Sometimes in link building, you’re only as good as your next link. We’re always on the hunt for new links, more links, better links. But when do we ever stop to think about the back links we have and whether or not we’re actually making the most of them? A link builder’s instinct is usually to plow forward, but every once in a while it’s a good idea to stop and smell the links. Take stock of what you have and see whether or not you can make that stronger. Here are 5 ways to increase the benefit of your existing back links.
Switch Links to the New Domain
In an interview with Eric Enge, Matt Cutts confirmed that there can be some loss of page rank when using a 301 Re-direct. This information got everyone a’twitter because disclosures like this can have ramifications across the SEO spectrum. Basically though, it means that 301 re-directs probably shouldn’t be considered a flawless panacea that will make everything ok again. With links, it means that yes, you can still 301 redirect one domain to another or one page to another, but you may lose some of the power of your links. Sure, the key words there are “May” and “Some”. But in link building, we prefer words like “Do” and “All” as in, “these links DO pass ALL of their power”. So this revelation also means an opportunity to augment the impact of your existing links. By contacting the sites which link to your old domain and asking them to change the links to the new domain you can make certain you are getting all of the love from your links and that none is lost in translation.
Re-Direct 404 Links
This is a trick even Matt Cutts endorsed almost 2 years ago. Finding the links to your 404 pages and getting them re-directed to a live page. In the comments someone raises the issue of whether or not using the 301-re-direct was an equally effective method which eliminated the need to contact anyone. Matt responds that this is may be an acceptable recourse but it results in “a really weird user experience for your visitors.” The recent news regarding 301 re-directs offers us yet another incentive not to take the easy way out. Suck it up, reach out and ask someone. Sure, it may take a bit longer but it’s also an opportunity for relationship building. Most webmasters will be happy, nay grateful you cared to help improve THEIR site. Perhaps you can even get the link changed to a different, live, page that is actually better for you than the original page was; after all, you took that one down.
Get Ideal Anchor Text
Most of the time, a link builder will take a free link where and when we can get it. But that often means having to bite our tongues on the anchor text. That said if you can come up with a good way to re-phrase the given anchortext it’s worth pitching it to the site owner. This works especially well if you were planning to get in touch with someone anyway to inform them of a 404 error or a new domain name… see how it all goes together? Also, if a webmaster has placed your link near words that you wish were the anchor text, asking them to simply extend the link to include those words is usually inoffensive.
One of the things that can effect the value of a link, are the links surrounding it. Simply put, having your link surrounded by crap is gonna make you look bad. But having your site linked to alongside competitors, or trusted resources can have a positive effect on your rankings. Topical, co-citation can also help increase the relevance between your site and the site linking to you. So if you have back links that are like the lonely cheese standing alone, it might be worth contacting someone and suggesting an additional link. Not to your site of course, but to another site that you would love to be considered relevant or even authoritatively equal to. If you are contacting someone for any other link related reason, you can always casually suggest a co-citation, it’s just another line in an email right? This addition not only boosts the value of your links, but also improves your web karma and your Good Samaritan image.
Add Internal Links
This method actually doesn’t involve contacting anyone except your webmaster, and since that’s either you or someone you talk to on the regular this is a pretty sweet option. The first step is to find your strongest sub-pages. If you’ve been actively link building to one page, or are promoting one particular piece of link bait you can start there. Or you can use a strongest sub-page tool like this one from SEOMoz which only requires the basic free membership. You can pay for one, like this or you can download SEOQuake for firefox and run a site command. Whatever method you choose, the point is to identify your pages with the most links. Once you’ve isolated your strongest pages, add internal links to those pages to help keep the power of their back links flowing to other parts of your site. Choose your anchor text wisely. Oh, and don’t keyword-link-spam your own pages either, unless of course you took the hot tub time machine back to 2001.
There’s no such thing as too many links and enough is never enough. But the relentless pursuit of links is only as useful as the value of the links you’re getting. It’s also harder and harder to score the really effective links, so if you can double your impact, double your fun, without having to double the numbers…it seems only logical to go for it.