Only link to quality sites. So what are quality sites? Sites that get a lot of traffic could be considered quality sites, but not all sites getting a lot of traffic are quality sites that you want to be affiliated with, or send your visitors toward.
Government sites are a great place to link to, as they’ll provide trusted information that is useful. Your largest competitor, be it Amazon or a CNN, will also be a good choice for your links, as they’re reputable and again, provide quality and useful information.
The important thing to remember is that you don’t want to be linking to sites that don’t have anything to do with your content. While sending visitors on to that cute puppy video might make their day, it won’t do much for you in the eyes of Google, and could even hurt you.
Help Your User
Another important question to ask yourself when you put those links on your site is, “Will this help my user?” Of course, to answer that question you have to know who your users are. You should be able to figure that out by studying your sites analytics and scanning the keywords that get directed to your site. Those are people that are looking something related to whatever content you have now.
Search out those keywords yourself and find out what other sites pop up. If they’re good, and I mean really good, link to them. If you have a site with 52 Tabasco sauce recipes, and you find a different site with 367, then you should link to it. In the meantime, figure out how you can come up with 368 recipes.
Does Size Count?
How many links do you need to have the most successful link building campaign? I don’t know. There’s no clear answer on that, but again, Google recommends that you prioritize quality over quantity. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a lot of links.
The most popular page on my ESL website esladventure.com is the Links Page. I set this page up pretty quickly after I set up my website because I wanted to help other ESL teachers that had struggled like I once did.
I have 45 links on the page, each of them grouped under different headings like pronunciation, grammar, games, word searches, coloring pages, and so on. Each link also has a short description under it telling the user what is on that site and how it can help them.
I knew all of the links were good because I had used all of them to aid me in the classroom, and had compiled them in a list. Before I put them up on my site I made sure they were all still going to the place I wanted them to, and I check them periodically. If a link is heading to a dead end, I’ll remove it right away. Pointing to links that head to any 300 or 400 level redirect sites are not what you want.
My main concern when I put them up was not increasing the traffic to my site, and I could have cared less about increasing the traffic to the other sites. I just knew that there was some quality information and resources that I wasn’t supplying, and had no intention of supplying. All I wanted to do was help my user. That is the kind of attitude that will give your website some real staying power on the internet.
I also knew that those sites, if they were on top of their game, would be studying their analytics. They would see that some of their traffic, probably a small amount at first, was coming from esladventure.com. There’s a good chance that they would have gone to my site, checked it out, and if they liked what they saw, they’d make a link to me. So by helping my user as much as I can, even by linking to a competitor, I’m in the end helping myself.
Google defines a link scheme as “Any links intended to manipulate a site's ranking in Google search results” and it violates their Webmaster Guidelines. They see it as trying to manipulate their search results, they don’t like that, and they’ll ding you accordingly. I’ve worked with some people who’ve tried such black-hat SEO methods, and they’ve all told me that they’re trying to dig themselves out of the hole they created for themselves by doing that. Some of them had high a high Page Rank until the googlebot spotted them and lowered them considerably in the rankings.
It takes quite awhile sometimes for the googlebot to pass by your site again to see if you’ve changed your ways, and you’ll be struggling to catch up until then. It’s best not to even let that happen in the first place by only using quality links that are directly related to your content.
Google says in their Webmaster Guidelines that the best way to ensure you’ll have quality links coming in to your site is by creating the best and most useful content that you can. You’ve got to find out what your biggest competitors are doing with their content, and you’ve got to make it a whole lot better. Your content needs to create a buzz, and increasingly that buzz will come from the various social networking sites and applications being used today. Nothing sells like word of mouth.