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Articles and commentary on the 
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by Eric Ward (aka The Link Mensch)
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 February 2002
 
Now Is The Time For A Portal Link Audit
by Eric Ward

For a web marketer trying to maximize links at the major portals, it's the best of times and the worst of times.  Opportunities abound, but it's so confusing you avoid it.

Can you say with 100% certainty that you have maximized your links across the major portals? Are you comfortable that you know all the linking options available to you at these key traffic centers? Don't feel bad if your answer is no.  It's become much harder to keep up with, and most marketers have other things to do with their days than try to keep up with every nuance of portal linking.

But it's well worth your time to try.  As the search engines and directories partner up with each other, with paid link providers, with reviewers, with product databases, with news providers, with advertisers, with anyone they think can help them build a better service, the result from a linking perspective is a bevy of  few linking opportunities that didn't exist a year ago.

Take a site like Google.  A link to your site can come from Google in at least three ways, some paid, some free. Since Google pulls links from three different sets of data, is your site listed with all three? Do you know what they are?

At Yahoo, there are as many as seven different sets of data from which a link to your site could come. Aside from the basic Yahoo category listing, have you checked into the six others?  And at AOL, a searcher could find your links in at  least four different databases.

They key for you is two-fold: 1). Make sure you understand which databases are being queried for each search, and 2). Determine what it takes to be in as many of those databases as possible.

I'll provide a simple example to illustrate.  Google takes the words you are searching for and passes them through four different databases on the way to presenting the results to you.  The first database is Google's own index of millions of Web pages.  The second database they pass the search term through is Netscape's Open Directory. The third database is the paid Adword program database., and the last database is their paid banner advertiser database.  So, there are four ways your link could appear to a Google searcher.  You have to decide which of those four databases you want to be in, whether it's free or costs you a little money to do so.

And Google is the simplest of the portals.  Now multiply four or five databases times six or seven portals and low and behold you could have over 20 different databases could be a part of if you want to maximize your link presence across the portals.  Some of these databases you pay to be in, like GoTo's main index or Google's AdWords I mentioned previously, or About.com's Sprinks.  Others are free to be in (kind of), like Netscape's directory.

So, what I suggest you do is conduct a portal link audit for your site and maybe even for your competitors. Find those places where you could be linked.  Fill gaps, plug holes.  You can be sure your competitor is.  How do I know this? Because I'm now doing three or four link audits every month as more and more clients ask for them. And the results are amazing.  Not one site I've done an audit for has maximized link appearances across the portals. Many sites could double or triple the number of links they have with little expense and a little time.  Every new portal partnership could mean a new way your link could make it to the results page.

You can do a portal link audit yourself or have someone who does them for a living (like me) do it for you, but either way, do one.  The resulting report will be a real eye-opener, and you'll end up knowing where the holes (missing links) are and what to do to plug them.

Until next time, I remain

Eric Ward,

Link Mensch
 

About the Author
Eric Ward founded the Web's first service for announcing and linking Web sites back in 1994, and he still offers those services today.  His client list is a who's who of online brands. Ward is best known as the person behind the original linking campaigns for Amazon.com Books, The Link Exchange, Microsoft, Rodney Dangerfield, WarnerBros, The Discovery Channel, the AMA, and The Weather Channel. His services won the 1995 Tenagra Award For Internet Marketing Excellence, and he was selected as one of the Web's 100 most influential people by Websight magazine. Eric also writes columns for ClickZ and Ad Age magazine, and is the author of The Professional Reference Guide to Portal and Search Engine Links. Eric and his wife Melissa split time between offices in Knoxville, Tennessee and Santa Rosa beach Florida. 
 
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