Categorized | List Building

Building Effective Link Relationships

As you build your website to attract readers and potential buyers, you will want to consider the content that goes into each page. For an author selling a book, naturally there should be material designed to entice readers to purchase: an excerpt of the book, glowing reviews, and the necessary call to action in a means to make an online purchase.

Oftentimes, to enhance a site’s relevancy on a particular topic, outbound links are included for visitors to sample after they have browsed the site. “Outbound” here refers to links leading the visitor off the website. While it may helpful to provide outside information to visitors, it is a combination of the quantity and quality of inbound links that better determines your site’s ranking in relevant search. Note, in the case of website seeking attention from Google, Yahoo, and other major engines, that quality is the key word.

Is it better to have a website linked from a thousand mediocre, irrelevant websites, or from fifty strong, relevant sources? Search engine optimizaton methods have long been debated since SEO became a legitimate industry, but the fact remains, regardless of what is effective, that link popularity is one of the most important elements of site optimization. More so than proper META data implementation and URL submission, strong link popularity lets search engines know which websites are the most reputable and relevant to various searches.

That said, for an author or musician, or online retailer seeking to build quality inbound links, it is necessary to research and sift the wheat from the chaff. Building good link relationships can be simple or challenging, depending upon the nature of your website. As you look into this type of site promotion, take care to consider a few things:

1) Organic links always trump reciprocal links

It is said that you know a site is truly relevant to a particular subject when many websites link directly to it without being asked. These are known as “organic” links. Websites for major news sources and companies like CNN, Yahoo, and ESPN may enjoy high popularity through constant linking via news sites, weblogs, and sports sites. Amazon.com may benefit from association with many sites relevant to books and music, while social sites like MySpace and YouTube offer cultural relevancy to weblogs and entertainment sites.

Unfortunately, not every site can be an Amazon or MySpace. However, if your website offers a niche it is still possible to attract other site owners for a link relationship. An author I knew who wrote Christian fiction, for example, managed to establish linking relationships with various Christian organizations and ministries. By sending a few complimentary copies of her book, not only was she able to have the sites link to theirs, but she also procured favorable endorsements for the work.

Take advantage of the niche your book brings to the community. If you write about sports, seek out websites related to your topic. If you write romance, find those websites. Connect with webmasters and readers, and offer samples of your work if necessary.

2) Link farms and FFF sites may hurt more than help

Used to be (and to some extent you still see it) there were a number of services that offered to submit websites to thousands of search engines. To the novice webmaster, that may sound like a promising venture into search engine optimization, but at the end of the day the only search engines that make a difference are the ones used most by Internet users – Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other minor engines like AOL Search and Ask. The majority of these so called “engines” may turn out to be nothing more than pages using “parked” domain names (that is, a purchased URL not officially in use) to support coding full of search mechanisms drawn from other engines. Other sites may actually be link farms or FFA (free for all) sites, where anybody in the world can submit a site to attempt good link popularity.

A closer inspection of some sites reveals they can do more to harm a site’s relevance in Google than help. FFA sites in particular are a haven for pornography portals and sites of dubious interest, while link farms might require a reciprocal link in order to be included. If the link in question is not relevant to your site, it wouldn’t make sense to engage in such a relationship. Tempting as it may be, it is recommended to avoid such sites.

3) Webrings may not always be the answer.

Many authors I know tend to sign up for webrings – which are strings of HTML code designed to link together sites of a given theme. Authors of romance, mystery, science fiction and other topics may join a webring, place the code on their website, and allow visitors to jump from site to site in the “ring” by clicking on this code.

While the concept of the webring offers good intentions – the increased opportunity of visitors, for one – there are also disadvantages. Webrings are usually maintained by a single person, who must approve of each new member. A lax “ringmaster” may tend to neglect the ring, particularly if sites involved become defunct. Ring links leading to dead sites may also discourage visitors from using webrings – this often poses a problem for webrings that include hundreds of members.

If you are considering adding your site to a webring, take care to explore the ring in question first. Check for dead sites and the quality of the sites involved. Some webrings, too, require bulky logo images with their code and placement on a particular page. If you are concerned about your page’s design, you may wish to look to other methods of link popularity.

So how does one build effective link relationships for popularity? It is as simple as 1-2-3:

1) Build a fresh site of relevant content – information about your books/products, with content relevant to the topics

2) Research of quality websites with linking potential

3) Establishing a good relationship with webmasters of relevant content.

As an author, your site need not be limited to information about the books you write. Expand the topics to include supplemental articles of interest to would-be readers. For fiction authors, offer free stories furthering the adventures of your characters.

When approaching site owners for link consideration, be polite and detailed. Offer incentives wherever possible. If you write sports biographies, why not approach a collector or memoribilia retailer, and offer gift certificates to the shop in a monthly drawing for readers? Take every advantage you can think of to market your work, and if there is a possibility another site owner can benefit, make sure you emphasize that.

As you meet other people on the Internet, you may find more avenues open to website promotion. Make your approaches armed with courtesy and knowledge, and you just may find your traffic and sales grow.

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