Search Engine Secrets: The Hidden Power of Linking

Get your Web site to land prominently on search engine listings by following these tips for effective linking.

September 1, 2007

All of your efforts to keep an updated, innovative Web site are wasted if no one is using it. That’s why it’s so important to generate a steady stream of visitors. How do you do it? One good strategy is to improve your site’s placement on search engines such as Google and Yahoo!

And there’s good news — with just a little bit of Web savvy, you can do this for free.

First, you need to understand how search engines decide where to rank your site when a user searches for key real estate terms, such as “Houston real estate” or “Wisconsin lake house.” It all comes down to links: The more Web sites that link to your site, the better placement you’ll get.

Think of a link as an endorsement or a testimonial. Just as people rely on endorsements when evaluating your business, search engines rely on links to evaluate the quality and legitimacy of your Web site. And just as an endorsement by one well-known, credible person carries more weight than endorsements by a dozen people you’ve never met, links to your site from credible Web sites are weighted more heavily by search engines.

In short, when more trusted, industry-related Web sites link to your site, it shows search engines that you’re respected in your industry. The greater the number of quality backlinks (links that point to your site), the greater “respect” your Web site will receive in the eyes of the search engines. In other words, the Internet is one big popularity contest!

It’s Not Who Says It, But What They Say

Just having someone agree to give you an endorsement (a link) isn’t good enough. The critical aspect of an endorsement is what they say about you. On the web, this is known as “anchor text.” Anchor text is the clickable text within a link. Below are two examples:

  1. Click here for more information. The words “click here” are the anchor text. In this example, the endorsement really doesn’t tell search engines anything about you. After all, the endorsement only says “click here.”
  2. Learn more about Raleigh Real Estate. This example contains a much better endorsement. Search engines know exactly what the endorsement is about before they even arrive to your Web site. Enough quality endorsements about Raleigh real estate, provided your Web site actually contains information about Raleigh real estate, would help land you top placement for that keyword.

Ideally, anchor text should vary slightly from time to time. Search engines will begin to get suspicious if every one of your endorsers says the exact same thing.

Deep Linking: Think Beyond Your Home Page

Links to your home page are known as “shallow links.” Too many shallow links cause search engines to question the validity of your links.

A more effective way to link is called “deep linking.” Deep links are links to internal content pages. Search engines favor these types of links because they appear to be more natural.

With this in mind, make sure your endorsements link to a variety of different pages within your Web site. This will give your endorsements the highest effectiveness and ensure the maximum number of pages on your Web site appear in the search engine results.

Where to Get Your Site Noticed

Keep in mind that the purpose of developing effective links is not strictly to obtain better placement on search engines. You also will be building pages and links that will reach thousands of Web visitors thanks to the traffic from the other sites. This maximizes your traffic by attracting both Web visitors and search engines — a powerful combination in online marketing.

Where should you begin? Below I’ve listed some popular Web sites, which I strongly recommend linking to on your site:

  • Google Local. The power of Local Search Optimization is often overlooked. This is because some people mistakenly consider the Internet as only a global resource when, in fact, more and more people are using the Internet to find local resources in their area. (You must have or sign up for a free Google account to add your business listing.) Consider offering a free CMA, neighborhood report, or buying guide in the coupon section to ensure your business listing stands out above the rest.
  • Yelp. This site merged social networking with local reviews; it allows you to submit your business listing and lets users to post reviews about your service.
  • InfoSpace. Infospace is a large mobile media and technology company that operates brands such as the search engine and directory search. It also allows you to submit your business listing for free.
  • Real Estate Voices. This is an example of a social bookmarking site. You can submit high value content from your site, links, etc., and visitors vote for those stories. This is a great resource because it focuses strictly on the real estate industry.
  • Localism. Localism is a social community Web site geared toward real estate consumers. Because localism is relatively new, it’s easy to get your information to stand out as there is little competition. (You must be a member of ActiveRain to post to Localism).
  • Flickr. Flickr is a photo sharing site that allows users to store their photos online. What makes Flickr such a powerful marketing tool is that it integrates an online community platform. This means that users can search, share, and comment on other photos. Because of this, it is important to “tag” your photos and include a link back to your Web site. The obvious application here is to post photos of your listings with linkbacks to the specific listing on your site.
  • Google Video. Post your video virtual tours or tours of your neighborhoods here. Be sure to group all videos on the same topic into a playlist. For example, include all home video tours of various listings into one playlist. This will encourage the Web visitor to view additional videos on the same topic.
  • Librarian’s Internet Index. This is a search site for librarians. Because the site is known as a reference site, search engines such as Google highly regard the directory. Note that commercial-only submissions to the Web site will be rejected, so it’s important that your site has “freely accessible information.” This can include market statistics, helpful articles, or free resource guides.
  • Google Housing Search. More than 56 percent of all Internet searches on "real estate" and related terms are conducted on Google. With this in mind, submitting your property listings to Google is a logical choice. For added exposure, add yourself to the Google Base People Profile as well.
  • Ezine Articles. The Web site is built to match article writers with Ezine publishers. Because of this, high quality articles on the Web site are often syndicated to many other resources. This means free exposure for you, your article, and your Web site.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.