From the September 2005 issue of Entrepreneur

It's easy to get links to your site from other websites. You, your webmaster or an intern can do the job. And this overlooked marketing strategy offers two big payoffs: more visitors and higher search engine rankings.

Not all links are created equal--get links from websites with content similar to yours. Trading links with colleagues is generally a bad idea, because if your site sells car parts, then a link from their wedding site or shoe site won't help--these shoppers aren't your target market. And these links aren't relevant to Google, MSN, Yahoo! and other algorithm-based search engines that display natural search results (the sites not listed as "Sponsored Links").

Although a link-building campaign is simple, there are many guidelines for earning link popularity points from search engines while attracting potential customers. A few key tips:

  • Follow up on your PR efforts. Run a search for your company's name in various search engines to find press releases, articles and other mentions. These pages have already been indexed by the search engines and might contain keywords relevant to your business. Ask for a link if there isn't one.
  • Ask for what you've paid for. A trade association membership or offline advertising campaign often includes a link from the publisher's site to yours. Sometimes this doesn't make it to the webmaster's to-do list, so follow up if you're not getting the full benefit of the investment you've made.
  • Find sites with top search engine rankings. Check out who currently has high natural rankings for your keywords. If they're not direct competitors, ask them for a link. They might want a reciprocal link or a fee, but it's probably worth it.

Send your link request by e-mail. It will be routed to the decision-maker, who'll more likely respond to an e-mail than a phone call; plus, you'll have a communication trail. Create a spreadsheet to document the sites you've contacted and your results.

Improve your link popularity, and you'll improve your search engine rankings, site traffic and brand awareness all at once.


Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Seda owns an internet marketing agency and is author of Search Engine Advertising.