We've come pretty far in our Search Engine Primer!

Now let's cover the third and final step: link building.

Just like the other steps, link building is very simple on the surface, but getting it done can be more challenging that it appears.


What is link building?

In essence, you want to get other Web sites to link to you. That's it.

When another Web site links to you, it's as if that site is "voting" for your site. Their link is an indication that they believe your site's content is valuable.

If your site gets a lot more "votes" or incoming links than your competitors', this will help boost your search engine rankings higher.

In the past, getting incoming links was quickly and easily accomplished through "reciprocal links".

For example, you own that wonderful diner in Durham, and a motorcycle shop owner in Santa Fe emails you and says "Let's exchange links. You link to my site and we'll link to your site and we'll both improve our search engine rankings." What a great idea! Right?


Link Farming vs. One Directional Links

In the high-rolling '90's, entire businesses were formed based on this concept. You could pay a company a fee and they would instantly add your link to 100's of sites overnight. It was dubbed "Link Farming" and it was all the rage. Link Farming focused simply on buying the most links, not on sites meaningfully "voting" for your site. And Google found that it "unnaturally" inflated the rankings of sites who participated, diluting the value of the search results.

To combat this, Search Engines now focus on "one directional" links — where sites link to you but you do not link back to them. These are harder to get of course. Search Engines also penalize sites they suspect of artificial link building. If you have any reciprocal links, you can avoid this penalty by making sure you don't have too many and that for any reciprocal links, the two sites have content that is related. So avoid motorcycle shops linking to diners, no matter how good the pancakes are, unless that motorcycle shop happens to have a "road trip" feature listing great places to eat across the country.

Now that you know what *not* to do, next week I'll provide some tips on what *to* do - how to find sites that will give you one directional links and then how to ask for them.

To see the other installments in this Small Business SEO Guide visit:

Getting Good Rank: Search Engine Primer — what are SEO, SEA and SEM and should I really care?
Search Engine Optimization in 3 Easy? Steps — the three elements of SEO
10 Tips to Avoid the Biggest SEO Mistake — all about how to choose your keywords
The 9 Places to Put Your Keywords for SEO Power — what to do with your keywords

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