Using reciprocal links to boost Website position in search engines

Connectivity - now a full-fledge business - is the key, says tech columnist Dana Greenlee.

Editor’s note: Dana Greenlee’s column is being run a day early this week to make room for a story in tomorrow’s paper.

The skeletal system that holds the Internet together, from my perspective, is hyperlinks. Linking from one Website to another, forming a Web of paths that can run you from one end of the Internet to the other has always been a fantastic voyage. I can spend hours following links that soon have me so off-topic that I forget what it was I was trying to accomplish in the first place.
Linking is not just for amateurs anymore. It is a full-fledged business with high stakes returns and can be more about competitive edges over your competition. It’s called Search Engine Marketing and search engine optimization and passionate followers of SEM even have their own annual convention. The “Search Engine Strategies” conference concluded today in San Jose, Calif. My husband attended last years and was supposed to be there this week as well. In the search engine marketing business, trends and methods turn on a dime and what you knew to be important last year can be so “five minutes ago” a year later.

One aspect of search engine marketing hasn’t changed a great deal over the past year. Ever since Google began placing importance on its Page Rank system, Website owners have been scrambling to get incoming links to their websites, usually through the means of trading links. Incoming links are important in the Page Rank system, because they are seen as “votes” for your site, and the more “votes” you get, the more important your site is considered, and the higher it is placed in Google’s search results. However, if you study the details of the Page Rank system you will find that not all incoming links have the same weight, and that the non-reciprocal links to your site, the one’s you didn’t have to trade for, are given more importance. So, Website owners should spend some time building up these non-reciprocal links. I have a few ideas that can help your site get where you want to be.

1. Get your site listed in the major directories: Directories are different than search engines in that they are categorized lists by subject. The two important directories at the present are Yahoo and the Open Directory Project (www.dmoz.org). Yahoo is the old standby of the Internet and despite the rise of Google, the addition of a hefty $299 fee, and changes in the way they display their listings, a link to your site from Yahoo’s main directory (and it’s regional variants) can boost the standing of your website much more than a few links from an obscure Website.

The other major directory, the Open Directory Project is free of charge and is edited by volunteers. My husband has been an Open Directory editor back in the early days. It is sometimes difficult to get a listing because they scrutinize listings and do not list sites that don’t offer original content. If your site consists only of affiliate links, then the editors will reject your application. In addition, the volunteer editors have been unable to keep pace with the amount of sites to be reviewed and they can take months to process your entry. Compounding the problem are technical glitches which sometimes make it difficult to even submit the form. Despite the problems, inclusion here is well worth your effort. Inclusion in both Yahoo and the Open Directory Project can mean the difference between a “page one” or a “page five” showing for your site in search results, especially in competitive categories. You’ll want to follow a few important points if your Open Directory submission is to be successful:

– Make sure that your site has original content. Write content and show the editors that your site has something original to offer.

– Check your site for spelling errors make sure that your site looks good. Though the editors are looking for original content, they are only human and will be annoyed by errors and by a clumsily built site. It is my experience that professionally designed sites, with good content, always make it into the directory.

– Be sure to put your contact information on the Website. An e-mail address is not enough. I understand that if you don’t have a physical address or telephone number then the entrants in his category are toast.

– Choose the right category for your submission. When you submit a URL to a robotic search engine there is not much to think about, but whenever you submit to a directory an important part of that submission is choosing a proper category. Go online and see where sites similar to yours have been placed in the directory. When you find the category that you think is best, then press the add URL link.

– Don’t spam the Directory! Submit your site one time and be patient. Generally you are only allowed to submit to one category.

2. Get your site listed in directories relevant to your particular product or service: There are many resource directories that serve particular areas of interest. If you offer software that would be helpful to Webmasters, for example, then do a search for Webmaster resource directories and you will find sites where you can add your URL. Not only in improvement of your page rank but listing in specific industry or product oriented directories will bring you targeted traffic of people particularly interested in what you have to offer.

3. Write articles for publication on other Websites. I’ll let you in on a secret. This is one of the reasons I write for the Tacoma Daily Index.I write articles about technology, which is something I’ve been deeply involved with for six years. The online version or he Index also links to my Website from their home page. This is a good quality link in Googles eyes.

Many other Websites are hungry for original content. If you write articles that are posted, they often will include a link back to your site. The link will once again boost your Page Rank, but just as importantly, it will establish you as an authority in your field and will help “brand” your product or service. You don’t have to write to hundreds of Webmasters individually to get your article published, go to www.yahoogroups.com and do a search for “Internet Articles Publishing” and you will find many groups that will enable you to reach Webmasters looking for articles.

4. Beef up the content on your own site. The original concept behind the Page Rank system was to try to highlight the websites that are really valuable, and offer something unique to the Internet.

If you publish an Internet version of your company brochure, no one is going to link to you.

However, if your site is filled with interesting articles, reports, data and reference material then you will get links without even asking for them. You can add content to your site, by writing and publishing your own articles, the same ones that you will offer to other sites, as well as by publishing the articles of others.

If you apply some of these methods you will not only get some high-quality non-reciprocal links but you will also boost the quality of your Website in the process.

Dana Greenlee is co-host/producer of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based nationally syndicated radio and Webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.

WebTalkGuys Radio
This Saturday, August 7, WebTalk Radio show guests include Myles Charles Buchwalter, vice president, client analytics, Nielsen//NetRatings. Buchwalter will discuss his analysis of trends in search engine link advertising. WebTalk Radio is heard at 11 a.m. Saturday on KLAY-AM (1180) and 10 p.m. Tuesday on KVTI-FM (90.9) as well as on the Web at webtalkradio.com.

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