A lot of business owners I work with understand they need inbound links but aren’t sure how to get started or prioritize their efforts. I suggest they begin by establishing a base of links from authority sites that work toward building their business reputations. I refer to these as foundational links and believe they are the cornerstone to all SEO and marketing efforts.
Foundation links support a website much like a foundation supports a home: They’re the solid basis from which the rest of your linking efforts can build on. For the most part, these links don’t change and are immune to the fickle nature of social media sites and search engine algorithms. They come from established sources, aren’t expensive to secure and channel both street and search engine credibility which is crucial for visibility and high rankings. So what kind of links can be considered foundational links?
I consider directory links to be the foundation of foundational linking. They’re easy to find, relatively inexpensive to secure and are rock solid performers from a marketing standpoint. Stick to established directories such as JoeAnt, Best of the Web, GoGuides, UncoverTheNet, and Ezilon. These directories make my short list because:
- They are human reviewed
- They’re organized by keyword categories
- All are indexed in the search engines
- They keep contextual advertising to a minimum
- They maintain quality listings
Use the ISEdb to find niche and specialty directories. Tip: Many niche directories sell mailing lists and/or are part of associations which you can join.
I also recommend you take the time to submit to the Open Directory Project, pay for a Yahoo! Directory listing (especially if the site is new) and look for submission opportunities at Wikipedia. Yes I know the Wikipedia uses nofollow on their links rendering them virtually useless from a link popularity standpoint, but—the traffic you’d get from those links is worth it. If you can find an opportunity to add your site where it will make a useful contribution, do it.
Since we’re talking about foundation links, we need to break authority links into two types; links that develop street credibility (business authority) and links we need for high rankings (search authority).
Business authority establishes you as a player in your industry. Links from the Chamber of Commerce, industry Associations, networking communities etc—these type of links work to develop your reputation as a business owner. Tip: Find conferences in your niche and buy links in their online programs/itineraries). Another tip: Take the time to create a keyword lens in Squidoo and add your RSS feeds to it.
To secure search authority, you need links from high ranking sites. Since it’s likely the top ranked sites are also key competitors it will be hard to secure links from these people. Search on your “long-tail” terms instead and negotiate links from the top 20 businesses listed.
Use the Google Directory to find topically relevant sites with high PageRank scores, investigate as partner potential and secure links from these as well. Tip: search the Wikipedia for your terms, secure links from sites listed under “Resources” and/or “References” on the pages you find. Why? They wouldn’t be listed there unless they were very credible sources.
There are independent newsletters in just about every business niche imaginable. Join as many as you can and request advertising rates from any that allow text link ads in the advertising copy and archive past issues in a spiderable database. If the newsletter showcases guest writers, ask to be included and contribute article content. Keep an eye out for references to additional newsletters and news outlets from viewer comments and advertisements. Tip: Include a ‘request to reprint’ statement under your articles to encourage others to use.
While links in yellow page directories do not always pass link popularity, they’re still good to have. If you’re tied to a bricks and mortar location, be sure to hyperlink your address to the contact page and submit your site to the online yellow page directories. Many regional directories list businesses geographically and will include a website that’s indexed by location. Tip: Even if you’re not bricks and mortar, if you pay for the smallest yellow page ad and include your URL/phone number you’ll automatically be added to their online directory.
If you used each of these resources to secure one link, you’d have 13 quality links with minimal effort. That’s not bad if you consider each offers additional resources to tap into.
Don’t overlook using these resources to build your base of inbound links, by doing so you’ll have a solid linking foundation to start from. Once it’s in place you can use other more creative linking tactics to grow your link popularity and build on your business and search authority reputation.
Debra Mastaler offers link training and custom link building campaigns through her Williamsburg Virginia based firm Alliance-Link. She is also the author of the link building blog The Link Spiel. The Link Week column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.