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Hosted Content, The Quest for the Perfect Link

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Ask Google, search engines love links. Of course, they love some links more than others. For example, a simple link exchange (reciprocal link) doesn’t have as much value to search engines and so, it doesn’t receive the same weight as a non-reciprocal (one-way) link – the theory being that a one-way, in-bound link is a recommendation from a site owner to visit this linked site. The link, itself, is testament to the quality of the site being referred.

Article Syndication

In recent years, many sites have employed article syndication to develop links. These site owners write (or have written) articles of interest to a particular audience. The site owners then offer these articles to other relevant sites free in exchange for a link back to the originator of the content in the "about the author" section of the article. In this way, a single site owner can submit dozens of articles for syndication receiving an inbound link from each article in return for the free use of content. They can also watch other sites post the content virally to keep their sites fresh, as well.

Sites need fresh content so many will happily display your article and provide a link to your site. It’s a tried and true link building tactic. However, search engines are programmed to seek out the most natural, and therefore valuable, links they can find.

The way articles are syndicated is through sites like goarticles.com and ezinearticles.com. The standard format for the display of the article is: headline, article body followed by a small blurb about the author with a link back to the author’s site. Since those links appear in the body of the page, they appear to be more valuable in comparison to most purchased or reciprocal links which often appear at the bottom of a page column, or in the footer surrounded by lots of other links — somewhat effective, but not necessarily the best way to acquire inbound links.

In addition, syndication leads to duplication when a single article appears on 10 sites all at the same time. This diminishes the quality of the text and the back link to the author’s site. It’s still more valuable than a plain link exchange but search engines are placing less emphasis on syndicated content. So, what’s a site owner to do?

Hosted Web Content

It goes by many different names: content swapping, advertorials, pre-sell pages and hosted content — all basically the same idea.

The way hosted content works is that you, the author, pay a site owner to display your article. However, now, instead of the back links to your site coming at the end of the article, you embed those links in the body of the text surrounded by your target keywords and actually useful content for the reader. In the "eyes" of a search engine, this is among the highest valued back link.

Hosted content is basically renting a page on another site with links to your site embedded in the main body of the article. The web site that hosts the content receives payment from the author plus fresh content, the author gets a valuable back link and visitors to the hosting site get useful content.

This strategy isn’t new. It’s simply doing what search engines want us to do – produce content that’s useful, beneficial and appears on quality sites. Not only does a quality piece of content receive more visibility when hosted on an authoritative site, it also delivers increased benefit to the author, and the page may even rank itself for target key phrases. When a major site hosts your content, you gain from its page rank in strong testimonials and referrals. Whether or not the site owners want to monetize their site by allowing approved authors to post content is the same debate as whether or not links should be bought and sold. However, publishing high quality, unique and useful content, rather than just creating inflated link popularity with diminishing returns, is, in comparison, a tested SEO tactic.

Designing a Hosted Content Page

You’re paying for the placement of this content so you want it to be good. In the eternal quest for successful link bait, you also want the content to be ranked by search engines because it provides real value to the reader and is hosted on an authoritative site.

Design the hosted content page using standard SEO conventions: a keyword savvy title, header <h1>, subheads <h2> and a keyword density of less than 5%. Any higher and search engines may consider the content to be "spamish" regardless of where the content appears.

Now comes the most important part. As you write the article, carefully place links to topically relevant pages on your own site within the body of the article’s text. These are high value links that will improve your SEO. However, it’s also important to place your articles on sites that are topically related to your piece (and probably already rank for related topics). The authority of the site hosting your content, the relevance of the site (topically speaking) and that back link make your site look stronger as far as search engines are concerned. Also, remember that the quality of the content to which you link also matters. Link to strong pages (those with quality back links) on your site, as well. Your article should reference other authoritative, relevant articles so that search engines see that your piece was written to offer real value to readers.

It’s Not Quantity, It’s Quality

It’s no longer simply a matter of how many links point to a site. There are many cases of sites in which 50 quality links outrank sites with hundreds of links. It’s not quantity, it’s the quality of the links that improve ranking in the SERPs.

Editorial links (links in hosted content) are more "natural" from a search engine’s perspective and, therefore, more valuable because the article has, at most, two or three targeted links pointing to your site’s pages. Just like quality link bait, which is unique, original and useful content, quality hosted content on respected sites will also naturally develop its own back links – the ultimate validation and the desired outcome of placing quality content. Finally, because these links are found on pages optimized with your keywords, search engines will consider them extremely relevant to the subject at hand.

Start Your Hosted Content Campaign Today

It’s being done everyday, successfully building small sites into larger sites, providing free advertising for the thought-leader/author, delivering less duplicate content to search engines and more new content (plus revenue) to the hosting site and, perhaps most importantly, hosted content actually delivers useful, relevant information to readers — exactly what search engines rank in the first place. As with any link-building technique, hosted content can be abused, but topically authoritative sites are not going to accept content that does not meet their high standards — so everyone wins when the goals are white hat.

Start searching for websites that might be interested in hosting your next article, or start looking for a site owner interested in content swapping. Create content that’s unique, useful and well-written and you may find that you won’t even have to pay a site owner to share your content with their readers — exactly how it should be.

Hosted Content, The Quest for the Perfect Link
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