Link Popularity Is About More Than Just Search Engines
Increasing link popularity is important in search engine optimization
and effective linking can give a real boost to rankings.
there are other important benefits to link popularity that rarely get
As a result, they are not incorporated into planning link campaigns: but they
should be and this article will explore why.
Some benefits may seem obvious, others not. But put them together and you'll be
able to create a comprehensive linking strategy focused on delivering business
You'll be able to make a compelling business case for all the hard work and
effort that has to go into a successful link campaign and you'll have a much
higher likelihood of success.
Let's list the benefits, and then look at them in more detail.
effective linking strategy can:
1. Create a detailed map of your industry online
2. Create trust in your brand
3. Attract qualified leads
4. Create value for your customers
5. Attract even more links
6. Establish your company in a virtual community.
1. Create a detailed map of your
Understanding the business environment in which you work is fundamental to success,
yet how many of us have a true picture of our industry online?
Rather than conducting research to 'find potential link targets', conduct
research in order to understand the online marketplace and your place within
That knowledge in itself can bring substantial benefit to your business.
So, if you sell environmental services, you need to know where to find out
about existing and proposed legislation, you need to know the latest research,
the hot topics and the debates that may be raging.
If you sell luxury chocolates, you need to know the sites were quality gifts
are reviewed and recommended and you need to know the sites that chocoholics
Understanding the marketplace means gathering information and resources,
sifting through them and drawing sound conclusions.
your industry online, you need to identify:
major portals - what resources do they have? Do they publish breaking news? Do
they carry feature articles on companies like yours? Do they have a directory
of suppliers? How much traffic do they get? How often are they updated?
newsletters - many of the portals will either provide email newsletters
themselves or carry lists of other newsletters. Sign up for them and scan the
content. What opportunities exist for your company or service?
• ezines - these may be independent online magazines or
affiliated with a print magazine. What type of content do they carry? Do they
have a searchable archive?
blogs - a blog or 'weblog' is a frequently updated web journal. The best are
great sources of breaking news and links to great material. Google has just
purchased http://www.blogger.com Blogger.com and that is sure to herald a
growth in business blogging during 2003. (see http://www.blogs4business.com Blogs4business)
forums and discussion groups - what forums exist in
your industry? How active are they? Who takes part? What issues are discussed?
Spend a few weeks trawling these sites, reading the newsletters, watching or
taking part in discussions. You'll quickly get a picture of the important
sites, the type of content they carry, how often they are updated, which are
first for breaking news.
Next step: Classify the sites you have identified.
Some will be great sources of industry knowledge, some may be great for
recruitment, others great for customers to gather and find out about products.
Draw up a full list together with brief comments about each one. This will be a
very important document to share with your staff or web developers - they will
find it useful for all sorts of reasons.
Look at your own position within the online marketplace. How often are you
mentioned? How often are your competitors mentioned? What could you do to
improve your visibility?
What business objectives could you achieve if you were more active?
2. Create trust in your brand
Creating trust in the brand can be a major problem for sites that have just
been launched and for small to medium sized companies who have little budget
for brand building.
But you are often known by the company you keep and a well-linked site builds
If respected industry portals or newsletters carry a link to your site, they
pass on a degree of status. If you are mentioned in all the right places,
prospects will come across your name again and again - repeated exposure builds
awareness and strengthens your brand.
3. Attract qualified leads
Following links is one of the most popular ways for people to find new sites.
According to research from http://www.gatech.edu Georgia Tech, 85% of people find
new sites through following a link - this compares to 87% for search engines
and 38% for email. So linking can be one of the best ways to attract new
business. According to the Seybold Group, 50% of Amazon's new customers arrive
through links from other sites.
Every link from an external site is another opportunity for a qualified lead to
find and arrive at your site. The more links you have, the more qualified
traffic you could attract.
Look at the sites you identified and classified in your research.
Which sites offer the best potential for capturing prospects and what will you
have to do to persuade them to link to you. ? What competitive selling messages
are people likely to meet? How can you strengthen the impact of your own
The key to this is to be aware of the value that you offer and to present that
value through your link text in a way that attracts customers. Not an easy
task, but not impossible either.
What content do you have on your site? How attractive is that content to
potential link targets? How attractive is the content to users of their sites?
If you run an environmental consultancy, a self-assessment tool or a white
paper will be attractive. If you sell chocolates, an article on seasonal gifts
or daily recipes could be attractive. 'Content' could be an online sales
facility, an online service, a self-assessment tool, an instant quotation, a
white paper, tips on using your products, a problem solving article - even a
comprehensive set of links for your industry.
If you feel your site lacks content, you'll have to create it. Without good
content other worthwhile sites will simply not link to you.
Look to the information and expertise within your company. How much of that
could be turned into valuable content? Rework the material for the web or
employ a professional writer to do the work for you. (Excellent free guide from
http://www.tightcopy.com Kathy Henning)
Look at your most attractive content. Make sure it is easily accessible from
your home page. Look at the titles and descriptions. Do they really do a
selling job for you? Sites that link to you are likely to use your own titles
and descriptions. If these are not benefit rich and customer focused, you're
wasting a major opportunity.
Which of these is the most attractive?
APEX Environmental Consultancy - Company Profile
Welcome to the website of APEX Environmental Consultancy. This site provides a
guide to the wealth of experience we have accumulated over 25 years ...
APEX - Europe's Leading Environmental Consultancy
Covering risk management, environmental monitoring, planning and design with
offices in London, Paris and Düsseldorf.
The second might just get the vote.
4. Provide value for your customers
You can provide value by sharing, guiding and directing your customers to
You can't just have inbound links, you must also direct people to valuable
external resources. This should not be confused with reciprocal linking - 'if
you link to me, I'll link to you' - which is worthless. Link to external
resources because they are useful, not because they happen to link back to you.
Many sites refuse to provide external links because they feel they will lose
customers. But you are much more likely to lose customers if you stand on the
sidelines and miss the opportunity to help them. Customers will already be
searching online - much better that they should get information through you
than having to search themselves.
You need to be confident enough in your own offering.
You can direct your prospects and customers to content that they'll find of
value and which will help them in their buying decisions.
So the environmental consultant may want to link to state regulations, industry
debates, published research and reports: the chocolate retailer may choose to
link to entertaining articles, reviews of her own products or shopping guides.
The material you collected in your research of your industry is valuable
material. How much of that could you productively share with your prospects or
5. Attract even more links
If your site is well-linked, then the probability of attracting further links
This happens for a number of reasons - you'll feature high in search engines
rankings so more people will find you, more webmasters will be exposed to your
material and your PageRank on Google will be
relatively high, making you more attractive to link to.
There is a simple power law at work - the 'rich get richer' or 'links attract
Of course, the ideal situation is where your content or services are considered
so good that people link to you without even being asked.
Put an effective linking strategy in place and over time it will gain its own
momentum and each new link created will become a source of new prospects for
Such a power law has implications for your competitive standing. If a
competitor has more relevant links than you, then the gap between you is sure
to grow - unless you take some affirmative action.
6. Establish your company in a
Every industry has a virtual community online. Some may be under-developed,
others busy hubs with hundreds or thousands of visitors every day and lots of
business being done. An effective linking strategy helps you become part of
that virtual community.
If you are an active member of that community, you'll have all the benefits
that I've talked about.
• get to hear industry news as it
• be able to spot trends and
• build networks and strategic
• have ready access to customer
have your company recognized and valued.
A linking strategy is difficult and it demands a lot of work and a lot of
persistence to be successful.
Yet, ultimately linking is what the web is all about. You will come up against
obstacles and frustrations but in the process you will learn a huge amount.
Companies who recognize the importance of linking and incorporate it into their
thinking will be the ones to prosper and survive.
McGaffin provides link building services to established and newly launch websites. He is the author of
the highly acclaimed 'Linking Matters Report'. You can claim your free copy at http://www.linkingmatters.com.
Article reproduced with Ken McGaffin’s permission.