The 10 Commandments of Link Building
by Brandon Cornett

Online Mistakes Are Costing You Big $
What do smart affiliate marketers know...that you don't?


Links today are what keywords were several years ago -- the hottest topic in SEO. Search engines, particularly Google, use link popularity to help evaluate and rank your website. Link popularity refers to the number, quality and relevance of inbound links from other websites to yours.

Some people waste a lot of time seeking links in the wrong way and from the wrong places. The "10 Commandments of Link Building" will help you avoid such time-wasters and achieve true linking success.

1. Thou shalt recognize the value of links.
For now, and for the foreseeable future, link building and SEO walk hand-in-hand. Linking profiles are one of Google's top ranking factors, and the "other" engines use them as well. Once upon a time, you could simply write a lot of keyword-rich content and rank well for it. While that may still be the case with MSN / Live Search, it no longer carries you very far with Yahoo or Google. That's where links come in.

2. Thou shalt begin link-building on thine own website.
"What is this heresy? Link-building starts on my website? Who ever heard of such a thing?" All too often, I see website owners throw up a new site and go out hunting for links before they have a site worth linking to. Link building always starts on your own website.

Think about it for a moment. Aside from directories and paid listings, few people will link to a bare-bones website that offers nothing unique, helpful or interesting. If you start hunting for links before your website has earned its place on the web, you're going to have a long, hard time of it.

On the other hand, if you build the kind of website that makes others in your industry or niche say, "Wow, that's really something! I know some folks who would like that," then your link-building efforts will be a breeze. It all starts with what you put into your website.

3. Thou shalt pursue the right kinds of links.
Not all links are created equal. Sure, you want a lot of links to your website ... we all do. But you should always put link quality before link quantity. Jim Boykin, SEO expert and owner of WeBuildPages.com, said it well:

"It’s not always 'He with the most links' who wins the game … Really, very often, he with the right 10 links can beat the guy with 1,000 of the wrong links. I see it all the time."

What makes for a quality backlink? Generally speaking, the most valuable links for SEO purposes are those that come from older, well-established sites within your topic area.

4. Thou shalt alternate link text.
To gain visibility for more of your key phrases, and to make your linking profile seem more natural to search engine algorithms, it's a good ideas to mix up your link text. For instance, instead of having a thousand backlinks to my site using the phrase "real estate marketing," I strive to get a broad mix of link text. I shoot for "real estate marketing" and "Realtor marketing" and "real estate SEO" and ... you get the picture.

5. Thou shalt find links everywhere.
Links are everywhere, and they're what make the web, well … a web. So link opportunities are everywhere, as well. You can gain links by publishing articles online, syndicating press releases, submitting to directories, participating in forums, growing a blog or becoming an authority in your field. You are only limited by your imagination, and imagination is our next commandment.

6. Thou shalt be creative.
Quick story. I was doing some link building for a home buying website once, and I thought I had exhausted my options. I had submitted press releases online, submitted the site to directories, published articles with the big article directories, and even written a few link request letters (which I normally don't bother with).

Then it dawned on me. There were hundreds, possibly thousands of websites out there looking for the kind of content I could provide, but not knowing where to look. So I began searching phrases like "home buying articles" and making a list of websites that provided this content.

Next, I emailed these sites one by one and invited them to use any of the 100+ articles I had written on the subject. All I asked was that they keep the author's note with hyperlink. By being proactive with my article publishing, I earned more than 30 new and highly relevant links! When you combine quality content or a unique website with strong imagination, your link opportunities are limitless.

7. Thou shalt not waste time with silly link requests.
The higher your website ranks, the more link-request emails you are going to receive. It's a law of the Internet. Let me save you some time and energy by saying you can delete 90% of these emails. Why? Because 90% of the time they are from sites looking to "feed" off your good rankings, but offering nothing in exchange.

I have one website that's ranked very well for its key phrases. It generates a lot of email requests from brand new sites that aren't even indexed yet, much less ranked well. Is that a fair exchange for me? Hardly. What's worse, most of these sites have nothing to do with my subject area. This is the 90% you shouldn't waste time with.

Once in a while, however, you'll receive an email that's actually personalized and specific. It will be intelligent, it will be from a site similar to yours, and it will be worth considering. In other words, it will be part of the 10% club.

8. Thou shalt track thine own progress.
If you put a lot of energy into your SEO program, you need to be able to track your progress. There are business reasons for this. But more importantly, there are morale reasons for it. You want to feel good about what you're doing, right? You want to see some positive results to justify your hard work, don't you? Of course you do. So keep track of your link-building progress the same way you keep track of your traffic and rankings.

There are a number of tools online that can help you identify links from other websites to yours. Yahoo Site Explorer is my favorite. You can use Site Explorer (http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com) to quickly and easily find out which websites are linking to yours. You can also export this information into a spreadsheet for further use. Nice, huh?

9. Thou shalt keep the big picture in mind.
Yes, links are a big part of your website's visibility. But there's a lot more to SEO than links. In fact, let's look at the bigger picture and say there's a lot more to online success than gaining links. If you tend to get carried away with certain tasks, like I do, then schedule your SEO efforts to avoid focusing only one thing. Set aside some time for link-building, article writing, website improvement, product development, etc.

In other words, don't adopt "SEO tunnel vision" to the point you neglect your website's primary offering (whether that be products, services, content, or a combination of the three).

10. Thou shalt enjoy aging well.
One of the things I live about SEO is that it gets easier as you go. When you put the right fundamentals in place up front, you'll be able to increase and/or maintain your visibility with less effort over time. Most search engines -- and especially Google -- place a lot of emphasis on the age of your domain, your individual web pages, and the links coming into those web pages. Like a good wine, links get better with age.

About This Author
Brandon Cornett is the author of the "Agent's Guide to Search Engine Visibility," available for immediate download at ArmingYourFarming.com. Learn to practice real estate search engine optimization the right way.

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