There are two broad categories of factors Google (and other engines) are looking at when ranking a site. One category – ‘on-page factors’ is what we have focused on already (changing text, metadata etc). The other category is ‘off page factors’ and this is mainly to do with links coming into your site from external sites.

I’m going to give you plenty of detailed specific instruction about how to get these links and where to get them from (in this and other lessons), but it will be a necessary to give you a little background before doing this.

Backlinks and Google

If you think about it you can say what you want about your own website through textual content, so Google is only going to give a certain amount of credence to this. However, what a link is saying is that someone external to you is endorsing your content by linking to you so Google considers this a vote in your favour, and the more links, the more votes and the higher the ranking.

This was Google’s innovation; the method Google used to bypass all other search engines in terms of accuracy of search results and therefore user acceptance. It wont be necessary to go into the ‘network theory’ behind this – I want to keep these lessons as practically orientated as possible, but hopefully you can see that these links are important in determining your ranking. Just to emphasise (because some people get confused by this), what we are talking about here are links from other sites linking to you. Not links from your site linking out.

The good news bit is that these links happen naturally the longer your site has been around. People will see your site and link to it if you have interesting content.This is why we have concentrated on ‘on page’ optimisation initially, as you may already have a good backlink infrastructure and therefore good rankings without doing any additional link building. However, if your site is new, or you are targeting competitive keyphrases, you will need to be proactive about your link building.

So, what we are going focus on regarding links relates to the questions we always get asked about them, namely:-

1. How many do I need to build?

2. Where do I get them from?

3. How do I construct them

1. How many links do I need to build?

Quantity isnt everything. In fact quality is the overidding attribute to link building but we need some broad target to aim it so I’ll give you a simple way of estimating the number to go for.

I should say though that we view link building as an on-going exercise which should be built in to your weekly processes to develop your web business. You also of course have the option of outsourcing this to the many companies providing this service (but select with care if you do this).

So, here’s the simple method, it relies on firstly picking a keyphrase from the list you have already produced. One of the 2-3 word phrases that’s important to you.

Carry out a search and make a note of the websites appearing in 3rd, 4th and 5th places (our first task is to take the place of the 5th ranked site so we are above the scroll for an important phrase).

Determine the number of links these sites have (I’ll show you how to do this in a moment). You now want to take the lesser number from these three. (The reason for this is that sometimes you’ll find one of these has very large number of links, perhaps built by a 3rd party using low value links – and what we are looking for here is the number of good quality links we are competing against).

Then an estimate of the number of links you need to take this position is the difference between the links you have and the number this site has. As an example lets say one of these sites has 500 links and your site has 100, then the difference (400) is a broad estimate of the number you need to build.

To be on the safe side – add 20% to this, and this will give you a broad target number to aim at. This is not an accurate science, but we need some sort of target, and this number will put you there or thereabouts.

Here’s a tool and method for finding your links and your competitors links…

Using Yahoo to discover backlinks

So, hopefully you have a measure of the order of magnitude of links you now need to get in the top rankings. In subsequent lessons we’ll go into lots of detail about where to get links from and how to structure them, but at the moment I want to start you off building your ‘link target spreadsheet’ which we’ll use going forwards to construct links from. Follow the link below to get started…

Building your Link Target spreadsheet

As always, get in touch if you have any questions (01928 788100 ;