Among the variables that help a web page or site rank well for a given search query, the links, in particular, have a very powerful impact. Why? Because Google, Yahoo Search, and Bing all believe that links to your site from other sites indicate that others believe your site has value. And when the search engines see that your site links to others that you believe have value? You get points for that, too.
Some call it link juice. We prefer the term link love.
Simply building a good website that highlights your business, goods, or services won't suddenly result in traffic and sales. The basic concept of doing business online is simple: It's all about link love. Many folks approach the concept of link love quite casually. They do so, however, at their own peril.
Link love is a lot like when love is expressed between two people; to actually mean something, it has to be the real deal. It's one thing to toss off the words "I love you" to a casual acquaintance and to seal the deal with a peck on the cheek. It's quite another to look into someone's eyes and say "I love you" like you really mean it. In other words, it's easy to link to lots of websites -- to say "I love you" to every poor slob who walks by -- but it's harder to link to specific portions of a site that lend real context to your own content.
We are in the throws of a burgeoning link economy. Links have become as valuable as content -- perhaps they always were. Mastering the art of link love can seem confusing -- daunting, even -- but you'll see real rewards for putting in the effort to get it right.
The following four laws of good link love should help you get on your way to better page rank in the major search engines.
Law 1: Give link love, get link love
If you have credible, completely original, or authoritative content on your own website, others will find it compelling and they'll link to that content, conferring their own link love on your site. For instance, if you sell curbside mailboxes -- and you're absolutely passionate about the interesting, inventive, totally creative mailboxes you feature -- make sure you're adequately expressing that passion through great writing, terrific photos, and compelling videos. Over time, folks from other sites will take notice of that passion and link to it for one reason or another. And those links will begin to add up. As Jeff Jarvis, an early blogger, internet enthusiast, and journalism professor, cleverly puts it: "Link unto others' good stuff as you would have them link unto your good stuff."
Law 2: Be honest and sincere
Carefully considering how and when you link out means that you naturally limit your outbound links to those sites that really do mean something to you. The search engine crawlers pay attention to these nuances. Indiscriminately toss out the "I love you" to any old site, and you'll get the wrong kind of notice. If you make your link love mean something, you earn respect. Make your link love the real deal.
Law 3: Build a solid foundation
All you need is love. Well -- almost. Virtually every website on the web is "crawled" by Google, Yahoo Search, Bing, and others so that web pages can be indexed by their search engines. If you want your website to appear in search results when someone uses words or a phrase pertaining to your goods or services (or news reporting or blog), you've got to be sure you have a website that is:
- Easily found
- Can be easily crawled and understood by the search engine crawlers
The first two have to do with how well you've built your website, including where and how it's hosted, and whether you do a good job creating each page in your website, which includes things like page titles (or title tags). Credibility and authority are established when the crawlers examine your link love -- and it's a key reason why the link economy came into being. Make sure you've built a solid website with content that people want to share and a clear, easy mechanism with which to share that content.
Law 4: Spice up your site
Remember, link love takes work too. It's important to be creative and always implement new strategies for getting traffic to your site as well as building those important links. Spicing it up should include these must-do tasks:
Blog. Simply dash off a few sentences each day about thoughts or issues pertaining to the goods and services you sell, the unique way you do business, something wonderful one of your employees did, or a great story about an existing customer. Be sure to promote new blog posts with links back to the post.
Set up and regularly distribute an email newsletter. E-newsletters (when done right) drive traffic back to your site and help increase sales. Be sure to repurpose your blog content in your newsletter, with plenty of links back to your website.
Organize a series of informational webinars. Admittedly, planning and producing webinars comes easier to some than others, but this "high touch" marketing strategy can produce whole lists of very qualified leads for your small business. Promote webinars with links back to your sign-up page on your website.
Use social networks. More and more of your customers are on social networks, especially Facebook and LinkedIn. When you update your page in Facebook or your group in LinkedIn, be sure there are links to your site from these locations.
Use Twitter. Twitter is an extraordinarily important method for staying connected in a casual, simple way with a wide community of people -- and it can be great for business if used effectively. When tweeting, be sure to link to a recent blog post or a new video or a relevant section on your site.
Use "real people" testimonials and their photos. A great way to establish an emotional bond with prospects visiting your site is through authentic testimonials from your customers. We use the word "authentic" because it's really important that testimonials don't sound as if someone in corporate PR wrote them for client approval. Be sure to promote and link to these via social networks when they go live on your site.
Set up a YouTube channel. Post videos about your customers, the Little League team you sponsor, a tour of your shop, or anything else to help personalize your company. Feature these in your blog or on your site and promote them -- with links!
For business owners and marketing folks who seek to generate revenue of one kind or another via their websites, understanding and embracing the link economy and link love isn't just important -- it's a matter of life or death.
For more on the link economy and useful tips on how to maximize the value of your website, download your free copy of the e-book "The Link Economy and Why It Matters to Small and Growing Businesses" here.
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