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Why Links are Like Shoes

Carrie Hill
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I love shoes about as much as I love search marketing. When I'm not reading blogs, blogging, or working, I'm shoe shopping online (thank you Zappos for free shipping on returns!)

I was IMing another SEO friend and looking at a really cute pair of pumps when the thought came into my head, "I think I love good links almost as much as I love good shoes." That thought was immediately followed by, "Wow, I'm a geek!" But it gave me an idea for my column this week.

Shoes and links have a lot in common.

Cloaked and hidden links are like those huge patent leather platform boots that are ugly, impractical, and hazardous to your health.

Non-anchor text links are steady and reliable, but not spectacular -- like a two-dollar pair of flip-flops from Target.

A perfectly placed anchor text link pointing at just the right page on my site is like the pair of $400 Jimmy Choo pumps I want -- hard to get, but worth every penny!

I'm sure I've almost lost the guys by now, but I can put this into your perspective also.

Cloaked and hidden links are like the bad girl you dated but never admitted you dated. Conveniently, she wore the platform boots in the example above.

Non-anchor text links are the gal next door you dated until someone hotter came along (she likes cheap flip-flops).

The perfect link is like that amazingly beautiful super model -- the high-maintenance one who demands a $400 pair of shoes to celebrate your two-week anniversary. Fickle, hard to get, and sometimes expensive, but probably worth every penny.

Yes, I have a point. What do you want in your "closet" when it comes to link building? If you're like most small businesses, you want a combination of the nice links, and the great links pointing at various pages on your site. Unfortunately, getting these links isn't as easy as buying shoes. There's a lot more legwork involved.

Create "Linkable" Content

The best way to cultivate good links is to provide something worth linking to. Naturally, this starts with good content. Offer your readers (and hopefully linkers) unique content that's up to date, interesting, and relevant.

By taking a concept and adding your commentary and opinion, you're offering the readers a new perspective. This has the potential to attract links, especially if you're taking a stand on the subject that hasn't been taken before. Offering a unique value proposition in your content is a great way to attract good links.

Promote Your Content

Just writing content doesn't ensure someone will read and link to it. You need to work to promote your content. Participate in your niche communities, communicate with your network of like-minded individuals, and practice smart SEO. Top rankings for a well-searched query can be one of the best ways to get links, as your content can sometimes be considered authoritative just by being there.

Wikipedia is a great example of this. Wiki pages rank well in Google, but don't deliver unique or, in some cases, accurate information on occasion. The ranking comes from links: Wikipedia has 187,000 Google backlinks, and 3,719,600 inlinks according to Yahoo Site Explorer. People tend to link to Wikipedia because it's ranked number one. Hence, good rankings can garner more links.

Ask For Links

It doesn't hurt to ask for links, just don't be pushy about it. Most times people are happy to provide a link when asked, if there's something valuable on your site they'd like to share (see point number one about content.)

Here's where I give my reciprocal linking spiel. Reciprocal linking is OK as long as it makes sense and enhances user experience. If you're a hotel, and you link out to a restaurant you recommend, and they link back to you because they recommend you, that's perfectly fine. If you're a real estate agent in Atlanta, and you link to a real estate Web site in the Ukraine, and they link back to you? Not so fine. I bet one in a million visitors to your site might even consider buying Ukrainian real estate.

Give Links

Savvy Web site owners know when they're being linked to -- they track incoming links just like you do (or should be doing!). Getting links back to your Web site can be as easy as linking out to them. Remember, reciprocal links are OK if they're relevant and useful.

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