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Text Link Strategies - A look Forward

We all know that incoming links are an essential element in getting a domain or webpage to rank well in every major search engine. However, there is much debate about which text link strategies a site should employ.

• Should I buy links from domains with high Google Page Rank?
• Should I use normal link exchanges or 3-way link exchanges?
• How about more aggressive tactics like blog spamming?
• Do my textlinks need to come from unique Class C IP addresses?
• How often should I vary my anchor text?

These are all questions that focus on the here and now. If you are marketing websites that have a limited lifespan then these are the kind of questions you should be considering. However, what if you’re marketing a site that needs to rank for years to come?

Thinking like a Search Engine
The key to predicting what search engines may want in the future is to start thinking like one. Once you get yourself in that mindset it isn’t that hard to understand what strategies you should employ.

Quick Facts to Remember:
1. Google, Yahoo, and MSN are businesses. They are designed to make money and have shareholders to answer to if they don’t.
2. They all 3 make money off of advertising in their search results.
3. Not one of these engines is happy that you and I are attempting to manipulate their algorithm.
4. 0 – That’s the amount of money each engine makes when you decide to “rank yourself” instead of buying their advertising.

Armed with these simple facts we can make a powerful inference. Search Engines must do everything in their power to make it difficult for you to manipulate their algorithm if they are to be commercially successful. There are actually two main reasons for this. One being the fact mentioned above, if it is easy to manipulate their algorithm and “rank yourself”, why bother to advertise with them or make high bids on keyword phrases? The second reason is that if an engine is easily manipulated then relevance suffers.

How relevant an engine is determines how many people will continue to use it over and over. It is no coincidence that MSN is the least relevant of the 3 major search engines and also has the least amount of traffic. Yahoo is the second most relevant search engine and they are also the second most popular.

By thinking like a search engine you can see how their entire business model is affected by how easily manipulated their
results are.

What Can We Learn From This?
The best search engines will always actively attempt to close any “loophole” that allows webmaster to manipulate their

Just look at past techniques that no longer work.
• Meta tag stuffing
• Keywords in comment tags
• Repeating keywords in content over and over
• Cloaking (to a large extent)
• FFA Pages

This list could go on and on.

Taking A Step Back
Take a step back and examine one of the oldest forms of backlink building.

The Link Exchange
At its core, link exchanging involves you placing another sites link on your domain, usually on a links page, and the other
site in return places a link back to you. This practice has been around for many years and there are literally thousands of
programs you can join which allow you too quickly gather thousands of incoming links.

Now keeping everything I have mentioned in mind, if you were a search engine would you be excited about this? The answer is you wouldn’t. You would realize that your algorithm heavily relies on measuring backlink popularity and you would see these programs as a major “loophole” manipulating your algorithm. Google has already taken steps to combat this issue so the practice is mainly only effective on Yahoo and MSN.

If you’re taking the long-term approach why use techniques that you’re pretty sure will be eliminated in the near future?
Given time the following practices will surely stop benefiting you in every major search engine:

• Mass Link Exchanges
• Interlinked Networks
• Sitewide Links
• Subdomain Networks
• Duplicate Content Pages/domains
• Off-Topic Links
• High PR Off-Topic Links
• Directory Spam
• Blog Spam

Inferring The Future
Through understanding how a search engine operates and what its overall goals are we can easily infer what backlink
strategies are likely to work in the future. Reading their most recent patents is also a major help. Backlinks will factor heavily in search engine algorithms for the foreseeable future. Knowing this we just have to acquire the kind of backlinks that won’t loose their power when search engines adjust their algorithms.

Long-term Recommendations:
The web is becoming more compartmentalized every day. You will need to acquire backlinks from related sites only. It is
illogical for a search engine to give your website a rankings boost from unrelated links so don’t waist your time gathering
them. Ask yourself; is it harder to get 500 links from sites highly relevant to your domain or 5000 links from unrelated
sites? Anyone who as every ever entered a link exchange program knows the answer to that question, and so do the search engines. Google is already acting on this, the rest will follow.

Gather as many one-way links as you can. If a majority of your backlinks are generated through reciprocal link exchanges what would that tell a search engine? A search engine would have to assume that your content was not valuable enough for other webmasters to link to it naturally or that your content was not as valuable as other sites with one-way links. Would you want to rank a website highly if most of their backlinks were given because of an exchange or affiliate link? Of course not, that would leave your search engine wide open for manipulation.

Place your links in high value areas. It is fairly easy for a search engine to determine the different zones of your website. Most sites have a header section, navigation section (usually on the top or left side), a main content section and a footer section. Where do you think most link spam appears? You guessed it, the footer section and just after the navigation. You will start to see links in low value areas being diminished and links in high value areas such as the main content section of a site receive a boost. There are already several search engine patents that touch on this subject the main one being MSN’s Block Level Analysis.

Don’t give yourself away. Its very surprising to me how many people will buy a textlink in a Sponsor or Advertisers section
on a site. Unless you’re buying the link just for traffic, this is a horrible idea. Doing this is just begs the search engines to discount the links in that section. Why would they want to give you credit for a link you are telling them you paid for? Pages with names like “links.html” or “sponsors.html” are also obvious targets.

Blaze your own backlink trail. Stay away from large link networks. Buying and acquiring links from the same inventory pool that everyone else is using only makes your efforts that much more obvious. Spammers in your websites category will display very similar backlink patterns so make sure your backlinks don’t get flagged along with theirs.

Be wary of most link broker sites. Many brokers actually display the url of the sites they sell links on. If you can see the url so can a search engine. Many times, even if a broker does not display the exact url they will give out data such as the Alexa rank of the website. How hard is it for a search engine to do a reverse search based on the Alexa rank of a site? Brokers are also in the habit of placing textlinks in a link box with many other links. This screams out “Unnatural” to a search engine, especially if many of these links are not closely themed.

Quality over Quantity will eventually win out. Over the next few years all search engines will tighten the noose on backlinks. It is simply bad for business for them to allow the obvious manipulation that massive backlinks gathering is generating. Google is already leading the way and MSN and
Yahoo are sure to catch up soon.

You need to start positioning your site for these inevitable changes. Skip the link exchanges, mass directory submissions, sitewide links, link networks and off topic links altogether. It’s only a matter of time until these techniques will no longer help your site. Place your links in the main content area for a site and make sure your links do not appear in low value sections like the footer, and that your links are not labeled as advertisements.

Instead, focus on gathering links that you would value if you were a search engine. Think about ways to get links from sites ranking in the top few hundred spots for your keyword phrases. These and other categorical links will show search engines that your site is respected within your own community. If you follow these simple tips now you will be positioned for long-term ranking success, while others are left scrambling to PPC when their 50,000 non relevant backlinks are no longer effective.

About the Author: Diane Newsom writes for - An internet marketing company that specializes in text link advertising used to boost a website's search engine rankings. For more information or to buy text links please visit the website.

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