Link Building: The Key to Google PageRank

Newspaper circulation is decreasing as people flock to the Web for news and information. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that one in four media jobs has disappeared since the year 2000.

This trend presents a new challenge for PR and marketing professionals. Today, their success is determined largely by reputation management--or what comes up in the first page of search results. It's no longer journalists they must win over to earn that coveted spot. Now they're faced with complex search engine algorithms. So, what does it take to get a page one ranking? You have to be strategic. The people who create search engine algorithms are smart--and they keep tweaking the formulas. In fact, according to CNET, Google alone changed its search algorithm 450 times in 2007. If you try to cheat the system, you'll get penalized, or even banned.

In his book The New Influencers, Paul Gillin explains “The Google PageRank algorithm is based on the assumpntion that a particular Web page’s importance is defined by the number of other pages that link to it.” Thus, if you want a high page rank, you have to get other Web sites to link back to yours. There are several approaches you can take and here are eight to get you started:

  1. Distribute a news release via a third party wire service, and be sure to include links to various pages of your Web site—not just your homepage. By distributing your news and related links to a large audience, it’s likely that others will take interest and republish your news release and links on their own Web sites and blogs. After you issue a news releases, follow up with key journalists and popular bloggers who would be most interested in your story.
  2. Create good headlines for your news releases. When others link to content on social media sites like Digg or del.ici.ous, they typically use the headline. If the headline isn’t interesting, people won’t read any further.
  3. Make sure that your content appears in social media networks--but be wary of putting it there yourself. One very important rule when it comes to sharing your content on a site like Digg or is to be 100 percent transparent if you are tagging your own content. Some argue that it's inappropriate to tag your own content, but others say it's alright as long as you let people know what you're doing. The biggest offense is to tag content while pretending to be someone else. The best way to get your content published in social media networks is to get someone else to put it there.
  4. Write about things people will link to! Feature articles do well on the Web, especially how-to stories and numbered lists. Features are typically evergreen, meaning they don’t become outdated after a few days like typical news stories. Make your content easy to understand and appealing to a large base. Take CNN or Fox News as an example. They find ways to nationalize local stories, making them appealing to a nationwide audience.
  5. Create a good reason for people to visit your Web site. Financial companies that offer free tax refund predictors or mortgage calculators get a lot of Web site traffic. Some companies such as Burger King offer fun games to attract visitors—a technique known as “advergaming.” People enjoy the free resources and fun games and they’ll want to share your site with others.
  6. Take advantage of free opportunities to publish information on the Web. Check out Yahoo! Answers, Google Groups and LinkedIn Answers. Make sure your company or organization has a good entry in Wikipedia and check it daily--anyone can edit your Wikipedia entry! Start a account and start bookmarking your favorite Web sites. If people see that you’re bookmarking really interesting stuff, they’ll want to find out more about you and visit your Web site.
  7. Consider starting a blog, but only if you have the time to post regular updates and respond to comments. If you don’t have time to publish your own blog, you can still be active in the blogosphere. Read blogs that are relevant to your work and comment on them. If your comments are good, people will check out your Web site. Plus, you’ll start to develop relationships with bloggers and you’ll be able to send them pitches that they might actually read. Don’t engage in blog spam! Be careful about posting links to your own Web site in the comments section and never send bloggers impersonalized, non-targeted pitches. Remember, the word "pitch" is a four-letter word to bloggers. You don't want to pitch a blogger, but "engage them in conversation."
  8. Reward inbound links. When you come across a news story or a blog post that relates to your business link to it from your site. Most blogs feature a tool called Trackback that alerts the blogger whenever someone links to his or her content. Cross-linking boosts SEO for both parties. People like to refer to it as "Link Love" -- everyone is happy and wins in the end.

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