I have been diligently applying all the search engine optimization techniques you talk about, Dave, but I’m still unclear on one key technique: how do I have more people link to me?
Let’s define our term first. An “inbound link” is a link that points to any part of your site from somewhere else on the Web. For example, if you were a blogger and wrote a blog entry encouraging people to check out the personal finance site http://www.RealLifeDebt.com/ then your link would be, from your perspective, an “outbound link” (since it would take someone away from your site) but an “inbound link” from the perspective of the Real Life Debt site. Make sense?
There are also “internal links” that are inter-page links on your site, but I talked about those last week too, and highlighted the importance and value of using “organic dog food store” rather than “store”, for example, as a way of helping teach the search engines what appears on those particular pages.
Remember too that the text people use when they link to your site is critically important, so a link to the Real Life Debt site that just repeats the URL is of far less value than a link that says “personal finance blog” as the text. If you’re geeky and actually code your outbound link HTML, it’d look like this:
But. Back to our topic!
The very best way to get inbound links for your site, hands down, is to continually produce the very best possible content that is of genuine value to your customer community or readership. When was the last time you added new — fresh, unique — content to your site, speaking of which?
Another savvy strategy is to interview online personalities. You ask if they’ll participate, they (95% of the time) say yes, you send them a half dozen questions via email and then, when they’ve answered, you publish it as a Q&A and notify them it’s gone up on your site. Quite naturally, most folk will then let their community know about the interview by blogging or otherwise writing about it. And linking to you. Neat, eh?
Many people extoll the virtue of online directories, and a quick search at Yahoo.com (the original online Web site directory) reveals that there are thousands of ’em online now. The problem is, many of them are really just what Google calls “link farms”: sites that exist for the sole purpose of offering links for search engines, not humans. That’s not going to be a benefit, so if you do consider online directories, I strongly encourage you to only request inclusion in those that are legit and well known.
You can also offer to write for other sites, either by producing articles for syndication services like eZineArticles.com or by directly emailing bloggers and site owners, asking if they’re interested. If they are, write up something pithy, thoughtful and as neutral as you can make it (e.g., do not just send them a press release) then include a one-sentence bio at the end that has a link back to your own site (see HTML code above)
One way that it might seem you can get inbound links, but in fact can’t, is by adding tons of comments to other blogs or forum sites. Most of the best are now aggressively moderated (which means your off-topic submissions will just be deleted) or use what’s called a “nofollow link”, a special additional HTML attribute that tells the search engine that the following is indeed a link, but that it shouldn’t be considered as a genuine “outbound link” from an SEO perspective.
Now adding good comments on other sites is always a good idea, but the real benefit there is raising your visibility in the marketplace. Most will let you have a link to your site included, but that’s a best practice for your standing in your community, not something that’s going to improve your search engine results.
Those are the key methods. Oh, and one more: ask your friends to link to your site too, where it is appropriate and makes sense.