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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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SOURCES OF LINKS

An incoming-links program is something you can begin to develop on your own. “For starters, you can go after search directories, industry-specific directories, and geographically related sites,” Grant says. “We normally start with the Yahoo Search Directory — which, surprisingly enough, Google highly values.”

Ask for links from InfoComm, NSCA, and other trade groups, and one or more from each of your suppliers. The authorized dealer pages manufacturers offer are legitimate incoming links, as are membership directories or your Chamber of Commerce. “Exchanging links is fine, but Google values links that are not reciprocated more highly than those that are,” Grant says.

You can submit a video to YouTube, set up a profile on LinkedIn, or add comments to online forums if you include your URL in your signature. Links from social-bookmarking sites such as Delicious or StumbleUpon can be very valuable. “The search engines love these sites because they are showing what users want and like,” Grant says.

Grant will often send press releases through PRWeb and similar services. “You'd be surprised how many websites pick up your information and post it for their readers,” he says. There are thousands of blogs and news sites that are desperate for new content. They filter the feeds for releases related to their particular topic.

It's important to pay attention to anchor text. “You are likely to improve rankings for a particular phrase if that phrase is the source of the link,” Grant says. That is to say, if you can obtain a link from the phrase “audiovisual contractor,” it will be more valuable in building your rankings for that term than one from your company's name.

Grant says he also likes to take advantage of local search directories, Yellow Pages, and other regional web services. “Local search — as offered by Google, Yahoo, and MSN — typically accounts for 33 percent or 34 percent of all searches,” he says. Searchers may not even realize they are tapping these directories; the search engines will try to read their geographic locations and weight results to local firms.

AN ONGOING INVESTMENT

The fact that directories and other sites often charge for links raises the question of spamming the search engines. “Google has, in fact, stated that they don't like the idea of purchased links,” Grant says.

“The reality is that in offering a natural search service of high value to buyers, Google has created an optimization industry, and they understand that,” Dotterer says. “It's obvious that companies are going to compete for their rankings, and they're going to spend money in the process. Our thinking is that whatever marketing method you use, consider the end users first. If it tends to harm or deceive the end user, the search engines should and will find ways to stop it. If it is relevant and adds value for the end user, it will improve the searcher's experience and be a win for the searcher, search engine, and you.”

Another question for any site owner is the cost of these links and their return on investment for hiring a firm such as lunavista or Conductor to secure them.

If you see your website only as an online brochure built to show to people already interested in your services, this type of program may not be worth the cost. If your site is very small, doesn't describe your company adequately, badly needs updating, or has never been optimized, you might want to invest in those things first.

But if you expect your site to provide sales or sales leads, a link program is certainly worth considering. “It's a lot like creating a brochure. If you spend thousands of dollars on printing, it's silly not to spend a little more on stamps so you can put it in the mail,” Grant says.

In our next column, we'll look at pay-per-click advertising, which can be a supplement for or an alternative to web optimization and links programs.

Don Kreski is a marketing consultant who works exclusively in the AV industry. You can reach him at www.kreski.com/contact.



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