No matter how much technology and society may change, one basic principle of business will always hold:
Make it easy for your customers to find you.
1. Put up a sign.
2. Place an advertisement where your customers will see it.
3. List your business in a directory like, for example, the telephone book.
Of these three suggestions, the last one is probably the most important in that it reaches your customers at the moment when they are looking for you and customers who are looking for you are most likely to buy. But, what if this option isn’t available or worse, what if you come to depend on it and suddenly, it isn’t there?
This is what happened to a friend of mine in the mid-90s. She and her husband had a crystals shop and float center called Crystal Seas. Then, one year, the Yellow Pages forgot to list them in the phone book. It was a disaster. They ran around town putting up flyers, ran extra advertisements in places where their potential clients might be but, even with a loyal customer following, their business suffered badly.
Nowadays, the Yellow Pages are still important but showing up in search engine results pages (SERPs) has become increasingly critical and you can vanish from the SERPs at any time for any number of reasons. How can you protect yourself? Well, the solution is more visibility and inbound links are the answer, but not necessarily in the way you might think.
Everyone worries about Pagerank and whether or not their links will count toward it, but the truth is that any link to your site whether the search engines follow it or not, adds to your visibility on the internet. A good example of this is Wikipedia. Late last year, to reduce spamming attempts, Wikipedia placed “no follow” attributes on their outbound links. The “no follow” attribute tells the search engines not to attach any Pagerank value to the link. As a result, many businesses decided not to participate in Wikipedia.
However, contributing to Wikipedia expands the web accessible sum of knowledge in that area and even though the link does not count toward Pagerank, a link from Wikipedia can still be a good reference. Try inputting almost any keyword into Google, Yahoo or Live and you will see Wikipedia at the top or near the top. Furthermore, while search engines don’t count links from Wikipedia toward Pagerank, they may follow them for purposes of finding pages to index. Wikipedia frowns on self-promotion, but an article written from a neutral point of view on your industry or company may still be viewed by many potential customers. Composing an article and adding an informational link like the ones found at the bottom of this Wikipedia page can lead new visitors to your site.
What about buying a link? That can be a good idea too. Even though Google frowns on paid links, a link from a highly respected directory like Yahoo can still be a great way for customers to find you. Maybe there is a directory that specializes in your products or services. If they have a good ranking in the search engine results pages for your keywords or if this is a site that your customers would regularly visit, it’s probably a good idea for you to be listed there.
The same principal goes for reciprocal links. While the search engines may be devaluing them for purposes of search engine rankings, it doesn’t mean that you and your link partner still can’t find new business that way.
So, what can you do to increase your link visibility?
Anything that increases your visibility on the internet can increase your business. Increasing inbound links to your site is like putting up posters around town for your customers to find. Don’t wait for a disaster — put up those links now. We’ve given you some ideas for adding links — what other places can you think of?