Whats All This Hype About Links?

What's all the talk about links we hear about? Reciprocal links? Non-reciprocal links? Targeted links? Link Popularity? I need links. You should have links. What about the dead links? I don't have enough links! Ever since I joined the link farm, I dropped out of the search engines! Well, you musn't fret; we're going to shed the light on all theses different links. You'll learn the different types, how to get them, how to keep them and how to keep them current.

Over the next few issues, we will investigate the ABCs of linking, look into some helpful software and a take a close look at how Technet has solved this time consuming, but necessary issue for several top sites.

Let's start with some definitions.

Reciprocal Link (Two-way link): When you link to a web site and that web site links back to you, you have one reciprocal link. Reciprocal links need to be related to your web site's subject matter. For example, if your web site sells Milk, then links from other sites that sell milk products. Sites about dairy products would also be good reciprocal linking candidates. While, a link from say a tobacco company would not be recommended. Your reciprocal links need to be related to your web site's main keyword phrase or subject matter.

Non Reciprocal Link (One-way): These links are the most beneficial and also can be the hardest to obtain. Links from search engines or directories are a form of a non-reciprocal linking. However, the links that hold the most weight with the search engines are from other relevant web sites, sites we have not linked to. When a dairy site links to your milk site because they feel your site is of value to their visitors, it is the ultimate compliment and also holds more weight in the search engines. The best way to get this type of link, is to have unique content that is well written. Your site needs to look professional and sound professional. Related sites will be eager to link to you because you have quality, relevant content.

Targeted Links: Targeted links are just what they sound like, links that are related to your sites main subject matter. For example, if you have a site devoted to music then links from other music sites or music stores are good, while links from a site specializing in window blinds are not so good.

Text Links: Text links are simply that, text links. Text links are very important as a search engine can follow a text link and catalog it. It's like a vote for your site.

Graphical Links: Graphic links, such as logos and banners, may look great and attract visitors, but they cannot be read by search engines and are rarely followed by them. While having a graphical link, such as a logo, can give you some recognition and look professional, it must be well made and identifiable. Furthermore, you should always add alt* tags to the graphic html code, as alt tags help with content and keyword density. A text link directly below the graphic for the search engines to follow should be included when ever possible.

* (An alt tag or alternate text is an attribute added to the image tag in html. It is designed to give a text example of what the image is for people browsing without image support, some search engines count this as part of the page content.)

Links Page: This is very important. Your links page needs to fit into your site. It should have the same look and feel as the rest of your pages. Unless you only have five or ten links on your link page, you will need to have categories and even sub-categories for extensive link pages. It's important to keep the number of links per page as low as possible and never over 100 links.

Adding a small form for visitors to suggest links can be a nice feature and I recommend it, but it also can lead to a lot of off-target links suggestions.

When exchanging links, you will have to show the other site owners where their link is placed on your site. Therefore, you'll want to have the links page well laid out and visually appealing.

Dead Links: This is really a maintenance issue, sites go off-line, from time to time page addresses change, or the site changes owners and the content changes. It is important to check your links often to ensure you don't have a page full of dead links or links that have changed and now point to unrelated content. If you don't keep up on this task, you will soon have a page full of dead links and visitors wont come back to use it. Search engines also frown on pages with too many dead links.

Link Farms: Link farms should be avoided; adding your site to one can cause you to loose popularity or have a negative effect on your Page Rank, joining one and displaying their links on your site can get you banned from the most important search engines. With 90% of web traffic originating from only a hand full of search engines, this is something you don't want to happen. It is almost impossible to reverse and it can take you out of the search engines for up to a year or more. Staying away from places that guarantee hundreds or thousands of links by filling out a form.

Links should be arranged one at a time by contacting the desired site owner, by e-mail or more prefferrably by phone, and notifying them that you want to exchange links. This is the best way to do it, any short cuts or get link quick schemes can lead to trouble as soon as the search engines crawl your site.

Links are very important to any site that wants to rank highly in the top search engine results. The more targeted links you have pointing to your site, the more important your site is to the search engines. It's like a voting system. If 100 sites think your content is worth linking to, then search engines like Google will take notice. However, if 10,000 related sites link to you, then search engines will treat you like a king and you will be on the A list for sure.

About the Author:

Mark Hochhaus owns and operates InHisServiceProductions, a Web site design firm based in Washington State. He also publishes weekly SEO and online marketing articles in an RSS enabled blog titled The Optimizer.

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