It is widely agreed that SEM (search engine marketing) is one of today’s most cost efficient and effective methods of marketing a web site. One of the most important aspects of SEM is obtaining link popularity. For example, if you expect to rank high in Google for the search term “search engine optimization” it is important to have other sites link to you with “search engine optimization” within the text of the link. This is called anchor text. Generally the more sites linking to you with your target keyword within the anchor text the better. However, it should be noted that not all links are of equal value. There are two primary factors to consider when assessing the value of a link.
1. Link Weight An established site that has already obtained a fair amount of link popularity is generally a more valuable location to park your link. The Google Page Rank is a general assessment of the link popularity of any given page. If a page has PR5 it is considered to have above average link popularity. For each 1 point increase in PR the link popularity is increased by about 7-10 times. So a PR6 link should theoretically be as valuable as 7-10 PR5 links but there is more to the story. The weight of a page is distributed evenly to each link within the page. Lets say we have two PR5 pages. One page has a total of 10 links, the other has only one link. In this case it is about 10 times as valuable ,weight wise, to park your link on the page with only 1 link. It should also be noted that a PR6 page with 10 links is roughly equal to a PR5 page with only 1 link. Many webmasters only take into account the link weight when purchasing a text link. Link weight in itself is not worth much. Link weight when combined with link relevance is another story entirely.
2. Link Relevance Link relevance is fairly straight forward in principle. It is more valuable to park your link on a site that is relevant to the search term you are optimizing for than one that is not. Large search engines closely guard their ranking algorithm for determining link relevance and placement. People have been able to reverse engineer the PR equation but for something with as many factors as placement and relevance it is next to impossible. Therefore we can only speculate as to which terms are close in relevance and which are not. My opinion on the subject is you can’t go wrong with a page that is optimized for the exact term or even slight variations of the term you are optimizing for. However, if you are considering optimizing for a term like “xbox” and you find a site to host your link that is optimized for “games” there is risk in believing these terms are relevant. Of course it can be inferred that these terms are relevant. After all, xbox is a major gaming platform but we have no idea how close in relevance the search engines consider these terms to be. To be safe value exact terms and variations of the term to be highly relevant. All other terms within an industry such as items, buzz words…should be considered relevant. All other terms should be considered non-relevant.
Now we basically know what to look for in determining the value of a potential link. There are many ways to go about building your link popularity. I am going to focus on a few of the paid methods.
1. Paid Directories There are a ton of link directories that will host your link for a fee. Some work on a month by month basis but most are either 6 months, 1 year or permanent. Yahoo is an example of a paid directory. They cost $299 for a 1 year listing. This may seem expensive and it is. Yahoo is a high end directory which is quite valuable in comparison to other directories. However, there many smaller directories that are more cost efficient. Usually directories are only relevant to your search term assuming you are listed in a relevant category. Some niche directories can be considered highly relevant.
2. Link Brokers There are several link brokers out there who gather potential websites willing to display your link. This is an excellent method to obtain highly relevant links. The only downside is the brokers will generally charge a listing fee to the website so they must sell the links for more than they would otherwise be willing to sell them for to cover expenses. If you are checking out a broker see what their listing fee is before you purchase any links. I wouldn’t buy from a broker that charges more than about 20% of the value of the purchased link.
3. Directly contacting webmasters There are literally millions of sites out there more than willing to display your link for a fee. In my opinion the best method of purchasing text links is to get out there and contact webmasters for price quotes. Its certainly not hard…if you are optimizing for the search term “SEM” simply type it into google and find the top 10-20 sites listed for the term. Then either email or better yet directly call them to get price quotes from each site. Then decide which sites offer the most value and spend within your budget. It is also a good idea to ask for quotes for a 6 month and a 1 year term in addition to the standard 1 month term. Some webmasters will see you are competition and will refuse to list your site. This is perfectly acceptable, thank them for their time and move on.
Note: Building link popularity is only one aspect of SEM. If you are not familiar with SEM or SEO basics then I advise you to read up on keyword research and on-site optimization before you start purchasing links.