Building inbound links, also called backlinks, is a critically important part of any web site search optimization campaign. A hyperlink pointing to a web page is a popularity vote for that page, and all of the major search engine keep track of every link they find leading to every web page in their indexes.
At one time, every link was a good link and the web site receiving the most links typically won a top position in search engine rankings. Today, the quality of each link plays an important role in determining how much influence a link will have on the receiving page. Not all links are treated equally, especially with Google.
The best quality link is a link from an authority site in your industry. Ideally, the link text should contain keywords that reinforce the keyword theme for the receiving page. That means that a quality link to a page selling green widgets should ideally originate from a web site for a major manufacturer or distributor of widgets, or perhaps from an authority site that already ranks well and is focused on the topic of green widgets. If the link is a one-way link and is found within the text of a page (like the links on this page), it is considered to be a natural link. Links are natural links when they are one-way links and occur naturally as part of the content on a page that covers a topic related to that of the receiving page.
Building links to a web site is one of the hardest parts of any SEO campaign, but one that is more important than most web site owners realize. The problem lies with the fact that with most businesses, the only industry-related sites are those of competitors. Whenever possible, obtain links from each of your suppliers, but keep in mind that the links must be a hyperlink that can be found on a “spiderable” web page, which is a page that a spider can reach. Many manufacturers offer dealer lookups using a zip code or state entered by a user. Those types of links are database-driven and cannot be reaced by a spider. They may still drive traffic, but they are useless for link building purposes.
So How Can a Web Site Owner Build Inbound Links?
The best way to accumulate links naturally is to provide excellent, informational content. Become an authority on a topic and write great content related to targeted search phrases, which are also known as keyword themes. Many authors, bloggers and forum participants like to link to web pages that provide the very best coverage of a topic. The numerous inbound links to Wikipedia articles is the number one reason as to why a Wikipedia page is very commonly found in one of the top three positions in Google for almost any topic that they cover. The content is generally excellent and all of the accumulated links push that site’s pages to the top of the search engine results pages.
The reason that most web sites do not accumulate inbound links is because they focus too much on laying out pages that simply tout the company’s products and services. While this information is important once a potential customer finds the site, the issue at hand with search marketing is one of getting the customer to the web site in the first place. Pages that accumulate inbound links will naturally rank higher and will drive more traffic.
A method successfully used by many sites is to provide something useful, such as an online tool that accomplishes something useful for your customers and potential customers. While this is not a fit for some businesses, for others it can be very successful. It is common to find mortgage calculators or home finders on real estate sites because they are useful for the site’s typical visitor. Sometimes it is a matter of providing a very good quality technical cheat sheet or a white paper that covers a topic better than any others on the web.
The key to making this work is to provide something unique and very useful. A mediocre freebie offering will not help build links to a web site. Think in terms of what would be useful to your customers and build a page based upon a targeted keyword theme. Include the freebie download link on that page.
Checking Competitor’s Inbound Links
It can be very useful as well as informative to check out your competition’s inbound links. This is easiest to do with Yahoo, primarily because Google only displays a random sampling of links to a web page and Bing (MSN) does not provide inbound link information.
If you are wondering who is linking to a competitor whose site performs better than yours on search results pages, it may be due to the number or quality of the links leading to their web site. Go to Backlink Watch and enter the domain name you wish to check. This will give you a fairly comprehensive list of the links pointing to the home page. Study the list and see if you spot local business directories or industry sites that are providing links. Many local business directories offer a free listing and therefore are very likely primary opportunities for links to your site. Studying the list will also give you good idea as to which linking tactics the competitor is using, which can be translated into a new linking tactic for your site.