Does Your Site Have Link Value?

Link Value is the perceived value another site will derive from linking to you. The more value they see, the more likely they will be to link.

At its basic level, the most immediate value most sites see is a reciprocal link. "You link to me and I'll link to you." But such exchanges rarely bring significant business benefit to either party.

Much more productive are one-way links, "I'll link to you because I think your site is useful and attractive to my audience." Such links do not come easily and involve hard work and effort. But they can bring enormous returns in increased traffic, qualified prospects and sales revenue.

To persuade other sites to give you a one-way link you need to maximize your link value. The more value they see the more likely they are to link. To create value and compelling reasons for other sites to link to you, you've got to consider link value from three perspectives:

* The value you offer the linking website. Perhaps you offer complementary products or services: perhaps the information you publish may help them close a sale or perhaps they want to be seen as a knowledgeable source.

* The value that you offer their audience - the people that will follow the link to arrive at your website. They will be interested in what you have to offer and will already have expectations based on the link they followed. Will you be able to fulfill those expectations?

* The value that the additional traffic brings to your business. There's no point in generating incoming links and traffic if you can't convert the people who arrive at your site.

Sites that offer great link value

Let's look at a few examples that deliver value from all three of these perspectives:

IKEA, publishes an interactive office planner at http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_US/rooms_ideas/office/download1.html. This planner is a useful resource for http://www.gilgordon.com who provide resources for tele-workers and people who work in virtual offices: the audience gets an excellent free tool with which to plan their office space: IKEA benefits from the sales of the furniture, users of the software will undoubtedly be tempted to buy.

FutureNowInc, are online conversion rate specialists. They offer free content in terms of reports and articles, but the most attractive for me is the free WeWe calculator, http://www.futurenowinc.com/wewe.htm. The essence of Bryan Eisenberg's message is that if you are to increase your conversion rates, you must talk in your customer's language and address their problems, not about yourself using self-centered 'we are' speak. The WeWE calculator allows you to do just that - enter your name and URL and you'll get a free report by return. Many online marketing sites link to FutureNowInc.com, their audiences get a free analysis and FutureNowInc.com gather prospects.

The Online Visual Thesaurus, from Plumb Design, http://www.visualthesaurus.com is a really cool no-cost tool. Just enter a word in the search box and the visual thesaurus will create an interactive map of the word and it's associations. The tool is an interactive feature that advertising, marketing, writing and academic sites would be happy to link to: the audience gets immediate help with their writing and Plumb Design benefit from sales of the full-featured CD-ROM or download at $29.95.

So how do you add link value to your site?

Here are four steps you can take to improve the link value of your site:

* The value you offer the linking website. Perhaps you offer complementary products or services: perhaps the information you publish may help them close a sale or perhaps they want to be seen as a knowledgeable source.

* Many websites underestimate the value of content they already have: this can often be re-purposed to increase your link value. Review the content that you already have both online and offline. Can you collate or re-package this into special reports or guides. A paint manufacturer for example could draw all its information on 'External Decorating' into a single guide. Such repackaging makes the best use of existing material and won't cost a lot to do. The secret is to make reports address a specific customer need.

* Create a range of fresh material that addresses customer needs in the form of articles, hints and tips, special reports. This material should be carefully aligned with your target audiences - you should have link worthy material for each of your important target markets.

* Create attention-grabbing, interactive functions or microsites on the lines of the examples we gave earlier. To carry these off effectively takes a reasonable investment in time and money but the long-term rewards in increased profile and increased traffic to your site will be well worth it.

By understanding and building the link value of your site, you'll find that the success rates of your linking requests will increase and that other sites will link to you without being asked.

That will really bring value to your business.

Ken McGaffin is author of The Linking Matters Report and publishes a regular newsletter on linking strategy. He provides training and consultancy in link building and online marketing.

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