Building an Effective Linking Strategy

This being my first column, let me begin with a thank you to Ann and Andy. I appreciate this space and will be using the twice-monthly Building Links column to share with you my ideas and practices regarding all aspects of web site linking. I’ve been building links for web sites since 1994. It’s all I do. All day, every day. I built and executed Amazon.com’s first linking campaign way back in the Dark Ages. In fact, three of the world’s five best-known web brands began their online lives with a link-building campaign developed and performed by yours truly.

I hope I don’t sound like I’m boasting; I just want to emphasize my complete confidence in link building as an effective business strategy. In this column, I’ll share specific examples, case studies, and real-life experiences about how to seek, find, track, and build a network of links for your web content. Along the way, I will also explore (and, in some cases, explode) link myths, like the suddenly hot topic of link popularity.

One of the terms I’ll be using again and again is a term I believe I coined: “linkability.” Linkability is basically the degree to which your site’s content can expect to receive links from other places, for instance, from another web site or from an email-based newsletter. The concept of linkability is vital to the process. If your site has a certain type of content, then you can expect to be able to get a certain type of link. If your site is 100 percent sales and product focused, then the linking campaign you should be performing is completely different than the one you would perform if your site featured reference-quality content on a particular subject.

When I build links this week for The Discovery Channel School site, I’ll approach and perform the process differently than I did when I built links for Weather.com or Rodney.com. In this column, I’ll explain the ins and outs of that process so that you can assess your linking needs and put the correct strategy into place to meet them.

Another term I’ll use a lot is “link valuation,” which describes the value of one link pointing to your site versus another link pointing to your site. It is and isn’t simpler than it sounds. For example, you might think that a link to your site from Yahoo has a higher link value than a link to your site from JoeBobs-Link-A-Torium. But it’s not always that obvious because value is NOT the same thing as traffic, and high traffic is not always the motive behind why you need to seek a link from any particular target site.

I’ll also provide nuts-and-bolts advice on the things that everyone needs to do but nobody asks or talks about. For example, do you know what an email link request should look like? You might think you do, but every day I get email from people requesting links on my own site. These requests are dreadful. They contain so many silly mistakes and tell me so much about the sender. Having requested thousands and thousands of links over the years, I know there are at least eight elements that every email link request absolutely must contain. In future Building Links columns, I’ll go into detail on these elements and why you need them.

Next week I’d like to feature an answer to a linking question you have. So, have a question you want to ask? Send it to me, The Link Mensch, at LinkMensch@netpost.com.

Until next time, I remain,

Eric Ward, The Link Mensch

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