If you want to improve your website's ranking in search engine results, you're not alone. This is a highly sought after goal for almost all businesses because of the increased number of leads and sales your website can bring in for your business when it is more readily indexed by search engines. This is a beginner's guide to the backbone philosophy of SEO (search engine optimization) and link building; learn the simplest and most essential first steps you can take, as well as the most important factors to pursue in order to continue to grow and improve upon your search engine ranking.

One important element of internet marketing involves driving traffic to your site through other highly valued websites. The best websites to drive traffic from are those that allow you to set up a "followed" link to your site with specific anchor text.

When we say a link is "followed," it means that it is readable to search engines. The more (legitimate) links to your site a search engine reads, the higher a ranking your site gets in search results. We call these links "incoming links." Placing links on legitimate sites back to your own is a search engine optimization strategy referred to as "link building."

What makes a site "legitimate"?
There are certain characteristics that make a website legitimate and therefore valuable for link building purposes.
The basics of this are:
-The site should be similar in topic to your own site.
(e.g.)If you have a website about web design, don't build a link on zagat.com. If your website was a restaurant website, getting a link from Zagat would be GREAT; this is because it's a highly respected source that's highly relevant to the content on your (restaurant) site as well.

Juicy Links and Link Juice
Let's define link juice by referring to the same example started above.

A link from Zagat.com that goes to your site is impressive to search engines-it makes your site look that much more valuable and important, since a trusted media source is essentially recommending your site via this link. Zagat has all of those elements that search engines look for in order to rank it very highly in SERP's; this is another reason why it's a really juicy link source.

Juicy links are those that have a heavy influence on how search engines rank your site in search engine results pages (SERPs); we refer to the level of power a link has (in terms of its potential ability to improve a site's search engine rankings via an incoming link,) as "link juice."

Other criteria that make a site valuable for link building are:
-Site Age- how long the site has been around for
-Quality- the level of content quality it offers
-Up to Date-how frequently the site is updated with new content/information
-URL- the url structure (should be words, not just a jumble of numbers and symbols)
-Title Tags- the site title tags (should include relevant industry keywords).
-Optimized content- the density of keywords used in the content (without deteriorating content quality)
-Popularity- the amount of traffic a site gets
-Incoming Links- the number of incoming links the site has from other valued, relevant sites

Anchor Text
When you type in a URL on a website, (say in a blog comment area,) organically, it looks like this: http://www.freshtilledsoil.com

This is the innate URL structure.

You can also have a URL that directs you to a site through a word or phrase, like this: Boston web design

The second example here is what we call the "anchor text" for a link. Search engines are very aware of the anchor link text that directs them to a site. If the anchor link text that you use is relevant key term (a central topic that relates to your website,) then search engines will boost your site rank for that particular key term in search engine results.

For example, look at this blog comment post that I made on a www.speckyboy.com in response to the post titled "8 Amazing Free Online Creative Portfolio Community Sites."

Anchor Text Link Building

In this post you can see the phrase "boston web design" highlighted in blue. When you click on it, it takes you to freshtilledsoil.com. This is an example of really good link building. The link is from a highly valued and respected site that is full of content that is directly relevant to our company-- web design stuff.

There are a lot of ways you can build links: social bookmarking (digg, redditt, stumbleupon…), directory business listings (yelp.com), and content sharing sites, like squidoo, scribd.com, & hubpages.com, to name a few.

Here's a screenshot of a clip from a hubpage created by one our our interns-- this image displays the link back to ur site via the phrase "user interface design." Again, clicking here will take you to our site, and it is a followed link which means search engines like it!

Hubpage with followed link

The whole page can be seen here

Since one of the factors that helps your site's search engine results ranking is traffic, social media sites can help improve your site SEO-some more than others, however.

There are a TON of social bookmarking sites: mixx.com, spurl.com, digg.com, reddit.com, delicious… Here is a link to page that has a ton more:

click here

Some of these sites allow you to enter a followed link via anchor text of your choice; some of them don't. Some of these sites will let you set up a link with anchor text that is initially "no follow" which means search engines don't read it. On many of these sites though, if you get enough views and "thumbs ups" or positive rankings, your link will become followed. When this happens, you get lots of link juice AND traffic. An example of a site like this is mixx.com; you need a certain # of "mixes" for your link to be followed. "No follow" links are still valuable in terms of SEO for other reasons although they do not have as direct or as strong of an impact as due followed links.

Stumbleupon is an example of a social bookmarking site that never gives followed links; it does, however, help build traffic to your site. Digg is a social bookmarking site that does give followed links.

Now that you know the basics, get out there and get your site ranked! Good luck.