How SEO links are built

Link Building

Link Building

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is often called one of the dark arts of digital – it can be perceived as a shadowy game of cat and mouse between Google and people in dark rooms with screens full of code.  However, the principles of SEO are fairly easy to grasp, so I have outlined them here.

Why use links?  Search engines have a tough job – they need to create a system where they can rank all of the world’s (visible!) websites according to a query that someone types into a search engine.  Oh, and you’ve got a split second to rank them.  Yikes!  Early on, the search engines realised that they needed to determine website authority quickly – so links became important, with the theory being that the more links that a website receives, the more authority it has.  This was abused by link farms, so the search engines became smarter at identifying the relevancy of links, and realising that some links are more valuable than others (i.e. one from amazon.com is more valuable than one from a small local business).  So, where are links found?

Directories – Directories are a basic place to place a link to your site, and some are free (e.g. Dmoz) and others are paid directories (e.g. Yellow Pages) – but they do tend to have good link authority, and there are often trade specific directories which could be useful
Suppliers and Customers – It might be that there are link-building opportunities right on your doorstep with the people who you work closest with.  Suppliers and customers are a great source of links, so ask the question!

Blogging – This has three SEO benefits – firstly, your website will be updated on a regular basis which search engines like (it means the site has not been abandoned).  Secondly, your blog can be shared on social media, which will generate SEO value.  The final benefit is that your blog may be syndicated – if your content is interesting enough, another site may run your blog on their site, for example, I am very proud to say that my blog is syndicated by business2community.com

Bloggers – This is different from the above – this is about asking (or rather sending samples of your product to…) a blogger to write about your product and providing a link.  But Google are onto this – indeed, Matt Cutts, who you really should follow, has warned that this tactic ‘is dead’.

Social Media – Social is huge, we all know that.  But it is also a great way of generating links and SEO value for your site.  Remember, search engines are looking to refer their users to the best quality content – and what could be a better endorsement than lots of social media shares?  Social will become more and more significant in SEO in the future.

Find out what the competition are doing – You can see where your competitors are sourcing their links from by checking out Open Site Explorer.

The best advice for SEO is to focus on the user.  After all, it is the user who will provide the lead / buy your product, the search engine is just there to provide the user.  And possibly the most important role of a link is not SEO, but for the user to click on to take them to some great content.

Image via senramedia.com

Pillar Two: Off-Page Networking

Three Pillars of SEO

Three Pillars of SEO

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!