Friday, April 6, 2007

Can Linking Increase the Number of Visitors to Your Site?


Many mortgage web site owners email us and ask, "Should I be linking to other site in order to get links back to my site?" They ask this question because; 1) inbound links can provide much needed traffic and 2) there is some evidence that indicates Google will rank you higher if you have good high-quality links to your web site.

How Do Links Impact The Ranking Of My Site?

Links are an important, but a little known commodity of the internet. Links aren't cash, but they can be more valuable than cash. Google has a secret algorithm called PageRank(tm). PageRank(tm) is their method of determining who gets ranked first for a search on "home loans" and who gets ranked last. Quite simply PageRank(tm) is a value assigned to your web page based on a number of factors; including the number of sites that link to you.

Furthermore, you will get higher PageRank(tm) if other sites with higher PageRank(tm) link to you. If you had just three links from, say, FreddieMac, The Wall Street Journal and the US Government all linking to your site, your site would rank much higher than if you had 100 links to your site from your church, your fantasy baseball league and your teenagers "Things I hate" web page.

Your goal is to seek highly focused links from quality and high PageRank(tm) sites.

How Do You Know What The PageRank(tm) Rating Is From Google?

You can go to Google and install their toolbar. One of the options on the tool bar is a PageRank(tm) indicator which gives the value of every site you visit. Any site at 5 or above is considered to have a good PageRank(tm), with 10 being the perfect score.

Why Should I Offer Links Away From My Site?

There are two answers to this question. One answer is for mortgage site owners and the other is for everybody else.

First, the "Everybody else" answer. Inbound links and reciprocal links are a great way of increasing your ranking and being of service to your visitors.

For mortgage sites, this may not apply since it is so hard, and so expensive, to attract mortgage seeking customers to your site. Some mortgage site owners said that they would link off-site to a mortgage calculator site for the convenience of their visitors. We would tell them if you really want to be convenient; install your own mortgage calculator on your site.

Should You Link If You Run A Pay Per Click Campaign?

In a word, no.

Here is an option to consider. Have two web sites, your main site and a site just for informational purposes (and linking). You can run your Pay Per Click campaigns to your main site, say ThisIsMyMainMortgageSite.com and have your link site as This-Is-My-Main-Mortgage-Site.com.

Reciprocal Link Campaigns

Some firms create an extensive reciprocal link campaign. They email other sites and say, "Link to us, and we will link to you. In this way we all win."

If you decide to do this, here are some guidelines:
  1. Link to relevant and related sites. This means linking to real estate company or escrow, but not linking to Blockbuster or Starbucks or a Viagra site. Sure you can link to your kid's school or to your bowling league stats page, but links like this tend to give the impression that maybe your site isn't all business and could have a negative impact on your PageRank(tm).

  2. Get your reciprocal links with keywords in the link. You do not want a links that says something like but you do want a link that says Google also evaluates what the link says in addition to the URL that it actually lists.

  3. Don't link to competitors. Enough said.

  4. Put all the links onto a single links page and make your links page buried somewhat within your site. Ideally you would receive a link from the main page of someone's site and you would give a link from your link page. There is evidence to suggest that links off of the index page seem to carry more weight with the Google PageRank(tm) algorithm.

  5. Don't have so many links that you look like a link farm. Link farms are sites that solely exist to create links to other sites. Link farms are a major source of search engine Spamming and can negatively impact your ranking. The Google PageRank(tm) algorithm is smart enough to recognize link farms and give you a negative score for using them.

  6. Just say no. You don't have to link to everyone who asks to link to you. You don't want to dilute the quality of linking page with dubious links.
Please note that some cross-linkers may take offense to you if you decline them. Be sure to watch for people who may create attack links (worst mortgage site on the net). Typically these people have email signatures that contain a reference to Star Wars (May the net be with you), the Matrix (Machine god: "What If You Fail?" Neo: "I won't") or provide a Klingon quote (Act and you shall have dinner. Think and you shall be dinner); worse yet, if they write it in the Klingon language.

It is very, very hard to conduct a successful reciprocal link campaign. Most sites don't want to, don't have time, think your email is Spam, don't understand what is it in for them, etc. High end sites like FannieMae.com just won't link to you at all.

Having said that, your site traffic can improve if you have high quality links to your site. And with a mortgage site, just one extra mortgage loan per month goes a long way to offsetting the effort of creating a links program.

You Can Link To Me But I Am Not Going To Link To You

Some sites accept inbound links, but won't link to anyone else. There is nothing wrong with this, except for the most part this strategy won't get you many links.

In short, links are good to have. They are a precious commodity of ranking. Collect all the links you can and be judicious in the links you give out. Great links can lead to a substantial number of extra mortgage visitors and increase your revenue.

Best of all, with the proper, and right number of links, you can gain an endlessly supply of free visitors... as Scotty would say, "I am giving you everything I've got, Captain."

(Rod Aries and Robert Farris are co-founders of MortgagePromote.com, a leading Internet marketing provider to corporate mortgage clients.)

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published March 2005.


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