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Search optimization is about getting links. The more links you get to your Web site, the more likely you are to get into the first page of search engine results.

Killer Web content gets killer Web links. One of the main reasons the first 10 links are to me when you search for "Gerry McGovern" on Google, Yahoo or MSN is because I actively encourage people to republish my articles, if they credit me and link back to me.

I have been publishing a column since 1996, and it's a great way of getting links and getting my name quoted on other Web sites.

Link within your discipline

As a general rule, get linked from sites within your particular discipline. This is important for two reasons:

  1. The more people see you linked to within a particular discipline, the more impressed they are likely to be, as Web linking is akin to embedded word of mouth. If people see you linked to from lots of other sites, that's a major credibility builder.

  2. Search engines like to find logical patterns and grouping for links, and they will tend to reward you if you are well linked within a particular pattern, once a person is searching for a careword related to that pattern.

Don't focus too much on hub Web sites

In a network, a hub is a place that has a lot of links coming into it, such as Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Amazon.com. It's great to get linked from these hubs.

However, especially when you're starting out, it may be very difficult to get such links. Sometimes, it can be a clever strategy not to overly focus on getting linked through these major hubs. Rather, also focus on minor hubs that still have the capacity to deliver value.

Strengthen your 'weak ties'

A study on how a group of people found work showed that a "friend of a friend" was more likely to get them that important job introduction than close friends or family members.

There are all sorts of reasons for this. For starters, there are more friends of friends than there are friends. It can be very comfortable to get links from Web sites you admire and from those of your peers. However, these may not be the Web sites your customers are frequenting.

You don't want to be getting links from sites that have nothing to do with your business. But you do need to think outside the box, and, of course, to keep thinking about what Web sites your readers are visiting.

Go for quality, not quantity

There may be short-term benefits from the search engines for getting lots of low-quality links through reciprocal linking and other more dubious practices, of which there are many.

However, just as you should write content for people who search rather than for a search engine, you should get links that are likely to impress your potential customers rather than simply garnering some short-term benefit from a search engine.

One link from a well-regarded Web site could bring you far more business (search engine traffic or not) than 100 links from lesser-known sites.

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image of Gerry McGovern
Gerry McGovern (gerry@gerrymcgovern.com) is a content management consultant and author. His latest book is The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online, which teaches unique techniques for identifying and measuring the performance of customers' top tasks.