Years ago, I helped out a non-profit, and they asked if they could do something for me in return. I asked them to link to my website, and I linked to theirs in return. A few months later, my site’s Google site rank skyrocketed. It turned out that the Dalai Lama’s site had linked to the non-profit’s site and my site had benefited from the link juice. Helping others is its own reward, but sometimes the universe sends thanks.
Google doesn’t share how its algorithm works, and the panda release may have reduced the importance of external links in favor of relevant content. External links still count and depending on the quality of the link can still move the needle.
Linking to content outside your site tells Google that there is more to the story. Google doesn’t really care what the story is, just who is telling it and how relevant the content is to the search terms it’s looking for. For an example, let’s say you sell cruelty-free cashmere sweaters, a link to PETA.org is not just appropriate, but also highly relevant to the customer looking for that product. If you can get PETA.org to link back to your site, that’s pure gold.
Not every product will have an easy link opportunity like that, but there are always link opportunities. Say you are selling a tee shirt with sunflowers, you can link to a fan site for sunflower lovers, organic sunflower seeds, or the Van Gogh painting of sunflowers. Have fun with it. Want to know what Google thinks is relevant to sunflowers? Yup, just search “Sunflowers”. Don’t add links that will confuse Google. Keep it simple and targeted.
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