Link Development Stragegies

Why links?
Links are a key part of the Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) that all web pages are built around. Links allow you to tie one page to another. You click a link when you want to surf to a new page and find out more information. It is how the World Wide Web functions and how global communities are achieved. Google, the largest search engine on the Internet, recognizes this and thus tracks links as a part of how it ranks sites. A highly ranked site gets traffic and traffic is what leads to sales and revenue. Links are to good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as fiber is to a good diet.

What IS a link?
Without delving into HTML too much, a link for our purposes is comprised of three parts:
1.The Uniform Resource Location (URL) - the site people reach upon clicking
2.The allinanchor - the text you click
3.The description - a brief description of the site

What Google pays attention to is the URL and the allinanchor (sometimes called "anchor text" or "link text"). We want our link to appear as many times as possible inside other websites. The allinanchor is what words Google uses to associate the site with keywords that people search. This way, when people search on words that relate to our site, we can rank a bit better than other people. There's a lot of other factors but links do play a role.

How do we get links?
This is where things become less clear. As was mentioned before, links do not play the whole role in determining results. Worse, if you do not pay close attention to whom you are linking with, you can cause more harm than good. Since we are playing by Googles rules lets take a look at their guidelines found by clicking HERE.

Keep in mind we try to keep our sites within these guidelines and we expect no less from our link partners. Look for violations of the guidelines in the site. A cursory look should turn them up in the first couple of pages. Start at the Top Level Domain (TLD, i.e. and work your way down. Flaws are typically visible from the top.

Heres a general list of things to look for:

Good Things:

  1. Easy to navigate
  2. Links pages accessible no more than 2 clicks away from home page
  3. Lots of text content in the main site
  4. Links split up amongst several pages divided by category
  5. TLD has a cache in Google
  6. Page openly accepts new link partners

Bad Things:
Google Page Rank (PR) bar is gray (may indicate the site is banned)
Hidden text on pages
Links pages are buried, orphaned (unlinked) or on a subdomain (i.e.
Links pages are excessively large (exceeding 100 links per page)
Links pages are divided by fixed numbers and scale downward (i.e. category Furniture has Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, etc. Pushes our links further and further down to where they are no longer found)
Links reside on a third domain reserved exclusively for links and his little or no content
Site is for pornographic, gambling or pharmaceutical purposes
Site content is largely in Flash or images (not seen as content by search engines)
Excessive number of links (i.e. links directory has several thousand sites) Email requesting a link wants you to do all the work or wont tell you what they want you to link to
No pages in the site (especially the TLD) are cached in Google yet

This list isnt exhaustive but its a good place to start. In general look for bad neighborhoods. If they link to us that is not our problem but if we link to them we can become part of that bad neighborhood where Google penalizes them for bad behavior and penalizes us as well. Also look for those who want something for nothing. If someone wants a link from our valuable sites but only puts a link somewhere its not valuable then it may not be worth our time. PR does not define value either. A high PR site may not rank well and vice versa.

Next, look for relevance. If someone wants a link from our teak site to a site about mud wrestling, does it make sense? Google looks for associations as well. If a site links to another site then there must be some value to the site providing the link. Does the association work? Is it going to confuse users or Google? When in doubt its best to decline a link or to hold onto it for peer review.

Third, is there a potential for a one-way link or a three-way link? One-way links are worth far more than reciprocal links. The best way to get one-way links is to write an article and publish it somewhere. Blog entries are a good source as well. Three-way links work where we link to Site A and Site B gives us a link in return. This can be as valuable as a one-way link provided that Site B isnt a junk site for doing nothing but links. Site B should have some value on its own. Likewise we can run our own three-way trades since we have several quality sites to trade with.

Lastly we need to make sure our link partners remain partners and dont become deadbeats. When we add a link to our system we can track links they give us in return and we have a spider that checks them nightly. If their link vanishes we need to check if its moved and, if it has, we remove the unfaithful linker or find the new location.

Looking for Links

If you want to look for links the best place is to start at a competitors site and work backwards. Google is your first stop. Do the following search in Google The results will be a short list of sites that Google links to. This is not an exhaustive list but it is a good jumping off point, as we know that Google has already recognized these sites and they are not bad neighborhoods.

Once you exhaust Google its time to check out Yahoo. In Yahoo we can do a much more thorough search site: This gives us pretty much every site that is linking to a particular domain. Since Yahoo doesnt include link popularity in its algorithm their tool is much more complete. This is a great place to work from since most of these sites are likely to be reciprocal or one-way linkers. Remember to do your due diligence on them, however, as Yahoo doesnt discriminate like Google does.

By Joel Hutchinson For internal Online Commerce Group Use ONLY September 12, 2006

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