What is Inbound links in SEO?
Let’s take look, You’ve seen how important links are to your SEO strategy, and you’ve seen how Inbound links in SEO affect your Google PageRank, but how, really, do links work for improving your SEO? As you’ve already seen, a link to your site is a vote for the relevance of your site. Therefore, if you’re linking out to other sites, then you’re voting for them; and internal links ensure that a search engine crawler can find the various pages in your site. A dangling link is a link that leads into a page that has no links leading out of it.
Each of these different types of links affects site ranking differently for search engines that take linking architectures into consideration. For example, a dangling link could be ignored entirely by a search engine, or the page to which the link points could score lower on the linking metrics because all the links are coming into the page, but none are going out.
Where a link comes from is as important as having a link (or multiple links). Suppose several links lead to your page from websites having nothing to do with the topic of your site. This is Google bombing in its classic form. The links could affect your search engine ranking, though probably not as much as having no links at all will.
That’s part of what makes linking such a tricky business. You need to know how the links on your site will affect the amount of traffic the site has, and you need to know how to have links without going overboard, meaning the crawler labels your site as a link farm.
Snagging inbound links in SEO
Nearly every web site has links that lead out to other websites. It’s rare to find a site that doesn’t link to another site somewhere on the Web. That’s how communities are built around specific industries and topics. The links that leave your site are important, but they’re not nearly as important as the links that lead to your site. Links that lead to your site — called inbound links — as you’ve already discovered are viewed by search engines as votes for your site within a particular community of sites.
Some search crawlers also look at the length of time that an incoming link to your site has been in place. Long-standing incoming links show that another site has found your content to be valuable over time, which is another (strong) vote of confidence for your web site.
Anytime you’re being voted for, you want to have as many votes as possible. Inbound links in SEO are no different. You want to have a large number of links that lead to your site. You can achieve those links in a variety of ways, some more effective than others:
■ Requesting links:
The oldest method of gaining inbound links is to request them. This requires that you study your market to find out who the players involved in the market are. Then you contact each one of the sites that you discover and ask it to link to your site. In most cases, the person you contact receives your request, but providing links to other sites is the least of that person’s worries, so you may not even get a response. If you do, it can sometimes be months later. In other words, you’ve put a lot of time into requesting links from other sites for a relatively small return on your efforts.
■ Writing articles:
One of the most effective methods of gaining inbound links is to offer an article for other companies to freely use as long as they include information at the bottom that credits you and provide a link back to your site. This method of gaining inbound links works well because websites are always looking for good content to include on their pages. The catch here is that the article you write must be well written, accurate, and useful to other sites in your industry. Once you’ve produced an article that meets these requirements, you can begin to let others know that you have content available for them to use without cost. Just remember to require a link back to your site in return for the freedom to use your article on their site.
Another way to get links back to your site is from bloggers. What started as a strange phenomenon that was mostly personal has now become a powerful business tool, and many businesses rely on links back to their sites from the various industry bloggers out there. In most cases, though, bloggers aren’t just going to stumble onto your website. It’s far better for you to contact the blogger with information about your organization, some product that you offer, or news that would interest them. This information then gives the blogger something to use in his or her regular posts. Keep in mind, however, that you can’t control what a blogger might say, so it’s possible that the review you get from the blogger won’t be favorable.
■ Press releases:
Press releases are one of the mainstays of any marketing program. These can be so effective that many organizations hire companies to do nothing but distribute their press releases as widely as possible. What’s so powerful about a press release? It’s just the facts, including benefits, and it’s sent out to publications and organizations that might publish all or part of the press release. Use press releases to send out new items of all types, and send them as widely as you can. News organizations, publications, newsletters, and even some forums, will post press releases. When you write the release, be sure to include a link back to your site.
■ Affiliate programs:
Affiliate programs are a type of paid advertising. Amazon’s affiliate program is one of the best-known programs of this type. You provide a link to people who want to link back to your website. They place the link on their site and then when someone clicks through that link to your site and makes a purchase (or converts any other goal you have arranged), the affiliate — the person who placed your link on their site — is paid a small percentage. Usually, the payment for affiliate programs is very low ($.01 to $.05 per click or a small percentage of the sale). Nonetheless, some people make a good living being affiliate, and many organizations receive additional traffic because of their affiliate programs. Note that there are some ethical considerations associated with affiliate programs. Many people believe that because you’re paying for the link back to your site, it is less valid than if you were to land organic links. However, most search engines see affiliate programs as an acceptable business practice and they won’t reduce your rankings because you use affiliate programs. The trick with affiliate programs is to not rely on them as your sole source of incoming links. In addition, most affiliate programs utilize some click-tracking software, which by definition negates the value of the link, because the link on the affiliate’s page is going from that page, to the ad server, to your site. Therefore, the link is from the ad server, rather than the affiliate site.
■ PPC and paid links:
Pay-per-click advertisements are an acceptable business practice. There is no problem with using PPC advertisements to achieve inbound links to your site. Remember that, like affiliate links, PPC links are not direct links to your site. Paid links, conversely, are different from affiliate links — you pay to have a direct, or flat link, placed on a page. Some search engines frown on the practice of using these types of links. Using paid links (especially those that land on link farms) is a practice that carries some business risk.
■ Links to yourself:
Linking to yourself is a technique that sits right on the line between ethical and unethical. Linking to yourself from other sites that you might own is an acceptable practice, but if you set up other sites with the sole purpose of being able to link back to your main site and create the illusion of popularity, you’re going to do more damage than it’s probably worth to you. If you are linking to yourself and you suspect that you might be doing something that would adversely affect your search engine ranking, then you shouldn’t do it. There are plenty of links to be had without linking back to your own websites; you just have to work a little harder for the higher-quality links.
■ Create a gadget or mini-app:
Gadgets and mini-apps (small applications) are a phenomenon much like social media. You create a small program or application that users can find value in and post it on your website for free download. Then you spread the word on blogs, in articles, and with press releases. Users will download and use the gadget Understanding the Role of Links and Linking 15 or mini-app, and if they like it, then they’ll recommend it to others. A good example of this was the tax calculators that circled around the Web during the 2008 presidential election. It works with media files such as podcasts and videos, or other great content, too. Some call it linkbait. Others call it smart marketing.