Chapter 13. Attract Links to Your Site
Suppose that you open an e-mail that has a link in it to a news story on the Web. You click it, and read the headline of the story: "Senator Possibly Implicated in Voter Fraud." You read the story, assessing its credibility. Would the story be credible if it were from the Web site of NBC News? The Washington Post? The Drudge Report? The National Enquirer? Some blogger you have never heard of? You are unlikely to give the same credence to that report regardless of the source, because not all sources have the same reputation in your mind. Now understand, some people might have a higher opinion of some sources of information than you do, and regardless of anyone's opinion, even the source held in the lowest regard can be correct on a particular story while the most-respected can be wrong.
Despite occasional surprises, reputation is an effective shortcut for evaluating the quality of information presented to us. Organic search engines use a similar shortcut. Search engines judge the reputation of every Web site so that they can present the highest-quality contentthe content with the best reputation. Search engines have a few ways of judging the quality of content, discussed as page ranking factors in Chapter 12, "Optimize Your Content." By far the biggest element of a search engine's view of your page's reputation is driven by links.
If your Web site is well known, you might already have attracted many links. Perhaps you think that you have no need to improve the links coming to your site. But even some large companies, such as WebMD (www.webmd.com), the well-known medical information site, attract fewer links than they could. WebMD had more than 12,000 links at one time, but virtually all of them to its home page, with few links to the disease information pages that drive referrals from informational queries. WebMD ranked #1 for queries for "webmd," but not for "allergies." A campaign to attract links to WebMD's interior pages changed all that, and it can help your site, too.
Although links are used by search engines just for organic results, search marketers planning only paid campaigns might want to read on as well, because links help your site regardless of their impact on search. Links drive visitors to your sitevisitors who follow those linksand those added visitors mean more Web conversions. But links also improve your organic search results, and in this chapter you learn all about the relationship between links and organic search:
Before starting your own link-building campaign, let's examine why links are so important to search engines.