Search Engine Optimization: Natural Linking Strategies
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be the difference between a small, barely profitable or visible website and a traffic magnet website. There are a lot of ways, both good and bad, to influence the search engines. Some search engines react to certain strategies better than others. Some even have conflicting strategies that they react to. To document all of these things would require a significant number of pages and research that goes beyond the scope of this article. However, there are a number of things that can be documented that will work for most if not all search engines. And let's face it; there are really only 3 that make a difference between a successful and an unsuccessful SEO strategy. They are the big three: Google, Yahoo and MSN. These three search engines in any given month are responsible for over 90% of all internet searches. So, what is this article about? It's about what you can do as a website owner that will influence the search engines using commonly accepted practices of linking to other websites (outbound) and getting website links (inbound) back to you. There are basically 4 strategies that a website owner usually will employ to increase their website value in the eyes of the search engine. They are reciprocal linking, one-way linking, multi-site linking and directory linking. A website owner should not think that using just a single strategy is the right answer - sure it will help your SEO but it won't be the Best answer. The Best answer is to employ all 4 techniques and to do it naturally. Each of the four linking strategies has specific descriptions that can be summed up as:
1. Reciprocal Linking: Site A links to Site B, Site B links back to Site A
2. One-Way Linking: Site B links to Site A
3. Multi-Site Linking: Site A links to Site B, Site B links to Site C, Site C links to Site D, and Site D links back to Site A. Could be 3..N number of sites involved.
4. Directory Linking: Site Directory A links to Site A That seems simple enough but it takes time and effort to perform all 4 strategies and most website owners aren't willing to spend the time or don't have the time to spend on it. As a website owner, SEO needs to be one of the highest priority tasks that you need to address, just after Order Processing and Fulfillment and Customer Service. Without free traffic from the search engines, other traffic generation strategies that usually require payment must be engaged. Now doing the 4 strategies above is great, but it gets even harder because you have to do it in a way that doesn't trigger the search engines to enforce a penalty upon your website. No one except the search engine engineers know all of the exact penalties but we have some good theories for some of them. The first is the rate at which links are created. There is a certain threshold for creating links that is too fast. It's possible that the threshold is a sliding scale and is related to the age of the website according to the engine. For example, a young low-traffic website should not normally be getting 1000 links a month whereas an older website that gets a lot of traffic could be OK to get 1000 links a month. As you progress in your linking strategies make sure you keep this in mind, especially if you are thinking about buying links. The second is that having a link to every site that links to you will likely reduce the value of the links. In other words, if all you ever get is Reciprocal Linking, you will likely move up the SERP's (Search Engine Results Page's) but you won't reach your sites full potential. Having a mixture of all 4 strategies will appear more natural to the engines. The third is having all inbound links to your site on "linking" pages will make those links less valuable than having a natural link on a contextually relative page for a percentage of the inbound links. The higher you can drive this context percentage, the better your website will rank. These types of links are often some of the most difficult links to generate an exchange for because it requires more time and effort for both website owners. The fourth is to have links inbound from all different ranking sites. If all you have linking to you is page rank 6 and 7 sites then you are likely to be sending the message that you purchased your links and that is not natural to the engines. Some would argue that purchasing links for driving traffic is just fine and it is. However, you should not expect the search engines to give those inbound links very much weight when calculating your SERP positions. It is significantly more natural for you to have a large number of rank 1 and 2 inbound links and a decreasing number of inbound links as you move up the page rank scale (0 - 10). The fifth is to have the text of you inbound links varied. It isn't natural to have every website that links to you to have the same text on the link description. The natural tendency would be to have a certain percent be the sites name, but after that it should be a wide variety of description. Your link text description is a key factor for how your site/page will rank, so make sure that you keep that in mind as you specify your preferred link text description on your website. Finally, it would be best for a good percentage of your inbound links to appear within the text of a page that appears natural for the reader of that site. And for those links to not all point back to the home page of your website. It's most natural for a good high quality link to appear in the text of a page and have it point internally within your site. So, when you begin or continue your SEO activities keep all of these things in mind and don't be impatient. Impatience could incur penalties or worse. Your website could end up in the "sandbox". It is rumored and becoming more concrete that Google supposedly uses a sandbox that questionable sites are put in until they have aged to a point that Google no longer feels that they are being manipulated. Many of the search engines use similar protection schemes to eliminate spam sites and manipulation sites to keep their SERP's from being cluttered.
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