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How To Get Backlinks Your Website

There is no question that quality backlinks are crucial to SEO success. More importantly, the question is how to get them. While with on-page content optimization it seems easier because everything is up to you to do and decide, with backlinks it looks like you have to rely on others to work for your success. Well, this is partially true because while backlinks are links that start on another site and point to yours, you can discuss with the Web master of the other site details like the anchor text, for example. Yes, it is not the same as administering your own sites – i.e. you do not have total control over backlinks – but still there are many aspects that can be negotiated.

Getting Backlinks the Natural Way

The idea behind including backlinks as part of the page rank algorithm is that if a page is good, people will start linking to it. And the more backlinks a page has, the better. But in practice it is not exactly like this. Or at least you cannot always rely on the fact that your contents is good and people will link to you. Yes, if your content is good and relevant you can get a lot of quality backlinks, including from sites with similar topic as yours (and these are the most valuable kind of backlinks, especially if the anchor text contains your keywords) but what you get without efforts could be less than what you need to successfully promote your site. So, you less than what you need to successfully promote your site. So, you will have to resort to other ways of acquiring quality backlinks as described next.

Ways to Build Backlinks

Even if plenty of backlinks come to your site the natural way, additional quality backlinks are always welcome and the time you spend building them is not wasted. Among the acceptable ways of building quality backlinks are getting listed in directories, posting in forums, blogs and article directories. The unacceptable ways include inter-linking (linking from one site to another site, which is owned by the same owner or exists mainly for the purpose to be a link farm), linking to spam sites or sites that host any kind of illegal content, purchasing links in bulk, linking to link farms, etc.

The first step in building backlinks is to find the places from which you can get quality backlinks. A valuable assistant in this process is a Backlink Builder tool. When you enter the keywords of your choice, the Backlink Builder tool gives you a list of sites where you can post an article, message, posting, or simply a backlink to your site. After you have the list of potential backlink partners, it is up to you to visit each of the sites and post your content with the backlink to your site in it.

You might wonder why sites as those, listed by the Backlink Builder tool provide such a precious asset as backlinks for free. The answer is simple – they need content for their site. When you post an article, or submit a link to your site, you do not get paid for this. You provide them for free with something they need – content – and in return they also provide you for free with something you need – quality backlinks. It is a free trade, as long as the sites you post your content or links are respected and you don’t post fake links or content.

Getting Listed in Directories

If you are serious about your Web presence, getting listed in directories like DMOZ and Yahoo is a must – not only because this is a way to get some quality backlinks for free, but also because this way you are easily noticed by both search engines and potential visitors. Generally inclusion in search directories is free but the drawback is that sometimes you have to wait a couple of months before you get listed in the categories of your choice.

Forums and Article Directories

Generally search engines index forums so posting in forums and blogs is also a way to get quality backlinks with the anchor text you want. If the forum or blog is a respected one, a backlink is valuable. However, in some cases the forum or blog administrator can edit your post, or even delete it if it does not fit into the forum or blog policy. Also, sometimes administrators do not allow links in posts, unless they are relevant ones. In some rare cases (which are more an exception than a rule) the owner of a forum or a blog would have banned search engines from indexing it and in this case posting backlinks there is pointless.

While forum postings can be short and do not require much effort, submitting articles to directories can be more time-consuming because generally articles are longer than posts and need careful thinking while writing them. But it is also worth and it is not so difficult to do.

Content Exchange and Affiliate Programs

Content exchange and affiliate programs are similar to the previous method of getting quality backlinks. For instance, you can offer to interested sites RSS feeds for free. When the other site publishes your RSS feed, you will get a backlink to your site and potentially a lot of visitors, who will come to your site for more details about the headline and the abstract they read on the other site.

Affiliate programs are also good for getting more visitors (and buyers) and for building quality backlinks but they tend to be an expensive way because generally the affiliate commission is in the range of 10 to 30 %. But if you have an affiliate program anyway, why not use it to get some more quality backlinks?

News Announcements and Press Releases

Although this is hardly an everyday way to build backlinks, it is an approach that gives good results, if handled properly. There are many sites that publish for free or for a fee news announcements and press releases. A professionally written press release about an important event can bring you many, many visitors and the backlink from a respected site to yours is a good boost to your SEO efforts. The tricky part is that you cannot release press releases if there is nothing newsworthy. That is why we say that news announcements and press releases are not a commodity way to build backlinks.

Backlink Building Practices to Avoid

One of the practices that is to be avoided is link exchange. There are many programs, which offer to barter links. The principle is simple – you put a link to a site, they put a backlink to your site. There are a couple of important things to consider with link exchange programs. First, take care about the ratio between outbound and inbound links. If your outbound links are much higher than your inbound, this is bad. Second (and more important) is the risk that your link exchange partners are link farms. If this is the case, you could even be banned from search engines, so it is too risky to indulge in link exchange programs.

Linking to suspicious places is something else that you must avoid. While it is true that search engines do not punish you if you have backlinks from such places because it is supposed that you have no control over what bad guys link to, if you enter a link exchange program with the so called bad neighbors and you link to them, this can be disastrous to your SEO efforts.   Also, beware of getting tons of links in a short period of time because this still looks artificial and suspicious.

10 low-cost ways to market your business

 

Too many small-business owners think marketing is like a trip to the dentist — something you just gotta do every six months or so.

But when marketing is continuous and targeted rather than occasional and shotgun, business gets easier. If prospects have a positive view of your wares and reputation before you call or before they start shopping, you’re that much closer to nailing a sale.

The next news flash is that ongoing marketing isn’t tied to a price tag. It’s defined only by putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time.

Here are 10 ideas for doing that — on the cheap.

1. Take steps to make customers feel special. Customers respond to being recognized, especially in these rush-rush, get-the-lowest-price times. “Even with a Web-based business, good customer service is possible,” says Denise McMillan, co-owner of Plush Creations (www.plushcreations.com), an online retailer of handcrafted travel bags. McMillan encloses a small, rose-scented sachet in every jewelry and lingerie bag she sells and also sends a handwritten thank-you note. “The sachet and note cost pennies but add something special to the purchase,” she says.

2. Create business cards that prospects keep. Most business cards are tossed within hours of a meeting. Instead of having your card tossed, create one that recipients actually will use — say, a good-looking notepad with your contact info and tagline on every page. “The business card notepad is referred to almost daily, kept for 30 days or so and carries a high remembrance factor,” says Elliott Black, a Northbrook, Ill., marketing consultant who specializes in small businesses.

3. Stop servicing break-even customers. If this idea makes you gasp, think harder. You’re falling for the fallacy of increasing sales instead of boosting profits. If you stop marketing to unprofitable customers, you have more time and resources for customers who actually grow your business. “More than likely, 20% of your customer base is contributing 150% to 200% of total annualized profit (TAP); 70% is breaking even; and 10% is costing you 50% to 100% of TAP,” says Atlanta marketing consultant Michael King. Take a detailed look at your customer profitability data and then direct premium services and marketing to customers who count. (Microsoft Outlook 2010 with Business Contact Manager can help you analyze customer histories.)

4. Develop an electronic mailing list and send old-fashioned letters. Most businesses have harnessed the power of e-newsletters — and you definitely should be sending out one, too. It’s very cost-effective. But exactly because e-mail marketingis now nearly ubiquitous, you can quickly stand out by occasionally sending personal, surface mail letters to customers and prospects. Just make sure the letter delivers something customers want to read, whether an analysis of recent events in your field, premium offers or a sweetener personalized for the recipient (a discount on his next purchase of whatever he last purchased, for instance). “This mailing has to have value to those that read it, so it reflects the value of what you offer,” says Leslie Ungar, an executive coach in Akron, Ohio. “Remember, the best way to sell is to tell.”The process is simplified by creating a letter template and envelope or customer label mailing list in Microsoft Office Word in Office 2010, which you can print out. The mailing list is easily created in Excel and then imported into Word.

5. Boost your profile at trade shows and conferences. You can quickly create signage, glossy postcards with your contact information, product news inserts or an event mini Web site — all with Microsoft Office Publisher. Check out its versatile features.

6. Combine business with pleasure — and charity. Spearhead an event, party or conference for a cause you care about. That puts you in the position of getting to know lots of people, and shows off your small business leadership skills. “I host an annual baseball game where I take hundreds of clients to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field,” says Kate Koziol, who owns a public relations agency in Chicago. “Last year, I took 300 people and we raised $10,000 for a local children’s hospital. Few people turn down a game and it’s a great networking opportunity for guests. It lets me reconnect with current clients and impress potential clients.”

7. Create a destination. Bookstore chain Barnes & Noble has its coffee bars. Furnishings giant Ikea offers child-care centers and cafeterias. Why? So customers gravitate to the stores to enjoy an experience, to hang out for a while. Sunday morning at Barnes & Noble becomes a pleasant weekend routine, rather than a shopping errand. Steal this idea. This tip isn’t limited to offline destinations, either. Using pay-per-click advertising, you can cheaply drive traffic to a one-time news event or specialty offerings, points out Jay Lipe, a small-business marketing consultant based in Minneapolis. Lipe set up a Web site for Games by James (www.gamesbyjames.biz), a retailer of board games, and quickly attracted customers via pay-per-click ads. “The effect was overnight,” says Lipe. “Traditionally in the marketing world, it takes weeks or even months to generate acceptable awareness and traffic. Here we saw traffic spike overnight.”

8. Become an online expert. This is the “free sample” approach to bringing in business. Research active e-mail discussion lists and online bulletin boards that are relevant to your business and audience. Join several and start posting expert advice to solve problems or answer questions. You may need to keep this up for a bit. But the rewards come back in paying clients and referrals. “E-mail discussion lists have been my single largest source of clients over the last eight years,” says Shel Horowitz, asmall-business marketing consultant based in Northampton, Mass.

9. Court local media. Editorial features convey more credibility with prospective clients than paid advertising does. To get coverage from the local media, whether from the town newspaper, from TV or radio stations, or from trade journals, you need a fresh, timely story. It’s usually worthwhile to hire an experienced publicist to position the stories, target appropriate media representative and write and send press releases. Usually, you can work on a short-term or contingency basis.

10. Finally, don’t let customers simply slip away. Make an effort to reel them back in. It costs a lot less to retain a disgruntled or inactive customer than to acquire a new one. If you haven’t heard from a customer in awhile, send a personalized e-mail (you can automate this process), inquiring whether all is well. For a customer who suffered a bad experience, pick up the phone, acknowledging the unpleasantness and ask if there’s anything you can do. A discount can’t hurt either. Being kind to customers is the smartest low-cost marketing you can do.

Is all that tweeting, facebooking and blogging worth it?

 

“So, should I be tweeting every day?”

The question was aimed at Jonathan Huth, a partner in a new Toronto-based marketing firm called Conversion. He was leaving work and got into a conversation with one of his new neighbours, another small business owner – who was clearly hoping for a little free advice.

Huth’s short answer: “Well, if you’re doing it just to be doing it, it’s probably not worth doing!”

That little exchange says a lot, it seems to me.

First, plenty of entrepreneurs are eager to harness the power of social marketing and cash in on what appears to be free promotion. But many of them are also completely unsure of how to exploit it properly.

Huth’s response points out that social media need to be used strategically. If you haven’t thought about the goal you intend to achieve and the way in which you’ll achieve it, all that tweeting and facebooking and blogging could be a giant waste of time and energy.

“Making noise on the internet can be like standing in a bar waving your arms and yelling,” Huth tells me. “You can attract attention – it doesn’t mean you’re going to build a relationship.”

Of course, the relationship business people want to build through social media is that of buyer and seller. For entrepreneurs hustling to pay the bills and see their company generate revenue, the ultimate goal of any type of marketing is to make more sales.

“We called our company Conversion because that’s what we’re trying to do for our clients,” explains Huth. “Convert clicks into customers.”

But not all entrepreneurs can afford to hire an agency to assist them. It’s tempting to tap into the free marketing resources on the web itself, such as Duct Tape Marketing. You can also find sites offering strategies to help you raise your company’s Google ranking.

But as always, anything that’s do-it-yourself is time-consuming and, as they say in the drug commercials, results may vary (i.e., they may suck). Considering the heavy workloads so many small business owners carry, is it worth the time and energy required to figure out an effective way to use social media?

Well, there are plenty of encouraging case studies out there.

At Roy Foss Motors, a GM dealer in Toronto, the vice-president of business development (and the founder’s 24-year-old grandson) has taken a big interest in social marketing. He says that while the strategy isn’t especially effective for big-ticket purchases like cars, the dealership sees potential.

“We recently offered e-coupons on Facebook,” says James Ricci. “We offered a 10 per cent discount off a service visit and it generated 140 appointments and $13,000 in sales.”

Hard numbers aren’t always easy to find, though.

Victoria’s Renaat Marchand (who got an investment deal on the first episode of CBC-TV’s Dragons’ Den last week) is a 48-year-old carpenter turned waffle-seller turned Twitter devotee. He can’t say exactly how much his tweeting has increased his sales but adds that “I’m 100 per cent sure it’s doing good things for my business.”

A good thing

He’s like several small business operators I spoke to for this column — unsure of exactly what they’ve spent on their social marketing program in terms of time, not clear on what it’s done for their bottom line, but convinced it’s a good thing to do.

Then again, isn’t it often a challenge to measure the effectiveness of marketing and advertising? It seems to me that social media are still at the stage where they require a leap of faith.

Traditional Advertising Still Works

It is obvious and undeniable that marketing over the past 20 years has made huge shifts towards tech-based methods. Email, banners, pay per click and social marketing are increasingly more popular each year. However, what is often overlooked is the fact that traditional advertising still accounts for the lions share of the market. Unfortunately, many marketers overlook this fact and focus most of their efforts on web-based strategies. This alienates a huge portion of your potential market.

So what is “traditional marketing”?  By traditional marketing I have referring to everything other than web-based.  This would include things like newspaper ads, fliers, snail mail, radio ads, television and virtually any other non-tech method you can think of.  These are tried and proven techniques used for over 100 years!  It would be wise to implement a good mix of these into your overall marketing strategy.

Newspapers ads can be very effective as they are read by many many users.  Small classified ads in newspapers are innexpensive and affordable.  But don’t limit yourself to just newspapers.  Their are many niche magazines, zines and other local publications where you can advertise in for very cheap.  You can even research online for companies that will post your ad in many different publications for one fee.  You would be surprised to see how cost effective this can be.  Keep your target audience in mind when choosing which publications to advertise in.  Try to choose an audience that you think would be receptive to your offering.

If you are on a shoe string budget, you can try what I call guerrilla techniques such as fliers, signs and even swap marts.  You can make your own fliers with your pc and distribute them locally.  Just be sure to distribute them in lawful ways and that you are sensitive to the type of audience you are targeting.  If you will be promoting your products to the “general” public, you may want to make sure your website is “G-rated”.  You can easily choose only to add appropriate non-vulgar products to your site such as lotions and lingerie.  The same strategy would work well if you set up a booth at a local swap mart.  Simply showcase the items that are appropriate for that type of audience.

Snail mail is another often overlooked method of getting the word out there about your store.  This could be used as a way to target your previous customers or people who have signed up for your newsletters.  Again, keep the material g-rated so as not to offend anyone.

For those that have deeper pockets, radio ads and television is obviously king.  However, its probably alot less expensive than most people think it is.  If you choose to try these methods, focus on niche markets and networks.  It doesnt have to be prime time on ABC.  There are many smaller cable networks where the cost is quite affordable yet they still reach a sizable audience.  There is a ton of information online about these types of marketing campaigns.

Ultimately, the optimal marketing strategy will include a little bit of everything.  We have all heard the expression, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” and this is true for marketing as well.  A combination of many different techniques both online and offline will assure you a constant stream of traffic to your website and hopefully more sales too!