6 January 2016

How to Drive Traffic to Your Website Using Links To Your Site


This is lesson six of the Internet Income course by course author, George Little. The lesson aims to bring out the ins and outs of starting and running a profitable online business in today's ever-changing global market by breaking down important principles using simple English. This lesson is full of tips, real-world advice, and in-depth, step-by-step instructions on setting up your Internet-based business. Read the 5th lesson here.

In Lesson 3, we discussed Internet traffic and its importance to success. We identified five (5) goals for your traffic building efforts:
  1. Utilizing effective branding,
  2. Obtaining good publicity, including links to your site from popular pages,
  3. Obtaining an effective search engine presence,
  4. Utilizing and maintaining flow in the placement of your Internet ads, and
  5. Maintaining an effective social media presence.
In this lesson, we will continue our discussion of the second goal, "obtaining good publicity, including links to your site from popular pages."

How to get links to your site, that is the question

To obtain links to your Website (and, recall that by "Website" we refer to many forms of Internet presence, including social media pages, blogs, and even "apps" that work on smart phones), you must first have an interesting and enjoyable site--one worthy of links. Second, you must take steps so that people will find it. (People can not link to your site if they never find it.) Once they find it, they must determine that it is useful or enjoyable and thus worthy of sharing with others. Thus, the process of obtaining links to your site has two major components. You should spend a great deal of time planning your strategies to approach both of these components. You should continuously seek to educate yourself on how to improve your strategies. That is, you should continuously strive to improve the usefulness of your site and to increase the probability that others will have the opportunity to see it.

Working on these two components is a long-term endeavor. Much of the original Internet Income Course dealt with--and much of this revised Internet Income Course will deal with--creating an interesting and useful web presence. But, for now, we will focus on the second component: how to help people find your site in the first place. And for now, we will only discuss one method of accomplishing that goal: obtaining links to your site.

The best place to have links to your site is on the most popular search engines. The most popular search engine is Google. Entire books and courses are written on obtaining good placement in Google and we will cover it extensively in this course. However, for now, we will set that aside also and look at other types of links to your site. (We will discuss how search engine penalties can affect the way you approach linking, however.)

It is always best, when addressing a new challenge, to simplify the subject and look first at the most common sense answer. When you take that approach to the question of how to get links on your Website, the first and most obvious answer is that you ask for them. You find Websites on which you would like to see a link to your site and you contact the person in charge of that site and ask them. When it comes to what your friends may post on their social media pages or personal blogs, sometimes just asking is all you need to do. With more sophisticated sites, they may want you to reciprocate by helping them promote their site in some manner. With the larger sites, you will likely have great difficulty in contacting anyone--and you will likely get an unhelpful, canned answer (if any at all) if you do manage to contact them.

A long time ago, when the public Internet was very young, people approached all incoming links just the way we discussed in the previous paragraph. As the Internet has grown, however, that process has evolved. There is so much activity on the Internet now, it is difficult to get anyone to link to your site unless you pay them or exchange links with them. Specifically, some entrepreneurs began to offer services to help people find sites with which they could share links. Some Websites began to host "Links Pages" that did nothing but link to other sites (in exchange for links from those other sites back to their site). Many people began to find ways to game the process--giving you a less valuable link than the one you gave them. The process evolved into the more automated process of "Reciprocal Link Exchanges." The automation of the process, unfortunately, created even more problems in the long run. Search Engines, especially Google, responded by developing means to detect link exchanges and to penalize sites that used them.

Reciprocal Linking

Traditionally, the more links you had to your site, the better, regardless from where they came. Today, however, Google claims to detect 'bad links' to your site and impose penalties for them. Google refers to 'bad links' as links that are "paid links or other link schemes that violate [its] quality guidelines."

On the other side of the coin, people are suspicious. If there are tricks that work, they don't want their competitors using them while they take the high road with their Website going unnoticed. Many self-proclaimed "Search Engine Experts", both good intentioned and just plain sleazy, have professed to know the rules and know how to get the best results for your site. This became so prevalent that Google decided to take drastic action to stop the practice. When the folks at Google started penalizing what they determined to be "bad links" around 2012, the results were so drastic that some commentators suggested that if your site was effected, it would be better to just abandon it and start over. (That suggests some pretty serious penalties had been brought to bear.)

Google further discourages such practices by suggesting that in-bound links are only a very small factor in the ranking of your site. Google's official pronouncement is that in-bound links (often called 'backlinks') are only a part of PageRank...and PageRank is only one of over 200 methods that it uses to determine the relevancy of a site. Add to that the fact that you can be penalized for bad links and it becomes clear that Google is doing everything it can to discourage paid links and link exchanges.

Still, it is just common sense that a site with no links will never be noticed. A site with no links to it will never rank high in the search engines. You, indeed, want links, but you want those links to be what Google considers to be positive links. There is so much activity on the Internet now, it is difficult to get anyone to link to your site unless you pay them or exchange links with them. What's an Internet marketer to do?

Recognizing that this issue would arise, ProfitPropulsion.com created MILES a few years back. MILES is a multi-party, indirect link exchange. It was designed to prevent the search engines from detecting reciprocal links--and, thus, avoid the penalties. It does this by allowing one credit for linking to any customer's site and then that credit is used to obtain a link from some other customer's site (i.e. not the one to which was linked). It does not, however, completely solve the problem of the 'quality' assessment of in-bound links. While it does allow you to reject the credit to a linking site if you are not satisfied with the link, it cannot provide ultimate control, of course, over the link that was made. If that webmaster is not paying attention and does not remove the link when you reject the credit, the link will remain and may cause a penalty to your site. MILES, however, is your best shot at reciprocal linking without being penalized.

At the time of this writing in 2015, the point to keep in mind is that Search Engines judge Websites in part by the number of in-bound links to the site - but, not all links are helpful--some hurt your site's ranking. What you want is quality links from quality sites that are on-subject with the subject matter of your site. You want these links to be in-context so that the flow of information from the source site to your site is smooth and logical. There are ways to obtain such links. You can offer articles, photos, awards, testimonials, or other similar content to quality sites in exchange for a link back. You can attract links simply by designing and maintaining your site to be helpful and valuable to others with quality sites on the same subject matter. Of equal importance, you should establish a presence on discussion boards and blogs dealing with the subject matter of your site. Earn the respect and trust of the Webmasters of quality sites or the "influencers" on social media through such networking and links to your site should result.

In-Context Linking

We mentioned above that your links should be "in context." A link is much more likely to be considered a "good link" by Google if it is from a discussion on the same subject that your Website (or the portion of it linked) addresses. A link from an article discussing health food to a site dealing exclusively with technology is probably not "in context." It does not flow. A link from a site discussing auto racing to a site dealing exclusively with environmental issues is probably not "in context'. That doesn't flow either. However, a link from an article discussing the benefits of natural foods to a site discussing one particular natural food in detail is "in context." That link does flow. While no one outside of Google knows the mysteries of their algorithms, it is a very good guess that "in context" links are considered good links and links that are not "in context" are considered bad links.
"Good links" are links that come from legitimate sites and flow naturally with the information on your site that is targeted by the link.

Of our five goals for successful traffic building, the second is "obtaining good publicity, including links to your site from popular pages." In this lesson, we continued our discussion of obtaining publicity through obtaining links to your site. We discussed the dangers of having your site penalized because Google considers your incoming links to be bad links. We gave you some general principles to determine good links from bad links. We suggested that, if you use reciprocal linking, it should be through a service like MILES that promotes good links and makes it more difficult for Google to determine that the link is the result of a link exchange. We emphasized that the best way to obtain linking is through networking with others who share an interest in the subject matter of your site and who publish legitimate sites on similar subjects.

In our next lesson, we will discuss other ways to obtain good publicity for your site. Read the next article here: Publicizing Your Site.

By George Little, Panhandle On-Line, Inc. For more information on the Internet Income Course and other works and courses by George Little, see http://www.profitpropulsion.com

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