CHAPTER 7: BUILDING YOUR SITE’S POPULARITY
Building Your Site’s Popularity
When considering online marketing, it is wise to think of the internet as a huge city with its surrounding suburbs. The links of the internet are like the streets that connect people to each other. The links connect the pages to each other and to those who need information. Search engines analyse them in minute detail to find out how pages relate to each other.
Pages on the internet can also be seen as elected bodies, and for the last two decades, search engines have been using links like votes to tell them what is popular and important to those using the web. Link data usage analysis has become a fine art as algorithms have been developed that can do sophisticated evaluations of websites and their pages.
Building links isn’t all there is to SEO, but the algorithms do deal with links extensively when they do rankings. The popularity of sites can be judged by the number of pages that link to them. However, things such as spam, trust, and authority are also taken into account. Sites that are reliable are apt to link to other sites that are reliable. Sites perceived as spammy are apt to get few links from reliable sites. Authority models tell us that links are great for isolating those documents that will provide expertise on a particular topic.
How Search Engines Determine the Value of Links
The determination of value of incoming links by search engines considers a few factors: global popularity, local/topic-specific popularity, anchor text, TrustRank, link neighbourhood, freshness, and social sharing. Every link to your site is valued differently in subtle but important ways. We will dive deeper into the individual elements of how links are assessed. It’s not fully understood how some links are more weighted than others, but there are a few things we do know.
- Global popularity considers the importance and popularity of a link. If more sites are linked to a certain website, the more likely it has a higher popularity rating. The more a site is used, the more likely it is a trusted website. This is a great way to measure the value of a link.
- Local/Topic-Specific Popularity is a measure of the relevance of a site to a region or a topic. If the entire site is about Bristol, for example, links from the site to other Bristol-related pages will carry more weight.
- Anchor Text is also important to the value of a link. If hundreds of sites are linking to your website with an anchor text relevant to your website it’s a strong indicator of what your site is about and how important it is for that topic.
- TrustRank is a system that weeds out all of the spam web pages by measuring trust and differentiates between those that are spam and more legitimate links. It is estimated that around 60% of web pages are simply spam. TrustRank is mostly built from the number of authoritative websites that link to a site.
- Link Neighbourhood, in relevance to TrustRank, basically notes whether a site is linking to spammy websites. If so, it’s more likely to be spammy itself, and will therefore offer less value in its outgoing links.
- Freshness means a site needs to get new incoming links every now and then or appear stale.
- Social sharing ranges from Facebook to Twitter, Snapchat to Instagram. The number of shares content gets is a good indicator of its importance to its topic and its freshness.
Sharing through social media took a big jump in 2011 and 2012, and this had a huge effect on the search process. Google, specifically, started to include many social media references into the search results it gave. It gave customised results to users who were logged in with regard to reviews and comments from those in the user’s circle of friends and followers. They could not always be found in the highest ten results, but they were still promoted.
This shift is immense because somebody who has a big circle on social media and who shares a great deal of content is apt to find that content, along with a photo, set out in search results. When one does a Google search, this is particularly true of those who’ve used Google+. Those who publish content find that it is very advantageous to have very influential people with many followers sharing opinions about it online.
A social share is not the same as a link, however. They do impact rankings, but it is still true that a link is thought to be a much more valid way to promote the content you want out there than other ways of doing it.
Building links is an art more than a science and can really be a challenge to any SEO, although it is key to whether the marketing endeavour succeeds or fails. You must be creative and work hard to get the word out there, often within tight budgetary constraints. There is no one model to follow. Your personality, product and your website are going to drive the task. The following are three fundamental kinds of link acquisition:
1.Natural links – pages and sites are organically connected to your business. That means they are automatic and the SEO does not have to do anything particular besides creating good content and encourage others to become aware of that content.
2.Outreach links – wherein the SEO has to reach out to potential targets and convince them of the advantages of them linking to your site. You do things like asking bloggers for links, signing up for directories, and paying for listings.
3.Self-created links – A lot of websites allow you to manually add a link to your site on them, such as guest book signing, reviews, user profiles, comments, and so on. They are not of the highest value but when there are enough of them they can have an effect. Many search engines will not put a lot of value on this type of link and may even impose a penalty if a site does this too much. Generally, such links are thought to be spam so one should only utilize them cautiously and judiciously.
Beginning with Link Building
When building a campaign to help create links to your site you should come up with goals that you want to achieve as well as specific strategies you are going to employ to achieve those goals. SEOs use many different ways to rank sites and use different metrics to decide on the value of each potential link. These include a ranking for relevant search terms, domain authority, competitor’s backlinks, number of links on a page and potential referral traffic.
When considering a link from a site for a relevant search term, consider how highly their site is rated on search engines for that term. This is helpful because let’s say you want to rank a page that is associated with the term “cat food”, then it would benefit you to earn links from pages that already have a high rank for this term. You want to focus on the keyword or phrase that is in the title tag and headline.
Another thing you will want to focus on for potential links is Domain Authority (DA), which is a ranking score for a website that determines how well a site would rank for any query. This process is determined by looking at a site’s linking root domains and the total number of links and turning this into a single score from one to one hundred. This allows you to get a baseline measurement on how important getting a link from that site could be.
You will also want to focus on your competitors’ backlinks. By looking at who is linking to your competitor you can figure out what has worked for them in helping them to rank better than you. There is a tool called Open Site Explorer which can help you to find these types of links and help you to focus on them when building your own campaign.
When you are trying to determine which pages to link from in order to help your own site you will want to pay attention to how many links that page already has. This is because every link that is on a page will dilute the value of the other links. As a result of this, you should keep in mind that you want links from pages and sites that have fewer links already.
Now we are going to talk about potential referral traffic to your site. Will a link on the referring site’s page actually send you real traffic from people clicking the link alongside boosting your search engine rankings? When looking into increasing your traffic you want to make sure you are getting links that send a high amount of direct click-through traffic to your site. This will tend to help your rankings but will also make sure the traffic you are getting is from valuable visitors to your site. You can look at site analytics to help you figure some of this out because it will help you to see the number of visits coming from that particular site.
It will take time and effort to help build up your site and by using site analytics you can make a determination on whether or not what you are doing is helping you to achieve your goals.
Potential Link Building Strategies
- If you already have customers try to get them to link to you. You can capitalize on the customers you have by sending out graphic icons that will link back to your site. This concept is the same as if you owned a business and had people wear shirts or put bumper stickers on their car to help advertise your business.
- Build a blog that shows the value of your site and is also informative and entertaining at the same time. Because this strategy works so well it is even something that is recommended by engineers that work with Google. The positives of doing a blog are that it can give you the ability to have fresh, new content and you can contribute to conversations all across the web as well as earning your way into listings and links on other blogs. It is a great way to get your site out there.
- You want to have content that will have people wanting to share it. This will improve your site because you want to build trust and authority all while improving your rankings. This is often termed “linkbait” which means that your site is designed to encourage people who are viewing it to create links to it. This will cause your site’s position to improve.
- Another way to build your links is to become newsworthy. There are many different ways to do this. Some ideas include doing free giveaways, releasing a new product or stating things that can be seen as controversial. The idea is to get the attention of press or news media and even other bloggers.
- For smaller sites, manual link building might prove effective for you. You can search for sites that are like yours. When you identify a site that isn’t your direct competitor but relevant, get in contact with them to start a conversation about trying to get a link.
- Buying links might not be the way to go because certain companies like Google and Bing want to discount the influence that a bought link will have on search results. Obviously, it is impossible for them to catch all of the paid links but they put a lot of time and effort into trying to locate these links. If a website is caught buying a link or being part of some type of link scheme they are at risk of severe penalties and their rankings will drop drastically. This is just a side note about buying links because it does work sometimes but it might not be worth it if you get caught. Many professionals in the business actually want to see more done to stop this. Your best bet is to try doing more long-term methods of link building strategies so that you can grow your link organically instead of trying to cut corners.