Link Popularity for a Successful Website: How (Not) to Go About Getting It

A classic way of getting seen and noticed on the web is to make sure your site is linked to as many other sites as possible. The strategy of link-exchange has been so overused and abused that search engines are now wary of it and may penalize sites that are linking to "link farms", or to any other sites with non-relevant content.

This is the way it should be. We all want our web browsing experience to be smooth and pleasant. We don't want to get frustrated by stumbling over irrelevant content while following links between sites. On the other hand, webmasters all want more traffic to their sites, and get frustrated when they don't get it. There are two types of benefits from having many links to your website:

- Get improved ranking by the search engines - if you are popular, you are probably worth a visit

- People (not just search bots) actually follow the links and find your site!

If done properly, link popularity improvement is an extremely important strategy to make your website successful. Broadly speaking, you can achieve this in a number of ways:

1. The classic link exchange (link swap) method; two webmasters agree to swap links

2. You pay to get incoming links from high-ranking websites

3. By writing articles and getting them posted on other websites; including a link to your own site

4. By getting your articles published in E-zines, with links back to your site

5. You participate in online forums, where a link to your site may be included with each post

6. You start a blog/RSS feed, and get it spread to many subscribers!

All these methods involve work, in varying amounts. Method #2. costs you money, the rest may be essentially no-cost. Method #4. will probably not contribute to search engine ranking, but may give you droves of targeted visitors.

The problem with method #1. is that it's tedious. But you can get software that may automate it by helping you find link partners and manage your link collection. I am aware of these software tools:

ARELIS I have tested this tool, and it seems very promising. It goes out and searches for link exchange partners according to different search methods which you specify. For me, looking for incoming links at sites similar to my own gave the best results. The program then quickly returned many relevant sites. Next, it helps you contact webmasters and keeps the link collection neatly organized. It also creates the link pages.

Zeus A bit similar to ARELIS, but I find it much clumsier. The only way it can search for link candidate sites is thru a list of 100+ search phrases. In my hands, this method produced very low-quality results. At the time of writing, I am trying to get a refund from the company that sells Zeus. They seem very reluctant to honour their money-back guarantee. Buyer beware!

Links Manager This program does not go out and search for link partner sites; it only handles swap requests and organizes the link collection. I have not tested it myself.

When building a link swap strategy, note that the search engines are getting increasingly sophisticated in judging the quality of your links. Some things to remember:

- Outbound links ONLY to quality sites with content relevant to your site; never "link farm" type sites

- Make sure the sites that you link to have not been penalized. This would affect you also!

- Incoming links that are placed on the same page as 100:s of other links won't help you; their value gets "diluted"

- The anchor text in the incoming links is very important. It should contain relevant keywords; but all links should not have identical text - this looks artificial in the virtual eyes of the search bots

If you follow these guidelines, I believe link swap can still be an important strategy for building a successful web presence.

Conclusion: Link popularity improvement, if you do it the proper way, is still of enormous importance for a successful website. But if done the wrong way, it may backfire. If you want to try the classic link swap method, I recommend using ARELIS ( www.axandra.com ) to make it less tedious.

Kai Virihaur runs The Hosting Finder ( http://www.thehostingfinder.com ), a web hosting directory featuring articles and RSS feeds on web development, website promotion, and online marketing.

In The News:

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