Choosing Link Partners
July 1, 2005
Almost everyone that owns a website has seen the offers: "Hi, we recently visited your website and found that your content would be of interest to our visitors: "we have placed a link on our page at... please place the following information on your website..." Are these worth the time to even read, let alone research? The answer is a resounding YES. There are three main factors you should consider when deciding whether to place a link on your site to another: relevancy, relevancy, and, you guessed it: relevancy. Is the site relevant to yours? Is your site relevant to theirs? Most importantly: are the other links on the page relevant to both of your sites?
Search Engines such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN do place importance on inbound and outbound links. If the link leads to another industry-relevant site, it offers what the search engines are seeking for their users: more relevant content. If you provide such links on your site, you are in fact increasing the relevance of your site. Many top search engine results positions are dominated by "Reviews" and "Directories," because of exactly this reason.
Any effective effort to get you ranked organically within search engines for your keywords will more than likely encompass some sort of linking initiative. Although one-way links from directories such as the Yahoo! Directory and DMOZ-or established industry relevant directories--are the most desirable, reciprocated links between like-industry sites can still carry weight. The following will offer suggestions as to how to go about choosing which sites should link to yours, and more importantly these days: which reciprocal offers to accept.
"One-way" listings (these do not require a reciprocal link) from directories are very valuable in establishing a strong link reputation. Sites that are listed for their categories within the Yahoo! and DMOZ Directories consistently outrank sites that are not, even in Google! Yes, that's right, Google places importance on Yahoo! Directory listings. The reason for this is because most directories are human-edited. If a trained reviewer has judged your site to be relevant to a particular directory category, chances are the Google algorithm will give your site more "ranking weight" for keywords in that category.
Other than the "big three" directories, Yahoo!, DMOZ, and Business.com (very valuable especially for B2B organizations), you can find directories that are particular to your industry. The easiest way to find them is to, surprise, do a search. Search for "(your industry) directory" or "(your keyword) directory" at your favorite search engine, and you should find a list of the desirable ones. Some will be free, and some will charge a nominal fee. I have often said that the $299/year cost for inclusion in the Yahoo! Directory is one of the best investments you can make in your website. Many directories only charge $50 or even less per year.
Chris Boggs is the Search Engine Strategist at InstantPosition.com and Director of Online Marketing with G3group.com.