But what's the small Internet business to do to boost traffic, boost sales and improve PR? The answer is link up.
Strong links doth a mighty chain make...
- William BlakeThat old, English writer and poet, William Blake, nailed it. You bet links 'doth' make a mighty chain. They also doth increase traffic to your site. Chances are, if you're just opening up shop, you don't have a ton of capital with which to work after buying web software, paying your ISP each month and storing your inventory in the spare bedroom warehouse. So how can you gain exposure, boost sales and not bankrupt your business model? You need links from other sites to your site, creating one, kick-butt chain (with apologies to Mr. Blake). Think of linked sites as a mini-network that focuses on a single product or service. Let's say you're a CPA looking to expand your client base beyond the neighborhood. Your site's up but traffic is virtually non-existent. You check the site counter every day as it slowly inches its way up to a double-digit number - 10. Well, that's not going to pay the freight. The answer is to get links from related sites - not necessarily competitive sites, but sites related to the work you do or goods you sell. Your on-line accounting business will likely do much better if you're able to get a link from the sites of several Certified Financial Planners. You'll do even better if you can acquire links from document preparation services, in the business of prepping court documents for bankruptcies, divorces and other life-altering events. Of course, finding a site willing to allow you to place a simple text link ad on their landing page is easier said than done. First, you have to develop a list of sites appropriate to the purpose of your site. Next, you have to contact each site's webmaster and convince him or her of the value of symbiotic connectivity, aka, 'You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.' Then finally, you enter the 'begging and pleading' phase of your negotiations. It's time consuming, frustrating and, well, a bit humiliating. And in the end, you may be able to find a couple of sites willing to swap reciprocal links - but that's still not going to boost traffic to your site sufficiently to allow you to quit your day job. Links cost money and good links cost a lot of money. A single link from a PR 8 site might cost you $200 a month. A link from a site with a PR of 5 might only cost $20 monthly, but it's obviously going to generate a correspondingly lower number of click-throughs to you site. But, you have to spend money to make money. So how do you put your limited resources to work while waiting for your site to start generating revenues? LinkAdage has text link advertising auction and brokerage services aimed at offering convenience and value for the up-and-coming www entrepreneur. These sites bring together webmasters interested in increasing their monthly cash flow by selling links from their pages, with webmasters seeking to expand their presence on the Internet - you. Yes, it'll cost you money each month to maintain those links but you'll also become a part of that 'mighty chain' mentioned previously. How much a link will cost you is often a direct coefficient of the linking site's PR. The higher the ranking, the higher the monthly cost to you. For example, to purchase a link from a site ranked PR3 or PR4 might cost you $5 - $15 a month because, again, these sites have lower rankings determined by the number of hits they receive each month. A site with a higher ranking, say a PR 7 or PR 8, might cost you $100 or even $500 a month. Start by determining your monthly link budget - how much you feel you can spend monthly to hook up to sites related to your products or services. Then, LinkAdage and experiment for a month or two. Are you better off going with a lot of links from sites with low PRs or, should you blow the whole bundle on a single site with a high PR. The only way to determine which course is best for increasing the number of eyeballs viewing your site is by test marketing. You can find new link opportunities and track the progress of a current links using software programs such as Total Optimizer Pro (TOP), PR Prowler and SEOElite, each designed to make it easier for you to find good links and track your link performance from each text link ad you buy. It may take a couple of months to develop an accurate picture of which sites are delivering the most visitors to your page and boosting your PR, but it's essential that you start the tracking process to make the most effective use of your limited marketing dollars. In turn, you can increase your monthly site income by selling links from your site to other, related sites. Of course, because you're just starting out and you don't have a great deal of traffic or high PR, a link from your site will go at the bargain basement rate - for now. However, as your site's traffic increases and your PR goes up, you'll be able to charge more for these links to supplement the income generated by the actual sales of goods or services. A word of caution is in order, here. You don't want your site to become a repository for links unrelated to your business - a link farm. It's essential to keep your site's focus narrow. If you're offering accounting services, a link to or from an on-line health food store isn't the way to go. For one thing, it may increase your site's traffic but it won't do much for actual sales. Remember, the consumer queried 'health foods' and it'll be rare that this same individual will be looking for accounting services and health foods. This means one thing - do your research. The ultimate goal is to increase your site's exposure and traffic in the most cost effective way:
- Regularly visit LinkAdage to develop a feel for the link market and how much buys what PR. Shop around for the best deals, just as you would when buying a new car.
- Conduct your own market research and analysis by tracking the sources of your site's ever-increasing traffic and, make adjustments accordingly. If that $500 a month link from a PR 8 site landing page is bringing 100% more traffic to your site than all of the PR 3 and PR 4 sites combined, you've identified a marketing trend - one upon which you can expand.
- Keep you links focused. Avoid linking to or from sites that are unrelated to your site's purpose and business model.
- Be cautious about entering a long term agreement before seeing how a text link ad performs.