Why You Should Manage Your Own Links…and How

In the world of content marketing, there are two kinds of content: the stuff that is easy to fix, and the stuff that isn’t so easy. The easy stuff is what you’ve produced for yourself: your blog posts, your social networking updates, your sales content, and anything else you serve out to your customers and affiliates. Chances are you more than likely have administrative access to your own content, and you can change what needs to be changed whenever it needs changing.

The not-so-easy content is where the content optimization challenge really begins for most marketers and business owners. Everybody learns from an early age that you just can’t control what other people say about you, and that applies to the internet, too: you can’t control who links to you, for whatever reason. Maybe they like your content, maybe you are their online business idol, or maybe they’re trying to ruin your page rankings deliberately—it can happen.

Unfortunately, those third-party links back to you have an impact on your rankings: search engines typically weigh off-page optimization and relative authority over on-page SEO and content optimization. Fortunately, there is a way to find out where your links are coming from, and there are ways to make sure that your links are only associating you with good sites, not bad ones.

Find Sites Linking To Your Website

There are a few ways to do this. The easiest way would be to check your analytics program of choice—ours is Google Analytics. In the Google Analytics dashboard, open the Standard Reporting dashboard (usually opens by default), then click Traffic Sources, Social, and finally Pages. This “Pages” report will show you the most visited pages on your website, sorted by default from top most to least-viewed. Click any of your most visited pages.

Above the graphs showing your page performance, click “Activity Stream,” then scroll down. The trackback links you see, indicated by green arrows, are links to your website from outside sources. Click the small dropdown arrow to the right of the entry you want to look at and click “View Activity” to see the URL of the page that links directly back to your website.

You can also use Open Site Explorer to take a peek at links to you from outside websites more easily. Check out this handy post on how to use Open Site Explorer most effectively to find your links.

Are You Splitting Your Link Traffic? Here’s How To Fix It

Computers, search engines, and algorithms are designed to be very specific. Sometimes, they’re just too specific. If you’re having trouble accumulating page ranking for your business website, it might be because you’re splitting traffic without even knowing it. According to search crawlers, your homepage can have multiple web addresses.

For instance, our homepage could be www.ContentEqualsMoney.com, www.ContentEqualsMoney.com/index.html, ContentEqualsMoney.com (our preference), or ContentEqualsMoney.com/index.html. Google doesn’t know the difference, but we can decide what we prefer and let Google know what our preference is to make sure our future web traffic rankings aren’t split between one of those four possible addresses.

First and foremost, decide which one you want! We prefer dropping the www.: it’s unnecessary, anachronistic, and we don’t pronounce it when we introduce ourselves in person, so why keep it on our business card? You’ll need to make sure your internal links (links from one page to another within your website) all link back and forth in the same way you’ve decided on. You might also consider setting up a 301 redirect to your preferred address from any of the www. alternatives—redirects don’t count as much as direct links in rankings, but they still count.

Once you’ve done all this, go to Google’s Webmaster Tools, go to Site configuration, then Settings. Under Preferred Domain, select your preference, and Save. Now Google will reward you extra ranking points for having consistent links within your page and out to others.

This one step is simple.  And it’s probably the biggest impact you can make on your link juice. Without it, you could be literally splitting your link juice in half, or worse. Remember that without a 301 redirect and letting Google know your preferred domain, it is a toss-up which of the four locations gets link juice. Now that you have covered computers and your site, let’s get into how you can affect the links coming from outside your site.

Changing Links Is Usually Just a Simple Question Away

Sometimes the links directed back at you from other websites break, or you’d like to change them even though you don’t have access on the other website to do so yourself. If the website in question is reputable, you can usually email a webmaster and ask them to change the link to another one quickly and easily. Boom, done: that’s all you had to do!

For example, a week ago I noticed a link from the Intuit blog that mentioned my company and our blog. Obviously, I was ecstatic to get a link from such a great company. Who doesn’t know Intuit, right? When I went to the page, though, I saw the link was directed to one of our syndication partners and not to us directly. I was a little less ecstatic. What did I do? I just whipped up a quick email to the blog administrator.  I told him the whole situation, and, of course, took the opportunity to network. I think I offered him a free guide or something.

We’re not a big site, but everybody knows Intuit. You know what happened? He thanked me for the clarification and fixed the link. Don’t be intimidated by bigger sites. In general, people want to be accurate. Take the initiative because you’ll get rewarded.

If you can’t get a webmaster to change a backlink, but you still want to keep that backlink to add to your search ranking placement, you can perform a 301 redirect. The idea is the same as the instance for using a 301 redirect to change your domain format: you want all your links to work consistently and add to your overall, unified page ranking. 301 redirects aren’t too terribly hard if you’re willing to poke around and follow one of the numerous detailed guides you can find on Google, or Google’s own 301 guide for webmasters.

What You Should Take Away From Your Links

Linking to other blogs is like vetting for a coworker: you stake your reputation on their good work and their professionalism. Your links out to other sites, and backlinks back from other sites, are a symbol that indicates authority and trustworthiness from one site to another.

When you think about links as a matter of trust and professional reputation marketing, you can see just how important links are to small businesses looking to squeeze everything they can out of their content marketing. This is exactly why links and other off-page optimizations carry a hefty weight in page rankings for all parties involved. The more websites defer to you for sources worth citing, the more you’ll be looked to as an authority on the subject you’re being linked to.

If you’re receiving lots of links, and hits to your website are on the rise thanks to those links, you’re on the right path to becoming an authoritative website that ranks well. If you’re hurting for links, or Open Site Explorer shows that you have relatively low Domain Authority compared to your customers (you can run these tests yourself, for free!), it’s time to brush up on your link building strategy.

I guess the bottom line is that this is much easier than you might think. Don’t let “techno speak” stop you from doing this yourself. You are building an empire and outsourcing like crazy. I’m not saying you shouldn’t hire an SEO company or link builder, I’m saying that you shouldn’t hand over the reins completely. If nothing else, I hope this post empowers you to do a little double checking!

Do you leave link management up to someone else? If so, what is holding you back?

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Amie Marse is the founder of Content Equals Money. She lives in Lexington, KY with her two dogs: Billie and Lily. She has been writing content for her web based clients since 2005. She launched Content Equals Money in Oct of 2010, home of conversion focused content writing services. She loves to chat about small business development and how to make content equal money!

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