While having the best Web site in your industry is a noble goal, a far more satisfying one is to have the most popular site. This is the goal of search engine optimization.
The best means of measuring your Web site's popularity is by determining its link popularity — that is, the number and quality of other Web sites linking to it. Each time another Web site adds a link to your Web site, it's a vote of confidence in your site and the quality of its content. This confidence is monitored by search engines, which reward popular Web sites with higher search engine rankings.
To measure your Web site's popularity, use any free, Web-based link popularity tool. IconInteractive.com provides one of the better link popularity tools on the Internet. These tools will provide you with a summary of incoming links to your site from the most popular resources.
A Web site's link popularity indicates the perceived value the site has to the Internet community at large. It indicates how easy your Web site is to find — and whether others believe your site is worth finding. Popular sites become known as must-see destinations on the Internet.
If your site's link popularity is lower than expected, or than desired, there are a number of things that you can do to improve its popularity over time:
- Write articles — Articles are the best way of attracting visitors and incoming links to a Web site. Writing about your company's industry in a meaningful way will lead to a higher volume of incoming links. This does not include sales-oriented content specific to your company's product offerings or the reasons why they should buy your products.
- Publish press releases— Press releases are one of the best means of attracting new visitors to your Web site. And when you publish your press release using media outlets such as Marketwatch or PR Web, the natural result is incoming links to your Web site.
- Create RSS feeds — RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication." Providing an RSS feed is the easiest way for you to offer content to other websites. RSS files include article headlines, summaries and links back to your Web site. When new content is added to your site's feed, all of the sites that use your feed are updated at the same time. Several sites exist to promote your RSS feed to other Web sites and to Internet surfers.
- Offer a Web-based affiliate program — An affiliate program is a referral program that pays commissions to website owners that link to your site. When their site visitors buy from you, they get paid a portion of the sale. An affiliate program is a twofer — it increases your link popularity and generates additional sales at the same time.
- Advertise online — Paid advertising can make huge contributions to a site's link popularity. When you purchase pay-per-click or display advertising from popular Web sites, the byproduct is a boost to your link popularity. Kicking off an online advertising campaign is a good short-term tactic to boost popularity, while you deploy other popularity-boosting tactics.
Building a site's link popularity takes time and persistence — particularly if you take the best approach by only seeking links from high-quality directories and Web sites. Don't seek links from sites that aren't reputable or relevant. Avoid companies promising hundreds of links to your site overnight.
Like hanging around with the wrong crowd in school, the results of exchanging links with disreputable Web sites can be negative.