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Have you ever wondered why one web site (maybe yours) is buried deep in the search rankings for a particular keyword, while another site (your competitor’s) is at the top? Both sites may have similar content and even similar metatags, but one is number one and the other is number 131.

The answer to this disparity may lie in a factor known as link popularity. When search engines determine rankings, many things are taken into consideration and one of them is how many sites are linked to your site. Search engines such as Google give much importance to both the quantity and the quality of these incoming links. If many sites are linked to yours, your site is considered to be an important resource in that particular field and that is why the search engines would like to give such a site a high ranking. Also if the links to your site are coming from “important” or high ranked sites, then your web site is considered still more important.

In this factor of link popularity, new sites are somewhat at a disadvantage as older sites have been around a while and have acquired more links over the years. However, with a bit of “elbow grease” (sustained effort) it is possible to boost your site’s link popularity and position in search engine results.

One of the first things that should be done is to submit your site to the Open Web Directory ( By doing this you will get one link! But a listing in the Open Web Directory is considered to be an important link, because it comes from a very high-ranking source. It takes a while to be listed in this directory because the directory gets thousands of inclusion requests, and it uses volunteer editors to process them, but sites with good content and design generally get included. Similarly, a single listing in the Yahoo directory will also boosts your site’s ranking, but this will cost you $299. So if you have a big advertising budget, a paid listing in Yahoo is an option worth considering.

How can you determine what is a high-ranking site-one which will help your own search engine rank if it links to you? Go to the main page of Google and download the Google Toolbar. It will install itself on your web browser. Every time you visit a web site, look at the Google Toolbar and it will show a section called, Page Ranking. If you see a gray bar, it means the site is not included in Google’s index. If the bar is all white or has green, then put your mouse over the bar and you will see a page ranking number on a scale from 0-10. Yahoo has a 10 ranking, while a new site with no links to it may be 0. Average sites are usually 5-6, while very good sites have
rankings of 7-9. If any of these high-ranking sites link to you then your own ranking will improve.

If you are wondering where to start or how to find sites that might make good link partners, why not go back to the search engines and look at the competing sites that are in the position where you want to be. Visit one of those sites, and if you have a Google tool bar installed, press the "page info" section of the bar, and then hit the "backward links" button, you will then get all the sites in Google that link to that particular site. If you do not have the tool bar installed you can get the same result by going to Google and making a search for link: . Now you have the sites that are linking to your competitor.
Many of these sites could also be your link partners.

Another way of getting suitable link partners is to think of your field, for example widget manufacturers, and then make a search "directory, directories, widget manufacturers" You may get sites that list all the widget manufacturers, and this is a perfect place to add your link. You can also go in the Open Web Directory ( and search for your category and see what sites are listed there. Finally, as you go into the sites linking to your competitors you may find some sites with excellent lists of links, and you can pursue those possibilities to. If you work at it you will find no shortage of possible link partners.

As you develop a list of sites to contact the next step is to choose which sites you want to link with. First visit the site, and see if they have a links page. Also see if the links page is visible, that is, linked to their main site. If it is not very visible then the site will not generate any traffic for you. Also, if you have the Google Toolbar installed see what the page ranking of that site is and the page ranking of its links page. If it is zero then it will not help you very much. And finally consider, how will this site fit on your site. Though you are not responsible for what happens to your visitors after they leave you, if you give them a list of bad resources it does not create a good impression. So, skip the sites that are questionable.

Once you have a good site write them a short letter and explain that you would like to exchange links. If you have seen something on their site that strikes you it is good to mention it so they can see that you are real human and not a robot, as there are some annoying robotic programs trying to do this kind of work. Mention your site’s name, its URL and a description so that they can easily make a link for you. If they have categories on their links page, then mention the category where you want your link to be placed.

Also, if you really want to get your link placed quickly, you can publish a link to that site before you write to them, explaining that you have made a link, telling them the URL where the link can be found, and that you would like a reciprocal link. If eventually they do not link to you, then you can either take down the link, or if it is a particularly good resource, leave it up (a bit of magnanimity never hurts!)

Another important element of your link building process is your own links page and how you maintain it. It is best if you will make some categories, as people do not like to go through a long list of random links. Make sure that there is a short description for each link, and also if necessary edit the descriptions so that they do not take up too much space, and also edit with an eye to quality. A well-maintained links page can become a resource in itself and a valuable contribution to your own content.

You may be thinking that this sounds like a lot of work. Yes it takes some time, but if you devote an hour per day, or per week, or whatever the time you can allot and keep at it on a regular basis you can improve your link popularity, generate new traffic to your site, and in the process learn a lot about how the Internet works.

This Web Marketing article was written by Donald Nelson on 3/22/2005

Donald Nelson is a web developer, editor and social worker. He has been working on the Internet since 1995, and is currently the director of A1-Optimization (, a firm providing low cost search engine optimization, submission and web promotion services.