Monday, 28 July 2008

Basics of Web Site Optimisation - Rule 6

This post is mainly aimed at small to medium businesses that are just starting out and are keen to get something going, or have just gone live. I can't tell you how many times I have taught people over the past few years just a handful of strategically important things. So...here goes again, this time in a way that I can now simply refer to. As for my credibility - I would rather not divulge that here, read my Web Site Optimisation Rules and you decide. They are, after all, common sense, and common knowledge....like most things I blog about!

My number 6 rule: Find valuable reciprocal link partners, manage them and the relationship!

The reason why it is called the World Wide Web rather that the World Wide Collection of Islands - the connections/links between web sites! It is most important that you get your site connected, and preferably with partners that you treat as the valuable partners they should be, provided you choose wisely!

A good process is to scour the internet for sites that meet your criteria, and then make contact with their web master very politely. This is hard work and you will need to approach each target, depending on the target, with a customised strategy.

You will need to manage those that you find as potentials, those that you have tried to contact and are waiting for a respone, those that rejected you, and those that accepted you, for a long time. I used a spreadsheet that I updated every time I found a useful looking partner, and once per month or every three, I would actually do the work of checking links and emailing web masters.

The problem with those web sites/masters that accept you, is that you need to check back on them from time to time to ensure that they have not dropped you silently (and are thus receiving web visitors from you, for free). It is very bad practice when this happens. Another reason you need to check is that sometime web sites are sold, or change focus....and the changed focus is not something you wish to be associated with.

You can (and should regularly anyway, for your internal links will change forever) use the W3C (remember the W3C from my Web Site Optimisation Rule 5?) Online Link Checker. Simply enter the page name you would like to check for broken links.

I have used Xenu Link Sleuth in the past, which is easy to use, easy to install, and very fast to run! And it is free!

Reasoning:
1. Reality - Even though you build it - no one is going to come ... by random chance! Links are what makes the WWW work. If you want to be a part of the working WWW, you have to be a part. :)
2. Brand awareness - You have to be in the "market place" for potential visitors to even know you exist. In the online world, this means you need to be seen, and preferably with the right people!
3. Information clustering, horizontal - People looking for particular kinds of web sites tend to look for them! By this I mean they will follow any potential link that looks similar to what they are looking for, at that moment in time. So if your site is focussed on selling bananas, you should like to link up with related sites that might be focussed on selling other fruits. Depending on what you're selling, you may wish to actually link to other sites selling bananas - especially if your regions do not overlap!
4. Information clustering, vertical - Similar to horizontal, but this time looking for upstream/downstream (vertical) industry partners. So the banana farmers, the distributors, the retailers. Each of these partners could tell a very good story to their web site visitors - imagine a visitor to the "farm's site" following a link to the "distributor's site" and then to your site, and buying bananas from you!
5. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) - The more links that are pointing to your site, the better your SEO ranking will be - thus giving you a better chance at appearing earlier in the search results for instance Google would return to queries that match your site. Combining this reason with the Information Clustering reasons, and you have an even more powerful effect that you will benefit from!
6. Market space - By following how visitors find you, and where they go from your site, you will get a better idea of your online market space. If it does not match what you expect or want, then, using reciprocal links, you can shift your online market space more favourably towards where you want it to be.
Rarely. New source of income - Check your reports to see which of your reciprocal link partners are more valuable to you, and which you are more valuable to them - perhaps, if the volumes of traffic you direct to the other site(s) are truly massive, you can even establish a new (small) source of income.

And that is my Rule 6. I will be uploading the others as time allows!

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