.domainname.com” or “link:domainname.com.” (Sometimes results from the site itself appear, but weed through the lists to find a few good leads.)
Share your expertise in your field via online communication vehicles
If you aren’t doing so already, you should start visiting and researching other sites in your field and participating wherever possible. Enter dialogues on online forums. Post comments on other people’s blogs. Share your expertise and become a presence in the field, and people will gradually become curious about you or your business and will visit your site to get more information. Just be sure to post your site’s URL in your signature at the end of your message. These efforts are only successful if you engage truthfully and your comments are natural. Any blatant promotional approaches are transparent, and may even get you kicked off of the forums. You are making a commitment here to reach out to and interact with colleagues and potential customers. See it as a new way of doing business and sharing information.
Another way to increase your visibility is to write articles in your area of expertise and distribute them to editors as free content for their newsletters or their sites (be sure not to duplicate content on your own site!). In exchange, ask for a link to your website at the minimum. Most of the time the articles are archived indefinitely on their sites, and over time can produce many links to your site.
Begin your own business blog
Identify one or more people in your company to keep up a business blog. People will link to it if you offer useful and timely content. Blogs are wonderful tools in that they are easy to set up and use. Be creative on what you do with your blog. If appropriate, you can even set up several blogs with different writers or on different topics. On a technical note, try to publish the content to your own site so that the traffic will be counted on your site and increase page rank. If this is not possible, be sure to link from your blog to your site. For more information about setting up a blog, be sure to read my article How to Start a Blog, and Drive Traffic to It.
Develop and offer a free service
A unique online tool or service offered for free will entice visitors to come to your site and keep them coming back. If you have the time and resources to develop some sort of online widget, you will increase your traffic. For example, a home renovation site may offer a kitchen remodeling calculator or color combination selector; language schools offer free online exercises. Or you can offer white papers for free. Make the tool relevant to what your company offers so that you will attract good business prospects, and be sure to cross-promote the other areas of your site on the free service page.
Social Media Linking
You may have noticed sites asking you to recommend their articles via button icons to several social media sites, including Del.icio.us, Digg, StumbleUpon, and more. On these sites, you can see what people are reading, “bookmarking” and recommending. Popular articles will receive increased traffic to your site. Set up an account, add the icons to your pages, and watch your visitors click away. These bookmark links also add an easy interactive element to your pages. If you have products to sell, you can tap into shopping recommendation sites, such as ThisNext, DealBundle or Kaboodle.
Next: E-Mail Strategies »