In my last post I talked about links being important both internally and externally, the basic principle being that numbers of links to a page not only provide the pathways but indicate how important that place is, the more links pointing to a page the more important the search engines think they are.
Now before you go running off to get links from just anywhere you should know that just like the old movie, links come as the great, the bad not so great and the fugly.
Firstly, you need to understand that many links now have an invisible attribute, called the noFollow attribute, that negates their value greatly. These are used on links from many sites where users can place links on the site themselves such as Twitter, Facebook and the comments sections on most blogs.
The idea is to make those links unattractive to folks who might otherwise abuse them and place links to spammy sites. Those noFollow links are not entirely useless as they can still bring traffic from the linking site but they are nowhere near as effective as a normal link as they don’t assist SEO.
Great links come from relevant websites that are already well ranked by the search engines for our keyword or variations of it. Needless to say they are normal followed links which ‘pass on’ that anchor text so the search engines see a relationship between the linking site, the anchor text of the link itself and the target pages subject matter. These are usually hard to get because you have to persuade someone your website is worth linking to for their readers to check out.
Not So Great links might come from irrelevant websites such as the free for all directories which list any old site that submits. Links from noFollow sources or links that anyone can get easily such as links from Twitter etc. are unlikely to do you any harm but don’t have the ‘power’ of just a few good links.
Fugly Links are those likely to do more harm than good. Links from those ads you see – “100,000 links in 24 hours for just $67” Avoid them. Avoid them like the plague and also avoid linking to them. Links to bad neighbourhoods are not liked by the search engines.
In a recent bi-annual survey of some top SEO executives conducted by SEOMoz.org, the general consensus said the top 5 factors in ranking a website were:
- Keyword Focused Anchor Text from External Links
- External Link Popularity
- Diversity of Link Sources
- Keyword Use Anywhere in the Title Tag
- Trustworthiness of the Domain Based on Link Distance from Trusted Domains
Look at those again because its worth noting that 4 out of 5 of them are link related! In other words if you’re trying to get your site ranked in the search engines for competitive search queries, you need to do a bunch more than just optimise your websites page titles and content. Lets take a closer look at those factors and what we can do to help our sites rank.
Keyword Focused Anchor Text from External Links
Means getting links from other websites to the page on your site you are optimising, which contain your target keywords in their anchor text. So if you are trying to rank your page for ‘men’s tennis shoes’ try to get links from other sites using ‘mens tennis shoes’ in the anchor text.
Try to get some that just name your site, some that say ‘tennis shoes for men’ and a few other variations. This will avoid your links looking too contrived and unnatural.
External Link Popularity
Regardless of the anchor text they use, is your page linked to from lots of other web pages? Are they on quality sites or spammy ones?
Diversity of Link Sources
Does your site have links from lots of different domain names or are a lot of your external links from different pages on the same few domains?
Trustworthiness of the Domain Based on Link Distance from Trusted Domains
Search engines are believed by many to put a lot of weight on how far away your site is from some trusted domains. How far in link ‘hops’ from a trusted site to yours that is.
So link popularity and SEO are inseparable, with the right links and enough of them you can rank for any keyword. Need proof? Check how Adobe ranks first for the keyword ‘click here’. Its because so many sites link to their Adobe Reader software with the anchor text ‘click here’!