What are links and why do they matter?
A link is quite simply an image or some text which when clicked on, takes the visitor off of the site they are viewing and on to a new website. An example of a link would be as follows. The two words "as follows" have been hyperlinked, although in this instance they do not link to another website but to another page of our own website - our free Google Rankings Guide Report download page.
So, what is so special about links? When one website links to another, Google views that as one website giving a vote of confidence to another or vouching for how great another website is. For example, on one of the pages of our website is a link to seoinlondon.org. Why would we link to them? The reason is simple. As a result of their efforts, our website rankings were massively boosted a little while ago. If any of our customers require SEO work, then we want to send them in the direction of seoinlondon.org because they do an excellent job and did an excellent job for us.
Likewise there are websites which link to us. Many of these websites are websites which we ourselves designed, however their owners are so pleased with the job we did, they want us to be recognised for our efforts and so insisted a link to our webste be placed at the bottom of their home page.
The more websites that link to you, the more "authority" is given to your website domain. The more authority your domain has, the more Google starts to notice you and so consequently your website will start to rank higher in the search results.
Quality not quantity
This is where it gets tricky, and some would say almost impossible. If you go by what we have written above, then the solution to getting a good ranking is simply to try to get as many websites as you can to link to your website. The more links the merrier. Unfortunately, there is a little more to it. You can't actively seek out websites to link to you, and one of the biggest violations of Google's guide lines is to pay a website to link to you. So, if you submit your website to lots of online directories, exchange links with other website owners, hire an SEO company to get links for you, in Google's eyes you're not getting a true vote of confidence from each site which is linking to you, rather you are in effect bribing you way to the top of the search results.
The next question is thus, how do you get a website to link to you? The answer is you don't! A website must link to you only because the owner of that site views your website as a valuable resource and wants visitors from his/her website to visit yours. A good example, imagine you have a plumbing website and you do some free plumbing work for a local charity. Your action might attract the attention of the local press who write an article about what you have done and link to your website, or the charity might mention you on their website and link to you. Another example, there is a website called virtualmechanics.com. On their website is a link to our website, and the reason they link to us is because at one time we exclusively used their software to make websites and so they want people to see our portfolio as it is in effect a big advert for them.
A lot of out-of-the-box thinking is required to obtain links. Any link which can be bought or acquired easily will either incur your site a penalty from Google or at best give you no added boost in the rankings. Links which are hard to get and money can't buy are the ones which can rocket your site to the top spot.
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