NEW: Chris Thomas

Link building is a massive topic, not very sexy, but vital to successful websites.

Link building 101

Last week I wrote about how you can sell links from your site for a profit. However, probably the question I get asked most is what is the best way to get links pointing to your website.

So for the next few weeks I want to discuss the difficult task of link building. It’s a massive topic, not very sexy, and there’s no way I can cover all of it here, but it’s vital to understand if you want your website to succeed (which I’m quite sure you do!).

By now I’m sure you understand that Google (and other search engines) like quality links pointing to your website, and, with all things being equal, I guarantee you’ll be rewarded with stronger rankings. As you well know, a stronger search engine ranking is often the first step towards greater profits.

Link building is by far the most difficult aspect of SEO, and can be a very onerous and long-term activity. Frankly, many SEO firms do their best to shirk this process, relying more on their on-page optimisation efforts to propel their clients’ sites higher. Many even outsource the task. But in the end, there is only so much on-page SEO can do before ranking improvement stalls, especially for competitive key phrases.

Another problem SEO companies face is that by its very nature, link building potentially takes their clients’ websites into the grey area of SEO, because they’re trying to artificially boost a website’s ranking by procuring links. Google takes the position that if your website has great content, other websites will want to link to yours. It follows that links to your website will build naturally as your content is rewarded and linked to.

But for many websites, particularly new ones or e-commerce sites, building great content is not an easy thing to achieve and you will struggle to naturally obtain “in bound links” (IBLs) from other sites.

Whether you’re just starting out or wanting to increase your link popularity, the first port of call when trying to obtain quality links is online directories. That’s because directories will give you the all important “one way link”.

Undoubtedly the most important place to start is DMOZ is the world’s largest “human edited” (volunteer) directory and to have a listing at DMOZ is considered extremely important by search engines.

This is because a real person has reviewed each website in the directory, (something the major “spidered” search engines can’t and don’t do). So your website’s inclusion in DMOZ gives it credibility or a “quality score” in the eyes of the major search engines, and often has an immediate positive effect on your rankings.

It is very difficult to obtain a listing in DMOZ, and it can take many months (or even years) to be included once a request has been submitted. It is a tricky process and must be done just right to ensure inclusion. So follow DMOZ’s inclusion instructions to the letter!

I also recommended that each of your web pages has an additional meta tag added:

<meta name=”GOOGLEBOT” content=”NOODP” />

The above tag will instruct Google not to use the DMOZ Editor description (which is often terribly uninspiring) in your web site’s search engine results (SERPs) and to only display the meta content description tag.

Obviously, the bigger the directory you list in the better, so directories like Yahoo! should also be on your list. It’s also worthwhile going to Google and typing in “Online business directories” or “my keywords + add url” to find local and international directories to list in which are related to your website.

The next trick is to try and get important keywords/phrases into your listing, ideally words that match your on-page and meta tag SEO efforts. So, for example, if you have a website that is about wedding cakes, then try and include the words “wedding cakes” into your listing. It’s even better if you can get the words into your listing as anchor text, like this: “Wedding cakes by So and So Pty Ltd”. I’ll discuss the tremendous importance of anchor text another time.

Should you buy 1000 listings in 1000 directories? I get asked that question a lot. My answer is “yes, it’s OK”, but spread it out. Try and add, say, 25 directory listings per month. Make it look as natural as possible and you’ll stand less chance of the search engines filtering out and discounting those new links.

If you suddenly have 1000 links pointing at you overnight, it just doesn’t look natural. Making your link building appear as human and as natural as possible is what it’s all about.

In the next few weeks I’ll discuss whether reciprocal linking is worthwhile, the pros and cons of buying links, utilising forums and using affiliates to deliver links. Dizzy stuff folks!


Chris Thomas heads Reseo a search engine marketing company which specialises in setting up and maintaining Google AdWords campaigns, Affiliate Programs and Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a range of corporate clients.

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