Feature Article (Pub:July 04) Link Building - Why to do it! by Paul Rudman
The major search engines all have different ways of ranking websites and thus determining where you appear in search results on different phrases. Search Engine Optimisation is the common and often vaunted method of increasing your rankings and likelihood of appearing high up in results on search phrases.
Google however use their own system for rating websites called PageRank (PR). This rating is out of 10 and refers to the importance of a web page according to the Google ranking system. No-one outside of Google can claim to understand 100% how this ranking works, but through constant analysis patterns develop and through Google press releases and statements we know that Google actually pay MORE attention to links on a website than they do the actual content of it.
This has revolutionised SEO in terms of optimising websites for Google, as both inbound (from other websites) and outbound (links from your site to other pages) can increase the ranking of your website. The reason for this is that you may be viewed either as a hub or an authority. A hub means your website is viewed as a portal, a directory that is useful for link to other websites that are important on a subject. An example might be a website that links to other websites in the field of Asthma information, and thus the site's own ranking increases as it is viewed as a useful link through to other sites.
An Authority is a website with quality inbound links. The quality is determined by the relevance of the site linking to yours and also the Google PR of that site. If high quality websites link to yours, it will be viewed as an Authority of a specific subject and theme and your ranking will increase.
Now I've explained the importance of links to your website, lets take a look at what strategies you can use to build links for your website.
Reciprocal links involve exchanging text or banner links with other websites with the view of increasing both your rankings with the search engines. Commonly they consist of some linking text such as "Asthma Information", a Description such as "Learn all about the condition Asthma and view information on it from various perspectives such as the Doctor and the Patient", and a URL that you want it to link through to.
My thoughts on these links are that they are useful if handled ethically and correctly. By this I mean take time and consider the websites that you want to be linked and associated with. Websites you would not want to be associated with would have a PR of zero for example, or sites completely unrelated to yours. The reason being that these websites could be "Bad Neighbourhood" websites (this is a bandied-around theory that you have good links and bad links, and linking with some sites could negatively impact your placements, rather than improve them).
Linking only with websites on the same theme will improve the relevancy of those links with Google. These can be directories, resources, or competitors offering a slightly different slant on the product or service you are offering.
An emerging trend is to pay for links from websites who have a high PR and do not request a reciprocal link. I do not know if it has been proved as yet, but my feeling is that an inbound link is more important than a reciprocal link - surely it is relatively simple for a search engine spider to realise that 2 websites are linked to each other, and that it could therefore be done for ranking purposes rather than be referring to a genuine authority website.
Another advantage of paying for links is that you don't have to spend hundreds of hours researching websites to link to and maintaining your own links or affiliates page, which involves researching, emailing, adding links, removing links, and maintaining links in case some become dead.
A third advantage of these links is that when they are regularly crawled by Google then the spider will follow the link and index your content as well, keeping it refreshed in the search rankings.
I have yet to see a study conducted on the benefits / results of different forms of linking, however I think it would be interesting to see if there is any difference in the different forms of linking in ranking results.
Blog is short for Weblog, and refers to an online diary in which either a single person or group get together to exchange thoughts and offer opinions. Weblogs are open to abuse from websites seeking cheap links as generally they are open to anyone to add text to the page. Because Blogs rank highly with search engines (constant refreshed content and increasing volume of content) the temptation is there to add entries promoting your website to get links to it.
I would not recommend this approach as ethically it is questionable to say the least, and in the long term this approach will be penalised by Google, and this being the case, how do you remove the Blog spams you'd already posted? They will always be there as a footprint to your dubious approach to link building and any hard work you did in other aspects of building links would be wiped out, and your website ranking would drop.
Hopefully you've found this introduction to link building of use armed with your knew-found knowledge on the importance of inbound and outbound links on your website, you will go out and start looking for great linking partners!
Paul Rudman is the director and head of optimisation at CommerceTuned, he's been involved in developing search strategies and search engine optimisation for 7 years.