Have you got a links page on your website, or are you thinking of asking your webmaster to create you one? Don’t.
Links pages started as a logical place to store the websites you linked to in order to raise your search engine profile. I am not a fan of reciprocal linking as you might have read in previous posts, and ditching the links page is an extension of my distaste for this marketing method.
I never look at people’s links pages, and of the websites I monitor that have a links page, it is always the least popular page on a website. There are much better ways of linking to websites which your customers may be interested in.
Remember it is your customers who pay your bills. Make the website for them – not for the search engines.
You may have read previously how against reciprocal linking I am – but perhaps I should clarify – I’m against dodgy reciprocal linking. That is, when you exchange links with a website you have nothing to do with in the hope of raising your search engine ranking.
There are lots of legitimate reasons to link to another website. Here’s my favourites:
It’s much better to write some good quality text around your link rather than just having a list of links off to the side in a links page. Visitors are much more likely to visit the links this way, and it enables you to be seen as a helpful expert in your area. For an example, see the blog post I wrote about Flying Solo. How boring would it have been if I just stuck it off the side in a links page!
Back in the old days search engines were different creatures. They’ve gradually grown more intelligent, especially to people trying to trick them.
The beast of the link exchange came about because everyone wants to rank higher. The number and quality of incoming links your website has is a very important part of search engine’s ranking algorithm. So naturally millions of website owners across the world went about inflating their incoming link count by participating in link exchanges. Often you’d get an email like this in your inbox:
My name is Wild Earth Adventures, and I run the web site Wild Earth Adventures: http://www.wildearth-adventures.com/
I recently found your site http://www.cairnsconnect.com and am very interested in exchanging links. I’ve gone ahead and posted a link to your site, on this page:
As you know, reciprocal linking benefits both of us by raising our search rankings and generating more traffic to both of our sites. Please post a link to my site as follows:
Title: Wild Earth Adventures
Description: Adventure Holidays Canada, Wilderness tours and Eco tours
This email is generic, impersonal and somewhat irrelevent to my business. There is an industry theme, travel. So how could it hurt to exchange links with them?
Years ago search engines decided they’d had enough of reciprocal linking monkeys, and removed the value attached to a reciprocal link in terms of your rankings. They now reward you when someone links to your website, without you needing to link back. That’s a real endorsement.
On a website, a link refers to anything you can click on that takes you to another page or another website. In this article, we explore the reasons to link to other websites, and the benefits of having other websites link to you.
Links between websites form the foundation of the web. Without links, the utility of the web would be reduced to a mere collection of discrete websites, instead of the interactive, interconnected resource for sharing information that we all expect.
By embracing the concept of website linking you are not only doing your bit to make the web a more useful tool for everyone, but also gaining some additional market penetration for the online arm of your business.
Why should you link to other websites?
Linking to another website is when a visitor on your website can click a link and be taken to somebody else’s website. In the industry, this is called an outbound link.
If a particular website contains helpful information that would supplement information on your website, consider linking to that website to help your visitors learn more about the topic. For example, if your website sells camera equipment, you might link to sections of the manufacturers’ websites that include specifications of the products you are selling.
Where you feel another website has adequately described a topic, and you do not have the inclination to write similar information for your own website, consider linking to that website. For example, if your website books accommodation in the Cairns region, you might want to describe the local weather for your international visitors. Instead of spending the time to write this information yourself, you could link to a more authoritative website in the matter and save yourself some trouble.
If you wish to express your alliance with another business or organisation, linking to that website will allow your visitors to see the affiliation and learn more about the other business or organisation, thereby boosting your reputation. Where you are a member of an industry organisation, using their logo (with permission) will serve to further reinforce this connection.
In all cases, your web developer should arrange for the link to open the other website in a new browser window so that your own website remains open even after your visitor has finished reading the other website.
Keep in mind that original, up-to-date and helpful content on your website is better than simply linking to another website. By having more content on your website, you will have greater opportunity to be listed in search engines for keyword phrases that you include in that content, and visitors will also feel you are a more knowledgeable and helpful business when they see you have written the information yourself.
How do links from other websites help you?
Having a link from another website is when a visitor on somebody else’s website can click a link and be taken to your website. In the industry, this is called an inbound link.
Having other websites link to you will bring you more visitors and broaden the number of ways in which you can reach your target market.
Visitors who come from other websites can often be more valuable than visitors who come from search engines, particularly of the other website has given you a glowing commendation together with the link.
Having a link on a well-respected website will add trustworthiness to your business, as visitors will assume that a website they respect will only link to reputable businesses and worthwhile websites. When another business links to you from their website, it creates the perception of that business recommending or endorsing you.
Search engines consider that if another website links to yours, then your website must contain some valuable information, and will therefore list you higher in the search results for keyword phrases you have included in your content.
The quality of a link from another website matters greatly to the search engines. If the website linking to yours is itself linked from many other websites, the search engines will deem its endorsement of your website to be more reliable, and will thereby further increase the position of your website’s listing in the search results. For example, a link from a university’s website will be more valuable than a link from a friend’s personal home page.
Search engines will not place as much importance on a link from another website if your website also links to theirs — known in the industry as a reciprocal link. This is because the search engines assume the links were arranged for mutual benefit, rather than a genuine endorsement by one website to another.
How can you encourage other websites to link to yours?
Over time, you will find other websites linking to yours for various reasons: somebody bought something from you and posted their experience to their personal blog; somebody reviewed your product; or a local organisation listed you as a member.
To accelerate this natural process of acquiring links from other websites, try some of the ideas below.
Others will be more likely to link to your website if you have unique, informative and well-written content. Therefore, consider what information your visitors might be interested in that cannot easily be found on other websites, and add this content to your website in a logical, well-organised manner. As owners of other websites seek out useful information to supplement their own, your original content will be of interest, and they will consider linking to your website as a result.
Write a series of articles about a topic relevant to your industry and about which you have extensive knowledge. Add a note to the bottom of each article that you grant permission for other websites to reproduce your articles, provided they acknowledge you as the writer and link to your website.
Search for online directories — organised collections of websites, such as www.dmoz.org — and suggest your website for inclusion. Directories that are specific to your industry, location or target audience will result in more relevant traffic. Perform a web search for travel directory as an example of how to find industry-specific online directories.
Write testimonials for companies with whom you do business, including suppliers, clients and associates. Give permission for your testimonial to be used in that company’s marketing literature, which could include their website and result in a link to yours.
Understanding the importance of links — both to and from other websites — and how to use them to increase the effectiveness and visibility of your website is an important part of the process of developing and promoting your online presence.