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Google & SEO \ NOV 8th 2010

Are Your Links Helping You?

Are Your Links Helping You?Link-building. It can be a real drag. You don’t always have much control over how others link to your site – if they link to your site in the first place. Half the battle is getting links. But are you getting the right ones for your website?

If you constantly find yourself ranking lower than your competitors for your keywords, and you have links already pointing at your site from other places on the web…it might actually be the types of links that is burying you below your competition.

A common misconception is that the more links you have pointing to your site, the better. It’s actually not that simple. There are several factors involved in a fine balance that should be in place when you embark on a link-building campaign.

Here are the 5 signals search engines use to evaluate the links pointing at your website:

Diversity. Your links should come from lots of different sources. If you apply for a job, and all your experience and references come from just 1 previous employer, it’s not always enough to get hired. Especially if others competing for the job have a more diversified portfolio, with a rich variety of references all confirming the same person has the same skill set and character traits. This is something to watch out for if you work with affiliates, link partners or people with relationships to you. Don’t put all your links in one basket!

Anchor Text. It’s a shame when we see a website with a great link from a valuable source, with useless anchor text. Anchor text is the click-able text that makes up a link, and is used to provide information about what can be found on the linked page. Anchor text like “Click here” won’t help you get ranked for your “fashion photography” business. A link to your site from a fashion magazine will probably be the name of your business or website (a reason why it helps to include keywords in your business name). Find out who’s linking to you with Yahoo’s Site Explorer Tool. If you see some useless anchor-text, try e-mailing or even calling the webmasters behind those links, and politely ask that they make it more beneficial to you. Easier said than done, we know, but you can always point out that better labeled links are more useful to their visitors.

Content Relevancy. Recently, Google has placed more of an importance on the relevancy of content on the linking page, to the page where the links point. The idea is to present surfers with a relevant chain of links that can ease the flow of finding information on the web. Your online baby clothing website won’t benefit much from a link on a software solutions forum.

Link “Juice”. This is the raw value of your links themselves. Link juice is commonly measured by PageRank. It’s like a score that Google and the other search engines use to judge how “important” links are themselves, all external factors excluded. For example, the value of a link pointing at your site from the homepage of About.com carries a lot more “juice” than a link from your sister’s blog about living with two legs. Comprende?

Trust & Authority. Low quality links from directories that exist for the sole purpose of link building won’t do you much good in the eyes of Google. It’s a waste of your time, and often money, by appealing to spammy link farms that promise you loads of links with your exact keywords from a large number of different domains. The expression “You’re only as good as the company you keep” applies nicely here. Google evaluates the reputation of those who link to you. Also – one way links are the best kind, so don’t be fooled by schemes like “reciprocal link building”, where you and a partner exchange low-value links with each other. It’s like a dog chasing its tail. Even if the dog has stunning photo galleries and sleek page navigation.

The Takeaway Message

Focus link building efforts by finding quality sites offering content related to yours. Compare your position in the search engines to those of your competitors and investigate their link strategies a bit. Then you can zone in on the right type of link-building for your business website.

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