Posted Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Most website developers are now spending a lot of time and often money to appeal to Search Engines. Many pay the $199.00 review fee that is optional now at Yahoo!, or employ specialists to tweak and tune their metatags, keywords and titles. Search Engines are certainly still vital to the success of your site, but trading reciprocal links with other sites may now be of increased importance as the intenet grows by something like a million sites a day.
The designers of the newly popular Search Engine "Google", which gets its raw search data from "The Open Directory Project" have designed a system where the "rank" of your site when called up by a search is now determined by its link relationships and also by how many times your site is mentioned or referred to on other sites. To put it simply, Google wants to know that your site is linked to many sites whether they are directories, competitors sites, Message Boards or whatever
The logic of this is that if your site is worth linking to or referring to it must be of interest. Not only does Google's system rank how many times your site is mentioned in link pages, but it also checks to see how "linked" the sites that carry your reciprocal link are. Sound complicated? It is, but what the searcher gets is a better shot at finding what he or she wants precisely and quickly.
There are some oddities to the Google system. If you type the phrase "more evil than the devil" into Google and then hit the "I'm feeling lucky" option (a button that brings you the most likely page Google can find) you get, believe it or not, the homepage of the Microsoft Corporation. Why is this? Because so many pages on the net have referred to what they perceive as the evil side of Microsoft. Thats a powerful, but unintended effect of all the links and discussion boards out there on the net.
But, back to your site, lets talk about how you can use links to your advantage. Do you maintain reciprocal links on your page? Perhaps to client's pages, supplier's pages, or pages that would be of interest to your visitors? I would advise you to create and or expand such a page. Then, send an e-mail to each of the sites you have linked to, mention that you have given them a link, and ask that they post one for you in return. Many sites will return the favor. Sites that may charge for banner advertising will give you a link for free.
Have you surfed the web and located sites that you would like to provide a link to you? Spend some time contacting them: the worst they can do is say "No" to your request.
As more sites give you links you will find that more visitors get to you this way, especially if what your site deals with is specialized . Creating links is a way of finding your "target" audience. And of course, Google will rank you higher, and hopefully not as a demon.
At artsiteguide, which is off to a good start without Yahoo!, a single free link from a major art site sends me one-third of my traffic. How do I track this? I would recommend that you get Stattrack (http://www.stattrack.com). This device will tell you which of your links is bringing in the traffic. You will be suprised as you build up links to find that they may out-do the search engines by quite a margin.
Finally, one more idea. Create an award that you can give to one or more of the websites that you would like to link to your page. I have an award called "editor's choice" with a small but handsome banner. When I have given this to other sites (with real selectivity) they will often fly the banner with a link back to artsiteguide. That amounts to a free banner ad, possibly from a site that may not have linked to you before.
In the future of the crowded internet, link relationships are of increasing importance and the apearance of search engines like Google and Clever may underscore this development.
About the Author
John Seed, Editor