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Link Building

Link Building is the core of how search engines rank websites, it creates order out of the ciaos that is the web.

How? All search engines use the number & quality of links pointing to a particular website as part of their algorithm to rank websites in their search results.

Search engines then further refine this portion of the algorithm by looking at the following:

* The text used in the link itself – called “Anchor Text”
* The quality or reputation of the site that’s doing the linking – done by looking at how many links the site has
* The topic of both sites to determine if the two sites share topics
* How many other links are present on the page that’s doing the linking – the more links the page has, the less important the link to your site is
* The content on the page that contains the link

More on Anchor text

When you’re building links you don’t want to be used link text like “click here” or “www.mytorontowebsite.com”. You want to use your keywords. The text used has much to do with what you wind up ranking for. You can have 100 generic non-keyword links and 10 blue widget links, and the later will provide the biggest impact every time. So make sure your optimizing your anchor text for all inbound links.

Quantity or Quality?

First we should qualify Quality. Quality links mean they come from “trusted” sites with healthy and established link profiles of their own. Take a site like CNN.com versus Torontonewsonline.com. CNN will have a massive back link profile (over 13,000,000 to be exact), because people link to it all the time – Torontonewsonline on the other hand will have a fraction of the link count. This means that a link from CNN will carry more weight then a link from Torontonewsonline, making it a “quality” link.

My personal experience is that you have no choice but to have a mix of both. Why? Because there are only so many related sites that you’ll be able to obtain links from.

If you sell computers you’ll want links from technology related sites, but in the natural world of links, you’ll also wind up with links from completely unrelated sites. Unrelated links still help your rankings, albeit you’ll need more of them.

So how many back links do you have?

Use Yahoo’s site explorer to see how many in bound links your site has, then check out the top sites in Google for a desirable search term and see how many links they have. This will show you how much link building you’ll need to do in order to rank in the top 3 for a given keyword.

So where do you get links from?

You can get links two ways – naturally or buying them.

Natural links happen when people visit your site, find it useful and share it on their site or in a blog or forum. You can’t control natural links (think anchor text), you’ll need an absolute killer site to give people a reason to want to link to you on their own, and they take years to happen. Because of these factors, natural links don’t tend to play a large role in SEO.

The other option is to buy links. There are three primary types of paid links:

1.) Text links

AKA sponsored links – these typically appear in the commonly found main navigation areas. Top right, right, or bottom of the page. They are easy to spot as being “paid” links.

2.) Blog/social links

These are my favorite as they really look natural – provided they are written in a way that doesn’t look like self promotion of course, and the anchor text used is focused on your keywords. Blog links are found in posts on a wide variety of sites. Typically they don’t carry the same impact as the above text links as text links tend to be on the homepage, where blog links are usually on a sub-page within the site. The best thing about blog links is that you pay once for it and it’s there for months and months. Text links on the other hand are charged on a monthly basis.

3.) In-Content/article links

These are a blending of text links with healthy amounts of related content. They provide good performance because of this content surrounding the link. Unlike text link ads, or blog links, there is either no content immediately surrounding the link, or it’s unrelated. The content helps search engines know what the link is about.

Link Building Costs

Link building isn’t cheap – expect to spend at least $500/month for non-competitive categories and upwards of $30,000/month for competitive categories. While this may seem crazy, it’s not as your Analytics will attest to – search engines will always be the top performing campaign for any industry. Why? Because people always start the buying process at the search bar.

Summary & other tidbits

Build your links carefully and slowly. Don’t go from no links to hundreds and hundreds in one month – spread it out over 3-6 months so it’s natural looking. Make sure the sites being used are all unique and aren’t all part of the same network (IP classes/ranges should always be unique).

Stay away from crappy directories and dodgy cross linking schemes. If you have a network of your own sites, resist the urge to cross link them all – you’ll wind up getting them all tossed out of the index.

Remember, link building is the most important factors in ranking well so make sure you’re spend an appropriate amount of time and resources on it. You’re rankings will reward you!

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