In our previous post on taking your search engine marketing in house we discussed strategy, on site SEO (including Meta tags) and the importance of keywords. We also provided a list of resources to help you get started. In this post we expand on the keyword discussion and discuss the importance of backlinks. This topic is closely related to content that will be discussed in the last post in the series (coming soon). So on with the show.
Keywords in SEO – What’s changed?
In our last post we discussed the importance of keywords (or more to the point keyword phrases) and the allocation of one phrase per page. We also introduced some keyword research tools. Although it is first important to understand the basics it is no longer quite as simple and search has moved on.
Two years or more ago the single keyword (or phrase) per page was enough to rank well but no more. The Google algorithm now takes a more sophisticated approach to deciding what a page is about and ranking it accordingly. This topic can become highly technical but this excellent post from Cyrus Shepard gives a simplified overview of what is required.
The Google algorithm now looks beyond the keyword phrase to consider related words distributed through the page text, related concepts and synonyms. Position of words and phrases and their interrelationship are also important.
The Importance Of Backlinks
At this point I could go off at a tangent and rant about the amount of hogwash that is published online about backlinks but I will restrain myself. Suffice to say (to paraphrase Mark Twain) reports about the death of backlinks are greatly exaggerated. How Google interprets backlinks has changed (to a point) but that is all.
A backlink is a link from another webpage to your website. They come in two variants follow and no follow. It is generally accepted that the follow variants are the most important when the Google algorithm is deciding how to rank a site but nofollow links also have some relevance (how much relevance is a subject of some debate). Google has long taken the view if a web page links to your website it must consider the content of value and therefore that website deserves a higher rank.
Backlinks remain of critical importance to how Google ranks a website online. Yes content is important (see next post), yes onsite factors like site speed are important, yes keywords are important but without quality backlinks a website is not going to rank well.
It appears Google may be intent on devaluing the backlink element in their algorithm but it will take time. Remember Google has relied on backlinks as a key ranking factor in their algorithms for many years and even Google, with all their resources, cannot change tack overnight.
Millions of words have been written about bad quality backlinks and the Penguin and Panda Google algorithm changes designed to penalise sites that had high numbers of bad links. A bad link is one that is unnatural, it has been automated in some way and not earned. Bad links should be avoided at all costs, relevance and quality of the link are now key.
How To Earn Quality Backlinks
There is no substitute for experience and no quick fix as quality link building takes time to learn and is a resource intensive activity. One route is to earn quality backlinks using valuable and engaging content (covered in next post) but that takes time and considerable effort. To cover all the possible link earning opportunities would take a whole series of posts to so below are some options with resources to read more.
One important point to keep in mind when reading back linking information on line is this quote from Michael Martinez ‘Stop taking link building ideas from SEO websites. It should be obvious by now that if you read about a great linking idea or resource on a forum or blog it will be quickly crushed and devalued by overuse.’ Be careful with what you read.
Some methods to consider
- Raid your competitors’ links: Check out how your competitors have built their link profile and try to utilize the same route. This document from Robbie Richards .
- Find dead links and replace them with your content. In my humble opinion this is one that falls into the overuse category (see above) but read more in this guide from Greenlane
- Contribute to and drop links in relevant Forums. This tactic was overused in the past and has become associated with bad links but is still valuable if used correctly
- Answer questions – Sites like Quora are a good place to start. This guide from Kelsey Jones may help
There are several more but they are more associated with content and are covered in the next post on content and its importance to SEO – coming soon.