Most sites have a links page - why? Well, there are two very important reasons why a web developer should consider having a links page. 1. Search Engine Optimisation or SEO is only one way of getting the search engines to pick up that you are there. Something else that you must not neglect if you want your website to be noticed is obtaining links. 2. Your website is offering a service to your visitors - links provide them with other sites of interest which they may want to visit. Although the retail industry might say they want people to stay on their site, rather than going anywhere else, carefully chosen links may be able to get people even more interested in the product you are selling! You may have to think laterally! In the eyes of a search engine there definitely seem to be good links and bad links. Good links will get you higher up the page rankings and onto the top of the listings, bad links at best will be ignored and at worst could actually could against you and your site be listed much lower. - A good link is one from a site which has high relevance to yours, and which is has a good page rank. - A bad link is one from an obvious link farm, and has no contextual links to your sites. Before we go further, lets talk a little bit about page rank. Page rank is the ranking that Google gives to website pages and shows their importance as Google sees it. The Google Toolbar, which can be obtained from http://toolbar.google.com for free, is a useful tool as it can display the page rank of any web page you are looking at. The page rank (or PR) of a site ranges from 0 to 10 - 0 is where you start, 10 would be exceptional! Although Google keeps the algorithms for working out PR very close to their chests, the progression through the numbers is probably on a logarithmic scale - that is, a site ranking 2 is many times more important than that ranking 1, not just 1 point. When you are link building you should be trying to get links to your site from sites with a higher page rank than yours. Links from sites with good PR will immediately signal to the search engines that yours is a site worth indexing! The more links the better! So should you only link with sites with higher PR? Well, if everyone practised this the chances of you getting any links for your embryonic site would be zero! A site may be 0 today, but that site may also be working hard to increase its rankings and you may benefit from their progress. Also, do remember your human visitors, a site may be useful to them, even if not for your purpose of increasing your rankings! So golden rules to remember: - Aim to get links from high ranking pages - Put up links from any site which has high relevance to yours. First think of sites which it would be useful for your visitors to be able to go to from your site. For example, if you are a specialist site, are there some national organisations that promote your sport, hobby or industry? Your first step will be to email these organisations and ask if you can have reciprocal links with them. Now this may a little bit of a David and Goliath situation, and many people feel put off because they think their new immature website is far too small. You may not get any response to your emails, you may get a response refusing you, but you may find a national organisation with good page ranking agrees to link to you! Be very pleased with this! Immediately someone agrees to have a reciprocal link with you, put up their link on your website - just in case they decide to check! Now, think again about your customers or visitors - even if the big organisations have refused to put a link to you on their site, it may still be useful to put a link to them on yours for your visitors’ information. Always remember the whole goal of getting website traffic is to get and keep loyal customers or visitors - not just to attract search engine bots! Now the hard work starts. Search the web for sites on the same subject matter as yours, but which are obviously NOT competitors. Keeping an eye on the Google Toolbar look for sites which have a better page rank than yours - ideally the websites you are looking for will be ranked about 4 or 5 (higher ranking sites may be a bit snobbish towards novice sites). What about people who supply goods and services to you - can they link to yours? What about customers? Try and think outside of the box here - if you have a sporting site how about a link to a local photographer? Sometimes you can do good research away from the computer (yes, you can turn it off sometimes!). Trade magazines are often a good start - write to any email addresses and ask for a reciprocal link. You may find even if they do not have a links page already they may decide to add one! It never hurts to ask! When you are looking at websites check that they have a links page. If they do you may find there is a form on which you can submit the details on your website asking to be added to their links page or a suggest site add new link button so that it is simple to add your site. You may need to email a website if they don't seem to be canvassing links. Don’t be too put off if there isn’t a relevant category for them to list your site in - they can always add more categories. If you don't ask you don't get! If you do ask - you may well succeed! So don’t be worried about emailing and asking for reciprocal links - but do make sure you put up the links you promise! This may lead you to think a little about your site - some people don’t want to have their link at the end of a very long page. You should consider rotating banners so you can display more links, but keep the page simple. You make also need to restrict non relevant links. If you know your subject show it! And one of the best ways is to join a forum. When posting or answering a topic on the forum always use a signature with your website address on it - if the forum users like what they read about you they will click on the ljnk to visit your website, and hey presto - you have more links coming into your site! If your hosting company has a user forum, there may well be a section where you can showcase your new site - if so, you will get a number of visits through this. Lovely links for search engines and fodder for the link spiders! Also, if you visit the Guestbook of a relevant site you can also leave your website address there. BUT PLEASE ONLY IF IT IS A RELEVANT SITE! Article writing as a technique for building links and traffic is a less obvious area which a lot of people don’t know about or understand. Presumably you are an expert in your area - or at least have useful information to share with others. So write an article! Not sure if you can? Well, start with the content of your site as a basis - you may already find you have done the hard work. Can’t think of a subject? Well think laterally again. If you are selling artistic candles, for example, what about an article about the history of candle making? If you think hard enough there probably is something you can write about! You made need to do a little research, but articles will really help build your traffic and ranking. (And of course you can use them as content on your own site!) Articles do not need to be lengthy - in fact shorter is better. Probably no more than 600 to 1000 words. What you want to do in your article is write about something related to your site. Now there are a number of websites that you will publish your article for you. Other websites can use your article for free, but they HAVE to include the author details - which off course means your website details. People using your article will form links back to your site - the more different sites using it, the better the links! Better still you can submit your article to any number of article sites. Ezine Articles is one of the biggest, but any search on Google will reveal a number of others. Now, no one can pretend that this is an easy activity - it does take time. No one is going to use your article if it is not well thought out and tells them something new. It must not be boring either. But article submission is a really excellent way of improving your website’s position in the search engines, and should not be ignored. Of course articles are also important resources for Webmasters in another way - free content for your site! There are sites out there which cater for an amazing number of subjects, and in themselves can be very useful and informative! Free articles for web designing, for example, can bring you other hints and tips for making the best of your website. If you use an article you must put on the full author’s bio and a link back to their site. But the benefit to you is ready made content hopefully keyword rich which will attract the search engine bots like bees to honey! Web rings are another way of building links - again, check the page rank of the web ring you are joining. Web rings give you links, and also provide your human visitors with other sites of interest which they may wish to visit. Let’s face it - website design and publishing is actually a lot harder work that you probably first thought when you started designing your home page. But there is nothing more demoralising that having designed a wonderful site which you are extremely proud of - only to find you have no visitors at all! You probably do want to spend all of your time fine tuning your existing pages, and putting up new ones, and anything which drags you away from this will be resented, but if you want a successful website link building is something which has to be done. The best advice is to put one day a week aside for what we should call your marketing activities. Link building, along with SEO, are activities are extremely tedious. Build SEO into the way you construct your pages from the beginning (or in other words, consider not only the impact on the human eye as you design your page, but consider the spiders and bots at the same time!). And use your day a week to build links. A tip from experienced developers in this area is not to aim to get hundreds of links in a short space of time - this will again make the search engines suspicious. Instead just aim to get one quality link at least once a month. Website marketing is not a short sprint - it is more like a marathon. Many will start the race, but a large number will fall beside the wayside. But if you acknowledge it will be hard work and keep slogging away you will get to the end. There will come a time when you will receive a request from a reputable, well ranked website, asking for a reciprocal link from you! That may not be the end, but be assured that will give you a real buzz, and you will know then that most of your hard work will have been worth it!