It’s no longer enough for us as site owner’s to say that we are popular with our visitors, if we want to earn and keep the top rankings at the search engines we now have to prove it. All of a sudden the links back to your site are important as they can affect your link popularity, but it isn’t a simple numbers game. It’s not just a case of how many sites are linking to you, but more of what sites they are!
There is little doubt as to the importance of link popularity at the search engines, and there are several ways you can go about boosting your rankings. Some of the techniques that are touted to improve link popularity can actually do more harm than good, while others offer a poor return on your investment of time.
Building Relevant Links
The links that will make the biggest difference to your link popularity are those from sites that are relevant to your site’s topic. The more sites similar to your own you can get to link to you, the better it will be, particularly if you manage to get a prominent link at a busy site.
How you go about getting links from such a site is another matter. You could always do some research to find out details of sites that may link to you and ask if they would like to exchange links; but it is a long and laborious task that is unlikely to bring much benefit unless you get lucky. You’d need a lot of time to plan your link exchanges and follow them up if you want them to work.
Writing quality content can do wonders for your search rankings, but if you allow other sites to use the content on the understanding that they link back to your site, it can benefit the both of you. It helps them rank better in the search engines while providing content they otherwise wouldn’t have the time or knowledge to write. It helps you because you get more exposure to your work while improving your link popularity.
If you are really desperate to have other sites link to you, you could start your own affiliate program or link contest. Both of these ideas will give other webmasters an incentive to link back to you but could mean a lot of work to sustain interest and to make the links more permanent.
If you are the sort of person who doesn’t mind helping others out, then you can use this to your advantage. There are many discussion boards and newsgroups around where you can help people while making them aware that your site exists. So long as you keep people’s respect by promoting your site discretely in your signature (always follow the rules of the forum or newsgroup), you can leave your mark on all sorts of discussions that relate to your site content. If this content is archived and regularly spidered then you could improve your link popularity just by being actively helpful.
Another way you can be helpful while improving your link popularity is to become an editor at one (or more) of the directories such as Zeal or DMOZ. Getting your site listed in these directories will help to boost your search rankings, but if you can make it in as an editor you will have the opportunity to look for sites to approach with link exchanges while helping to improve the directories.
Don’t Waste your Time
Free For All (FFA) link pages are only good for one thing, collecting email addresses to send a one time mailing to. Many of these pages are full of links that few people (mainly other webmasters that are submitting manually) will see. The average lifespan of a link on a FFA link page is too short to be useful, particularly if it has been picked up by the submission programs that are out there.
A link farm is a reciprocal link service where everyone that takes part agrees to link to each other, but usually in a way that is not obvious to their visitors. They work by creating a page of links that lists all the participating members of the scheme; this page then has to be linked to from the main page of the site so that the spiders and bots can easily find them.
Link farms are not generally a good idea. Not only are they likely to create links between many totally unrelated sites, but also most of the search engines are aware of them and look out for duplicate pages across multiple domains. At best, all you can hope for is slight improvement in your link popularity, is it really worth the risk of getting yourself banned from the major search engines if they catch on?
Which Links Affect my Link Popularity?
The only links to your site that can have any sort of impact on your rankings are those that the search engines are aware of. It has been known for site owners to submit other pages to a search engine purely to help improve their own link popularity, particularly if the link is related to the topic of their own sites.
It is worth mentioning that most search engine spiders will take note of the words used to link documents together, and so you should suggest a format for your links whenever possible. A well-worded link on a highly relevant site will do more for your ranking than the same link on a larger unrelated site.