Many small businesses start their websites and put a "Links" page up as one of their first few pages?thinking that this will help them rank better. While it's a nice gesture to link to your vendors, associates, resources, and products you like?and your customers may even find this page helpful or interesting?having a links page alone won't help your website to rank better. Instead, You Want Your Website to Be Like A Prom Queen That's not to say you want your website to wear a sparkly dress or a shiny tiara or make a sappy acceptance speech.
Instead, the way your website should resemble a prom queen is more about the election process. Prom queen election results aren't based on strategy, marketing, qualifications, or campaign speeches?as much as they are on popularity. Just as with prom queens, your small business's website's search engine ranking results are about popularity. It's not the links on your site that contribute to raising your ranking but the links coming into your site from other sites that help you to rank better. But getting links coming into my website is harder than just putting links on my site! That's the whole point. The search engines don't want to make it easy for you to come up at the top.
If that were the case, they'd have a whole mess of under-qualified websites at the top of the rankings, just because those site owners had the time to add pages and pages of links to their site. The search engines want to make sure that only the best sites, with the most relevant content, show at the top of their listings. How they do that is by looking just at the "hard stuff"?things like well-written content and good coding?and then making sure that those sites have good-quality links coming in from other sites.
What constitutes a good quality link? If what you need is links coming into your site, then does that mean you should find every directory site you can and get your site listed? Or that you should use a website link-building service that guarantees to get your link on a bunch of sites for a low price? Those strategies give you a lot of incoming links, but it's not so much about quantity as it is about the quality of those links. The search engines base your site's popularity partially on the popularity of the other sites pointing to it. Having the New York Times link to your site is a lot more valuable than garnering attention from Bob's Shrimp Shack.
So, how do you get these valuable links? Link strategies that can help your website come up well include: Offering articles for publication on other websites. If you require sites publishing your articles to link back to your site, you'll wind up with many incoming links?which is great. You may even find guest author opportunities on a recurring basis, which can get several links back to your site instead of just one. Putting out a press release. If it leads to an article, then a newspaper or magazine will probably put the article on its website. If the article includes a link to your site, that will help your rankings.
Putting your link on your partner's sites. If you regularly work with other businesses, they may be willing to exchange links with you. This makes sense, and it gets a link back to your site. However, I don't recommend you exchange links with every company that comes your way?that will just make your site look unfocused and unprofessional. Exchanging only with companies directly related to yours will help your customers and your ranking.
Taking advantage of link opportunities with professional organizations. If you belong to a professional organization such as the Chamber of Commerce or another organization that offers an online membership directory, be sure to get your link listed there. It's often a membership benefit that can be overlooked.
Commenting on blogs and listing your website. If you have relevant, interesting comments, posting them on other professional blogs and referencing your business website can help raise your ranking. Starting a blog and linking to your site from your posts. This may sound a bit like cheating, but as long as you make sure that your blog contains high-quality information as well as links back to your site, it can pay off in a big way with both search engines and visitors. Even if you only take a few of these steps, you'll increase the number of incoming links to your site and your site's perceived popularity. And, this will increase your chances of being elected "prom queen" and wearing the sparkly tiara of a high ranking on the search engines.
Erin Ferree is a brand identity designer who creates big visibility for small businesses. As the owner of elf design, Erin is passionate about helping her clients stand out in front of their competition and attract more clients. One of the best ways to do that is with Search Engine Optimization, which you can learn about in her eLearning product, Raise Your Ranking, which is available at http://www.howtoraiseyourranking.com .