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SEO Basics: 20 Tips for Building a Natural-Looking External Link Profile

OK, so, we all know "External link building is essential for improving search engine rank." But, the bigger question is HOW do you get these external links. Not to mention that there are so many scams out there by "SEO companies" that manipulate the process making it appear unnatural to the search engines, and quit frankly could result with a red-flag by the Almighty Google. If you’re looking to take FULL advantage of an external linking campaign- here are a few guidelines that you should pay attention to.

20 useful tips for ANY website looking to build up a credible external link profile.

1. Never buy links. Google has stated many times that it will penalize any site that is buying or selling links. The links that are sold are nearly always low-quality, non-relevant and likely to damage a website’s quality score. Note: there are some highly quality links out there that you can get. These can be VERY expensive, and using quite secretive. The links that I am referring to here are from the "link farms."

2. Build a specific page for external links. Never name this page ‘Links’ as most people do. All this achieves is to inform search engines that a website is trying to obtain links in order to manipulate its search engine position. Search engines want websites that have something useful to offer. Name the page ‘Resources’ or ‘Useful Websites’ and suggest to search engines that the website is interested in offering its readers alternative avenues of relevant content.

3. Two thumbs up for receiving free links by providing quality content. Content is king on the Internet, and by posting quality content, readers are more likely to mention and link back to the source on other websites, providing free links for the original content provider.

4. With the explosion of social networking, word-of-mouth promotion is a powerful ally. Create social networking accounts and provide informative posts that people will share.

5. Upload a video to YouTube, or any of the other video sharing sites. Make a tutorial, create a promotional video, or think of something quirky that will capture the viewers’ interests and include a link in the video pointing back to the main website. ALWAYS INLCUDE A LINK BACK TO YOUR SITE! J

6. Post on forums that are related to the websites area of interest. Interact with other users and make informative posts. Signature links can be included after a set amount of posts. Once the forum user is regarded as an established member, direct links may be allowed in actual posts.

7. Keep resource (link) pages organized. Create separate categories for links and don’t overcrowd the pages. 50 links a page should be a maximum. If the page exceeds 50 links; build more pages.

8. Post on blogs that are topically relevant. Make useful posts or risk having any comments – and links – deleted. Look for blogs that are powered by WordPress. Looking for a little help on where to comment? Check these tools out: http://commentsniper.com/

9. Use anchor text for links. Ensure that the website’s main keywords are used within the anchor text. Watch spamming and don’t overload your anchor links. Overloading them can send a red flag to the search engines that a website is manipulating links. Vary the keywords used in links.

10. Do not have all inbound links pointing to one page. The majority of links should point to a website’s homepage , but a decent amount should point to secondary pages. Don’t forget about lower category pages, it is all part of building a natural link profile. When in doubt, go with the "50-50 rule." About 50% of the links should go directly to your homepage, the other 50% should be spread around the site (just make sure that these are still useful and converting pages for you!)

11. Search engines look for a natural link profile. Build links gradually and spread their location throughout a website. If 20 links are created every Monday and none are built any other day, a search engine may suspect that a website is manipulating links. Spread any link building over time and never create links in bulk batches. Search engines love links but they want them to be achieved naturally. Offer the appearance of a gradual link-building process that looks realistic.

12. The more relevant the link, the better. Not to say that if you are a Doctor and you have a link from a printing company that this link won’t count, but it would be better if you had one from a medical association, medical blog, medical forum, etc.

13. The more authoritative and reputable the site, the better the link. If the linking website is a favorite of the search engines, this link will hold more importance. Remember that links are really votes and the more esteemed the voter, the more influential the vote. Links from high PR sites can be good but do not get too distracted by PageRank – it can be misleading. If you want a good tool to help with deciding high authority pages check out the Firefox plugin "SEO Quake."

14. Make a website a natural link magnet.  Encourage links from other websites by offering their readers a discount or free gift. Let other site owner know that their readers will have the chance of a reduction or preferential service. Website owners love their readers to think they will only get access to a particular offer on another site because their website is the referrer. Most websites will be happy to link to your site if you offer favorable treatment to their readers.

15. If you want a reciprocal link from a website that is slightly out of your league you will have to up the ante. Offer them a premium link. This could be an entire page that is dedicated to their website and their services. All you ask in return is to place a simple little textual link on their site. This may seem a bit one-sided but the link from the bigger site will hold valuable search engine influence and could be worth the extra effort.

16. Add your website to relevant business directories.

17. Article submissions to article directories are a good method for obtaining free links. Check out http://www.submityoutarticle.com.

18. Press Release submission is also a good strategy. We like PRLog.org (and it’s free!).

19. Be aware of NOFOLLOW and DOFOLLOW attributes. There is no such thing as a "DOFOLLOW" tag, it just means that it doesn’t have a "NOFOLLOW" tag and will pass "link-juice" (as we SEO geeks like to call it) to your website.

20. Don’t waste your time trying to arrange a link with a commercial site. These large sites hardly ever accept link exchanges. That does not mean that you cannot post on their blog, if they have one, and gain a backlink from an influential blog. Even better if the blog has a DOFOLLOW attribute. Remember that the blog should still relate to your own site’s content.

Links are crucial to achieving a good search engine rank, but be wary of how you obtain links and where you get them from. A successful link-building campaign requires planning, preparation and research. Focus on building a natural link profile. This may take longer to achieve but the end result will be worth the extra effort. A natural link profile will never result in damage to a website’s reputation – unlike many of the quick and easy link-building alternatives.

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