Link Building For Top Search Engine Placement (Part 1)
by Dave Davies

For many, the idea of optimizing a website for top search engine 
placement means entering some META tags, maybe titling the page 
appropriately, and then you're done. A long time ago, in an SEO 
galaxy far FAR away, this tactic worked. Unfortunately for those 
optimizing their websites, and fortunately for those using search 
engines to find information, this is no longer the case.

There are now some 80+ factors of your website that are taken 
into consideration when determining the ranking of your website.  
Everything from titles and META's to content and ALT tags are 
weighed and analyzed when your placement on the search engines 
is determined. In a recent article by Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth 
Search Engine Placement, he addressed the fundamentals of 
optimizing your web pages. The article he wrote was entitled "A 
Ten Minute Search Engine Optimization" and can be found on the 
StepForth website at 

This article addresses many of the internal factors taken into 
account in determining your ranking. Another factor which has 
to be taken very seriously is the external links to your website. 
Links to your site are not the most important factor in 
determining your ranking and you will have to have a 
well-optimized site to rank well, however, when all else is 
equal (i.e. when your competitors also have well-optimized 
sites) this can be the determining factor between being found 
and being buried in the search engine rankings.

Links That Work

The first consideration you have to make in your link-building 
efforts is who should be linking to you and whom you should link 
to. These are two separate considerations and despite the fact 
that you will be working on both at the same time, they must be 
considered independently.

Who Should Link To You? (Incoming Links)

When you are looking for sites to link to you there are five 
questions that you must ask yourself:

1) Do they compete with you? While you can try to request a 
link from a site that provides the same or similar products 
and services that you do, this is generally a waste of time that 
could be spent finding legitimate links from sites that would 
like to promote your product or service.

2) Does their site relate to your content? If you have a site 
promoting carpet cleaning products, a link from a hair salon 
will not be of much benefit. Google and the other major search 
engines look for content relationship when determining the value 
of a link. If the content of the two sites is totally unrelated 
the link is given very little weight if any. Focus only on 
attaining links from sites relevant to your own.

3) How does Google rate the site? Google has come out with a 
fantastic tool called the Google Toolbar. The advanced version 
of the toolbar includes the PageRank of the site you are 
currently visiting. Without getting into a long description of 
PageRank (see Google's definition), the higher the number the 
better (it is a ranking out of 10 where traditionally anything 
above 4 is good and anything above 6 is excellent. If Google 
rates the site well then the link will be more valued than from 
a site that Google rates poorly. When looking for links give 
more time and attention to those with PageRanks of 4 or higher. 
The Google Toolbar is a free download available from Google at

4) Will they require a reciprocal link? Whether the site will 
require a reciprocal link or not is a serious consideration. The 
more links to your site that you have that are not reciprocated 
the better. These links are given added weight. This area will 
be addressed further below.

5) How many links on the page? How many links are on the page 
that will link to you, and where your link will be placed is 
another serious consideration. If your link from their site will 
be on a page with 100 other links then the value of the link 
itself is greatly reduced. Also, whether your link will be on 
the top of the page or the bottom will also determine the value 
of the link itself.

This may be a lot to consider, however it can save you enormous 
amounts of time and frustration. People will often work for 
hours to attain a link from a site they like when in reality 
the site has a low PageRank and the link won't even carry much 
weight as far as search engine placement is concerned.

It is only responsible to note that as a general rule any 
relevant inbound link will help somewhat. If, in your travels, 
you find a related site with a PageRank of 2 that is very simple 
to get a link from, it's well worth your time to do so given 
that that time taken is only about 5 minutes. Not all link 
building is this simple and it's in the more advanced efforts 
(email communications with the webmaster for example) that you 
will want to apply the above noted "rules".

Who Should You Link To? (Outgoing Links)

The question, "who should you link to?" is a very serious one 
and can have significant repercussions on your search engine 
placement. If you are linking to sites, this is your way of 
saying, "This site is highly relevant to mine and that my 
visitors will enjoy the content on it."  For this reason there 
are a number of considerations that have to be made when 
determining whether reciprocal links are in your best interest. 
Factors of the website that should be considered when determining 
whether to link to that website are:

1) Is the site's content related to yours? Like incoming links 
(sites linking to you), the relevancy of the content on both 
sites should be high. If you have a number of links from your 
site to websites that are completely unrelated to you, the value 
of these links is negligible and further, will reduce the 
perceived value of your site.

2) Does the site compete with you? In this case it is your 
interests, not those of the other webmaster, which must be taken 
into account. Do you want to link to a site that provides the 
same or similar products/services as you? Unless the site is 
willing to reciprocate the link and they have a very high 
PageRank it is probably not wise to give your visitors the 
opportunity to go to the site of a competitor.

3) What is their PageRank? Many people falsely believe that 
any outbound link will hurt your placement. This is simply not 
the case. Poor link-building is the cause of this misconception, 
not the link itself. When you are determining whether to link 
to another site, take a look at the PageRank it has been 
assigned by Google. Like the boost this gives to your site in 
the incoming links, so too can this have a positive effect on 
your outbound links. If all of your outbound links are to highly 
regarded sites (by the search engines) and their content is 
relevant to yours then these links will help, and not hinder 
your rankings.

Article by Dave Davies, Marketing Manager, StepForth Search 
Engine Placement Inc. (