Link Building: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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Inbound links – that is, web sites that link to your site – are key to increasing your search engine position.

The best method of building links and rapport is, of course, providing interesting, informative, and useful content to your visitors. Doing this, along with updating regularly with relevant content, is key to building a solid list of people who will link to you, thus pushing you up in search positions.

Another method is to partner with related companies, as your logo and/or company information will undoubtedly be listed on their web sites, linking to yours (you do the same for them, of course). With luck, these partners will have a high Google page rank, preferably above 7, that will further benefit you. Before we continue, it is important to understand page ranking as Google sees it:

“PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves ‘important’ weigh more heavily and help to make other pages ‘important.'”

It’s also good to make sure that those who link to you use adequate copy as the text of the link. If you have an SEO company and the link to your site reads “internet marketing,” that is a clear picture of what your site is about, and thus you up your chances of getting a higher spot in searches. However, if you have the same SEO company and someone is linking to you with “free prescription meds,” you will likely be penalized. Having a descriptive link text is even preferable to having your company name as the link.

As far as bad link building goes, first and foremost you must be wary of directories. There are hundreds of them out there currently, and while getting your link posted on so many web sites does increase awareness of your company, if the directories do not pertain to your industry or product, search engines can look at that unfavorably.

The same applies to wandering around other sites and posting comments that say, “Hey, link to www.mycompany.com.” First of all, no one with any sense will link to you, and if they do, again it all has to do with relevance and Google page rank. If the sites linking to you are in no way related to your business, or if they are ranked low on the Google scale, these links to you won’t do you any favors. Search engines aren’t dumb, and they make most of the rules.

Stefanie Ulrike D├╝rr, member of the Search Quality Team at Google, sums it up nicely: “Always focus on the users and not on search engines when developing your optimization strategy. Ask yourself what creates value for your users. Investing in the quality of your content and thereby earning natural backlinks benefits both the users and drives more qualified traffic to your site.”

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Ingrid is a B2B marketing professional with a decade of experience in online marketing, marketing automation, demand generation and marketing strategy for both start-ups and large corporations. She specializes in developing strategic and integrated marketing campaigns, optimizing marketing automation and CRM systems and developing content for sales/marketing utilization. On the side, Ingrid enjoys antiquing, playing guitar (not well), and traveling both within the US and throughout Europe.

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