You’ve put together a great site, complete with well thought out titles, headings and internal links, so now what? Get linked. The biggest factor in determining if your site turns up in the search results is the question of who links to you, and it deserves your attention.

Who links to me?

When another website references a page on your site, it creates a highlighted or underlined piece of text that links your page to theirs. A visitor can then click that link to see your page and continue their reading.

Since the web consists of billions of pages of information, links are the backbone of how the information is found, and are very important to your search engine optimisation strategy.

Why they matter so much

When a search engine looks for information on the internet, following links from page to page is the main way it discovers information. Further to this, search engines, such as Google, use methods to try to determine which pages are important and which are not so important. Each search engine is different, but one of the most fundamental factors in determining the importance of a web page is the quality of the pages linking to it.

A link from a quality page is like a vote of confidence. The writer of the page that links to your page is “vouching” for your site, by referencing it as a useful source of information. When a search engine counts up the number of links pointing to your site, it’s able to rank the relative popularity of the page in terms of people linking to it.

So, if you want to have a page that ranks well for relevant searches in Google, you would need to ensure that the page has been referenced elsewhere, preferably by multiple sources.

Not all links are equal

The quality of the site that links to your site is very important. You could sign up for any number of free web site directories that promise links to your site, and see little benefit, or you could get a link from a well established newspaper site and your rankings will benefit greatly.

Should I link to everyone?

No. A link is seen as a “vouch” from your site to another, and if you link indiscriminately this can have a negative impact. You should definitely be prepared to link to good, useful sources of information, but avoid taking part in “link-swap” schemes.

As when writing titles and headings, it pays to link for the benefit of your site visitors. Search engines are very good at spotting when linking is done as a way to artificially boost a site’s links, and there can be negative results.

So, how do I get linked?

There are many ways you can establish links to your site and encourage natural linking.

Give to get

By giving value through your web site, you encourage people to share this by linking to your site. For example, if you write articles on your web site, you can share useful tips and helpful information. This gives others reason to comment on your articles within their own blogs, and can result in very good links. An advantage of this approach is that by keeping your site up to date and fresh, you may be able to become an authority within your industry.

This approach does take time but can be worthwhile.

Get into directories

While linking out indiscriminately can damage your reputation, it doesn’t hurt to submit your site to relevant directories. Search for local directories for your region, or industry directories for your industry. Many are free to join and can offer alternate ways for visitors to find you.

Write for publications

Writing for other sources of information can be a great way to increase visitors to your site. Back this up by providing compelling information on your site and the visitors will be even more likely to return or mention it on their own site.

If there are other blogs within your industry, take time to write notable comments on their blogs and encourage discussion. This will reflect well on you, and offer opportunities to promote your web site. You could also submit articles to be published on their blog.

Speak to people

Getting linked is a lot like traditional networking. By putting your web address on business cards or telling people about your site, you increase the chances that people will find your site and link to it from their own. Get to know people in industries that complement your own, as they may link to you as a source of related information.

So I should join link networks?

Generally speaking, if something seems to offer something for nothing, avoid it. Many such sites encourage you to link out in return for multiple links back. This is generally frowned upon by search engines and can result in worse rankings in the search engines.

Easy does it

Like much in business, establishing yourself online is something that takes time, and a slow steady approach is the best way to ensure your web site grows to become a long-term success. Like much business, giving value and communicating to people is the best way to encourage online growth. The internet is a community, and taking part in that community is the best way to ensure your site works for you.