How to Build Effective and Beneficial Link Partners
by John Gracey
Building links is, without a doubt, one of the most effective ways of ensuring a successful web site. The benefits of linking are multi-faceted and can result in better search engine ranking, increased targeted traffic, and improved content value for your site visitors.
To accomplish the objective of better SE ranking, however, your linking strategy must focus on setting up the correct structure while obtaining links from the "right" partners. That is the single, most effective strategy for elevating a page's relevance – the key to top placement.
Here are a few simple, yet effective, guidelines to help you on your way to a successfully linked web site.
Keep your link partners relative!
Relevancy should be your most important guideline in determining link partners. Since a search engine's primary task is to provide the most relevant search results for your search query, your inbound links from other sites must, or should, assist the engines in defining the content of your site.
Relative linking will provide your site with links from pages that are utilizing some (ideally, many) of the same keywords or key phrases. This will assist in your achieving top placement for those keywords and phrases. It will also help drive the kind of targeted traffic that is already, potentially, pre-sold on buying what you have to offer.
So, in order to get the most benefit from the inbound link, you need links to your site from other web sites that are relative in content to yours.
To paraphrase what Google says, put good content on your sites and get some good inbound relative links and you've potentially created something of value to the net. Following this guideline is one of the best, and simplest, paths to ranking success within Google.
Just how important is PageRank?
If you are new to PageRank, it is one part of the many factors that Google uses in determining search result placement.
In the months past the common belief was that PageRank was something that should be a key factor when determining link partners. There was a time when we only sought partners who had a PR=3 or better. We no longer see that as an absolute "truth". Now we take a more flexible approach by focusing on the relative value of a partner, based on relevance to our site and we worry less about a partner's actual PageRank score.
The recent changes within Google and their algorithm have verified the instability of PageRank evidenced by the fact that some sites get pegged with the dreaded PR=0 (zero). We've found that, in many instances, these sites don't keep a zero ranking for very long and so by not linking to those related (relative) sites with the low PR we were passing up potentially great link partners that very often ended up with a higher PR on the next Google update (aka, the Googledance).
The lesson we learned was that a related link should not be passed up regardless of how low their PageRank score was. In every case, having a related link could only help and never hurt. And, when the page upon which that related link lived got elevated in PR then our pages benefited. Inversely, if the page never got better in PR we experienced no adverse effects. The key to success depended more on the linking page's relevance than on their PageRank.
There are many reasons sites get a low PR.
Some sites, though less often than most think, are doing naughty things – running contrary to a search engine's guidelines. While others simply get a bad rap because they have few inbound links that have been indexed. This, of course, is always subject to change whenever Google updates their index.
Recently Google began assigning a PR=0 to new pages as opposed to guessing about a new page's PR based upon that site's PR on their other pages. For instance, if an index page had a PR=5 and a new page was added to the site, it would immediately receive a PR=3 or 4 and hold that rank until Google could officially assign a value to the page. Now, however, they just give it a PR=0 until which time some links can be traced to the page whereupon a PR=(reality) score is assigned.
You can see instances of this when you come across a site holding a decent PR but is penalized – i.e., has a deflated PR – on its links/resources page. Regardless, the site is still, potentially, getting good traffic regardless of their PR.
Another reason for low PR is that some sub-pages, within sites, just don't get crawled (re-visited) all that often generally due to a poor internal linking structure. This can be easily resolved by employing a site map page that enables Google to find all pages within a site including the new pages.
So, PageRank, though still a factor in search result placement, is subsequent in its order of importance when compared to the theme relativity of the linking page. PageRank, alone, has little bearing on ranking evidenced by the fact that some pages place very well in search results in spite of low PR. That means that some potential linking partners can also place well in spite of low PR for their selected keywords and phrases.
Therefore, if you're discounting potential linking partners based on PR, you may be foregoing valuable links that could otherwise be boosting your rankings and, more importantly, sending you some valuable and highly targeted traffic that converts to sales (isn't that what it's all about!).
So, do seek partners with a PR 3 or higher, but don't discount a site because of PR alone. Ask yourself the following questions: Does this potential partner have a good site? Will it be resourceful to the site's visitors? Is their content relative to the site? If the answers are yes, then you've found a good (potential) link partner. If the site boasts a high PR, then all the better.
Too many links on a page can short-circuit your efforts.
It is important to take into consideration the number of links on a potential link partner's site. One benchmark is Google's guideline which states: "...do not have more than 100 links on a page."
When counting links, count all links – outgoing as well as internal site links. We (at LinkageXpress) constantly suggest that people keep the link count per page to under 50. Besides being "safe" it also allows such pages to retain the respectable look of a resource page as opposed to just a huge list of gratuitous links.
Link Farms: a common misconception...
Quite often I hear or read comments about link or resource pages being confused with what are commonly referred to as link farms.
Link farms are pages that consist of a huge list of ASSORTED themed links that are not relative to each other or to the content of the site containing the links. It should be obvious, but I'll state it anyway, do not link to link-farm or free-for-all (FFA) sites. However, just because a site has many links on a page does not make it a link farm.
The easy way to determine how many sites are listed on a potential partner's resource page is by using the Windrose Software OptiLink to determine the accurate numbers. We also use OptiLink to gauge the inbound to outbound link ratios of these potential partners and to assist us in determining who the potentially better partners are at any given time based upon what the search engines have actually indexed.
By properly mixing the three main ingredients; relative site content, PageRank, and the volume of links on potential partner pages, ...you're got the recipe for an effective, long term, and powerful linking strategy. Following this procedure will help you establish a well linked site, add valuable resource content for your site visitors, and establish high relevance that Google and the other search engines are more likely to reward with high rankings – ultimately boosting your traffic counts while increasing your possibilities to make sales.
It's all in the links,
John Gracey has been working full time in the Link Building business since 1999 and provides consulting with www.LinkageXpress.com, a service that specializes in delivering beneficial and targeted link partners for web businesses to increase site traffic and search engine placement. John is also the CEO of 7th Dimension Sites, Inc. and www.clubwebhost.com - providing valuable and reliable products and services to the web.
7th Dimension Sites, Inc.
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