The current economy has made marketing small business more difficult than ever before. Including relevant and useful links in your marketing plan, and seeking inbound links from related websites, can help you build a better marketing plan and increase your search engine rankings.
Let’s face it, the world of Internet marketing is confusing – especially for laymen. With constantly changing ‘secret’ rules, the search engines (most notably Google) have created an environment that can be difficult to navigate. While many SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques have been thoroughly explored, link building is often overlooked. The reason is simple: link building can be a long and time consuming process. As a small business owner, it is important to recognize that link building is a valuable tool for increasing online visibility.
Small businesses are fiercely competitive online, especially those who have chosen to focus on smaller niche markets. Backlinks, once an important facet of an SEO program, got a bad rap for several years, as many business professionals began buying lists of them. The impact was immediate and search engines began carefully examining backlinks as a part of the ranking system. “Dead” links that led nowhere and links that were not related to the core content of a site were disregarded by the ranking formula. In cases of severe abuse, search engines effectively banned websites from their result pages. This was because the process was all wrong.
An organic backlink program, based on live and relevant links can make a big impact, especially in competitive small business markets.
What Is A Link
In order to understand how link building can impact your search engine rankings, first take a few minutes to understand just what a link is. The word link is actually short for ‘hyperlink.’ A hyperlink is a word or phrase that is connected to another web page. For example, someone marketing organic dog food may ‘link’ to grooming websites or those offering health products for dogs. Effective links always provide the visitor with valuable or relevant information.
Links do more than provide extra information to your viewers; the number of links plays an important role in determining where a website ranks on a search engine results page. While it is impossible to say how important a role links play, because the formula used by search engines is proprietary, a role is clearly present.
Understanding the Building Block of Link Building
As if SEO wasn’t confusing enough, link building means two different things:
- Inbound Links — links from other websites that direct viewers back to your site.
- Outbound Links — links that appear on your website and direct viewers to an external website.
Both are important for the same reason: search engine ‘bots’ or ‘spiders’ (the mechanism used by search engines to sort through and rank websites), are attracted to links. In simpler terms, the higher the number of links your website contains or is referenced by, the higher your website will rank on a search engine results page.
Building a Better Link List for Small Businesses
In terms of marketing, link building can be very effective. Remember your links should be designed not only for search engine spiders, but for your human readers, so begin the process with both in mind. Carefully consider your specific niche market while developing a list of potential inbound links and outbound links.
For outbound hyperlinks, choose reputable websites by carefully reading through the site to make sure the information is valid and that any offers made on the page are legitimate.
Inbound hyperlinks can be a bit more difficult. Once you develop a list of websites that are a good fit for you and your product, take the time to email the website owner or admin to request a link. Offering a reciprocal link on your website is often very motivating.
While it takes time to build a good link list, doing so will increase your page rankings and help drive traffic to your site in the long run.