SEO Tips: Finding "Link Love"

The most effective and long-lasting way to improve your ranking in a search engine is to increase the number of "inbound" links to your site from other websites. Inbound links represent an endorsement of your site. If these other site owners find your site useful, the logic goes, then Internet searchers are likely to find your site useful too.

Building a search engine based on inbound links (instead of simply reviewing keywords in hidden "meta tags" or website text) is what propelled Google from a late entrant to the search field to its current position as undisputed leader. Google currently has more than 65 percent of searches, and shows little sign of relinquishing this dominance, despite Microsoft and Yahoo's combined effort to unseat it.

This link-based approach (called "link analysis") proved so effective that other major search engines followed Google's example. "Link analysis is at the core of almost all major search engines," says Aaron Wall, author of SEO, a search engine optimization education service that, incidentally, is the first website result in a Google search of "SEO."

SEO Tips: Five Ways to Get Linked

1. Give stuff away. Does your company offer free samples of its product? Do you have any handy applications or an ebook you can let site visitors download for free? There are few more effective ways to get people to link to your site than to offer something for nothing.

2. Share useful information. Links are commonly used to share information, so putting useful information on your site, such as articles or how-to guides will help draw links.

3. Connect with your community. This can be either your geographic community or a community based on your industry. Sponsoring an event at a local charity, interviewing an industry expert and posting the interview on your site or writing articles and blog entries for others to post can all bring inbound links.

4. Reach out to the blogosphere. Bloggers are always looking for new ideas, new websites to link to, and new products to write about, and they can be a great source of link love.

5. Use good old-fashioned PR. Getting mentioned in the press is good for your company in many different ways, and one of them is that online publications may include links to your site or your information if your company is mentioned in an article.

WARNING: Whatever you do, don't join a "link farm"—a website consisting only of links whose only goal is to raise rankings. Search companies are liable to punish sites listed in link farms by lowering their rankings instead.