Drive It – Convert It! – #6 (podcast): Search Engine Optimization – Part 4 – All About Linking

(Note: This podcast was originally published 1n 2006 under another domain name – bastioninternet.com/blog.  In 2010, the blog was later migrated to this site.  Some links may be outdated or there may be issues with RSS feeds)

In Search Engine Optimization part 4 we discuss the ins and outs of getting links to your site to help you drive more traffic to your site – in other words – link building.
Show Summary:
Take-aways from this episode are:
1) What’s a link, what’s a backlink.
2) Why are links important (there’s a number of reasons)
3) How you can get links (and COULD doesn’t always mean SHOULD)
4) The future of linking
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Read a full transcript here …
Hi and welcome to Drive It – Convert It, for May 25, 2006. This is episode #6.
Search Engine Optimization – Part 4 – All About Linking.
Drive It – Convert It! is the podcast where Small and Medium Sized businesses learn the marketing strategies and tactics behind Driving More Traffic to your website and Converting that Traffic into qualified and identifiable leads and sales.
Drive it, convert it.
I’m John Boulter. I’m the president of Bastion Internet and podcasts, show notes, and transcripts can be found at BastionInternet.com/podcast. That’s B A S T I O N internet.com/podcast.
Links, links everywhere and not drop to drink. Linking is huge, but is it on the decline. Do you still need to pay attention to this or are you better off heading off to the next big SEO tactic. We’ll find out.
Well, the Drive It – Convert It! podcast subscriber numbers are growing – welcome back alumni! And like always, if you’re new, welcome aboard. Thanks for the emails. I think we had some great dialogue back and forth. Please, if you have questions, comments, or suggestions – email the show at podcast@bastioninternet.com.
Last episode we discussed Keyword Targeting. How to determine the best words and phrases to focus on to drive more traffic to your site. Now – onward and upward.
This is the 4th and last show (for now) in our Search Engine Optimization series. At least from a general perspective. It the future we’ll touch on a lot of SEO areas but they’ll be more targeted and integrated to other strategies and less general in nature.
The purpose of this 4 part series has been to get you familiar with the main components of optimizing your website for the search engines. This and the last 3 episodes of this have been meant to build your base knowledge from a strategic standpoint while giving you some technical background and tips..
Take-aways from this episode are:

1) What’s a link, what’s a backlink.
2) Why are links important (there’s a number of reasons)
3) How you can get links (and COULD doesn’t always mean SHOULD)
4) The future of linking
Let me start by saying that of all the subjects this one is probably the biggest from an opinion perspective. Everybody’s got one. There is also a huge amount of area to cover. I am certainly not going to be able to get to it all in the next 20 minutes or so. So, if you’re tasked with getting links for your website, get on the internet and start digging around. There’s a wealth of information. What’s that old phrase “caveat emptor” – let the linker beware, a lot of it is conjecture and opinion. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong.
What I’ll be covering is what I believe is the best strategy for an ongoing program. Something that won’t go out of date too quickly. Like always I’ll throw in some tactical tips, too.
1) So let’s start with what exactly is a link – and, what is a back-link.
A link is something that you can click on that takes you somewhere. Internal links are on your own site and take you to other places on your site. Outgoing links are links on your site that take the clicker off of your site and to someone else’s site.
Finally, a backlink. A backlink is a link that brings traffic to your site from someone else’s site. This is where we’ll be spending most of our time.
2) Why are links important
Links share the wealth. The Internet is a place for information. All that information can’t be kept in one place. Also, it isn’t best kept by one person or in one format. So people who manage websites link to other places on their site (an internal link), or to someone else’s site (an outgoing link), to give their Users a better overall experience.
Now in the days before good search engines, sites used to have whole pages of links to help send traffic to other good sites for additional information. So it was good if other sites linked to you to (a back-link), because you could potentially get traffic from that.
When I used to manage client sites 7 or 8 years ago, sites used to have pages called “Favorites” or something similar where they listed websites they thought would potentially add to their User’s experience.
Now as Search Engines like Alta Vista and directories like Yahoo became known, Users found they could get better results there than on the random websites they happened across. So links started becoming less important. However, the smart sites still always wanted back-links to help drive traffic.
And then along came Google. Now you know that this company had to have California roots, because they decided it wasn’t “what you knew”, but “who you knew”, or at least who knew you. They reasoned that the more people that pointed to you, the more knowledgeable or important you must be. So when they delivered search engine results, they factored in how many people were linking to you. The Google search engine results seemed to be much more relevant than their competition, so more and more Users chose Google as their search engine of choice. And the rest is $400 a share history.
It didn’t take too long for people to discover that the more links they got to their site the higher they would rank.
So you had a double bonus from back-links. Natural traffic would be driven to your site from the link itself, but seemingly more important was that your search engine rankings would go up and more traffic would come to you from those search engines.
Of course this started the whole cat and mouse game of webmasters getting links just for the sake of search engine results and the search engines trying to figure out which links should affect site importance and which shouldn’t. This game has been going on for a few years and will likely last at least a little while longer.
So there are two important reasons (or maybe 3), to get links:
– Natural traffic will be directly driven to you by the link
– You’ll rise in engine rankings and get more traffic that way
– And maybe, you’ll actually help keep this great Internet experiment going by giving and getting links and helping people find good information (or is that just too idealistic). Okay let’s stick with the first two.
Okay, so we know what links are and why they’re important.
3) How do you get them.
A bunch of ways. You need to understand those ways and then decide on what’s right for you:
– First: you can buy them. This is the easiest and quickest way. Also, potentially the most dangerous. Because the search engines want to reward natural, quality links, they, by default, need to figure out how to penalize or at least ignore unnaturally procured links. If you buy, you are dependant upon the quality of your link broker as to how well they place your purchases. And, you run a higher risk of getting identified as a site buying links and possibly get punished in the rankings for your efforts.
However, if you need links quickly and the risk is worth it, this can be an effective way to do it. You’ll likely only get rankings benefit. It’s a lot less likely that people will actually click on a purchased link – with some exceptions.
(Sometimes I think I should have named my company “with some exceptions” it seems like that I’m always saying that)
Now, no one clicking isn’t always the case. If you find a site where you’d like them to link to you because it makes sense, and you pay that site owner to link to you, that’s really like an advertisement. I think it makes total sense. Because you are likely relevant, there’s less risk of a downside.
You can also buy links on Directory sites. The most famous is the Yahoo directory. These links can cost anywhere from a few bucks to hundreds of dollars. There are also free directory sites out there. A lot are overused, but may still be worth signing up for.
– Second – trade links. AKA also known as reciprocal linking. You link to me and I’ll link to you. This was pretty huge for awhile. The Search Engines have been warning against this recently and have been trying to scare people off of this strategy.
I have a general thought. Chances are that the more threats you hear from the engines the less likely they have actually got their algorithms in place. Otherwise, they’d simply state their policy and let their algorithm and ranking results do the talking. So, I don’t know how much risk you have in this area. However, it’s likely that in the long run this will have a highly diminished affect.
One thing to also remember, is that it’s very difficult to have links removed. If you have been trading links with a “bad” site, and eventually you get penalized for it, it might be tough to convince the “bad” site to then take you off of their list. They may just not want to take the time or spend the effort.
– Third – ask. I like this one the best. Ask people to link to you where it makes sense. Customers, vendors, people in complementary industries. Let them know why it’s in their best interest to link to you. If you’ve already got some sort of business relationship with them, they’ll likely do it. They may ask for a link back to them – fine – do it, if it makes sense.
I guess another type of ask, although it is a lower quality one, is to go out and put links to your own sites on other people’s blogs and on forums. I think this one has seen it’s day, though. My general belief is that anytime you do something for the sole purpose of SEO, it usually will backfire. If you’ve got something of value to say and a link back to your site is beneficial to your post – do it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t
– Forth – attract This is the best for results. If you can attract links naturally, you’ll almost never go wrong. In order to do this you need what’s becoming known as “link bait”. Some sort of attractive lure that others will be motivated to link to. Good examples are tools (say a mortgage calculator), a good white paper, a study, a list, a funny article, a controversial blog.
Something that other sites will want to send their Users to because it makes them look good and it’s good for their Users.
Now here’s the Catch 22. How do you attract other sites to your site so they learn about your incredibly cool and informative link bait if you’re not ranking well to begin with because you don’t have enough links. I hate it when that happens.
No magic answer here. It’s a matter of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Once you get some richness you’ll attract more. The more you attract the richer (in links) you become. So you’ve got to do it the American way – work your butt off to get over that line and become one of the “haves” and no longer a “have not”. Or, you can try that other American way and just try to buy your way in (see item # 1).
Pick a strategy that works for your company. Like always, I try to leverage short term effort into short and long term results. I’ll sacrifice a little now for more later. But that’s just me.
4) The future of linking
Tough one. I could go a few ways on this.
I could see a scenario where the search engines get so good with their algorithms that only the naturally occurring links are likely to give you a rankings boost.
However, I have even more confidence in the ingenuity of the masses. It seems more likely to me that there will be so many contrived yet well disguised link strategies in use out there that they become meaningless from a ranking perspective.
Thus only the purest of links will benefit you.
So my advice is this:
Natural links will always drive natural traffic. You can’t lose. Plus, it’s likely that these high quality links will continue to be recognized at least somewhat by the engines. That should be your first priority.
However, timing is everything. You don’t want to be left out in the cold until the engines figure it all out. So go after some good second tier links – buy from good sources (ones that have a chance to have people click on them, too), and go after relevant reciprocal links. Sites where it actually makes sense to be found.
A good rule of thumb – if it looks like your link belongs on that other site – it probably does.
Wow – linking is always intense. Time has flown and it’s almost time to wrap up. But before I do, a couple of very important things.
I need to ask you something – if you’ve gotten some value from these podcasts, it would probably add to your website visitors experience to link to bastioninternet.com. And when you do, use some good, descriptive anchor text (that’s the actual text that contains the link), like “ Internet Marketing Specialists” or “Search Engine Optimization Experts” or something like that.
See the show notes for some specifics.
Now we’re ready to wrap – that is episode #7 – All About Linking.
Next episode we’re going to flip to the “Convert It” side of “Drive It – Convert It!”. Be sure to take it in.
Subscribe to Drive It – Convert It!, and automatically download episode number 7 when it comes out. You can follow the subscription links on our site. Or if you use iTunes, do a search for drive it convert it and pick us up there.
I’m John Boulter, for Bastion Internet’s Drive It – Convert It! Podcast.
Visit us at bastioninternet.com or Email us at podcast@bastioninternet.com.

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About JohnB

John Boulter is the President of Bastion Internet and a major contributor to the Drive It - Convert It! website. Avid interest in the web and Internet marketing and a student of life.
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