Link building III – Improving search rankings

by Martin Reed on 28 May 2007 in Articles

This article is a continuation of the article series that started on 22 May 2007, with ‘Link building I – Gaining direct traffic‘, and was followed with ‘Link building II – Creating relationships‘ on 24 May 2007.

In this article I will write about how to improve your search engine rankings through the link building process.

Identify your niche

If your aim is to improve your search engine rankings you need to be crystal clear on exactly what your site is about. This sounds obvious, but I see many site owners targeting keywords and sites that are completely irrelevant to content of their site.

Identify your keywords and search terms

If you want to improve your search engine rankings, you need to decide what keywords or search terms you want to target. General keywords such as ‘chat’ or ‘dating’ are so competitive that it may be better to target keywords that yield fewer searches but have far less competition.

Write an initial list of the keywords you want to target. Check your traffic stats to see what keywords people are currently using to find your site. A few good applications you can use to determine search popularity (and consequently the competitiveness) of specific keywords are:

Overture Keyword Selector Tool

Overture keyword selector tool

The Overture keyword selector tool is extremely basic and simple to use – simply type in a keyword, and you will be shown the number of searches recently performed for search terms that include your keyword.

The higher the number, the more often that keyword is searched for. Bear in mind that the higher the number, the more sites there will be that are targeting that keyword.

Lower volume = Less competition = Better results

SEO Book Keyword Suggestion Tool

SEO book keyword suggestion tool

SEO book is similar to Overture in its simplicity, however it shows an estimated total monthly search volume along with estimated volume from specific search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN.

SEO book keyword suggestion tool

Google AdWords: Keyword Tool

Google keyword suggestion tool

You can display various data on the keyword(s) you choose, namely:

  • Keyword Search Volume
  • Cost and Ad Position Estimates
  • Search Volume Trends
  • Possible Negative Keywords

Keyword Search Volume

Google keyword search volume

We are now shown the search volume for our chosen and similar keywords, along with advertiser competition. Advertiser competition refers to the number of people bidding on those keywords using the Google AdWords system. This is useful as an indicator of how much general competition there is for those keywords.

I would always suggest targeting the keywords with lower levels of competition – your site is then far more likely to be returned in search results for the keywords you are targeting.

Search Volume Trends

Google search volume trends

It is no good targeting keywords to improve your search engine rankings if those keywords are going out of fashion. Google’s search volume trends allows you to see changes in search volume for your targeted keywords. Ideally you want to target the keywords that are seeing a growth in their search volume.

Now you have your keywords

By now you should have a good list of keywords that are relevant to your site, get a decent amount of search engine queries and do not have excessive competition.

Find relevant sites

Use these keywords to do searches in the search engines. Remember that there are search engines other than Google! The sites with good search engine rankings are the ones you want to target if your sole aim is to build links in order to improve search engine rankings as these will often be seen as carrying more ‘authority’.

Include your keywords in your link

When you find sites willing to exchange links, be sure to have your chosen keyword(s) included in the anchor text of your link. For example, if you are targeting the phrase ‘UK chat’, then this should be your link text.

It is always worth negotiating with the site you are placing your link on to see if they are willing to publish your link on their homepage – these often carry more weight in the eyes of the search engines than a links page that is already swamped with other sites.


If you are link building in order to improve your search engine rankings, you should:

  • Identify your niche
  • Identify your keyword(s) and search terms
  • Find good ranking sites relevant to your keywords and niche
  • Include your keyword(s) in your link anchor text

This article should only be used as a starting point for improving search engine rankings through link building. I do not claim to be a search engine guru; these are just tips and advice I have used myself and have had some degree of success with.

Sites I would recommend for further reading include:

The next article in this series will talk about link building as a way of creating awareness of your site. If you would like to see specific issues addressed in this link building series, let me know by leaving a comment.

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Chicago 2016 May 29, 2007 at 11:36 pm

Once again, brilliant post. I happened to be checking out the Google AdWords for my blog and wasn’t too happy with the volume of those terms.

After reading your post just now, I looked at SEO Book and was more pleased with the site’s layout and tools. Thanks for the suggestion!

Chicago 2016 May 29, 2007 at 11:39 pm

One bit of information/advice that may be useful – at least it would be to me – is how to really kick your blog up to the next notch after it starts up. I get around 60-70 uniques per day, which is up from the 30-40 or so I got when I started. How can I kick this number up?

Martin Reed May 29, 2007 at 11:52 pm

Hey Daniel – Thanks for the comment; I am glad the article was useful to you.

I do not like giving out too much advice about blogging, simply because I am so new to it myself.

Did you check out my article ‘Get free traffic for your blog‘? This should give you a decent start.

As I get more knowledgable about the art of blogging, I will be sure to write more articles. I don’t want to offer advice in areas where I don’t have the experience to backup my recommendations.

Alan Liew May 31, 2007 at 1:15 pm

Very informative SEO tutorial. Perhap part IV would be teaching people the ways to increase backlinks for higher SE rankings.

Martin Reed May 31, 2007 at 3:11 pm

Hi Alan – Welcome to the blog, and thank you for your comment. I didn’t want to get too bogged down with detail in this link building series; it is more of an introductory overview.

I will definitely go into more detail about link building to improve search rankings in a future article, though.

For now, this article details how to get started in increasing backlinks for higher search engine rankings.

Slaptijack June 5, 2007 at 9:09 pm

There’s some really good information here. I know that I personally take keyword selection for granted, but as with most things, it looks like the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.


Martin Reed June 5, 2007 at 10:11 pm

Thanks for your comment. Yes, I definitely think that the more research you put into the keywords you want to target, the more you will get back in terms of improved search engine traffic and rankings.

I think taking the time to actually research the popularity of potential keywords, and targeting the right ones is something that people often fail to do.

Negotiation Trainer December 21, 2007 at 7:28 pm

“It is always worth negotiating with the site you are placing your link on to see if they are willing to publish your link on their homepage”. I agree, but you have to be a good negotiator. If you are not, then ask someone else who knows a thing or two about negotiations to do it for you. Getting a homepage link isn’t easy and if you start off on the wrong foot the negotiations are going to be harder later.

Martin Reed - Blog Author January 2, 2008 at 9:10 pm

Negotiation Trainer – I am not sure how important it is to have someone negotiate on your behalf, particularly as one of the key advantages of communication with other sites is to build relationships with other site developers.

Targeted Traffic January 11, 2008 at 1:51 pm

Fine information here. Took me a while to grasp the true importance of your keywords in anchor text. Glad you mentioned it.

Martin Reed - Blog Author January 12, 2008 at 12:25 am

Targeted – Thanks for your comment; many people overlook the importance of anchor text but it should never be forgotten as another tool in helping out your search engine rankings.

Colon Cleansing January 22, 2008 at 6:12 pm

I must say… This is one of the best collections of link-building tips that I have ever seen! Seriousl! Great Post!

Jeff Flowers January 22, 2008 at 6:15 pm

I think that the Anchor text is the most important, yet most often neglected, part of Link Building! I mean, you can have tons of links scattered around the web, but those same links are worth sooooo much more when the proper anchor text is included! Great Post!

Martin Reed - Blog Author January 28, 2008 at 11:58 am

Colon – I am glad you enjoyed, and thank you for your kind comment.

Jeff – I agree. The link text is hugely important, and is overlooked so often. Ah well, all the better for those who pay attention to their anchor text, eh?!?

Eric Martindale February 12, 2008 at 3:44 pm

Great article! I’ve used SEObook’s tool for a long time, glad to see it hilighted here.

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 15, 2008 at 3:28 pm

Eric – I’m glad you enjoyed the article. SEO Book is a great tool, and I would recommend everyone to give it a try.

kashif February 25, 2008 at 9:06 pm

Very well written article . I have been in blogging from just a while now and I hope to make the most out of this piece of information.

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 27, 2008 at 8:04 pm

kashif – Thanks for your comment. Let me know how you get on, and good luck with your blog.

David Lewallen March 20, 2009 at 2:11 pm

make sure your on-page factors align with your off-page! Like you mentioned this seems basic, but I still see webmasters that want to target “dog food” with their link campaign but don’t have the keyword “dog food” in their title or content of the page. This is the first thing I address when starting a link campaign for a client.

Alex June 27, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Nice Post Martin, Overture Keyword Selector Tool is no longer working, my Favorite is Google Adwords Keyword Tool, even for non English Keywords a great Place to research!

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