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December 5, 2008
Gain an Edge on Your Competition with Your Own Information Hub
Building and managing your own information hub can give you a real advantage over your competition. So what do I mean by “information hub”? I mean an informational site that provides a large amount of free information, articles, and links related to your area of expertise. I always encourage my clients to provide a lot of free, valuable content on their web sites, but a legitimate information hub is different because the information comes first and foremost, with any marketing content being secondary.
If the marketing part is secondary, then what is the advantage? For one, content and link-heavy sites such as we are talking about stand a good chance at ranking highly, certainly for long-tail keywords, but over time for more high traffic keywords as well. Owning an informational site that draws a lot of traffic for people interested in what you do gives you the opportunity to do a soft-sell of your services and make it clear to your visitors that you are a top expert in your industry.
However, the main benefit we are interested in from a search engine marketing standpoint is the fact that a standalone information hub with its own web address (and ideally, its own IP address) is a device with which you can guide search engine spiders to other third-party web sites that contain links to your main site (or back to the information hub).
So why go through all this trouble to link to other web sites when you can just do it from your main site? Because if you do that, you’re creating two-way, or reciprocal, links. Reciprocal linking should certainly be one part of your overall search engine marketing campaign, but you will get better results if you also have a lot of high quality one-way links.
So…you create pages on social networking sites, submit articles to directories or industry-related web sites, and do any number of other things that result in links pointing to your site, but you still need search engine spiders to find those links in order for it to be helpful. In time, the search engines will probably find those links on their own, but I’m just not that patient. I like to do everything I can to make sure that those links are found as quickly as possible. The easiest way to do that it is to link to them.
Another way to help search engines find your links is by submitting them to social bookmarking sites. We advise you to do this anyway, because you may pick up some additional links if other people start bookmarking your site. However, social bookmarking sites are constantly in flux, with the easy-to-find links changing by the minute. You give yourself more control of the situation if you supplement social bookmarking with a technique that places your links in static locations, where they can always be found…i.e., in your information hub.
Obviously, you want to encourage search engine spiders to return to your information hub often. This is more likely to happen if the site is constantly updated with new content. Maintaining one site is a lot of work, much less two, so how can you do this, short of hiring someone to run it or working on it in the evening when you’d rather be doing other things? Simple. Use RSS!
RSS allows you to stream content from other web sites onto your site. For example, if you find a web site relevant to your industry that publishes an RSS feed with information and links for articles that change often, you can use its RSS feed to publish those article summaries and links on your site. So every time the third-party site updates its site (and RSS feed), your site will update as well. Yes, you will be publishing content that could take a visitor off of your site and possibly to a competitor’s site, but you can’t worry about that. Do not be afraid of links. Remember, your informational hub needs to be a true source of high quality information and not just an advertisement for your business. There is not room here to go into the specifics of how to publish content with an RSS feed, but any developer who has ever worked on a web site should be able to help you with that.
No matter what industry you are in, this is a strategy you should employ if you are engaging in a search engine optimization campaign. But don’t just throw something together. Do it right. Make your information hub something you are proud of. It will help make sure that all those hours spent getting links to your main web site were not wasted and that they actually help boost your search engine rankings.
Jerry Work is president of Work Media, LLC, a pay per click management and SEO firm based in Nashville. He is also author of Scientific Search Engine Marketing, available at amazon.com or at workmedia.net.

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Jerry Work is president of Work Media LLC, a Nashville SEO firm that specializes in orchestrating Internet marketing campaigns that blend organic search, paid search and social media. He is also the author of "Be the Magnet," a new book on using social media and content distribution to promote websites. For more info, click here.

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