Article 4: The Power of links

Links unraveled

One of the most important factors that affect page rank and position on search engines are links.  However, there are a few notes that each novice webmaster should know about different types of linking, and how links can be misunderstood.  
  If you are new to the realm of search engine optimization, you may have trouble distinguishing between different types of links.  Hard links to your site from sites with high page ranks are the best links to point to your site.  The reason for this is simple.  When robots, crawlers, and visitors land on high page ranking sites, theire is a better chance of all of them following links to your site than sites with lower page ranks.  That said, no amount of hard links can ever be harmful, regardless of page rank.  With links between sites on main pages of sites, bots can crawl between them at a higher, snowballing rate.  Some webmasters will also place direct links from their main page for a fee.  Sometimes this might be a competitor's page, or it might be a page that has a high page rank.  Fees vary by site, as does the length of link placement.  If it is in your budget, this should be a service to consider.  
    Link exchange programs developed as a way for small time webmasters to promote their websites.  Link exchange programs work by allowing webmasters to post a link and description to a private site and allowing the participants to agree to exchange links.  The links are usually placed on a /links.html page with a short description.  Once the programmers at Google caught wind of this "scheme" to raise page rank, they programmed bots to ignore these pages.  It is rumored that participating in link exchange programs now hurt page rank, but generally they cannot be extremely harmful if a handful of visitors may find their way to your site from these pages.  
    Another way to promote your site with little or no cost is to participate in web forums and place a link to your site in your signiture line.  It is a good idea to contact forum administrators before you do so, as it might be a violation of terms if not given proper permission.  It is equally important to be a regular, valuable contributor to the site, and it helps if the forum has hundreds or thousands of members.  The downside to participating in online forums is that most forums are private, and cannot be crawled by search engine bots.  However, if you enjoy participating in certain forums, and you are allowed to place your link, this should not be a problem!
    The last type of link we will discuss is the Pay-Per-Click (or PPC) links.  You see these links on many sites, often on search engine pages.  Webmasters who choose to buy links from PPC services allot a certain dollar amount for a total number of clicks.  As web-surfers click on these links, the amount is deducted from your allotment.  The downside with PPC programs is that you do not get a hard link, but rather a "no follow" link.  These links will allow web-surfers to directly access your site if they click your PPC ad, but the link is piped through another website...a middle man, if you will.  
    These types of links are all known to experienced webmasters, and are all beneficial in their own unique ways.  Your site and budget will determine which type of links suit your needs best.  

Next Article: Should I pay for SEO? (coming soon)
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