A much chased-after area in the world of SEO is how to create links to a website to help it move up the rankings.
If I were to offer a very simplified overview of SEO, it comes into two parts:
- A search engine reads your web pages to determine what it is that you do. Ie. Specific content is essential.
- Search engines (Google in particularly) determine how popular your website is by checking out how many links you have coming to your website and the quality of where they are coming from.
The first part of this equations is something you can manage. You get your marketing team to create web pages with specific content that is readable, but also contains keywords and phrases that a search engine can make sense of.
The second part has always got people scratching their head – how to get other websites to link to theirs. A whole industry was formed around manufacturing backlinks and many people took the easy option – outsourcing linkbuilding without really understanding the quality behind it or the tactics being used.
The problem is, a lot of these companies use ‘spammy’ techniques and it’s coming back to haunt a lot of businesses who have used low-quality and cheap linkbuilding services. Google Penguin (an update to the search engines algorithm) launched in April 2012 has taken a sythe to this tactic and is punishing websites that have historical spammy links from low quality websites. But why?
Natural Order Of Websites
If you think about it, even on the web, there is a natural order of things. Some websites are bigger than others and some earn more links than others.
Take the small trader on the web now losing out to a bigger brand. In the early days, lots of brands dismissed the Internet and gave small companies a march. But, now they have joined the party and if you are not already a big web brand in your own right, the chances are you will start to see the larger companies leap above you because they are bigger, have more money for marketing and end up getting a higher profile online, which increases their chance of rising up the search engine rankings.
Google needs to decide who is being talked about the most and on what websites – because not all incoming links are equal. Quality plays a very big part. Link building helps this process, but manufacturing links is (at best) an un-natural occurrence which Google can recognise.
Example Of Un-Natural Manufactured Links
I was checking out a client website the other day and comparing it against the local competition in terms of back-links. My site (the blue line) shows a natural growth pattern over the past four years. One of the newer competitors (they only started business in 2011) has quite obviously manufactured thousands of back-links over two months towards the end of 2011.
When I collaborate this data with software that shows search engine position for competitive keywords, their website has dropped down the search engine rankings towards the end of April and into May 2012 – one only assumes due to this low quality back-linking technique.
Example Of Lost Traffic Due To Un-Natural Backlinking
I have a ‘test’ website, where I try tactics I know that I shouldn’t (and never would do on a client site). During 2010 and 2011, I paid for links and also used an off-shore link building freelancer.
This graph shows traffic from search engines (weekly during 2012) and, as you can see, the traffic tanked during April when Google Penguin was released and has not recovered.
How To Build Links Naturally
So, the big question is “How Do You Building Natural Links To Your Website?”
The plain and simple answer is… Make content that people think is worth linking to.
Perhaps not what you wanted to hear, but it’s the best way to grow your sites profile naturally unless you have an amazing PR coup.
Ideas & Examples
- When I worked at my last company, we built a couple of great tools for SEO. We decided to make web versions, which we published on the website. These free online SEO tools attracted a lot of links, many of them fantastic quality, which helped rise our profile nationally and globally.
- Many companies create their web pages thinking about themselves. Making the sale is important, but to attract links and comment, very often more is needed. Our beauty salon website offers free beauty tips and advice and videos that are shared within social media outlets and linked to, helping us maintain a stronghold over our local markets. (we are also getting national coverage too).
- I spoke to a potential new client yesterday that offers serviced apartments in Newbury. During our conversation, I demonstrated that we could easily add extra content about such as Ten Top Night Outs in Newbury, How To Get The Best From Newbury Racecourse, etc. – each designed to attract different visitors, and potential links.
Of course, any content you create should be easy to share. Social sharing widgets make it easy for people to Tweet content or share with their friends on Google+ or Facebook. Why not take advantage by making your content easier to share?
“If you build it they will come” is a phrase that I often heard during the early days of web build. This has evolved into “If you build it well, the appropriate people should find you”.
But, there are no shortcuts (apart from paid advertising). You need to think differently, you need to offer more and demand less, you need to create a website that is worth reading and worth sharing and then make sure that every action you’d like people to take is easy for them to perform.