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When it Comes to Search Engines, Think Links

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Website owners: do you know how many links are out there on the Internet, pointing back to your site? If you’re interested in getting free search engine placement for your site, you ought to know. An easy way to find out is to download the Alexa toolbar from http://www.alexa.com. One of its many useful features is that it shows you how many links are pointing to the site. High quality links are one of the most crucial aspects of good search engine optimization. When you think about it, this makes sense. After all, this is the Internet, the World Wide Web, we’re talking about. And in a web, everything is… right, everything is LINKED.

Links have always been a priority in search engine optimization. Search engines have long used link popularity as an indicator of a site’s “importance,” and this in turn affects the site’s performance in the search engines. Until recently, many different schemes existed that allowed a website owner to garner dozens, or even hundreds of links, simply by using specialized tools, reciprocal programs, and the like. Then came the Google “update” of November, 2003.

In that now legendary update, Google penalized tens of thousands of websites by dropping their placement in the index or eliminating them entirely. While Google isn’t talking about what happened, it is very likely that “undeserved” links, or links that do not have anything to do with quality content, played a role in this episode. Most website owners now seem to agree that while links are as important as ever, they have to be added the old-fashioned way – they have to be earned.

What does this mean? Simply put, it means that a link between two pages on the Internet should have some valid reason for its existence besides the desire of the website owners to hit page 1 on Google. So if Joe’s Auto Shop and Cindy’s Interior Design trade links, in order to boost their rankings, the link only exists for that reason, and it may well lead to lower search engine rankings for both Joe and Cindy. On the other hand, if Bud’s Cabinetry Shop, on its page describing different types of woods, is linked to the National Association of Wood Products, this is very likely to be viewed as a “quality” link by the search engine, and may help rankings.

How does one build these kind of quality links? There are at least four well-known methods, and creative website owners can come up with more. First, you can ask for them. At conventions, conferences, meetings, anyplace where the business of your website may be discussed, ask for quality links. If someone has a site you respect, and it relates to your product, simply ask them to link to your site. It’s good old networking at its finest. Second, you can write articles that promote your website, or your product or service, include a link back to your home page, and offer it for publication on the Internet. There are numerous forums for doing just this – try Googling some search terms to come up with them. Third, get on the Internet and find directories that relate to your product or service, and ask for a link to be placed. This is an easy step that most website owners can take themselves. Finally, and perhaps the best way – build a great site! Put up great content, and other sites will link to you. Because, in the end, that is what the Internet is all about – disseminating information. Add valuable content, in terms of information, to your site, keep adding it over time, and gradually, people will link to you. If you build it, they will come.

Neil Street is co-founder of Small Business Online, an internet
marketing and web design company
, based in Norwalk, CT. Email href="mailto:neil@smallbusinessonline.net">Neil at Small Business Online
or call him at 203.299.0889

When it Comes to Search Engines, Think Links
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