Developing a Link Campaign, Part Two
Article reprinted from the November 2005 edition of the SEO Newsletter.
by: Jayme Westervelt, February/March 2006
There are a variety of ways to conduct link campaigns for your site. The type you choose to conduct will depend on how much time and effort you want to invest, and the quality of results you expect. The two main ways of increasing outbound link popularity are link submissions and link solicitation. However, outbound effort isn't the only way to increase the link popularity of your site. One example of inbound effort is providing something that is link-worthy either on your site or for other sites to use. Link campaigns can be overwhelming and often people don't even know where to start. Here are a few guidelines and a simple process that you can follow.
Organization is key when it comes to conducting a link campaign. Having a spreadsheet to keep track of the sites visited, dates that emails were sent or forms were filled out, etc. will be a life saver for you down the road. Before starting a link campaign you should create a spreadsheet that will house all this information. Some example columns you might have in your spreadsheet would be:
- the URL for the home page of the site
- the URL for the page your link will be present on
- the URL of the form or contact information page
- the PageRank of the homepage and link page
- whether or not the site requires a reciprocal link
- the date an email or form was sent
- the date you followed up
- the date the link was added to the site
If you are going to be doing directory submission, you may want to also have columns for the category, title and description you requested. All of this information will make it easier for you to go back and request the links or follow up on the progress of them later on.
Now that your spreadsheet is ready, you need to start filling it in with sites to request links from. A good place to start is to see who's linking to your competition. By doing a link:www.site.com command in Google, you can get a good sampling of the sites linking to any given competitor. In Yahoo!, I have found that Site Explorer is the easiest way to gather all the link information for a site. What's great about this tool is that you can export the information into a file that you can save, rather than having to copy it by typing or printing the results. Besides using information from your main competitors, you can also find potential sites by doing a search in the search engine for some of your main keyword phrases. If all the sites that come up in the results are direct competitors, then try adding 'information' or 'directory' or similar words to the end of the keyword phrase. This should give you sites that are research-centric which are often good link candidates. Directories are a good source of links as well. You can do the search to find directories for your specific industry or you can submit to the general directories for a broader audience. You can find a good list of directories at Strongest Links. They even give you information on the PR, the cost of submitting and other useful information.
Once you have a good list of sites in your spreadsheet, you'll want to visit each site and analyze whether or not you want to solicit a link from them. As you visit each site, it's always best to navigate through the site to check on a few things. One thing you'll want to check for is the possibility that they are involved in link spam. This could be things like involvement in an incestuous link ring or possibly selling links on their high PR pages. On the page that would be linking to you, make sure there are fewer than 100 links on the page and that they are all complementary to your site. Take into consideration whether or not the links are direct links or if they are redirected through some type of counter for tracking purposes. It's always best to have a direct link to your site. If everything seems to be in order, start inputting information into your spreadsheet on the site. This would be the time to fill in the columns like the contact information, the URL for the form submission, whether or not a reciprocal link is required, etc. Remember that the site should be synergistic to yours and should offer something of value to visitors. After all, you will be associated with this site and you want to make sure you are not going to be involved with the wrong crowd by having a link from this site.
Once your list has been whittled down to a few select sites that you feel are good candidates to link to your site, it's time to contact these sites and ask for a link. There are three main ways of contacting a site for a link. Many sites will simply have a form that you fill out. Many directories use this type of submission. Writing an email to the site owner, or webmaster, is another way. When writing an email you want it to be original and actually let them know that you were on their site. Tell them what you liked about the site, why you feel that they should link to your site, etc. Don't ever send a form letter because those will be deleted faster than anything. Another way is to actually phone the company and speak to whomever is in charge of the website. This usually yields good results, but again you'll want to be able to actually show that you visited their site.
As you solicit each link, make sure you are keeping track of it in your spreadsheet. Periodically revisit the sites you solicited from to see if they've added your link. If they haven't, don't be afraid to follow up. Once your link is added, submit the site, or that particular page to the search engines so that you can start to get credit for the link. If your link isn't added then go back to the drawing board and start from the beginning by finding new sites to solicit from. Use different competitors and different keyword phrases to get different results and a fresh list to work from.
Convincing sites to link to you can be a daunting task that often times has a low return on the time invested. Many site owners are changing the way they do their link campaigns and are having good results by producing something that is link worthy for others to choose to link into. A few examples would be press releases, RSS feeds, article submission, or creating a "link magnet." Each of these examples requires a bit of writing time on your part, but will give you a higher probability of getting links than by simply soliciting. Press releases, RSS feeds, and article submissions can be done as often as you want, but inventing a "link magnet" usually only needs to be done once. A link magnet is something that people fall in love with and want to share with anybody and everybody. A great example would be the Search Engine Relationship Chart® on the Bruce Clay website. One great link magnet could result in hundreds or thousands of links. Spend some time brainstorming ideas of possible link magnets for your site. Creating something that is useful to your users that no one else has thought of will make you a favorite among visitors.
When it comes to link campaigns, time and energy will have to be spent. Whether you are actively going out and researching sites to solicit from, or you are producing link-worthy items, you can expect to gain links for your site. As you solicit links for your site, remember that you want to be selective in your process. Solicit from sites that you find useful yourself. Don't tarnish your site's reputation by requesting links from any site that will link to you. Remember to keep reciprocal links to a minimum and to use different anchor text where possible. Keeping track of this in your spreadsheet will prevent you from overusing the same text on too many sites. Link campaigns are one of the hardest parts of SEO, but one of the most important. This is definitely not an area you want to lower your standards on because each link represents your site to visitors. Make sure you are being represented correctly and it'll pay off in the long run.