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Management Perspectives: Link Management

Jan 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Don Kreski

How search engines rank your website is highly dependent on what other sites do.


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Link management

You've optimized your new website. You've identified the keywords potential customers are likely to use in searching for someone like you. You have made sure your site supports them with meta tags, headlines, and body text emphasizing no more than two or three closely related key terms per page. The code is clean and straightforward, as is your navigation and text. You've been careful not to appear to spam the search engines with any tricks.

So far so good. “The other piece of the puzzle is to look at factors external to your site. The most important of these are the incoming links that point to your website,” says Tim Grant, owner and president of lunavista communications in Chicago.

EXTERNAL FACTORS

Today, all of the major search engines look at the number of links coming into your website, as well as at the ranking of the sites doing the linking. “The reasoning is that if a popular, credible site — especially one in a related field — references your site, then your site is more likely to be seen as credible and relevant,” Grant says. “The other thing you should understand is that search engines zip around the Web following links. If they find a lot of links to your website, they're going to get inside your site more often, and you will be indexed more often. In the same way, if your site is an island without incoming links, it's likely to be ignored.”

One problem is that the search engines only consider permanent links. If you buy a banner ad, it won't count. “Another problem is that there's a cost factor to it, and often a significant one,” Grant says. “Many of the sources of quality links recognize their value, and they will charge you.”

A third problem is that the search engines look for an increase of quality links over time. “It's not a one-time buying spree. You need to have an ongoing link-building campaign,” Grant says.

Seth Dotterer is director of marketing for New York-based Conductor, a website marketing firm that targets large organizations. He says that most large companies have not only optimized their sites but have already secured a large number of incoming links. They come to him because these links often do not reflect their strategic priorities. “A larger retailer, for example, may have thousands of links coming into their home page, but almost nothing to the site's house-and-garden section. If they decide that garden tools are strategically important, they may come to us to build rankings specifically for their garden-tool pages,” he says.

To accomplish that goal, Conductor will negotiate with websites specifically devoted to gardening to provide links to their clients' gardening pages. These may be online versions of trade publications, portal sites, industry-specific directories, or other content providers. “We may find publishers who have broad and authoritative websites, or we may depend on blogs that are very specific to a subject,” Dotterer says. Most often, the publishers put a great deal of effort into establishing their readership and authority, so the links they offer have real value. These links most often take the form of additional resources on pages with closely related information, such as a “how to do it” story, technology news, product reviews, or an announcement of a show or event.



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