With so much talk about search engines putting a damper on direct reciprocal links, the hunt for the elusive one-way inbound link is on.
As someone who works with small business website owners, I've heard just about every inbound-linking scheme there is. In the end, I've only seen five strategies that really work consistently for getting hundreds of links.
Less Effective One-Way Link Strategies
Yet there's perennial interest in alternative linking strategies. They range from bad to OK, but none offer as much potential as the five major ways of getting links.
* Link farms never seem to die. The latest variations try to pass themselves off as viral marketing, but are really a sort of endless pyramid scheme: you link to me, so I link to someone else, who links to someone else, and on and on down the line. Link farms can get you delisted from search engine indexes, so don't even try them.
* Affiliates can provide you with one-way inbound links if you use affiliate software that links directly to your site rather than through a redirect. But many, many affiliates are now placing all their affiliate links in redirects of their own invention, to help protect their commissions from pirates who will simply apply to the program themselves to get a discount.
* Posting to web forums and blogs regularly will get you one-way inbound links, but they'll only have search-engine value a small percentage of the time. Many blogs and bulletin boards use search-engine-unfriendly dynamic file formats, automatically encase links in script, or use robot instructions to prevent spiders from following links.
* Many one-way inbound linking strategies fall into the great-if-you-are-lucky-enough-to-get-it category, such as winning a web award or being featured on a high-PageRank website just for being so great.
* Other one-way incoming link strategies are in the this-will-take-forever-to-get-anywhere category, such as offering to provide testimonials to all your vendors in exchange for a link to your site. (Hint: If you can get more than twenty links that way, you probably need to simplify your supply chain.)
Now, on to the five major ways of getting large numbers of one-way inbound links. Some are better than others, but they all have more potential than some of the more madcapped strategies. Of course, none is a good strategy all on its own. You have to understand all five strategies in order to really gain a distinct advantage in the one-way link hunt.
1. Waiting for Inbound Links
If you have good content you will eventually get one-way inbound links naturally, without asking. Organic, freely given links are an essential part of any SEO strategy. But you cannot rely on them, for two reasons:
* Unfortunately, "eventually" can be a very long time.
* Worse, there is a vicious cycle: you can't get search engine traffic, or other non-paid traffic, without inbound links; yet without inbound links or search engine traffic, how is anyone going to find you to give you inbound links?
2. Triangulating for Inbound Links
Search engines will have a tough time dampening reciprocal links if the reciprocation is not direct. To get links to one website you offer in exchange a link from another website you also control. This would seem to be a mostly foolproof way of defeating the link-dampening ambitions of Google and the rest. If you have more than one website, you probably are already employing this linking method. There are only a few drawbacks:
* You need to have more than one website in the same general category of interest or the links won't be relevant.
* The work required to set up this kind of arrangement and verify compliance is not insignificant. The process cannot be automated to the same extent as direct one-to-one reciprocal linking.
* As with traditional reciprocal links, a very big drawback is that the links are mostly on "Resources" pages that are just lists of links. There's only a small chance of getting significant traffic from these links. Plus, any "Resource" page may well eventually become an easy target for link dampening, if that hasn't happened already.
3. Submitting to Directories
They are the legendary fairy lands of SEO: PageRank-passing, no-fee-charging, and actually well-run directories of relevant links. Yes, they really do exist. An SEO acquaintance tells me he knows 200 good ones just off the top of his head. Plus, there are other kinds of directories: directories of affiliate programs, of websites using a certain content management system, of websites whose owners are members of this or that group, of websites accepting PayPal, etc. etc.
Ah, a link in a PageRank-passing link directory: it's a good deal if you can get it. But let's say you do get links from all 200 such directories and a hundred more from the little niche directories--now what?
4. Paying for Inbound Links
Buying and selling text links on high-PageRank web pages has become big business. Buying good traffic-generating "clean" links is a great alternative to pay-per-click advertising, which confers no SEO benefit. But, there are a number of pitfalls of relying primarily on paid links for SEO:
* The cost of the hundreds of links required for substantial search engine traffic can become prohibitive.
* As soon as you stop paying, you lose your link--you are essentially renting rather than owning, with no "link equity" building up.
* Google is actively trying to dampen the impact of paid links on rankings, as revealed in various patent filings. A website can try to mask the fact that the links are paid, but how well it does that is out of your control.
* Given Google's mission to dampen paid links' effectiveness, paid link buyers have an interest in verifying that a potential paid link partner is "passing PageRank." But identifying appropriate PageRank-passing paid link partners is quite a task in itself.
* Google also has a stated mission of dampening the value of any "artificial" links. Having most of your links on PageRank 3 or higher web pages would seem to be a dead give-away that your links are "artificial," since the vast majority of web pages (note: not necessarily websites, but their pages) are PageRank 1 or lower. Meanwhile, buying PageRank 0 or 1 links would have so little impact on a site's PageRank that it would not be worth the expense.
5. Distributing Content
All of the above four inbound-link-generating methods really do work. But it is the fifth method of getting one-way inbound links that is the most promising: distributing content
The idea is simple: you give other websites content to put on their sites in exchange for a link to your site, usually in an "author's resource box," an "about the author" paragraph at the end of the article.
The beauty of distributing content for links is that the links generally generate more traffic than links on a "resources" page. Plus, your article will pre-sell readers on the value of your site.
The downside, of course, is that it's no small amount of work to create original content and then distribute it to hundreds of website owners. But nothing good ever came easy. And on the internet, one-way inbound links are a very good thing.
About the author:
[Formatting: for web, please use "website content promotion" as the link's anchor text (visible link text)] Joel Walsh is the head content writer for UpMarket Content. Get more information on website content promotion: http://upmarketcontent.com/website-promotion-package.htm