Networx Panel – How to win links and influence people

This-evening I’ll be speaking on the topic of links at a Brisbane Networking function. So in preparation, I’ve put together some notes on the things I’d like to cover. I don’t know if the questions on-the-night will allow me to cover each of these topics, so if there are changes, I’ll be back to modify this post and will also collate some of the info discussed by my fellow panellists Matt Burgess and Darryl King after the event.

I’ll also be making an effort to live tweet the event, so if you’re interested, follow me on Twitter or just keep an eye-out for anything with the hash-tag #networx

Also, as a perk for anyone reading this or who attends the event, SiteMost is offering a FREE MONTH of SEO services when you purchase a website audit and mention the promotional code Networx.

Now, here’s what I’ve prepared so far…

What do we mean by links / What is a link?

A link is basically a connection between one website (or webpage) to another. A link is usually shown as text with a blue underline, however links can be styled any-way the site owner likes (so it can be different colours or styles and doesn’t always have to be underlined). Links can also be contained in images, logos and banners. The quickest and easiest way to tell if a word, image or other element is a link is to hover your mouse over it and see if the arrow changes to an icon of a little hand.

In a text-based link, the words that form the link are called the ‘anchor text’ which will be discussed a little more later.

What impact do links have on search?

Google was the first search engine to focus primarily on links as a major part of it’s search algorithm. In essence, this was one of the key points of difference between Google and all the other search engines.

When Google finds a link, it treats it like a positive referral, recommendation or vote for the site you’re linking to. So if I link from my site to yours, I’m saying to Google (and to everyone that looks at my site) that I think your website is interesting, informative, helpful or relevant to my readers and they should have a look.

To measure the value of these links, Google assigned a ranking system to each and every page on the internet based on how many (and the quality) of the links that a page has and this ranking system is known as PageRank (or PR)… which is measured from a score of 0 to 10.

In it’s most basic form (and it’s a lot more complex than this, but to get the general idea…) let’s say a page has a rank of 6 and that page links-out to 3 sites.. then each one of those 3 sites would gain 2 units of value, sometimes referred to as ‘linkjuice’.

The PageRank values increase exponentially, so getting a PR of 1 isn’t too tricky, but it’s twice as hard to get a PR2 and then twice as hard again to get up to 3 etc. etc. all the way up to 10. There are only a handful of sites on the internet that have a ranking of 10.

Here are a few common examples of how website owners will link:

click here
Best looking man in Brisbane

While a lot of links are beneficial, the wording and type of link will have an impact on how beneficial that link is.

Google looks at the text used in the link to determine what it expects to find when you click on the link. In the example above, “click here” doesn’t really give you any idea of what’s going to be at the other end because ‘here’ could mean anything. So Google gives additional weight or preference to those links that use descriptive anchor text (such as the ‘Best Looking Man in Brisbane’ example above).

So we now know a few examples of types of links.. now let’s look at types of link relationships:

- genuine / organic / natural text links (best)
- reciprocal links (or links associated with link exchange networks)
- purchased links
- link bait
- social media links (links via twitter, blogs and blog comments, web 2.0 news/article sites like digg etc.)

As mentioned previously, Google likes links that appear natural. So the type of link, where the link is located on the site, how relevant the link is, the anchor text of the link etc. all have an impact. If you’re interested in finding-out a lot more about link factors, have a look at Wiep’s Link Value Factors report (very detailed and technical, but well worth the read).

Getting high quality natural links can be one of the more challenging things a website owner can do.

So as website owners became more aware of the importance links have, they started trying to get links in any way possible (and in many cases, getting links purely for the sake of the having the link and not because of relevance to their site).

This created the phase or reciprocated links – where one website owner says “Hey, i’ve got a website…. you’ve got a website… Google like links, so if I link to you and you link back to me, we’ll help improve each-other’s search rankings”.

In theory this concept is fine if the purpose of the link exchange is because the two websites provide complimentary products/services… but in many reciprocal link relationships, the sites weren’t related and Google started picking-up on this and stopped counting these links. Here’s an example of a sites using reciprocated links.

In excessive examples, Google penalised some of these sites by dropping the PR of the pages containing the links making them pretty-much useless.

So when reciprocal links stopped working, website owners needed to find another easy method of getting links, so they started purchasing them – “Hey, i have a website with a PR5, so I’ll sell you a link at the bottom of my page for $100″

If you scroll-down to the bottom of this page, you’ll see a bunch of links that show exactly what I’m talking about.

These worked well for a while too, but due to the irrelevance of the links and the fact that a site selling links is really profiting by exploiting a feature of the Google search algorithm, Google started penalising sites that they identified as displaying obvious link selling.

For more info about penalties, here’s a reasonably comprehensive list of search penalties that Google have dished-out over the years.

So if you Google doesn’t like link exchanges or buying/selling links… what are some ways of attracting good links?

Ask suppliers, clients, friends or other companies you work closely with for a link. It’s best if you can keep it relevant to your industry, but if you can’t, testimonials can be a great way of making a non-relevant website link seem more legitimate.

Use linkbait – which basically relates to any piece of content (be it an article, video or anything really) that is designed to attract links. Here are some articles with examples of linkbait and how to use it effectively:

How to Build Links with HOW-TO Content
Link Baiting Example: How to Build Links in Any Niche
10 Link Bait Tips
LinkBait Launch Cycle
Every Site is Linkbait & Linkerati Worthy

But sometimes the best linkbait goes unnoticed if it isn’t picked-up by the Linkerati

The linkerati are like the paparazzi in the real world. The paparazzi that earn the most money and street-cred (at least in their own industry) are the ones that know exactly where, when and what celebrity to snap and are always looking for tip-offs from trusted sources to help accomplish this. The linkerati are the same, but instead of looking for celebrities to snap, they’re looking for great articles, videos and other content that, by sharing it, will improve their own online reputation by association.

Here’s a good little article explaining this concept in more detail: Who are the Linkerati?

Final tips for creating links to your websites – must do, nice to do.

Must create good content and try to make it interesting and engaging. Must understand the importance of links so that if the opportunity arises you can take advantage of it and hopefully gain the best links possible.

It would be nice if you could create a link building process within your organisation so you’re always approaching website owners for links and creating fresh and interesting content on a regular basis. As well as using social media to help promote that content and connect with your customers, peers and the general internet community as a whole.

Don’t try and do sneaky manipulative things like hiding links on your site, using excessive reciprocal links, purchasing spammy links unless you’re fully aware of the potential risks.

And one last thing – don’t forget about the offer of a FREE MONTH of SEO services when you purchase a website audit and mention the promotional code Networx.

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1 Response to “Networx Panel – How to win links and influence people”

  1. 1 Michael Jun 30th, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Good post. These tips will help anyone understand the fundamentals of linking. I think people should be aware of how to create contextual links. People should link from only relevent sites. They should also aim to link from the anchor text of the keyword that they are trying to optimise for.

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