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How to Boost Your Website's Traffic
by Keeping the Search Engines Happy

Part 2 - Off-Page Criteria

In Part 1 of this article we looked at various ways that on-page criteria affect your website's results with search engines. It makes sense that search engines like Google would evaluate your actual web pages in order to guage their relevance to search queries. But there are many things completely off your website that influence the ranking of your web pages as well.

Why do things not even on your website impact your relevance?

Google needs to know not only what your web page is about, it also needs to know how the information you have compares to the information available on other websites. Google wants to make sure it is providing the best possible search results. This is what made Google so popular in the first place. People know they can rely on Google to find top quality information and separate the chaff from the wheat.

Some off-page criterion may seem to be completely out of your control. For example, when someone does a search in Google they will be give a list of search results. The searcher will then go down the list choosing which sites look like they might be helpful based on the description that appears in Google's results list. We all know that...

But Google also takes note of how long searchers spend on a website before they come back to the search results page and try another site. So if someone finds your website in Google, visits your site, then leaves right away to try another site, Google will think that your website didn't provide the answer people were looking for. So the next time someone searches for the same thing your website will be ranked even lower in the results.

That is one of the reasons why it is so important to provide real quality content for your visitors and to try to tightly focus the theme of your pages. So when someone finds your page through Google they get the top quality information exactly related to the topic they were searching for. If you do that you will make your visitor happy and Google happy, which will result in higher rank for your website.

The More Quality Links the Merrier

Another off-page criteria used by the search engines is the number and quality of links to (in-bound) and from (out-bound) your site.

Many people have heard of this and falsely believe that it is simply a numbers game. Let's start with in-bound links. In-bound links are links from other websites that link to your website. Google kind of looks at these links as a vote for your site. If your site wasn't good then those sites wouldn't link to you. But the staff at Google aren't dummies.

Google looks at a number of factors. What is the rank of the website that is linking to you? Is it a lousy site with no ranking itself? Or is it a highly respected authority site related to the theme of your site? It isn't one website, one vote. The value of each in-bound link is relative. In fact some in-bound links might even hurt you...

People who like to cheat are always trying to game Google. When they found out about this in-bound linking criterion they started getting links from any and every site they could find, even sites that had nothing whatsoever to do with the theme of their site. Some even started selling packages to guarantee webmasters a bazillion links coming in to their sites (for a small fee). But the staff at Google aren't dummies.

Avoid these "link farms" like the plague. Not only will Google not be impressed with the huge number of lousy links coming to your site, they will see that you are trying to manipulate them and you will be punished. It's not nice to mess with Mother Google! You risk having your site not only ranked lower but dropped altogether. Do not sign up with link farms.

On the other hand what you do want to do is have as many top notch websites that are directly related to your theme linking to you. This again brings us back to having top notch content on your site so that other webmasters will want to link to your excellent information. These are by far the best links to have. Links coming in to your site from other sites that have higher ranking in your field than your site does.

Continued below...

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Quid Pro Quo

However, most of the time other webmasters will expect a reciprocal link in exchange, fair is fair. It's nice to have links coming in without having a link back in return as this provides the best ranking boost but in reality you will find that you will get those occasionally but if you really want to build a good number of in-bound links you will have to do link exchanges with other websites.

This does still provide a ranking boost to your site. Don't think of it as each link canceling the other one out. Google knows about link exchanges and it can even help Google to find other related sites when it's bots spider your pages. But the staff at Google aren't dummies.

Only accept link exchanges with sites that, first of all, are relevant to the theme of your site. Secondly, only accept link exchanges with sites that you truly believe provide value for your visitors. By linking to that site you are effectively recommending it so your reputation and credibility is on the line.

How to Find Relevant Link Exchange Partners

You could search for other sites and try contacting their webmasters directly but that can be time consuming and it can be awkward if they don't want to link to your site.

Instead I use a free service called Value Exchange. With Value Exchange you sign-up and enter some information like your domain name, site description, keywords describing the theme of your site and your email address.

Value Exchange takes over from there. Your information is cross-referenced with other sites in their database and you are given a list of sites directly related to the keywords you entered.

You then go down the list and evaluate each site to see if you would like to exchage links. If you like what you see you click on the "Yes" to let Value Exchange know you want to invite the other webmaster to have a link exchange. You go down the list selecting "Yes" or "No" depending on your evaluation.

Once you are done you don't have to waste time trying to contact each webmaster yourself. Value Exchange automatically emails every one you said "Yes" to and deletes the ones you chose "No" for.

The other webmaster will then email you back and you work out the details between you.

The other good thing about doing this is that everyone in Value Exchange is interested in finding link partners. Sometimes other webmasters will even come to you and you will receive requests through Value Exchange.

The key to Value Exchange is that it keeps you focused on finding other websites that are directly related to the theme of your site.

Other Ways to Build Your Linking Campaign

Link exchanges are only one way to build your linking campaign. There are also many directories that you can submit your site to such as DMOZ and Yahoo! Directory. There are countless other smaller ones as well but make sure to choose only quality directories (not link farms!). However, it can be tough to get into the more popular ones and some even charge for inclusion.

Another good way to build in-bound links is to submit articles to sites like EzineArticles.com. There are many other sites like this but they all work basically the same way. Your article is posted so that other webmasters can use it on their websites and newsletters. What's the benefit to you? Your article will include live links back to your site which have to be included when they are used by someone else.

There are paid services such as ArticleMarketer.com that will submit your articles to hundreds of outlets for you. This is not a free service but once you get to a certain level it can be an invaluable tool to take your website promotion to the next level.

You can also post answers to questions on various boards and forums. Many forums allow linking to your website. Just be sure you provide a quality answer and the link to your site is relevant. Don't spam forums or it could backfire.

Many blogs allow commenting. Again, provide insightful comments and include your link where appropriate.

Don't Forget to Add High Quality Out-Going Links Too

It's also good to have a few high value out-going links even if that website doesn't link back to you in return. This shows Google that you are interested in providing high quality information and are interested in serving your visitors by linking to other resources.

Choose out-going links to authority sites that are highly regarded in your niche. Try to find non-commercial sites, sites to government agencies, universities or organizations (sites with top level domains ending in .gov, .edu or .org).

Next Time: Building Relationships With Your Visitors

Building a link exchange program to boost your ranking with search engines is designed to drive more free traffic to your website. But if someone visits your site once, then leaves and is never to be seen again it's been a wasted effort. Next time we'll look at why you need to build an ongoing realtionship with your site visitors and some of the ways to do that.

Until then I highly recommend that you sign-up with Value Exchange (its free) and start building your linking program as soon as possible.

All the Best,

Anton Hout

Other Resources:

Value Exchange - (FREE) Find Quality, Relevant Sites to Exchange Links With

EzineArticles.com - (FREE) Make Your Articles Available for Distribution

ArticleMarketer.com - Submit Your Article to Hundreds of Sites at Once

 

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Anton Hout

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