To Link or Not To Link - That Is The Question

You know the drill. Everybody claims that in order to obtain and maintain a favorable ranking on the search engines you MUST have reciprocating links on your website.

This supposed "must have", so the theory goes, is necessary because the search engines look at links to your website from other sites. The search engines then rank the importance of your site based upon the number of inbound links to you. The more inbound links, the higher the ranking on the search engines. Or so the common wisdom would dictate.

While I am not saying that linking doesn't have its benefits, it is my belief that most SEOs over-emphasize the importance of this area. Ask yourself this?if my business sells domain names, why do I have a reciprocal link for www.nosehairtrimmers.com? How insipid do you think Google really is?

Besides the obvious amount of time that managing a linking program takes from other more important tasks, such as improving your site content, are you really getting any bang for your buck?

Ask yourself these questions:

* How many site visitors actually LOOK for your link partners as a resource?

* How many referrals are you getting from your link partner's site a month?

* Can site visitors even FIND the links page without a GPS and a magnifying glass?

* Are you offering a benefit to your audience or just playing the "Search Engine Two-Step"?

I submit to you that a linking program can be more effective if you follow these guidelines:

* Keep your links within your "industry umbrella".

* Linking to a site that has no advantage or benefit for your visitors shouldn't be there.

* Make your links "findable" on your website and offer them as a value-added service.

* Organize your links into categories to enable quick searching.

* Limit the number of links and categories to those YOU would want to use.

Links can be a valuable tool if managed properly but I firmly believe you would be better served taking all the time you are now using for linking activities and use it to write better, fresher and more readable CONTENT.

Search algorithms change and evolve all the time. What worked yesterday to artificially inflate your search engine rankings will not necessarily work tomorrow. Google is already been said to be "de-weighting" the importance of linking and placing more importance on relevant content.

When this whole internet thing began there was an expression that sadly we don't hear much anymore although it is truer today than ever before: Content Is King! Ergo: You had better possess the ability to tell a good story, regularly update your site and have relevant, thoughtful content. I don't care how many links you have, without content you are just playing the game.

Remember; design your site to tell as good story because robots and spiders are not the only visitors to your website. Real live human beings might just show up one day looking for something to read!

Allan Gunnneson is the CEO of Gunner Web Group (http://www.gunnnerweb.com), a website design and marketing company based in Kansas.

Online reprint rights granted as long as the article is published in its entirety, including links (http://www.gunnerweb.com). Copyright © Gunner Web Group, 2005

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