build linksOur SEO Audits series continues with a detailed look at links and link-building techniques that can help build your site’s authority.

(New to this series? Check out our previous posts on site infrastructuredesign and coding, and web template.)

Ready to learn links? We’ll cover how (and how not) to build links, and the importance of Google PageRank, search engine directories, and press release optimization. Here goes…

Intro to Link Analysis/Link Building

As search engines crawl the web, they are looking for thematically related clusters of information (pages that are linked together and are focused on a particular topic). As the engines crawl, they determine the importance of the pages and sites they visit relative to the themes running through them. The process of determining importance is called link analysis.

Simply stated, link analysis looks at both the number of links pointing to a site (link popularity) and the quality of those links (link authority). From this data, the engine makes a determination on the importance of a given site or page.

Inbound links to Home Page

URL Google Open Site Explorer
www.Domain.com 000 000

Note: YAHOO and BING no longer provide link data and Google provides only a

“sampling of pages.”

Link Building

The ongoing evolution of search engine algorithms warrants a reexamination of link building. The reduced reliance on quantity and the increased importance of high quality and relevance have resulted in a fundamental shift in thinking with regards to link building.

The old tenets have been replaced, and the key to link building today is to remember this: Some links can actually hurt your site’s ranking. With that, here are five things to keep in mind when link building for today’s search engines.

1. Build Links Naturally: Building links naturally takes time and effort but the engines prefer them to artificial links. Natural links come unsolicited and increase gradually, as opposed to artificial links, which can appear in great numbers overnight and usually contain identical link text.

The engines want to reward sites that people voluntarily link to due to great content. Artificial links can hurt you. The best way to build links naturally is to provide great content and information. People naturally link to sites that offer quality, relevant content because it bolsters their site and provides value to their visitors.

2. Get Links from Relevant Sites: Remember, the search engines are looking for thematic hubs, groups of pages focused on a similar topic. A link from a trusted site that matches the topic of your site can give a site a significant boost. Think of links as endorsements—a link from an authority site like NYTimes.com is typically stronger than a link from a mom’s blog with low page rank. Off-topic links can also hurt a site’s ranking.

3. Get Links from Sites That Don’t Give Many: The fewer links on the referring page, the better. In an ideal scenario, a site would be the only one linked to from the referring site. A link from a site with hundreds of links can actually harm the site because the value of the link is diluted.

4. Place Keywords in Link Text: This practice is of immense benefit. Link text helps determine the theme of a page in the eyes of the engines. The effort to reach out to every site linking to your site and request the site use specific text to link to a site is well worth the time. Also, requests should vary. Natural-looking links are not identical; bunches of links with identical link text can be harmful.

5. Go for Deep Links: Do not always request links to the home page; the home page may not be the most thematically relevant page for a particular site. Link building connects pages, not sites, and the home page is usually about a broader range of topics than deep pages. Remember, a link is more powerful when it’s on topic.

Unfortunately, building high-quality links is difficult, but it is well worth the effort. Today, link building is the most important factor to improve search engine ranking—and the most challenging.

Level of Link Building Impact: Very high

 

Google PageRank

*Google PageRank™ (PR) is a numeric value that represents the importance of a webpage, according to Google.

In addition to on-page factors, Google and other search engines calculate page rank based on the number of quality inbound links pointing to a page. Quality links from external sites have high link quality (a Google page rank of at least 5) and contextual authority. Sites with a high page rank tend to have more inbound links than outbound links.

Level of Impact: Very high

 

Search Engine Directory Inclusion

search directories

Two of the most important search directories.

The Open Directory Project (ODP) and Yahoo’s directory are two of the largest human-edited directories on the Web. The human editorial element of these directories makes them extremely reputable, and search engines (including Google, BING, and Yahoo) use aspects of the directory when ranking sites. Inclusion in these directories is important, but the site description is also critical to SEO efforts. Many search engines use the ODP to define a site within an organic listing as well.

Level of Impact: moderate to high

 

Press Release Optimization

A key method to generate links to the various pages and products is to leverage your press releases. Press releases get a wide digital distribution as site owners and blog owners pull in the feeds to add content to their site. Since it is often contextually relevant, these links to the product and features pages are can be quite valuable.

You’ve made it this far, so stay tuned and don’t miss the last part of our series: spam/black hat techniques to avoid. Until then…

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