Solving the Link Building Puzzle: Do or Die.

Welcome to Link Building 101: “SAW IV”-style. Trapped in Room #4: a “Page 4” natural search result — you desperately need to find a way out. You have no choice. To survive in business, you must play the game. Put the pieces of the puzzle together, and you can escape to Room #1: the “Page 1” listing that helps you grow your business.

Part 1 — The Pieces

First, though, you need to learn where all the pieces of the link-building puzzle fit. Then comes the scary part: learning {how} to actually fit the pieces of the puzzle together. If you don’t, your link building strategy won’t work. In this game, your business life depends on it.

What is a Link?

“Links” are connections from other Web sites pointing to your site with a hypertext link. Generally, when people discuss linking, they mean establishing inbound — and only inbound — connections from Web sites. Links that are evenly exchanged between sites, or reciprocal links, hold little value. Outbound links — going from your site to other sites — offer few benefits from a search marketing perspective.

Why Do You Need Them?

All search engines value links as a measure of how influential and important a Web site is online. According to search engines, sites with many important, related sites linking to them must be worthwhile, therefore deserving a better ranking in the search listings.

What is Page Rank?

Google has a tool in the Google Toolbar called PageRank, and this tool will show you how valuable Google believes your site to be from a linking and community perspective. Sites are ranked on a scale of 1-10 in bell-shaped curve fashion. The number is best analyzed in relation to other sites in your industry because a 4 in some industries would be a top rank, but in another industry, it might take a 6 to indicate excellence in link building.

How Do You See Links?

Numerous tools available online can help you see who’s linking to your Web site.

  • Yahoo Site Explorer will show you the links coming into any Web site URL. That allows you to see what sites contribute to a competitor’s current PageRank. The links listed below are from pages Yahoo! has indexed. Yahoo!’s links, of course, may differ slightly from the links in another search engine that has indexed different pages.
  • Google Webmaster Central provides many great tools for understanding the Google Index. One resource, Google’s linking tool, shows only Google-indexed pages linking to your Web site. You can’t use the tool, however, to check out another site.

How Do You Get More?

You can increase the number of inbound links to your Web site in several ways. Some work well. Some barely work anymore. Understanding these linking tactics will give you a complete picture of how to get to Page 1 in search rankings. In short, it’s essential.

  • Free Directories — A multitude of directory and information Web sites offer free links. If you’re low on links, directories offer a nice, quick fix. What directories can give you in volume, however, often may not translate into quality. Not all links have equal value. If you’re wondering exactly what a link is worth, read Justilien Gaspard’s detailed explanation.
  • Reciprocal Links — Asking clients, partners, and strangers in related industries to link to your Web site and then returning the favor was a very popular tactic two years ago. Now, most engines compensate for reciprocal links in their ranking algorithms. In other words, links exchanged between sites no longer have value. Or do they? For a different take on Google’s stance, check out this blog post from aussiewebmaster.
  • Buying Links — Because reciprocal linking is dead, brokers will help connect people to Web sites willing to sell one-way links to your site. The sites offering link space are often valuable enough in the search engine’s eyes to have earned decent PageRank. Typically, the higher the PageRank, the higher the link price. Fueling the heated debate are SEO experts like John Biundo and Michael Gray. At stake: the long-term effectiveness of a link-buying strategy. The ability of search engines’ algorithms to detect and devalue purchased links will ultimately determine whether your link buying strategy works.
  • Link Bait — A golden nugget of content on your Web site encourages people to link to you. This bait is then spread throughout different Internet hot7 spots to tempt site owners to link to your site. Usually, link bait has a viral effect. Using linkbait can be a good tactic to create volume (a large number of inbound links). In addition to volume, linkbait can be good for the overall quality of your inbound links. Executing a link bait strategy, on the other hand, can be more than a little complicated.

Stay tuned for Part 2 — How to put the puzzle pieces together to escape and survive!

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