The ubiquitous WordPress dashboard. Treasured by some, ignored by many, dare I say?
But there is at least one tool on the dashboard that can be of great use to you – Incoming Links.
There is a saying amongst online folk – “links are the currency of the internet“. When it comes to getting your site out there, links are how it’s done. With that in mind, it is extremely useful to know who is linking to you. Discovering who is linking to you and reaching out to them can often lead to mutually beneficial relationships.
So how can the Incoming Links tool help you with the growth of your WordPress blog?
Google Blog Search
Let’s start by discussing the limitations of the Incoming Links tool. It uses Google Blog Search to locate sites that link to you. As you might expect, Google Blog Search indexes blogs only. More specifically, they index any site with a RSS or Atom feed (as standard, your WordPress site has a RSS feed).
So if any “normal” website (without a feed) links to you, it will not show up in Incoming Links. You should bear that in mind.
No worries here. Click on “Configuration” in the top-right of the Incoming Links window. You will be presented with three fields:
- RSS feed URL – this is where WordPress will go to look for links. This field should already be populated.
- Number of items to display – pretty self-explanatory – select the number of links you want to see.
- Display item date – I check this. It can be useful to know when someone linked to you.
The concept is simple. If you can find who is linking to you, you can reach out to them. Let’s consider a hypothetical situation. Someone publishes a roundup post in which you are featured. You spot this, and contact them personally to thank them.
Put yourself in the blogger’s position. If you feature someone then you probably value their content. If that person then takes the time to get in touch with you, your opinion of them is going to be even higher.
It only takes a minute or two a day to keep track of who is linking to you, and having such information can be key to developing relationships with fellow bloggers. Whilst SEO and social media marketing are all the rage these days, the age-old concept of getting to know people in the same niche as you can really catapult your blog’s exposure over time.
Although Incoming Links is very handily placed on your WordPress dashboard, in my experience, it can be somewhat unreliable. If you are having trouble with it, do not fear – there are a couple of alternatives.
Good old Google. Head over there and type “link:http://yoursite.com/” into the search box. This should return any site, indexed by Google, that has linked to your URL.
2. Google Webmaster Tools
If you haven’t signed up to Google Webmaster Tools yet, do so now. There will be a little “Links to your site” box on your dashboard. You can click on “More >>” to see a full list of sites that link to you. Unfortunately, you cannot see which specific page links to you, so some guesswork is usually necessary.
What To Watch Out For
The biggest stumbling block when checking out incoming links is sorting out your links from others’. If you are a prolific blog commenter, every single link back to your site will be shown, so you will need to disregard them.
Similarly, if you are engaging in any link building, any resultant links on blogs will also show up. If you are a bit of black hat SEO addict, you may need to disregard many of the incoming links listed.
Creative Commons image courtesy of Max Klingensmith