Google and other search engines have been developing new search algorithms on a continuous basis. Every time a news search algorithm is launched web marketers are acting like Chicken Little, screaming to all who will listen that the sky is falling.
What anyone developing a linking strategy, or who is already committed to one needs to realize is, little changes if you’re playing by the rules.
SEO Linking Strategy Myths
The fundamentals of search engine optimization are based on gaining back links, often called inbound links, and the relevance of the page content to the linked to page or website. This is unlikely to change any time soon. What is constantly changing is the process of assigning ranking.
Back links are so important because when search engine bots visit a page and find links to other websites, it’s assumed the other websites are an authoritative source for whatever topic the content refers to. This is especially applicable if the link is a textual link that’s comprised of a relevant keyword or keyword phrase, known as an anchor link.
What has changed is the level of efficiency Google and other search engines have attained at identifying abuses used to manipulate page ranking based on authority. Abuses that previously worked are now detected and the offending websites penalized, sometimes even banned completely. Such abuses, known as black hat SEO, include techniques such as keyword stuffing, blind text, keyword spamming, purchasing back links, link lists, participation in link exchanges, etc.
What remains the same is that back links placed on relevant pages, especially it they are anchor links using relevant keywords or keyword phrases, are still the best method there is to earn a decent page ranking. Therefore, a key component of any linking strategy has to be getting back link… but the right back links.
Another factor that did not change with the introduction of the new search algorithms is that “content is king”. In fact, content being king is now more of a critical factor then ever before.
The new generation of search algorithms identify swallow content websites and those comprised of duplicated content and punish them by reducing page rank or dropping them from the data base completely. Also, the same downgraded or penalizing suffered by the offending website often carries over to sites with outgoing links.
Develop A White Hat SEO Linking Strategy
SEO is vital to earning organic search engine traffic. Plus, to realize any traffic from search engines your listing need to be high in the search results, so naturally people use every trick imaginable to improve the optimization of their web pages. Many give in to temptation and cheat by using what Google and other search engines consider unacceptable practices, referred to as black hat SEO.
Here are some ways to enhance your website’s PR (Page Rank) and SERP (Search Engine Result Page) using back links as part of an overall, white hat linking strategy.
Improve Your Page Rank
Page Rank is the single, most important factor effecting your SERP, regardless of what SEO practitioners are saying to the contrary.
Google’s Matt Cutts is the undisputed authority on improving PR and SERP placement. He says the easiest way to get your internal pages out of Google’s supplemental index and appear in relevant search results is to earn PR for those pages. You can take it on faith that if Matt Cutts says it is so, it is as far as Google is concerned.
So, just as it always was, Google Page Rank is still relevant. Also, just as it has always been, the best way to earn a higher page rank is to get back links from sites with high PR.
Use Anchor Text
Anchor text is an HTML text link comprised of one or more keywords relevant to the content found on the page the anchor text points to. Just as important, anchor text should be relevant to the content of the page with the outbound link.
If you have a web page optimized for cell phones cases, do not use, “For more information about cell phones cases click here.” Your goal isn’t to rank for “click here”, but that’s what you’ve done. To rank for “cell phones cases” use a more effective anchor text like; “Learn more about our cell phones cases.”
Be A Content Provider
Google’s search engine algorithms are programmed to spot a long list of links, such as navigation arrays, and ignore them. However, if a page contains many links that are not part of a navigation array, but rather a list of outbound links, a bot may ignore those links too. Worse, it may recognize them as outbound links and flag the page as being spammy. Neither of these are situations you want as a back link.
Your link strategy should always be to have your back links within the actual text on a page whenever possible. This means that the surrounding text must be relevant to your page as well. You also want your back link on pages with as few outbound links as possible.
Often the only way be guaranteed you have your anchor links worded the way you want, and placed where you want them, is to write the content yourself.
Here are a few ways to approach providing content to enhance your own SEO…
1. Offer to write content for bloggers, newsletters, ezines, and websites belonging to other people in exchange for a link or two embedded within the body of the text.
2. Maintain a network of secondary blogs and website of your own.
3. Comment on blog posts, news stories and reply to other people’s comments. Few of these types of websites allow embedded anchor text, but most will allow you to add your web address or the URL of a specific page. It is frowned upon to replace your name with keywords, but many will allow something like, “Sam from Futuristic Audio”.
4. Write and submit articles to article archive websites. Most will not allow anchor text to be embedded in the body of the article, but allow them in the author resource box. A resource box is located the end of the article and contains information about the author and always a link or two is permitted.
To have a successful SEO linking strategy, including content embedded links is vital. And there is no better way to assure you get them than by writing the content yourself. Plus, being the content provider, you’re assured the content is relevant and that no black hat SEO tactics have been employed that could negatively effect your page ranking.
Get Back Links From Trusted Sites
The consensus is that trusted sites rank well in Google because they’re trusted, so you want your back links to appear on trusted sites.
Trusted sites rarely link to spammy, shallow content websites. They’re “trusted” to link to quality site containing relevant content. If you can manage to get a back link added to a trusted site relating to your website’s topic, that single link could move your SERP placement higher.
Relevance Is Important
How relevant the content of the page linking yours is, is of vital importance to the optimization of your site. A key component of your link strategy has to be a focus on getting links from related websites, as well as sites with higher page rank than yours.
Whenever possible, try to get a link on a page that is about the same subject matter as yours. A link to your site found on a related topic website or web page by a search bot enhances your SEO effort. On the other hand, a back link from an off topic page or site can actually hurt your page rank.
Google’s new search algorithms rank links based on the quality of the website they are found on, and the relevance of the content. An outgoing link found on a high PR website about cell phones that’s pointing to a page about online dating may result in both sites being penalized. The assumption on the part of the search engine could be that neither is an authoritative site, even if the dating site had a phone app it was promoting.
Reciprocal linking will be part of your overall linking strategy because you’ll many time you will not be given a link on a website without adding a link back on your site. Reciprocal links can be risky however…
The risk with reciprocal links is that a link you allow on your website may be pointing to an already flagged black hat SEO site, poor quality website, etc. and your site ends up being penalized. When this happens you’ll see your SERP drop.
As part of your linking strategy, you need to set aside time to monitor websites you link to and that link to your site. You are also well advised to periodically revisit sites you share reciprocal links with and check on the outbound links you find there. If there are dead links, links to irrelevant websites, links to swallow content or poorly built websites, I recommend deleting the link on your site. In all likelihood, the page or the entire website is going to be downgraded at some point, and could pull you down with it.
Links To & From Hubs
No matter what the general subject matter is, all niches have an authority hub. A hub is a network of websites almost every site in that market niche links to. Hubs are usually an eclectic collection of web directories, review sites, blogs, websites, etc.
Getting your link added to one or more of these sites needs to be a key focus of your linking strategy. These hub sites Google already considers to be trusted and authoritative. Simply by having your link found on these hub sites by SE bots assures that the trust and authority is assigned to them is granted to your website as well.
Adding outgoing links to these sites, search engines are able to easily determine the subject niche your website or blog should reside within and index it accordingly. Also, because there are links on your site pointing to a trusted, authoritative site, yours is likely to be deemed trustworthy and authoritative as well.
The Pros & Cons Of Buying Back Links
Google, and pretty much every search engine, dislike the practice of buying back links. The reason is because it skews the rankings given sites based on authority, which is determined by links found on websites bot crawl. In fact, Google severely penalizes sites found to be selling links, known as link lists, and does the same to websites with outbound links found there.
However, the reality is that it is often necessary to pay if you want your link on a high PR, relevant content website. Provided you take care when purchasing links, I recommend doing so.
First off, no one is going to know if you have paid a photographer to add a link to your online camera store. Also, with the content so relevant it will actually benefit both websites, yours for getting another back link on a relevant content site, with a higher Page Rank than yours. The photographer will benefit to because the link points to a relevant website, and if it is an anchor text link adds a keyword or keyword phrase.
That said, do not buy a back link simply because the site has a high PR. It’s far better paying to have your link on a PR2 website devoted to complementary content than it is to have paid for a back link of a PR5 site that has no relevance to your linked to page.
You need to spend the time necessary to assure you get quality back links from content relevant pages, with higher page rank to advance your linking strategy. Websites differ in quality, page rank, level of search engine optimization, trust, etc. so your linking strategy must take this into account.
You need to be selective as to which sites link to yours to make sure any shortcomings they have don’t hamper your SEO efforts. At the same time, you need to assure that the back links you get enhance the page rank, trust and authority of your site.
That said, the contradiction is that the more links pointing to your web pages the better. I recommend you avoid the most obvious black hat SEO sites, link lists, and poor quality websites, but give the benefit of the doubt to some that are marginal. Be sure to monitor pages that are question marks though, to make sure they do not decline in value as hosts for your back links, thereby putting you at risk of being downgraded.
Quality Over Quantity
There are two camps when it comes to linking strategies, the “More Is Better Camp” and the the “Fewer But Quality Camp”. The former stand firm on their belief that the more links you having pointing to your web pages the better for enhancing PR. Then there is the “Fewer But Quality Camp”, equally convinced that far fewer links pointing to quality, trusted sites, with relevant content is better.
I suggest taking the middle ground. Focus on getting links from trusted, authoritative websites that are well built and have decent page rank, but strive to inflate the number of back links you have. At the same time, avoid websites that could hurt your own web presence by linking to them or having your link found there.
A successful link strategy is comprised of a number of components. All are equally important, so must be taken as a whole. To develop a linking strategy based on a single focus, or even a few link building techniques will result in only limited success, if any.