Sep24

The Missing Link: Part One

Posted by Neil Cumins

The first part of Midphase’s guide to upping your SEO through link-building…

The process by which Internet search engines rank websites in order of importance is effectively a cross between advanced mathematics and voodoo. Few people know or understand the exact formula, and it’s often wrongly assumed that using particular keywords repeatedly is enough to secure a top ranking. Many other factors play equally significant roles in a website’s ranking, however, and few attributes carry as much weight as the presence of links.

What are Links?

If you imagine the Internet as a city centre, with websites comprising its grid-pattern street layout, links are the alleyways that join together otherwise unrelated addresses. They might not represent the most obvious route between these separate locations, but they provide a quick and effective channel from one to another. Just as the makers of a road map will record and list these alleys, so do search engines; the more links a particular website has connecting to it, the better it performs in the search engine results pages, or SERPs. This process is called link building.

Why Do Links Matter?

There are many reasons why links from other sites are given such importance by the search engine algorithms that constantly scan the Internet for content. Firstly, a high volume of links suggests a site is popular – and therefore relevant. Wikipedia has thousands of links from sites all across the world, whereas a private individual’s blog will have hardly any. If both sites contain a thousand words about a particular subject, Wikipedia would clearly be regarded as the more authoritative source.

This wasn’t always the way search engines worked. Before Google started updating its algorithms Internet searches were largely based on content matching. This meant companies would stuff their web pages with key words, even writing invisible key words on pages by using white fonts on white backgrounds. When Google began ranking pages by linking concepts Internet users suddenly started getting more accurate results. And so began Google’s progress to world domination.

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Links from related websites are worth a great deal more than ones from irrelevant domains, so a key element of link building involves cultivating good relationships with industry peers and review or media sites. Link analysis also demonstrates which websites are still active, helping to push obsolete or abandoned sites down the rankings. Six years ago, nobody’s day was complete without a visit to www.nicecupofteaandasitdown.com, whereas nowadays this cyberspace cul-de-sac is remembered only by Abernethy aficionados and the occasional biscuit-obsessed copywriter.

Experts suggest that more than half of all content across the www is spam, so links from trusted domains reassure the search engines that a particular site is genuine. Remember that the algorithms used to scan websites can’t tell jokes from Jabberwocky, but links from recognized spam sites can severely damage future rankings. Many formerly high-ranking websites were effectively wiped off the map by the 2012 Penguin update to Google’s link algorithms, which penalized people employing so- SEO techniques such as hundreds of links from otherwise empty spam websites.

Alongside regularly-updated high-calibre editorial content, a cornerstone of strong website search engine rankings involves establishing frequent new links between trusted websites and your own site. That may sound about as easy as conducting an orchestra while falling down a flight of stairs, but it can be accomplished with time and effort. Here are ten top tips and techniques a savvy website administrator or marketing professional can utilize to build organic links…

Tips for Building Links

Cultivate relationships with associated companies.

Links from review sites and partner organizations carry weight, but academic and Government addresses represent the Holy Grail. A link from a .ac or .gov-suffixed website is worth far more than anything from a standard .com or .co.uk address. Of course, do this with care. Even blogs on .edu sites can be open to abuse, and a link from such a site can still be classed as spam.

Collaborate with other authors to contribute to their sites and blogs.

This will help you build links to and from genuine sites and help you share an audience, too. These symbiotic relationships work well for both parties, with links in either direction attaching additional weight to both websites.

Keep adding new links.

Old sites will become defunct and links often break over time, whereas new links will keep bolstering the credentials of your website. This gets progressively harder, but search engines place great credence on the freshness of links to determine the destination site’s relevance. Your competition won’t be standing still, so you shouldn’t either.

Use social media.

A link from Twitter or YouTube won’t carry the value of a conventional link on a standalone website, but it’s better than nothing. So far, there is little consensus among experts regarding how much impact these social media links actually have, though.

Build links with charities

Make a donation, get involved. Especially local ones, if you are a local business. As with all this advice – do not explicitly ask for links. Find sites that link to their donors as a matter of course.

Find local educational initiatives

If you are a computer shop then find the local school computer clubs and help them out, give a talk maybe, or donate some kit.

Check out what your competition is up to

Try to second guess which links are working well for them. Then check out the quality, the visibility and the placement.Next, try to figure out how they got the link and do the same – if you get your link on the same page you will devalue their link and get a new valuable link for yourself.

Get your brand in front of people

There’s a reason why the branded mug business is still so busy. It seems odd – link building by buying people a mug – after all it’s an offline activity. But it works. If you want to be more up to date then branded USB keys can be purchased for not a lot of money. If you spend a bit more custom molds can be made. Find the influencers in your area, contact them, then send them the present.

To find out more about link building, come back to the Midphase blog tomorrow for part two of this post. 

 

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