Linkbuilding has to be one of my favorite aspects of SEO. All too often people use the analogy of linkbuilding being a popularity contest. As someone who views linkbuilding in a somewhat different light – and as someone who was considered by only his parents as ‘cool’ – I think it’s time to put that analogy to bed. Yes, being the sexy-fun brand will undoubtedly drive links for your site. But in my opinion, it’s the quality of the information on the page that will not only help you succeed in proactively acquiring links, but will also inspire others to link to your page. Or to return to the analogy, the cool kid might start out with the lead, but it’s the smart kid (see nerd) who ends up winning in the long run.
It is that passion for linkbuilding that drove me to put Linkbuilding Essentials as one of my can’t miss SES New York sessions…and it didn’t disappoint. Debra Mastaler, President of Alliance-Link, presented solo and here are just some of the highlights.
Create Quality Content
At the end of the day links represent another sites ‘vote’ for your page. To earn that vote you need to offer content that can’t be found on just any site. Provide resources, include imagery and ensure your headline grabs the reader’s attention. If you want to inspire sharing, give them something worthy of sharing.
4 Linkbuilding Considerations
1. Quantity - The number of links pointing to an individual page.
Take-away: Because the quality of links strongly influences the links value, link quantity can be dangerous to view in a silo. Use this number along with link quantity to evaluate your linkbuilding success and identify new opportunities.
2. Quality - Different search engines have different names for the metric used to evaluate link quality. For Google that is known as PageRank. PageRank – wisely titled – ranks a page based on the PageRank number for all pages linking to it.
Take-away: Online marketers learned many Google updates ago that Google places a strong emphasis on the quality of a link. That is, a link from Forbes is more powerful than a link from bookmarking site, although both may deserve a place in your linkbuilding strategy.
3. Relevance - The context or relationship between the page linking out and the page receiving the link is an important aspect of linkbuilding. The pages should likely have some similarities in order for the link to be of value to either web property.
Take-away: If you’re a business that sells high-end IT software and yet most of the links that point to your site are from a site that sells boiled peanuts, there’s something wrong. As you consider what sites to target in your linkbuilding efforts, ask yourself: is it reasonable for your audience to want to visit that page? If the answer is yes, it is likely a good link to acquire from both a SEO and UX standpoint.
4. Anchor Text - Links that leverage text to link to another page. When done right, the text of the link should provide insight as to what information will be found on the linked page.
Take-away: From a SEO perspective, anchor text links can be more powerful than a spelled out URL link. Why? For the same reason it is more powerful from a UX perspective. The text of the link provides the search bot with information about the page being linked.
No-No’s for Linkbuilding
Now with an understanding of some of the key aspects to consider when developing and maintaining a linkbuilding program, let’s switch gears and discuss a few practices that every marketer should avoid.
- Building Links in Bulk – Seems counter-intuitive, right? If link quantity is factored by search engines, why not acquire as many as possible at once? The reason is simple: with exception to major announcements, product roll-outs or big advertising, it’s unnatural for most pages to suddenly have a burst in the number of inlinks. In addition, the types of tactics that lead to a sudden surge in links are likely against Google’s Terms of Service.
- Not Linking Out – There is an old belief that linking from your page to a 3rd party property is a bad thing and hurts your PageRank score. In reality, linking to other sites offers far more pros than cons. The only caveat is that you need take a strategic approach to how you link out. For starters, don’t use an important keyword in your anchor text and don’t link to sites that you don’t want associated with your brand
- Talking Like a Robot – Using the exact phrase in each anchor text link you acquire is not ideal. Although it’s difficult to quantify how this approach can impact the SEO value of your links, think of it this way: no two people talk the exact same way, so it’s unreasonable that the only language relevant to your page is X. Consider mixing in long tail derivatives to strike a healthy balance.
One thing that I especially enjoyed in Mastaler’s presentation was the way she broke down the large world of linkbuilding into neat little segments that allow you to form an action plan. Get nerdy and start your linkbuilding initiative with a commitment to provide better content than your competition. Next, evaluate your current inlink situation against the 4 key considerations. Identify your opportunities and be sure not to violate the linkbuilding no-no’s.
While we’re talking linkbuilding, what’s the best linking tool? Make your case with a comment below.