Linking Strategies for beginners

Jan 16


Martin Thomassen

Martin Thomassen

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... a linking strategy and building a logical ... and design for your linking ... is a bit ... and time ... Sure, you know linking is ... but how to start? In t


Developing a linking strategy and building a logical structure and design for your linking directory is a bit difficult and time consuming. Sure,Linking Strategies for beginners Articles you know linking is important, but how to start? In the following article I will try to give some tips and advise.

Let's suppose you have a brand new website up and running. You have the original content, your structure is ok, your have optimized your site for some interesting keywords, you are confident that there are no irritating html errors and your spelling has been checked. You have put some advertising and some news feeds and you are ready to promote your site.

You want to promote your site through search engine optimization (SEO) and linking. The best part is that both can be done for free and you can get a lot of help doing it. But when you start linking, most advice will tell what NOT to do and it will not help you in any way how to get your first links. Actually, it is impossible to do it right from the start, so we will have to find ways to bend the rules a bit and to find the permissible limits.

Should you use a link manager or linking software?

I would strongly advise against starting with those. Linking software and managers are all very pre-fabricated and not very easy to personalize. Of course it is easy if you have a scripts that allows visitors to send their link request to you, but when you still do not have a lot of traffic that will not mean a lot. And when you still do not have a lot of links (less than 100) you can easily manage them yourself. Use the advantage you have to build your own system and build your own pages. It is very important that your linking pages look the same and have the same design your content pages have: it shows your dedication and you can optimize them more easily. The only advantage you have when you start is that you can invest quite some time to get your links and take a personal angle and approach.

Now let's see what you SHOULD do when you want to start linking and that is in your own hands to do.

First of all: your linking directories should be themed. If you can put the links to your themed directories on your home page, that would be great! But most people already have a lot of links on their home page and it is not wise to exceed 50 links per page, so most of us will have to create a links directory page. Give it a descriptive name (friends, partners, interesting sites etc), but do not use the "reciprocal links" or "theme index" names because some search engines don't like them. Your linking pages should be 1 or (at the most) 2 clicks away from your home page. A "search my site" box should be added to further help visitors because most people hate it when they cannot find their link easily.

Think a bit about those themes before you make your pages. What kind of themes would interest your visitors? What kind of sites would be willing to link to you? Find some competitors and complementary sites and take a look at the themes they have in their linking directories and use those to build your own themes. Of course these themes should be related to the content of your site. Mostly these theme directories have names reflecting the BIG keywords like "web hosting", "work at home" "freebies" etc that target those sites, but that of course depends on the content of your site and your target group.

You need a page telling people how you want them to link to you. Normally that page is called "link to us" or "add your site" or something like that. This page should be directly accessible through your home page, with at least a further link on the link directory page. Most people already know the benefits of linking, but you might add some links to interesting articles about linking on that page!

Now, about your link description! You need to provide your potential partners with a title, url, description, possible categories and main keywords of your site. You will want to include your name and a form to contact you.

The title should include your main keyword phrase, but should not be too long. I would also use one a bit more obscure keyword, one that isn't used a lot, in your title. Now why would I (or you) do that? Actually it is quite easy to get a high ranking for an obscure keyword even before you have some page rank... Assuming you have submitted your site to some search engines (after you did some SEO) you can type in that keyword (phrase) and easily find the sites that have linked back to you! Another thing is that your title, your text link, should be changed slightly every now and then. When you have a number of links, you should do this to fool the search engines a bit. If (and when) you have hundreds of links to your site that all have exactly the same link description, the search engines could start to think that you use link farms or reciprocal linking sites to inflate the importance of your site (which probably is exactly what you are doing) and they will punish you.

Make a database of your linking efforts. Use a spreadsheet with the following entries: date added, link description (or url), reciprocal url, where found, how contacted, other notes.

Let's say you have about 20 - 30 theme pages for potential linking partners. Probably you already know some sites you would like to add anyway and you should start adding those (even if they are not likely to link back to you). Choose about 5 of the most important themes you have, type them in a search engine box and link to some on the first page. Just be sure you have SOME links in some of your themed link directories before you start contacting potential partners.

Now you are ready to promote your site with a linking strategy!

Of course you know that one way links are a lot more valuable than reciprocal links, but when you are starting, reciprocal linking is the way to go. Type keywords in your search engine box and start visiting competitors and complementary sites. Take a look at their linking directories and start visiting these sites. Most of these sites are interested in reciprocal linking. You still do not have any Google Page Rank, so you will not be able to impress them with that and you should try other incentives to attract their attention and interest.
Sites geared toward specific topics often have extensive link resource sections, and actively encourage link submissions. A great way to find these sites is to use a search query in Google that searches for your theme, plus the phrases most often used in site submit links:
allintext: "submit a site" "your theme"
allintext: "add-a-link" "your theme"
allintext: "submit url" "your theme"
It should not be necessary to say this, but I still will: only link to sites that are relevant to your site and of interest to you visitors. Think about your link directory as an asset to and powerful resource of your site.

Now I know this sounds hard and discouraging, but you will have to take quite a lot of time for each site to review it. First of all make sure they have a linking directory and are interested in exchanging links (this should be visible on their home page). You will want to contact the site owner with a personal email (not a prefabricated one) in which you clearly show you have visited their site and that you like it. If you stumble on a dead link or something that doesn't work properly: Great! They will love to hear about it. Make your request short and to the point and invite them to go to your site. They will see and know at once your site is a new one, but you can impress them and show you take your linking efforts seriously (linking directories easily accessible). And of course put their link in one of your themes and place the url to their link in your email.
In the email you could offer them something extra (if you think the site is worth it) for reciprocal linking. What could you offer?
- Place their link on top of the page (with or without an extra partner image) or any other preferential treatment.
- Offer them an extra link on the same page.
- If you come across a site you really like, you can offer a link on one of your content pages and offer them advertising space for free.

At first your themed link directories will fill with one way links to other sites, but you can mend this later and you should not worry too much about it. Just make sure that the sites that have a reciprocal link to you really stand out.

Easy one way links

One way links are the most valuable ones and fortunately there are ways to get some quite easily. When you did your SEO you probably submitted your site to the mayor search engines and directories.
- There are quite some directories that let you be listed for free and that way give you a free one way link!
- Try to get listed in some local (business) directories, and do not limit yourself to your own country.
- Find some free advertising sites and get your site listed!
- Put your own advertising pages on another domain (or sub domain that is not below or indexable below your own) and be sure to put a link to your main site or domain. It worked for me, so it will work for you as well.

As content is king (and linking queen), your site's content (and some additional links to your site) should be rewarded with some Page Rank. Once you have a Google PR of 2 or 3, you will find that your linking efforts will be rewarded a lot easier and you can ease up a bit, but if you are still with me here, you might want some extra tips.

Review your database and check out your old links. You should or could leave the really useful and nice ones, even if they did not link back, and get rid of the other ones. You could consider sending those an email announcing your intention to delete them if they do not link back within a certain period. If they do not answer, delete them from your directories, but not from your database. Put them in red or something else to distinguish them from reciprocal link, which you could give a green color. You should take some time for this cleaning and do it periodically. Use a link checking program to find dead links on your site and delete those immediately.

Time to get lots of links

NOW would be the time to start thinking about automating your linking and start using a link manager. A scripts that allows visitors to send their link request to you would be nice and a system to check your reciprocal links as well.

When you are really ready to get a lot of links, you can use link directory memberships. Of course you could have started with these right from the start, but there are some drawbacks. Without having any PR other sites will not easily link to your site. If you have a PR of 0, people COULD think that your site has been punished. Some sites strongly advise against linking to sites with a PR of 0, so you will find it difficult finding partners trough those sites. Having a PR of 0 means you will want and have to convince other web masters of the benefits of linking to you. But once you have some PR, all that changes. You can start using linking directories and sites, but always a bit prudently. If they do not ask for a back link, go ahead, no problem. If they ask for a link to them on your home page, I would not consider them at all. If they do ask for a back link, use them to their capacity and delete the link to them afterwards. Some of them are actually really good and you could consider staying with them. You can find those sites easily using your favorite search engine, but to name some I have used (and am still using):
- is really cool and easy to use and could be used from the start
- infowizards is equally useful and does not put a limit on the number of sites you can ask for a link
- ETT link invitations can give you a rapid boost

I have tried quite a few others, but most of them did not give me any relevant links and I deleted them quickly. Having links to (too much of) those sites negatively affects your site ranking and could get you punished or even banned!

An extremely effective way to get a great quantity of links is writing and publishing articles. If you like to write and can come up with an interesting, well written and highly publishable article, you could draw the jack-pot and have your article (with your link) published by a lot of sites that are looking for content. If your article is a bit specific you can still try to offer it to specific sites and you can always try to swap articles.

One way links from other sites are valued more than reciprocal links, so you could try to triangle links with sites, or set up your own "rings" of links.

Quality links

I would like to stress again that you should only consider relevant links. Even if the page you link to has no PR, but if it is relevant to your site and useful for your visitors, you should consider linking to it. Equally you should link to some sites that are highly relevant, even if they do not link back to you. One quality link can send you more traffic than all search engines together!
Quality links are highly relevant links with quite some traffic and appreciation from the search engines. They normally have a low Alexa traffic ranking and a high Google PR. Reciprocal links from those sites are very valuable (they should send your quite some traffic) but one way link would be priceless. What could you do to try to get links from those sites?
- You can offer an article to one of those sites and hope they will publish it.
- You can offer to write a recommendation, review or testimonial (with you link).
- If you have several sites (with some PR) you could offer links from those other sites in exchange for 1 links of them to your main site.

Now back to the "don'ts". Just a word of caution, search engines more and more frown upon:
- Identical anchor texts of incoming links
- Sudden increases of incoming links
- Links to link farms or web rings
- A high percentage of reciprocal links

So use my tips with care and happy linking!

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