Certainly, one of the best ways to build-up one-way links that will steer traffic into your website is to leave your link at as many of the tens of thousands of general web directories as possible. And yet, how you accomplish this will reflect your rankings in the search engines as well as your PageRank.
Whatever you do when you start your link building program, set aside an email address on your website for spam. Although very few respectable websites and directories will spam you in exchange for listing your business, even some of the biggest require that you accept their spammy newsletter to participate in their service. Most notably, ExactSeek and Jayde require that you sign-up for a newsletter, and these are prominent, well-ranked directories (although they are practically useless other than for helping out with your rankings).
You will use your spam email address to sign-up for links. This will have to be a working address that you can monitor. Do not call the mailbox "links", "directories", "dirs" or "spam" as these addresses are often deleted by the directory master or owner. The addresses "webmaster" or "admin" are also often frowned on, as well.
Along the same lines, develop a known alias for the name associated with that email account set aside for spam. This is because the spammers will want to know what to call you when they send you stuff. If you make it a dead give-away, you will know it is spam when you receive it. I have used initials and such as my alias.
You can funnel email addressed to this address into a separate folder within your email client software, but be sure to check it at least once a day. This is because you will actually find some link exchange requests and other generally positive contacts in there, from time to time. And because some of the spots that require you to sign-up for a webmaster or SEO newsletter are actually not bad articles and can sometimes be helpful.
Now, before going any further, if you are going to promote and market your website, make sure that it offers absolutely no email addresses on it. Certainly, your contact information must be there, but NEVER use a mailto: link as a means for someone to contact you, ever. The reasoning behind this is simple, as you gain in popularity on the internet, spambots will start coming around and frequenting your website, crawling every page they can to harvest email addresses they can spam. The only acceptable way around this is to offer a secure online contact form which your visitors can use to send you a message. I personally recommend using HiQFormMail installed in a separate directory without a default configuration file to discourage hacking it (you will have to declare a config file from within the form page used). If your web designer does not offer such a secure web form, find someone who does. It is essential to protect your business from the onslaught of spam, which is only getting nastier and is still growing exponentially due to government's utter failure to police the internet.
There is only one other possible alternative to a contact form, and that is to put your email address in a graphic image so that the robots cannot read it, but your site visitors can. But this method is very amateurish, as it requires that your visitors type that address into an available email client. Making an email link will only defeat the purpose of hiding your email address. On top of this, all encrypted mailto: links can (and have been able to for some time) now easily be deciphered by spambots. Do NOT use mailto: links (ever) on your web pages or when you do get more traffic, it will be mostly from spam email.
Once you are prepared with a decent website to promote that offers rich content for your visitors, you will need to start promoting it. The best way to create interest in your website is to build a network of back links pointing to your website. Keep track of each and every link that you submit, no matter where you submit it to. By keeping a record of your work in a text document, you will be able to more easily spot new sites that you haven't submitted to, as well as spot fraudsters that will try and use your submission as their own when asking for a reciprocal link. Use the find function of your text editor to easily and quickly locate domain names that you have previously submitted to as you try different lists of directories.
The one thing to be certain of, is that the quality of a back link is much more important than a quantity of back links. I cannot stress this enough, because too many are falling under the impression that blanketing the internet with crappy links will help them out. This is just not true. Google is now indicating that "bad link neighborhoods" can actually hurt your efforts.
I personally do not leave links on directories which have a Google PageRank of 0, or less (such as "N/A"). Sites with a PR0 or No Page Rank at all may actually be banned in Google, so these represent bad neighborhoods of links. Unless I specifically have some faith in them, or have some foundation for believing in the future success of their web directory (such as if I own the directory, or if I know that it was just started).
However, remember that I am talking about the website home page. The home page address of any website (the default address where you wind-up when simply typing the domain name in your browser's address bar) should always have some sort of a PageRank (above 0). Still, Google will often disregard the inner web pages on even popular sites such as ours, especially if they are link exchange directories. You are simply trying to avoid the bad websites which may be banned, not all of the pages that Google simply ignores and yet still spiders.
If you need to get a hold of a Google Toolbar so that you can easily identify PR (and possibly even vote positively for good sites and negatively for black hat directories and link exchanges), you can download one at Google: http://toolbar.google.com/. You actually have to go into the options and activate the PageRank and voting features because these features have privacy implications, and you need to agree that you will share this information. Once this is done, you should be able to easily see the rank of pages you visit in the toolbar (including your own pages). In fact, once these settings are active, Google will be reported the activity of when you visit your own pages, so this will only help out your own site's ranking. You can even vote on your own site if you activate the voting feature. I would refrain from voting on your own site too often (a couple of times a week is good, but don't spam Google with votes for only your sites). FireFox toolbars are not near as effective in this way, unfortunately. FireFox browsers aren't yet allowed to vote. However, a programmer could probably make that possible with a FireFox plugin that you could add-on to the browser.
No One is More Interested in Your Website's Success than You
Whatever you do, do not hire an SEO pro or link builder to do this for you. I suggest that you NOT leave this important exercise up to someone else. If you are really too busy to do it yourself, you may well consider hiring a high-schooler to do it well, on a part-time basis. Because it is that important. Because when you farm this out and pay someone else to do it, they will either use a bot to automate submissions for you (you can do that with some inexpensive software, yourself) or simply cut and paste your listing and submit it to as many websites as you require. As an example, take a look at the following listing information and follow the logic:
There are a couple of things wrong with that listing...
The Link Title (also known among webmasters as the "Anchor Text")
So, it looks like this to the directory script:
This code is actually fine, but it does lengthen the listing. Now, the previous 62 character title is actually, in reality (because of how the script has to handle it), 67 characters long.
That title (67 characters or 9 words) may be too long for some directories. One directory might require that it be no more than 40, 50 or 60 characters, or maybe no more than 4 or 5 words.
If it were truncated, it may well just plain look silly...
2) On top of this, even though our website's official name is "Syd's Eastside Auto Parts, Used Cars & Rebuilders", just like the sign out in front of the shop, we have inserted "Used Trucks" into the listing title. Some directories will see this as an attempt to stuff keywords. In a way it is, but if we were really stuffing keywords, we actually would have started with the most important keyword, "Auto Parts". Actually, this brand name was specifically chosen for its keywords in order identify the business online, though we remain optimistic about our branding by making "Syd's Eastside" the most important part of that brand, by using it first. This is because we are looking at a long term investment into our brand name recognition. And well known brands will beat out keywords any day of the week.
3) The truth is that you will want to apply your keywords at the start of your link title (the anchor text), when you can. And yet, each directory is different. Although most directories are happy with the official website name, some may not accept the actual name of the place just because there are so many keywords in the title. The plain reality is that you have to read each directory's guidelines at the time of submission. When a hired gun is doing this, it is usually a bot or a human underling. Are they trying to add your listing as quickly as possible so that they can move onto the next job, or are they going to stop and read the guidelines prior to each submission? I think not.
Sure, there are actually some companies out there that care about their customers on an individual basis, not all online marketing companies are a bad deal. But the painful truth is that most are absolute scams. And even amongst the best of the best internet promotion companies, not a single one of them will be as dedicated to this project as you are.
4) But to further complicate things, some directories will only want you to use 4 or 5 words in the title, maximum. So now, our title is reduced to "Syd's Eastside Auto", "Syd's Eastside Auto Parts" (our branded versions) or "Auto Parts and Used Cars" (for a keyword rich listing at places which will allow it). Will a submission program or service catch this for you? Usually (and most likely), no.
5) Be sure to check out each directory you are thinking about leaving your link at. Some may be too small, too big, too young or possibly banned from Google. The ability to adapt the listing per the requirements of each directory is significant. You will tend to lose control of your marketing and promotion efforts when you farm it out, and quite frankly, that can be dangerous.
For instance, when you arrive at a directory that lists businesses in alphabetical order by default, shouldn't you adjust your title so that you are at least listed in the A's? So in this case, I would try to list the site using the "Auto Parts, Used Cars, Used Trucks and Rebuildable Vehicles from Syd's Eastside", instead of being listed well down the list under S. I would, of course, try to adjust the title according to any other restrains, as well.
6) Also remember that the anchor text (link title) needs to vary in its appearance across the worldwide web. Otherwise, it can be seen as a mass distributed link by the search engines. Certainly, if you have a very short domain name or website title, this is probably what you will want to use to identify your website to the public. In example, we always use "Automotive Search" or "Automotive Search Network" for our automotivesearch.net website (simply because that sums up what it is about). But if you are offering more than one thing, you should try to highlight at least the main offers through the title, when possible.
The Listing Description
2) The first example listing description is 255 characters long. This is well within the guidelines of most web directories, which allow for a description to be about 255 characters long. But, there are still plenty of different directories out there, and many use a different limit on how many characters they allow in a description. One web directory will allow 120 characters, others 200. Look how our current shortest listing description will be truncated at these limits:
100 Characters: Automotive salvage yard offers a nightly updated inventory of new and used auto parts online, cross-
Looks kind of silly now, doesn't it? If you were browsing and automotive category on the web, would you click on the link of someone who can't even complete a thought (not to mention that it's an incompetent sales pitch)? Or trust them? So your listing descriptions not only need to vary in length, but each version should be optimized to represent your business as completely as possible.
Unfortunately, the world wide web is littered with this kind of sad promotion and marketing listings. It really is extremely pathetic. Obviously it accomplishes something, but it does not do it well at all. Being a directory owner myself, I delete these listings on a daily basis simply because they are obvious spam. Most of such pathetic listing come from "SEO Experts" and "SEO Companies".
Now, let's take it the other direction. What if the web directory is one of the better ones out there that understands that search engines want textual info to spider, so they allow 300, 500, or 1,000 character descriptions to accommodate richer textual searches? A simple 255 character description is not going to attract much attention when surrounded by more detailed company profiles. On top of that, you are missing out on the opportunity to show more of your keywords for the search engines and make a better case for your website offers by offering a better, more detailed synopsis of your business and offerings. This is where that long description comes in. And the example above is merely one of many, I am simply displaying one 434 character version that I might use when a directory allows a 500 character description. So if a directory offers you the opportunity to showcase your service, don't chose to ignore it with a 255 character description. Show them your business is a serious contender that deserves some spotlight!
3) The difference between an automated link service and a hand submission by an individual with a stake in the company's success is further enhanced when Yahoo Slurp, Googlebot or MSNbot start identifying repetitive footprints of links and devaluating their importance as repeating content that shows up throughout the web.
Repetitive content is neither unique nor original. The search engines acknowledge this and try to avoid duplicate content because of the nature of duplication. Should the original contributing factor be known, this is certainly given precedence over other instances, though a search engine may not always be aware of the source due to the heavy proliferation of RSS and articles throughout the worldwide web.
By hand submitting your own links, you not only gain control over the content of your listings, but also in the variety of ways in which you can word and present your titles and descriptions. Because of the usual limits in the anchor text, as well as the fact that you will want to include specific brand names and/or keywords to associate your website with, the description offers the most flexibility in wording and presentation.
4) Even Google suggests that hand submissions at its own site will take precedence over software submitted listings, and this holds true for directories, as well. Sure, we admins don't always catch the spammer, but we do favor honest listings. And speaking for myself, we generally trash can automated software/bot submissions.
The Evils of Linking
It's about time we got to this point, isn't it? The trouble is that you needed a foundation of the work that a decent link and listing involves before I can show you some of the evils preformed by Black Hats. And by Black Hats, I mean bad guys, people that are only thinking of themselves and try to take advantage of others.
What follows are common sense guidelines that I practice regularly for my websites, as well as for my clientele and my employer. Most webmasters understand the necessary evil of having to take control of their listings themselves. Yet, remember that most web directories are, in themselves, promotional and marketing tools for someone else. Some of the web directories are growing up, but most others are just link exchanges and marketing gimmicks for someone's other website(s).
One of my online buddies pointed out that I hadn't mentioned the evils of "no follow" (or "nofollow") links. The "nofollow" property is a property of the "rel" attribute, which can accompany the <a> anchor tag. When implemented, it actually tells a search engine NOT to acknowledge this link OR associate this page with the page that it is linking to. What that means is that even though there is a link pointing somewhere, Google officially does not acknowledge it, and Google does NOT count the link as a vote for the resulting resource.
Google, Yahoo! and MSN's Live have all chimed in, saying that they support this attribute. This is actually quite a strange turn, since all major search engines have always aggressively insisted that they are interesting in mirroring a user's experience. But since only machines and robots see or experience the nofollow attribute, they are actually offering an extremely biased and edited version of the web according to the tactics of what has become known to be some very unscrupulous so-called search engine optimization experts. Search engines have previously constantly resisted such biased influence from those who are interested in swaying a search engine's results. That's actually quite interesting.
So when you are searching for directories and link exchanges to post your link, be wary that some "free submission listing" links come with a nofollow attribute. Usually, directories will be up-front about using this attribute. But if they aren't, often the only way to know for sure is to check-out the source code on a free listing.
To make things more complicated, the nofollow command can be used in a variety of places. It can be used as the attribute of a link, or the attribute of a meta tag which tells the search engine to not acknowledge any links on the page. So, when you look for this code, you have to check the page's source code for meta tag code as well as the actual link code.
Example of the HTML code for a linked anchor:
Examples of a link with the NOFOLLOW attribute used in a link:
Notice that the last example also includes a fictional example of using multiple properties with the [b]rel[/b] attribute. Multiple attributes are acceptable (though in this example, we are using fictional attributes for demonstration). All that is required to specify multiple properties of the rel attribute is to add a space between them and enclose them all in the quotes for the rel attribute.
Note also that in the last example we included another attribute. Link anchors can also have other attributes in them, and they can be positioned in any order. In our last example, the attribute example is: target="_blank" ...which is harmless because the link is simply loaded into a new browser window or tab. Another is title="Some descriptive text about the link resource here." ...this attribute can be successfully used to associate keywords to a resulting link's resource.
As you start to propagate your link through-out choice directories and websites on the internet, you will also find an increase in so-called "SEO Pros" and marketers contacting you for a link exchange. This is when we start running into the real evils of link exchange, so I hope that I have not bored you to sleep. Pay attention, it gets interesting... ;)
So, by creating your own little network of in-bound links, you actually wind-up generating a stream of spam to your account. As long as you have created a dedicated account for your linking campaigns and used it exclusively for all of your promotion efforts (and not just your link campaigns), as I have recommended, you are probably doing quite well. Even when a spammer calls you "by name", you have used a designation that allows you to easily detect that this communique is spam. Yet, you did initiate the contact, so do not dismiss all of these contacts, some could actually be respectful and good info, and you may even run into some valuable tidbits. Just do not take anything as golden without allot of research.
Now, remember how I had warned you about links with the nofollow property? Anyone who is exchanging links with you should offer a fair link exchange, by fairly reciprocating links. If anyone contacts you about exchanging links and shows you a link to your site on theirs, check further. This is where the unscrupulous SEO and link building experts come out of the closet. Use your browser to look at the source code and if there is a "nofollow" attribute added to the meta tag or the link itself, list them in your "Black Hat SEO & Link Builders" list. These are NOT nice people and they are purposely trying to exploit and take advantage of the less educated webmaster. Only share this list with people you trust.
As I had warned, the spambots will also start visiting your website looking to harvest working email addresses from your website, as well. Hopefully, you have either avoided this systematic rape of personal information with a secure online contact form, or only display the email address within an image (and no link). I repeat this warning because I hate spam. It effectively disables small business and it should be illegal. It's a crime that is crippling small business industry all over the world and it is not considered illegal?#@!. Thank your inactive government for that one (every lazy government, all of them, worldwide).
But here is where things may start looking up for you because SEO pros and marketers will start coming to you, asking you to exchange links with them. They will give you the usual schpeil about how building links is a win for both sides, they will even show you an active link on their website. Then they will ask for a link to their site. Now is the time to be careful.
Here is an example offer I received today:
It is good to have such offers, but the truth is that most are deviously one-sided. The offer talks about the positives of a reciprocal link exchange, but make sure these are actually reciprocating links before you go ahead and return the link. This is where the evil genius of these offers comes into play, because there is so much to check, and few even realize that they are doing their website a disservice.
In order to explain the evil behind the offer I will have to explain certain things...
Google used to base its "PageRank" score of 0-10 primarily upon how many links a website has linking to it. A link from website A to website B defines a vote from website A for website B. On top of this, if website A's topic is related to website B's topic, the vote will carry more weight. In fact, if both websites are covering related (but not competing) topics, website A may also get a nod for having the vision to offer its visitors a pointer to some additional related knowledge or resource that they might require.
As all of Google's algorithms are actually quite top secret, we can only speculate on everything, but this gives us an idea of how Google and other search engines react to links.
However, as I have indicated previously, not all links are equal. Yahoo has publicly banned affiliate links from its search algorithm, as affiliate links simply offer the same resource under a disguised URL. And affiliate links will rarely offer a Google Page Rank because of the infrequency of visits to duplicated content.
Now remember, reciprocal link exchange is when website A links to website B and website B links back to website A. Over the years, Google, Yahoo & MSN caught on to this scheme and now Google essentially devaluates any sites that link to each other. That is not to say that such reciprocating links are worthless, only that they are worth less than they used to be.
To get around this, webmasters started using triangulated linking strategies. Now, website A links to website B, website B links to website C, and website C links back to website A. Google, Yahoo and MSN all know about this method, as well. It didn't fool them. These are still considered link exchanges. But, they are NOT necessarily reciprocate link exchanges.
The reasoning is simple, a search engine no longer sees this as a public vote from the private sector, or from an authoritative website covering a related topic. they know that webmasters are simply interested in building up their link presence. On top of this, search engines see these link circles as unnatural. Real natural linking occurs more in a star shaped pattern because we are sharing resources that we like and encourage others to use.
That is not to say that reciprocate links are dead. Link exchange are still a very important part of the web if the websites exchanging links are covering related material.
Now, lets re-examine and dissect the above request...
-Seems cool. Of course, I am giving a fictitious address in this example. But I checked the real link resource, and there is a directory at that URL and our link is displayed on that page. It isn't a "nofollow" link, either. But I actually had to look hard for our link, as it appears to have been there some time. Could this have been a link that I had previously left in my link building campaign? After checking my record file, I see that it is not. So this guy has setup a link for me in a small general web directory. However, not all is so good, if I look at this directory's homepage, my Google Toolbar reports a PageRank of 0.
-Sounds good. It's a nice and perfectly respectable sales job.
-The Bait and Switch!
-The title is wrong for my taste, as well as for our directory. The guy hasn't bothered to capitalize much (even though this is his listing's title) and added a period to the title (which we don't allow).
-Obviously this person does not care about the format we use for our website directory, which requires a that the title is bold, and a line break (a return) follows it.
-Here, this guy asks for his listing placement to be on the index page of our whole directory. Adding any new link there is not going to happen.
What is deceptive is that it appears that the guy is doing us a favor. Heck, he already has a link pointing to us. But he is providing us with a link from a small no-name general web directory with no Google PageRank. This site is not even remotely related to ours. Our listing shows an old page rank, not the current one. Since his listings are ranked by PageRank, with our old PR of 1 we are on the fourth page, where we should probably be listed on page 2 or high on page 3 of that category (at the most), should our PageRank be listed correctly.
For that, he wants a link from our PR4 automotive website to his PR2 automotive website which doesn't offer anything extra and seems like it was thrown together as an afterthought? On top of this, none of his internal pages have any rank.
Remember, he isn't going to link to us from a related website. In fact, he has even failed to optimize that particular category with any automotive keywords or information. Actually, he hasn't optimized any of the categories in the directory, so I doubt that he will.
While I have changed the names and addresses, the above is a truthful depiction of a request that I received about exchanging links, only recently. It is just plain devious, and I do hope that by pointing out the faults in this proposed link exchange, that you will be able to better watch out for such evils.
Armed with the above knowledge, you can now safely build your inbound links up. For some decent inbound linking resources, we would like to encourage that you browse our own Directory of Websites. Particularly, you may want to start with the Web Directories, Search Engines and Link Exchanges sections.
Just remember to never link to any website or directory that you would not recommend. Even when a link exchange looks to be fair and reciprocal, is the website actually worth linking to? Remember that some people just build-up links to parked domains or mini sites that simply specialize in showing Google or Yahoo ads. These are usually not worth linking to because they do not offer anything unique or original, just tired old advertising.
We are still working on this article. It is Copyright 2007 & 2008 by Syd's Eastside Auto Salvage, Inc. for exclusive use on the SydsAutoParts.com website. Once this article is done, we will allow redistribution, but not until then. Thank you for your cooperation.
Back to: Articles Index
• Syd's • Auto Parts • Featured Products • Used Autos & Trucks • Shopping Cart
• Heavy Equipment • News • Articles • About Us • Syd's Info • Staff • Location
1-605-665-5119 or 1-800-505-5119
Prices and availability subject to change without prior notice.