When I conduct search engine marketing workshops I always stress the importance of quality link-building in boosting search engine performance. What I mean by that is simply the more topically similar, high quality websites you have linking to your site the better.
As soon as you accept the necessity of that, and start a program of seeking and persuading other websites to link to you, you run into a host of questions and challenges. I’m going to deal with some of the common questions that come up from time to time. Here’s a good one to start with:
Q: Please describe how someone would “link” their website to my website to enhance SEO. I’ve been asked this and I really don’t know how to tell someone.
A: The challenging part of this situation is that there’s no one clear answer, so I think it would be best for me to break it down into something of a process, like the following…
Let’s assume that the situation is something like this. You are promoting your own website. Let’s say it’s a real estate website, for purposes of illustration. Let’s furthermore say that you have a friendly relationship with Joe Greenbags, a mortgage lender who has his own website for his mortgage business. So you have the idea that you’d like to get Joe to link his website to yours. We would call this a “link partner.”
First of all, remember that the two basic criteria for a good link partner would be that the link partner’s website is topically similar and high quality. Would Joe’s site be “topically similar” to your real estate website? The answer to this is yes. Google is pretty sharp about determining what industries and professions tend to cluster with yours. Mortgage banking is one of those industries that is tied into real estate.
Secondly, is Joe’s website “high quality?” Usually the easiest way to get a quick bead on that is to check the PageRank on Joe’s website. You can easily do this with a number of tools, such as the Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer and Firefox, an add-on for Firefox such as SEO Quake, or an extension for Chrome such as PageRank Status. Or, if you don’t want to go that route, just plug Joe’s website address into a site called PR Checker.
If You Want High Quality Links, You Have to Ask
Once you’ve determined you really do want Joe as a link partner, it’s up to you to approach him and request a link to your site. Joe’s incentive to do this might be friendship, the fact he values you as a source of referrals, or sheer altruism. Or maybe a combination of all three. Whatever his reasons, Joe agrees. And then Joe asks you…”how do I do that?”
Your response to Joe’s question depends on whether Joe knows how to make any changes to his site himself. If he asks you “how do I do that?” then he probably doesn’t. In this case Joe is probably going to have to contact the person who handles his website and ask them to do it. Does this make your challenge greater? Yes, it obviously does. Especially if Joe’s “web gal” (or “guy”) charges him for minor changes. Some do, some don’t. However any web developer can post a link to a website in minutes, so any charges should be minor (unless Joe is getting ripped off). If the link is important enough to you, you could consider reimbursing Joe for any expense he incurs.
The other thing to keep in mind is that Joe needs to get his web developer to link to you with some link text that will do you some good. “Link text” is the part you click on. So for this example, if Joe links to your website with the words click this, it has very little value. However if the link text is something like my town real estate, it gives definite value to your status in the eyes of Google — and this part is very important — for any searches based on the phrase “my town real estate.”
So here’s how the conversation with Joe might go:
You: Hey Joe, I really like your website. It would be a big favor if you could link to my website from yours.
Joe: Oh yeah? Well I’d like to help you out, you send a lot of business my way…but how do I do that?
You: Well, who makes changes to your website?
Joe: Barbara Billingsley handles our website and she makes changes to it whenever we need that done.
You: OK, well if I send you an email showing what I want the link to say, and what page of my website I want it to point to, can you forward it to Barbara? If she has any questions you can have her call me, and if I can’t answer her questions I can put her in touch with my web guy.
So of course this conversation could have a million variations, but the basic idea is the same: Get the commitment to make the link, and then make sure that you find out who the person that can make changes is. And if you don’t have the technical knowledge to make it happen, make sure you are partnered with a web developer who knows what you’re trying to accomplish and can help you make it happen.
So stop just thinking and get to linking!