There are many ways to get attention for your site from search engines. This article focuses on how to use great content you’ve created along with link building to drive massive amounts of traffic to your blog and move your site to the top of the rankings in a natural way.
What is Link Building and Why Do You Need It?
Developing a good and consistent strategy for building links to your blog or website will not only influence your rankings with search engines, make your site more visible and increase your traffic, but it will give your web pages more trust and authority in the eyes of search engines and humans.
When a website with a high PageRank links to content on your site, it’s a positive “vote” for your site. These “votes”, a.k.a. “backlinks”, are a sign of your popularity. Search engines will assume your site has clout and will increase your page rank based on the number of “votes”. Other links may include those you place yourself in the comment section of a relevant blog or forum, to link back to your own site.
Inspired, relevant link building should be at the core of your online marketing plan. If you can prove you know your stuff and get enough “votes”, your authority in your niche will translate to greater importance for buyers and ultimately bring in a bigger audience. Value is something search engines constantly struggle to find new ways to calculate. For this reason, we need to be on our link building toes.
Search Engines, Links and Rankings
Yes, search engines love links. Links are what enable the search engine bots to crawl through cyberspace finding all that informative content you spent hours to create. They collect all of these pages, sort through them, and attempt to assign a value to them, or “rank” them. When a web surfer searches for a term like “Sony PlayStation PS3”, the search engine attempts to deliver back those websites or web pages they have determined to be the best match. They do this with algorithms or mind-boggling mathematical formulas.
Search engines traditionally awarded higher rankings to sites with the most inbound links, the theory being that you must be offering something of value if other sites link to yours. You could exhaust yourself building spammy links to your site from anywhere and everywhere, regardless whether those other sites are in any way relevant to your content or the products you offer. More links is always better, right? Well, if your link building efforts have focused on your niece’s baby blog and your site has nothing to do with babies, maybe not.
Search engine algorithms are constantly changing to find better ways to target the best results for the consumer. For example, let’s say you’re looking for information about that Sony PlayStation PS3. Which site would you most logically expect to see at the top of your search page – the official website for the product (probably the manufacturer’s site), or some anonymous web page that lists the product 1,000 times, is littered with ads, and offers no information of value? If the quantity of links was the sole criteria and the anonymous website’s owner built millions of meaningless unrelated backlinks, his site may have risen to the top of your results page even though it offers you nothing.
Today, search engines are attempting to award higher rankings to websites and blogs that provide the best value for the end user. Poor quality content can ultimately get you penalized with lower search engine rankings, no matter how many spammy links you build back to it. Logically, if you invest your time in offering well-written, informative content and do high quality, relevant link building to it, more users will visit your site and you will ultimately increase sales and improve your bottom line. So how do we build the right kinds of links?
Give Your Readers Fresh and Unique Content
Before we can think about link building to our content, we have to create it. Quality content is content you provide for your visitors or potential customers. If you build a site where people can learn something and find what they’re looking for, the traffic will come. Apart from text alone, “content” includes videos, MP3s, podcasts, photos, reviews, recommendations, even links to interesting resources – just about anything you can think of that relates to your site and which your visitors may find useful, entertaining or educational. If those visitors find your content interesting and important, they will spread the word and you will get natural backlinks without doing any more work.
Put some effort into this; it will help you convert those visitors to customers. But keep in mind that good content should be related in some way to your product or topic, have a value (such as product reviews or tutorials), and be fresh and up-to-date. There is nothing worse than looking for information about, say, the top-rated video games, only to find that the list on the site was last updated in 1999.
The best way to create your quality content before you start your link building is to write it yourself. You already know the most about your product, the people who use it, why they use it, and what they want to know about it. Optimize your content with your important keywords. Write for humans; if you stuff your text full of keywords so it becomes unreadable, no one will want to come back to read more of it. Your goal is not to send visitors to your competitor’s site to get what they need.
Adding new content on a regular basis will keep people coming back for more. If you have writer’s block and can’t come up with fresh ideas, go back to an older post or article and rewrite it, update it with new information, or expand it. Or write a post inviting your readers to ask you questions. You will be surprised at the new ideas you will get. You can also use Google Alerts to keep you up-to-date on your topic and provide fresh material to incorporate into your articles, without having to hunt for it every day.
If you can’t write it yourself, put aside something in your budget to pay someone to do it for you. Hire a writer, or a team of them, to help you create unique and fresh content for your site. This can add to the variety of topics and enable you to add fresh content more often. Or hire someone to make short how-to videos and podcasts to jazz up your pages. Another idea is to invite your readers (you can find them by reading your incoming comments) to submit guest posts; they may be link building too and will welcome the opportunity to post on your site.
Don’t underestimate the power of relevant, high-quality content to help you with your link building plan.
Understanding ‘NoFollow’ Links
Next, let’s discuss ‘nofollow’ tags because they can play a part in where you choose to publish or link to the content you’ve worked so hard to create. Links are automatically followed by search engine spiders; however, the addition of a ‘nofollow’ tag to a link tells the spiders not to give the link any weight or importance. Some search engines, like Google, may not follow or index a ‘nofollow’ link. This was originally created to reduce spam by preventing search engines from indexing all the links left by blog commenters. Spam still exists, of course, but this policy means you may not get any credit for these links toward your search engine rankings.
When you do your link building on blogs, forums and directories, they will often use the ‘nofollow’ tag. (There is no ‘dofollow’ tag.) In fact, the ‘nofollow’ tag is automatically pre-set on most websites, so the site or blog owner has to make a conscious decision to change it. The disadvantage of being a ‘dofollow’ site is that you will have to spend countless hours filtering out all of the spammy incoming comments and links. Many blog owners don’t want the headache.
Our goal here is to build a lot of great backlinks to boost our ranking and attract more attention to our website or blog. Consequently, when we have a limited amount of time for link building and are looking for places to leave them, we should find out if the site uses ‘nofollow’.
- You can view the source code to see if the site uses ‘nofollow’ by going to the web page you’re interested in. From your browser’s menu, select “View” followed by “Page Source”. Click CTRL+F and use ‘nofollow’ as your search term. If you see the ‘nofollow’ tag in the results, you know.
- Searching source code can be tedious, so look for browser extensions that will do the work for you. For example, the Firefox SearchStatus extension will automatically highlight ‘nofollow’ links to save you time.
- You can search the web and develop a list of ‘dofollow’ blogs. Can’t find them? Try this little trick. Many sites post a badge to let you know they are ‘dofollow’ and appreciate your comments. Using Google Image Search, enter the term “U Comment I Follow” with or without quotes (or enter “u comment” and “I follow” separately) and you will be amazed at what you find. Focus your link building on these sites.
Submit Your Content to Article Directories
One of the best free methods of getting high-quality backlinks and increasing traffic to your site is to submit your well-written content to article directories. Article directories constantly rank very well with search engines and they are a great way for you to demonstrate your expertise and build your authority and reputation in your particular niche.
There is some difference of opinion about publishing on ‘nofollow’ directories. If you are submitting articles to display your knowledge about your topic, ‘nofollow’ directories are great. However, if your goal is to improve your search engine ranking, then concentrate on link building with ‘dofollow’ directories to get the most reward for your efforts.
It’s important to remember that search engines are constantly looking for good quality articles. Recent changes from Google, for instance, caused many article directories to lose page rank, and valuable traffic and ad revenues along with it, because they published thousands of poorly written, low-quality articles.
These new changes caused many directories to re-examine their publishing guidelines. Buzzle.com, for example, no longer accepts duplicate content (material published elsewhere, in full or in part) or marketing-type articles (written for the sole purpose of promoting a business or product). And they no longer permit outbound links, so you won’t get any backlinks from Buzzle. Read the guidelines for each site carefully or your article may not get published.
Tips: Your article should be more than 400 words. Limit your links to the resource box or the author’s bio area. Don’t make it obvious if you’re promoting a product; they will know because a human will read and approve/reject the article. And don’t submit the identical article to more than one directory; the best directories don’t want duplicate content. None of this should be a problem for you if you focus on high quality writing and follow the rules.
Here are some of the top ‘dofollow’ article directories for 2011:
- ArticlesBase.com (note: this directory is ‘nofollow’ until you publish more than 10 articles there)
But don’t limit yourself to link building on just one article directory. If search engines eventually decide to stop counting more than a few backlinks from the same directory to a single website in their effort to combat link spam, share the wealth. Choose 2 or 3 good directories and rotate your article publishing among them. Another tip is to translate your articles into another language (or outsource it to a native writer) to make them available to non-English language readers. You would be surprised how much attention and traffic these links may bring to your site.
Publish a Press Release
A well-written press release can announce events going on in your business or on your website, and they can include anchor text and build strong inbound links to your site. Make it keyword-rich and be sure your primary keywords are in your title (which should be no more than 70 characters long). Hopefully your press release will appear in RSS and Twitter feeds all over the web, so you want to encourage people to click on it to learn more.
Because a press release is a news item, not only will it help you rank with search engines, but it will also get news search rankings from sites like Google News and Yahoo! News. This gives your business more credibility and brings you high-quality backlinks. Again, you can get more results for your hard work.
Another advantage of a press release is that it will be read by people who have an interest in your business or your company. These are exactly the relevant visitors you’re seeking, so make it count. Videos and images can sometimes be included to give it a little pizzazz (and don’t forget to name the media with your primary keyword).
Do a search for “press release sites” and spend a little time checking them out. Some are free and others offer paid services. Using a service with a Google page rank of 4 and above will increase the credibility of your press release. And, again, don’t waste your time on those that use ‘nofollow’ tags.
Write a Guest Post
Writing guest posts for related blogs in your niche can be a very good way to get more exposure. Contact these related blogs and offer to write a free post for their site in exchange for the ability to place a link in it back to your site. If they invite guest posting on a regular basis, they may already have a page describing their guidelines. Follow them.
To improve your chances of being accepted, write something engaging that will enhance the blog you are writing for. Research their site to see if you can find some good content to add and find other posts on their site that you can link to in your post. This will let them know you understand the concept of blogging and everyone’s desire to keep visitors on their own site.
Target blogs related to your niche. Find sites that have the look and feel you want to convey and preferably one with a higher pagerank than your own. When you contact the blog owner, send your guest post with a little information about yourself. If you have guest posted on other high quality blogs, mention it because it will give you more credibility. If your post is rejected, post it on your own site or submit it to an article directory so your link building efforts don’t go to waste. If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying.
When You Just Don’t Have Time for This…
You may have decided to create all of your content and tackle a link building strategy on your own, but it can be very time-consuming. If you don’t have the time but can afford to hire someone to help you, consider outsourcing these tasks to a reputable SEO company. It’s less expensive than you think and you can put your plan in the hands of specialists who have the time and the resources to blog, create unique content, and get you all the high-quality backlinks you could ever want.