Search engines like to be secretive. They’re like that one dodgy friend everyone has that never fully commits to something because they don’t want to be held fully liable if they decide to change their mind. It’s frustratingly annoying, but we still continue to be friends with them because we genuinely enjoy what they bring to the table.
Search engines are like that with their algorithms in how they determine a certain website’s relevancy and how often they crawl a site for updated content: They never actually tell you what they are going to do. Just check out what Google says on its webmaster central page:
“Google’s spiders regularly crawl the web to rebuild our index. Crawls are based on many factors such as PageRank, links to a page, and crawling constraints such as the number of parameters in a URL. Any number of factors can affect the crawl frequency of individual sites.”
In layman’s terms: Whenever, wherever, and however it wants.
Luckily, all is not lost, and there are a few hard-and-fast rules to increase your search engine rankings. These are continually being updated, though; just last week Google confirmed that a site’s performance and functionality now factors into its rankings. Of those rules, one of the most effective is link building. It’s known that Google, Yahoo! and Bing all look at the number, and the quality, of your site’s incoming links, and the more links you have, the higher page rank you get, and the better chance you have at ranking under those money keywords that get searched 100K plus times a month.
How can you get links? Sure, you could pay for them. That might be the quick way out, but who wants to spend any extra resources you might have leftover — resources you could use to, say, reward your well-deserving employees — on things you could easily do for free? (Plus, it is frowned upon in SEO ethics.) Here’s how to build your incoming links for free, along with a few key points to remember:
- “I’ll link to you if you link to me.” Because links matter across the board, everyone wants someone to link to their site. Exchanging one of your links for a link in return is the quickest way to get noticed. Don’t abuse this privilege, though, because the search engines will notice, and the more outbound links a site has (including yours) the less valuable your link will be.
- There are such things as bad links, so make sure you trust the website providing the link. Any page that promises to increase rankings is probably a scam, and the search engines will hold you responsible if your link shows up on a site in a bad neighborhood.
- PageRank matters, even in terms of the page that’s linking to you. Higher PageRank and more link popularity increase your incoming link’s value.
- Links from .gov, .edu, and .org sites are ideal because to the search engines, they have higher trust/authority.
- Target people in related industries, but not your direct competitors. Search engines will count incoming links from related websites as higher than links from random sources. If you work in home health care, aim to get links from companies that manufacture health care products or provide Medicare services.
- Make the link text one of your keywords. This gives you an even greater option to optimize your site for that particular keyword rather than your company’s name, which likely already holds the No. 1 spot for that keyword.
- Register with online directories, but as with link exchanges, avoid the directories that only promise to build your rank. Some trustworthy options include: Google Directory, Yahoo! Directory and Dmoz. Searching and registering for industry-specific directories will also help prove their legitimacy and increase your SEO ethically.
- Article/press release submission sites. While there is some debate about how effective this method is, you’re still able to provide a link back to your site, as well as push out more content about your company. Some options include: EzineArticles, PressExposure, PRLog.org, and i-Newswire.
Remember: Don’t expect rankings to increase overnight. Leave a few weeks in there for the search engines to crawl and re-index your page before making snap decisions to change the amount or the type of your links.