An effective landing page is only as good as the visitors that it attracts. Hence, the next logical step after development of an effective landing page is to promote it. This involves attracting qualified visitors to it, by employing various online marketing efforts, viz. PPC or SEO , email marketing. Another frequently employed online marketing tool with the twin benefit of economy and effectiveness is Link Building.

Link building is a practice of getting the other semantically similar websites to feature your link on their websites. Link building constitutes finding viable business partners willing to endorse your site. An authoritative link to your site counts as one vote toward your link popularity.

Other site owners would link to a page, when they consider the content important. Likewise, search engines will consider your content important because human beings, not software programs, link to your site’s content. These factors result in the page attracting classified visitors.

There are various attributes that influence the link building initiative. The irony of link building is that while it may be appear to be an easy exercise (sourcing links from FFA and link a minute sites is easy), the real benefits of link building accrue only when the link is obtained from a quality website that is thematically relevant to the website that the link is requested for. Hence the paradox.

Links, Search Engines and Visitors : The connection

Good thematic links deliver dual benefit. First, they make the website available for the Search Engine crawlers to visit, while at the same time they are instrumental in driving relevant traffic from thematically similar but non competing websites. Links are attributed significant importance in the Organic Search Engine promotion, and are instrumental in achieving high rankings. The number and quality of incoming links is a manifestation of the standing of the website in the respective domain, as well as authenticates its authoritativeness.

The premise that the Search Engines use to value a webpage is that large number of links substantiate authority of the website. This is based on the assumption that if other webmasters decide to link to a particular Web page at their own discretion, it indicates that they find the content of the website relevant, and want their visitors to view the content of the linked site too.

Many sites maintain search engine visibility and the resulting qualified traffic because of successful link development, and not just based on the number of keywords on a page. This can be achieved by effective use of the keywords in the link description. Link anchor text provides a snapshot of the target page to the search engine and highlights its relevance. Hence, irrespective of the words or the type of content that the page contains, a search engine can interpret a great deal about how popular the content is by reviewing the links that surround it.

The Link development Roadmap

Link development is a tedious process and requires careful planning and execution. The process involves identifying the potential link partners, sending them link request with a value proposition and then wait for a response. Link development begins by mapping the websites that may be thematically symmetric to your website. A generally accepted practice is to identify the websites that your competitor has obtained a link from. The same websites could be targeted by you in your link development endeavor.

Another source of obtaining links could also be the popular classified directories. These directories may be paid or free. For obtaining a link from these directories, it should be ensured that the URL is submitted in the appropriate category.

The other source for links could be the medium of online publicity. This entails obtaining links by submitting articles, press releases and content to the respective classified websites. Even appropriate blogs and forums could also be harnessed for link development. Links from such sources further enhance the credibility of the website.

Once the sources of link have been identified, the other factors that need due consideration are the relevance and value of the link obtained. Not all links can be good quality links. However, the evaluation is subjective and can be left to individual discretion. It should be observed that the inherent link benefit, in terms of relevant traffic, derived from a thematic website would be more than, a link sourced from a more popular website, albeit from a different business vertical.

Good content is mandatory for any successful Link Building campaign. It serves as a catalyst for encouraging natural linking to the respective site, which results in natural link development, with quality websites. While some of these links may be logical and sequential; others may be completely subjective. However, the back links will all accumulate to constitute a robust link portfolio.

The Paradox
Link building is characterized by its gradual pace, requiring perseverance and patience. However, the pace of link development is subjective, and the turnaround time for link development is determined by the domain, quantity and the nature of links.

It takes extended efforts to obtain high quality links. While, links may be easy to source, good quality links adhering to the essential link building good practices, take longer to develop. For a link to qualify to be classified as good, it should conform to the following parameters:

The links should not be obtained from FFA sites or Link Farms.
Should be sourced from indexed pages, failing which the benefits would not accrue to the respective website.
The link page should not have the link attribute “rel=nofollow “.
The links should be developed manually.
While the parameters are exhaustive, the aforementioned factors are fundamental to any campaign.

As highlighted earlier, link quality carries more weight than quantity. Hence there should not be an effort to divorce quality for quantity. Quality is a function of the semantic similarity of the target website and the relative importance of the respective webpage.

Further, it needs to be noted that acquiring too many links in a shorter period of time may be detrimental to the link building effort. It is a prudent practice to develop links progressively, and reap the benefits over a period of time.

Out source V/s Develop Links In-house: The Cost Benefit Analysis.
It has been established that developing quality links is a tedious task and requires perseverance. The process of identifying potential partners with detailed research, followed by sending mailer and thereafter waiting for the appropriate response and follow up requires protracted efforts.

Link building also requires constant validation of the obtained links, a pursuit again requiring labor.

In view of its labor intensive nature, it is often preferred by webmasters to outsource the link building to specialized agencies. The inherent advantage that these agencies have is their experience and expertise of managing link building campaigns across diversified verticals. A natural fallout to this is that the agencies often have a database of webmasters in assorted domains, hence reducing the time it would normally take to research for potential partners.

The other factor that needs due consideration is the price that the agency demands for executing the campaign. While there is no benchmark for the prices, it is imperative not to fall for offers that appear to be too good. Offers to sell high quality thematic permanent one way links for US $ 2 per link is not unusual! However the quality and the authenticity of such claims always command a veracity check.

The intent should be ascertain the methodology, competence and the quality of such agencies. A lot of small firms are known to develop links by sending a generic mailer to all and sundry, with out making an effort to establish the relevance of the target website.

We often receive such mailers, and a particularly amusing one was sent to us by a link developer who was requesting us for a link for his website selling sex toys!!

While in a rhetoric context, every enterprise endeavors to gratify its customers, however, expecting them to partner with a firm selling coitus paraphernalia is stretching the relevance too far.

The point of sharing this anecdote is to highlight the fact that link building is a specialized exercise and there should be adequate caution exercised before outsourcing the link building, since the firm would be representing your enterprise. The nature of reporting, client servicing and quality are several other parameters that should also be considered.

Link building is about bringing more pre-qualified traffic to your site, and not manipulating Page Rank. Consequently, link-building campaigns aren’t easy. It takes time to seek out sites, blogs, and directories that are relevant to your business and worthy of being your business partner on the Web.

Hence to derive the true benefits of link building, one initiate it after assessing the requirement, budget and objective, since the benefits of this exercise are far reaching and continuous. The link building plan should be comprehensive and should explore every avenue of link building involving sourcing links from directories, blogs, forums and by link baiting, an exercise that generates the best links.

We would encourage you to share with us your experiences and opinions on the subject of link building.