The Secret to Making Every Link Count For Your SEO Rankings
December 14, 2008 - Written by Gyutae Park
Link building is an ongoing struggle between two sides with different motivations. Webmasters obviously want to increase traffic and rank #1 in the search engines for their targeted keywords. Search engines on the other hand aim to neutralize webmasters’ link building efforts and return the most relevant search results pages. So as a link builder, how can you win the battle?
With Google’s emphasis on links in its ranking algorithm, links have essentially become the currency of the net. People are willing to shell out thousands of dollars for links in hopes of better rankings and higher traffic. However, Google is fighting back by weeding out “artificial” links and devaluing sites that engage in aggressive link building tactics.
Every webmaster needs to proceed with caution when attaining links. There’s always a right way to do it and a wrong way. The key is to stay under the radar and strive to appear “natural”.
How can you do this? In this article I discuss the best ways to build links naturally to prevent tripping any filters or raising any red flags. Sure you might be able to fool the algorithm but the true test is having your links pass a human review. That should be your goal with every link you place on the web.
1. Provide value, attract links organically
The foundation of every link building campaign is your content. Are your pages worthy of being linked to? Provide value and you’ll naturally attain links from people who will voluntarily share your content with others. This is becoming increasingly important because Google is looking to eliminate thin pages from its index. The more value you provide, the more links you’ll get. You can then be more aggressive with your link building campaigns because it’s unlikely that a human reviewer will be able to tell the difference between “real” links and “manipulated” links.
2. Vary the link anchor text
Link anchor text is extremely important for SEO and could mean the difference between ranking for a keyword and being nowhere to be found. However, there is such a thing as over-optimization and it’s better to vary the link anchor text to appear more natural. For example, if your main keyword is “apple cider”, mix up your links with keywords like “buy apple cider here”, “click here”, “apple juice”, “apples”, “the best apple cider”, etc. The probability of all of your links being exactly the same is low, so don’t give the search engines reason to be suspicious so easily.
3. Deep link to pages on your site
Again, every link building campaign should aim to mimic natural linking patterns. Most people link to deep pages on a site, not just the homepage so you should be doing the same thing. Attain links to a diverse set of pages on your site. If you have a sound internal linking structure, your entire site should benefit.
4. Get links from relevant sites
Would a site about guitar lessons link to a real estate site? Most likely not. When analyzing the link graph, search engines give more weight to links that come from the same topical neighborhood. In the guitar lessons example, a link from a music site is much more valuable than a link from an unrelated site. Keep this in mind and target links from sites that have some sort of connection to yours. It’s what search engines love.
5. Take your time – slowly build up your link profile
It’s tempting to do a rush of promotion to get as many links as possible in a short period of time. However, this will usually raise red flags to the search engines, which will then devalue many of your hard earned links. It’s better to slowly build up your link profile over the long haul. Rather than attaining 3,000 links in a day, aim for 10 high quality links per week for a year. The long term benefits will be much greater.
6. Look for similar PageRank neighborhoods
Would you be suspicious if a new site with PageRank 1 suddenly had links from PageRank 8 sites? I don’t know about you, but Google would be. Generally speaking, most sites have links from sites with similar PageRank. For example, a PageRank 4 site will likely have links from sites with PageRank 3-5. Aim for the same and reach higher as you grow bigger.
7. Minimize links from the same IP address
Thinking about interlinking all of your sites together to maximize SEO potential? Think again. Google can easily detect links that come from the same C-block of IP addresses and will discount these links accordingly. It’s probably not a good idea to interlink your sites if they’re hosted on the same server. Then again, you shouldn’t be linking unless your sites are related in some way anyway.
8. Diversify your link profile
There’s a variety of sources for links and you should tap into all of them in your link building efforts. Get links from directories, blogs, press releases, scraper sites, old resource sites, forums, news sites, etc. The more diverse your link profile, the better because everything will look a lot more natural. You can then be more aggressive in your tactics because you’ll have a solid foundation already set.
9. Buy links discretely
Buying links is a very controversial topic because Google looks very negatively at any sort of paid link. However, if done right, paid links can have a huge positive effect on your rankings and traffic. First of all, it’s important to take into account each of the points listed in this article. Always go for related sites and vary your landing pages and anchor text. Spread out your purchases and contact webmasters directly instead of going through link brokers and networks like Text Link Ads. If you do it discretely, it will be almost impossible for Google to detect what’s paid and what’s not. As for valuing links, read Aaron Wall‘s article on how much a link is worth to your business.
10. Eliminate obvious footprints
If you plan on using more aggressive strategies for your link building campaigns, it’s extremely important to hide your tracks and eliminate any obvious footprints. Do everything in moderation and mix things up to prevent the search engines from detecting any patterns. For example, if you plan on passing link value through your affiliate program, don’t use obvious parameter names like “aff”. For more information, read Patrick Altoft’s article on how to make sure your affiliate program passes SEO benefits.
Bonus: Be careful when buying domains for SEO
If done right, buying up sites have tremendous SEO potential. You can buy a trusted domain and redirect to your own to benefit from all of the inbound links. You can utilize content to piggyback off of your existing site. You can even buy a site to instantaneously achieve a #1 position in Google. If you have the money, buying sites might be a great investment. However, it’s still important to stay under the radar and not make it obvious to Google what you’re doing. For example, don’t redirect to a random irrelevant site and don’t quickly change the WHOIS information. These kinds of things tell Google that ownership has changed and they’ll often reset the site’s ranking potential. For more tips on buying up sites for SEO, see the recap of the Buying Sites for SEO session at SMX Advanced 2008.
How are you building links to your site? Are you thinking like Google and considering the implications of your actions? Every link counts and it’s important for you to stay under the radar and aim for a “natural” link profile. What are your experiences building links? Have you ever been penalized for being too aggressive and raising up red flags? Share your stories by leaving a comment below!If you like this post, subscribe to the RSS feed. Get the latest updates delivered straight to your email or news reader.