There are three main factors that determine the search engine ranking of your website:

  • Site optimisation
  • Site popularity
  • Link popularity

Site optimisation is about placing your keywords in the right places on your website and making your website accessible to search engines. Please read Search engine optimisation: The basics for more about this.

Site popularity can be achieved through online and offline marketing and through link popularity - the more websites that link to you the more people will find your website. For more on online marketing please read this Buying your way in article.

The directories

The best place to start any linking strategy is with web directories. The two biggest by far are Yahoo! and the Open Directory (used by Google). Being listed in these is an absolute must as they generate huge amounts of traffic.

There are plenty of other directories you should get listed in too. Global, local and industry-specific directories abound on the Internet. To find them run a search for ‘web directory’ on your favourite search engine. The directories that come up highest in the search rankings will probably generate the most traffic. You can also check these directories of directories:

Webmaster forums

Another great place to get your site listed. Most webmaster forums have an area where you're allowed to enter your URL to get feedback from other webmasters. Find some forums, sign up, and get posting!

Long-term solution

Getting links in directories (and forums) is really important, but obviously there's only so far you can go with this tactic. It's really important to have a long-term strategy to build up those incoming links to a sizeable level. A real long-term solution, and one that adds significant value to your website, is to create first-rate content. That's it. Quite simple really. First-rate content should:

  • Add significant value to the readers of other websites
  • Be unavailable elsewhere on the web
  • Be regularly updated

If you can provide this kind of content then other websites will want to link to you. By doing so they'll be adding value to their site visitors.

How do I create first-rate content?

Unfortunately what works for one website won't work for another, so I can't offer you any specific advice. Here are some examples though, to help you start thinking about it:

  • CD retailer - provide an area where bands can upload their songs on to your website for site users to listen to
  • Accountant - offer regular updates about legal changes that affect the industry
  • IT trainer - provide a comprehensive information section showing how to give great training and offering some free online training
  • Gardener - show beautiful gardens from around the world and offer tips about gardening

As you may have realised by now, creating and updating your first-class content is a lot of work. It's also really hard to stay motivated because you don't see any immediate gains from it - it takes a very long time for word to spread about your website. Just hang in there and over time you'll see that it really does pay off.

Tell the world about your website

Now that you've created your first-rate content you need to let the world know about it. To advertise your website for free you can:

  • Look for websites and ask them to link to you
  • Write articles and press releases

Look for websites and ask them to link to you

There are three ways you can find websites that might want to link to you.

  • Go to your favourite search engine and type in some words related to what your organisation does
  • Sift through the websites in directories such as Yahoo! or the Open Directory
  • Find out who's currently linking to both you and your competitors, check who's linking to them, and who's linking to them, and so on (To see a list of the inbound links to a website go to Google and type in link:http://www.URL.com)

Now that you've found these websites, ask them to link to you. A quick phone call or e-mail ought to do the trick. And remember, always mention that linking to your website will benefit their site users and therefore their website. You could also offer a link exchange, where by you both link to each other. If you're going to do this, it's wise to link to their website first, before getting in contact.

Press releases and articles

You can use search engines to find websites related to your industry that would welcome interesting articles and press releases. Include a short bio at the bottom of the release, including a link to your website, and you're good to go.

You can deposit articles at one of the numerous article banks on the Internet, such as Go Articles. You can also use a press distribution service to issue press releases to journalists, such as M2.com or Pressbox.

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