Think Before Starting A Link Building Campaign

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Most people with SEO experience know that a good selection of strategic links will set a web site apart when it comes to improving search engine ranking. Consequently, developing a search engine optimization strategy will more often than not focus on a link building campaign. Increasingly however, there’s a trend towards jumping on the user generated content bandwagon with site owners happy to set up a blog to update once in a while or to do a little bookmarking. These shortcuts do link building an injustice and in the long run will not lead to the desired positions or traffic flows.

Although demanding of a good portion of any time spent on SEO, a more developed link strategy is one of the most rewarding elements of all optimization activities. Foregoing the easy route of one or two articles, a press release here and there and a little bookmaking in your spare time, a well-rounded link building campaign will not only raise rankings but have greater commercial benefits, namely more traffic, more targeted traffic and a greater overall web presence. For newer sites or sites not themselves ranked on page one for key search terms, a successful link building campaign derived from a well thought out link strategy is an opportunity to secure a presence on sites that do themselves appear well up the SERPS.

In search engine terms, a link can be thought of as a vote of confidence; other websites link back to your site when they believe you have something of interest for at least a portion of their own readership. Their willingness to direct traffic earns big search engine brownie points for the website on the other end of the link.

A good link strategy will see high-traffic sites linking back to your website. The more traffic these sites have going through them, the higher your own traffic spike should be. Ideally, the sites linking back to your site will also have a higher PageRank in order to boost your own average and be relevant to your product, industry and target demographic. So how do you squeeze all these considerations in with the rest of your search engine optimization concerns?

1. Use Your Competition

Your biggest nemesis is actually your greatest source of free help with it comes to SEO link building. There are lots of software packages designed to show the inbound links to a particular site. Try the free trial at www.advancedlinkmanager.com. Use this tool to see who links to your competitors, creating a ready made target list of sites to approach for a link.

When you’ve researched the major competitors and created a list of sites, check those sites for relevance. Any that do not fit the bill need to be removed to avoid endangering your optimization activities.

2. Follow Through
Having visited all of the websites in your target list, you must decide on the best way to approach each site for a link back. How have your competitors approached their links? Do they have articles or adverts? If appropriate send an email to the site and then follow up with a phone call. If you’re approaching blogs, be prepared to provide a meaningful contribution before requesting a link. Monitor the content, comment on topics of interest and contribute to the conversation before making your initial contact.

3. Use The Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)

Using the search engines themselves, type in the search terms related to your website and then save the top ranking sites. Using more than one search engine (Yahoo, Google and MSN) and copying just the top 10 sites will provide a useful list of sites to browse through and select potential link partners.

4. Get Reading

Aside from search engine optimization, a good link building strategy aims to direct as much relevant traffic to the target website as possible. With that in mind, spend some time quizzing your clients and potential clients as to their favorite online destinations. Do they read e-zines or subscribe to the digital version of their favorite offline publications? If so, it’s worth adding those sites to your link request list – not only will you add more relevant inbound referrals to your link count and give the search engine spiders more chance of finding you, you’ll also be putting your brand in front of the right kind of audience, directing lots of valuable traffic your way.

About the Author

Rebecca is the managing director of search engine optimization agency Dakota Digital a full-service agency offering SEO, online PR, web copywriting, media relationship management, and social media strategy. Rebecca works directly with each client to increase online visibility, brand profile, and search engine rankings. She has headed a number of international campaigns for large brands.

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8 Comments

  1. I would also recommend Yahoo Site Explorer for link discovery! Generally I type in my top 3-5 keywords in Google, Yahoo and MSN. I harvest the URL’s from the top 10 sites, and then place them into Excel. While I remove duplicates, I place these sites with multiple listings at the top. Using these sites can help you uncover link trends and prioritize your link building strategy.

  2. SEOmoz Linkscape is also a tool that I use often for link research. You have to be a Pro member to gain access to it, but it can be very worth it.

  3. The only problem I have with Yahoo Backlinks is the fact it takes so long to refresh it index - I culled 500 links stemming from a forum signature and when I check Yahoo they're still there! I'm still trying to figure out how to initiate an effective link building campaign that is realistic in time-scale whilst still developing my business in more traditional means & its a bitch! I'm definitely going to look into Advanced Link Builder. Hopefully its like picking at a roll off tape - once you start your off! Regards Craig

  4. I think it's also important to track who and when you submitted your site to other websites for link building. Many times I come across clients who have tried to implement a link building campaign and they have no idea who they contacted or when for creating a link to their website. By just using a simple spreadsheet listing the website, the link text they recommended, the date the request was submitted, and the date the link was noticed as live helps tremendously and saves a lot of headaches.

  5. I totally agree with the Yahoo Site Explorer and Linkscape recommendations. Those tools are essential to any link builder. And if you choose to outsource your link building, make sure you work with a company that displays their address on their website and actually answers the phone when you call.

  6. I would like to add that gaining links from local listing is also very good towards local SEO goals. Research the competition and see if they boasts common links that you could also get... this is often one of the easiest ways to find out about links opportunities: observing the link profile of your competitors.

  7. very good article with lots of infromation. I will try your rules and hope I got some links more

  8. Pretty insightful article, thanks. Link building can be laborious AND time consuming, but you're right - all the will in the world to write great content is going to be valuable only when combined with a solid and progressively expanding set of relevant incoming links. I think it's perhaps useful to add that finding shortcuts to followed PR8/9 sites through loopholes or other sillyness is short lived and no replacement for building genuine relationships with other site owners and engaging in conversation with other bloggers. That takes time, patience and plain goodwill!