Following on from the concept of the Three Pillars of Search Engine Optimisation, this week we come to pillar number two – off-page networking. By off-page networking, I mean links, so in the same way that if you went to a conference and picked up some business cards, your website is floating round the internet picking up links and connections.
Your off-page networking is used by search engines to determine your site’s authority. For example, if your website has a link from Amazon, then Google will take a look at this link and think ‘well, if Amazon is happy to link to this site then it must be pretty good’ – and Google will take this into account when it ranks your website.
The old thinking was that the quantity of links was crucial, regardless of whether they are from relevant sites or not. This means that there are still a lot of major websites with some unnatural links pointing towards them. Indeed, one of my clients who has a medium size website had a staggering 40k links placed by a previous agency which needed to be removed – and it took a long time!
So, firstly you should audit your links. I have used a number of free tools on the web to do this, and there isn’t one that stands out, but a quick Google search will be able to help you out. This will tell you whether you need to remove any unnatural links.
Once your current links are tidied up, you should focus on getting some great quality links. Social media is becoming more important for SEO – so your content should be interesting, solve a problem for the reader, tell a story, etc. If the reader chooses to share the article, this will count as a natural link, and a verification that your content is good, which is exactly what Google is looking for.
But this is a fast-moving area: just ask Interflora. They got caught out by sending their product to bloggers to encourage them to write about it, in the hope that the bloggers would put a link to the Interflora site. In 2011, this was fine and even encouraged by SEO thinkers, but in 2013, it wiped them off the face of Google.
You can keep up to date with SEO by keeping close to your Google Webmaster Tools to check for messages about your site specifically, and follow Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Webspam on Twitter. And of course, keep checking back here!