Link builders and SEO professionals always emphasize external links over everything else, and for good reason – but the fact is, without good internal links, we’re just as lost as the Google “spider” in this picture.
While external links are the single biggest factor determining where your internet property lands on a SERP (not to mention the main reason our company exists), there are two huge things that internal links can do for your site that you need to know about right now.
Well-built and well-organized internal links can:
Increase the likelihood that Google’s “spiders” will see everything there is to see on your site.
Improve your sites’ user experience.
Let’s look at that second point first, because it’s a bit easier to explain (and will help you understand Google’s spiders a bit later on).
Every page on your site should have a direct link to it so that customers can access it more easily. Although search bars for your site are a nice feature, a customer should never have to use the search bar just to access your site’s content.
Also, every page on your site should have a link back to the home page, so users can easily get back to the beginning and look at other content on your site.
Often, the best way to arrange your internal links is in categories and subcategories. The way this site’s blog is structured is a good example: you can click on individual articles’ titles to access the articles’ individual pages either on the sidebar or within the main page content, you can click through our archive, and you can also get back to our home page by clicking the title at the top of the screen.
Having all these links allows customers to easily navigate your site – which means they’re more likely to stay longer and enjoy more of your content.
Although Google’s spiders aren’t people, they work in much the same way – they’ll explore every link on your site, but they’ll never go out of their way to look for content.
For example, Google’s spiders will never submit web forms or use search bars – meaning that any of your content that can only be accessed in these ways will not be indexed on Google. The same goes for the other search engines.
What this means is that you should have at least one link on your site to every single page on your site that has any content you want to be searchable by Google or any of the other major search engines – which means, unless your site has some private, members-only, or similar sections, that you want every page on your site to have a link to it.
Business owners like to save money wherever possible, for obvious reasons. As a result, many try to run their own SEO campaigns instead of paying SEO professionals to do linkbuilding and write SEO-friendly content for them. However, most learn pretty early on that SEO is not as easy as it sounds, and experience and contacts in the industry are a must for real success.
Even a blog post on DIY SEO I read recently begins by saying that if you have the financial resources to support a professional SEO campaign with professional linkbuilding, you should do it. However, I did learn a few things from the post and my time in the industry that I’ll pass along to you.
DIY linkbuilding is not going to put your site on the first SERP of Google. However, having a few good links already established can help SEO professionals do their work faster, and you’ll learn a good deal about the inner workings of SEO while you’re trying to build links for yourself. Understanding how search engines work is key to making your business successful online, even if you have professionals bringing you web traffic on autopilot. That’s one of the major reasons we run this blog – yes, we want you to let us help you directly, but we also want you to understand what it is we do.
Here are a few great tips that will help you build up a strong base of links on your own:
If you have a YouTube channel, include links back to your site in both your YouTube profile and the “About” sections for individual videos. If you don’t have a YouTube channel, you should strongly consider getting one if you ever create any video content.
Use Google+ to create links. Although Google+ isn’t anywhere near as useful for direct-to-customer marketing as Facebook or Twitter, it can be equally useful (or more so) in terms of linkbuilding, because Google trusts Google+ as a source – convenient, considering the social network is owned by Google.
If you’re a decent writer or can hire one at an affordable rate, try to land guest posts on blogs about your industry. If the content is good enough, it can often attract customers to you on its own – and links from established blogs to your main site can only boost your SEO.
Pinterest also allows (or even encourages) links in content created for the site. It’s another often-overlooked social networking site that can really help boost your standing on SERPs.
Of course, if any of these seem too challenging to do on your own, a professional SEO marketer or marketing team can easily help you with these while also doing some more advanced behind-the-scenes work.
In summary, DIY SEO and linkbuilding probably won’t work on its own for your company – but it can help the professionals get you results faster and teach you a great deal about the industry!
SEO is always changing, and it’s at the beginning of a new year that those changes still become apparent for the first time. New Years is an important time for SEO professionals as they look back on what worked (and what didn’t) in the previous year and study trends in search engines’ inner workings that will affect SEO and SEM in the coming year.
Here’s what we know is changing.
Google has tended to focus on two things more each year since around 2013 – QUALITY and RELEVANCE. While it was possible in the old days to boost a page’s standing through keyword stuffing and junk links, it’s more important than ever for sites to produce consistently relevant and high quality content to continue attracting customers.
With the advent of semantic search (a topic we’ll surely address in-depth before the beginning of the new year, and which there’s an excellent article about on Search Engine Journal), Google has come to focus more than ever on relating to its users on an individual basis. That means that your site, too, has to relate to each user who clicks on it.
Here’s what to do about it.
The old techniques that SEO professionals have been using since 2000 or even before, namely the use of keywords and linkbuilding, are just as important as they were in the early days. However, businesses and marketers need to be more conscious than ever of how they use those tools, and need to stay far away from lazy or black hat methods of using them.
External links, for example, are still the single most important deciding factor in where your page lands on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page). However, junk links are not only useless going into 2017 – they’re a punishable offense. If you or your marketers get caught spamming Google with junk links in public forums, you could be banned from Google results listings – and the same goes for the other major search engines as well.
It is more important than it ever was before for links to come from vibrant, trustworthy, popular sources. Think of links as roads to your site – you don’t want those roads to go through dangerous mountain passes and the worst parts of town on their way back to you. The ride should be smooth and delightful for customers (and for the search engines’ ever present search bots, too).
Keywords are another huge part of SEO marketing that still matter a great deal going into 2017 – but they, too, will need to be used more judiciously and considerately. Also, Google’s perfection of semantic search (and the other search engines’ race to improve on it even faster than Google) means that keyword synonyms and answers to questions users type into search bars are also more important than they were before.
Everything has changed. Or, nothing has changed.
The fundamentals of SEO are the same as they ever were, with link building highest among them. But with that being said, businesses and SEO professionals alike need to take note that the details have shifted – and SEO, really, has always been and will always be in the details.
If you’re here, you know that having a high number of links to your site helps it rank higher on Google and other search engine results pages. However, you might not know how or why. To help you better understand what you need and what we do, we’ve got the scoop.
Any site that links to your site is seen as vouching for you or giving you a vote by search engine algorithms.
Links from sites or posts that are trustworthy, popular, relevant to your content, and not owned by you are given more value than those that do not fit these categories.
Links within your site and from your site to others may also boost your SEO, but only slightly – what others have to say about you is more important than what you say about yourself.
External links from other sites to yours may be the single most important factor in determining where your site shows up on search result listings – which is exactly why our company exists.
But how do I use this to my advantage?
Your goal here is to get other sites – authoritative, relevant sites that are not owned by you – to link back to yours. In order to be truly successful, you’ll need a lot of them, and you’ll probably need to maintain good connections with these sites in case you need fresh links in the future.
You can do this by contacting other sites directly (which can be extremely time-consuming) or by hiring an experienced linkbuilder and SEO marketer to do it on your behalf. The advantage of the latter is that SEO marketers who specialize in link building have an understanding of what types of links work best, as well as ongoing working relationships with sites that are certain to boost your standings in search engine results – often very quickly.
In the early days of the internet, “link spamming” and “link bots” (programs designed to automatically create links in blog comments and forums) were extremely popular, and to some degree effective. However, those days are over.
Google and other major search engines have cracked down hard on such practices – now they are not only ineffective, but punishable. Creating spam links in blog comments and forums can now be grounds for removal from search engine result listings entirely – the opposite of what you want for your site.
In those days, almost anyone could build enough links to their site to gain at least a little success on Google. Now, though, it is more important than ever to have relevant, legitimate links from other sites themselves, not public forums.
What else can I do to increase my chances of getting external links?
The best thing you can do within your own site is to write the best content you can and update your site with fresh content often. Having an attractive, well-written, professional-looking site makes building links a great deal easier – and will improve your bottom line when you get to the top of Google, as customers won’t just click on your site once and leave. They’ll keep coming back for more.
Link building, a hugely important part of SEO that helps grant your site legitimacy and relevance on Google and other search engines (as well as giving interested parties an organic way to access your site without Google), often goes hand in hand with social media marketing.
It can be a complicated balancing act for even experts to make sense of in the fine details, but here’s the basic gist. Social media can do all of the following for you when used professionally and maintained properly:
Boost your main site’s credibility with links from relevant, high traffic sites like Facebook and Instagram
Help your brand take up even more of Google’s first page once you get there, shutting the competition out
Leading customers directly to your main website, and providing opportunities for them to shop, exchange messages with employees, and more
Temporarily rank higher in Google (and possibly other search engine) results because social media posts from large pages and well-followed accounts are given preferential treatment (like news articles).
How does this work? To use links with other sites to the advantage of your site, the other site in question must be legitimate and widely used. Social networks are some of the biggest and most legitimate sites around.
If your site, your Facebook, and your Instagram all make it to the top page of Google, you’ve taken up not one but three spots that could have belonged to your competitors.
Your social media profiles and your main site will all be linked to one another (usually many times over), creating a large network delivering your customers a wide variety of content in a wide variety of settings – holding their attention and piquing their curiosity. Also, social networks such as Facebook allow customers to shop with your store or message you with their comments and questions directly in their main interfaces.
Also, social media “stories,” or posts, from major social networking sites are often given preferential treatment in Google search result listings because of their relevance to many internet users and time-sensitive nature. Once you have grown your social media account(s) so that they’re relevant to large numbers of people, you can regularly use this feature of Google’s algorithm to your advantage to cause a spike in views at your main site.
While social media isn’t a cure-all for your current lack of solid links, it can definitely be a major part of the solution. With a strong social media presence and a proven, white-hat linkbuilding strategy such as ours combined, your business could become unstoppable online in a matter of months.
If you’ve been looking for help optimizing a website for search engines, or have started link building or seeking a company to help you build links, you’ve most likely come across the term “white hat” and maybe even “black hat.” But what do these terms really mean, and how can they affect your business and web presence?
Google and Its Rules
Google and search engines like it have complex algorithms that determine how relevant a given page is to a search that a user types in. Since the beginnings of the internet as we know it today, individuals and businesses have been trying to figure out how those algorithms work. Since they’re kept secret and are constantly being changed, no one knows exactly how they work, but people have some ideas.
For example, we know that a site with more links to it from other sites usually ranks higher for more searches, because that is one way Google can tell a site is widely used and legitimate. Link builders create links to bring people to websites and make those sites rank higher in search engines—but Google has some strict rules about links and other aspects of SEO.
White Hat vs. Black Hat
A white hat SEO marketer is one who follows Google’s rules, while a black hat SEO marketer breaks the rules—doing things that aren’t illegal, but are grounds for being kicked off Google’s results pages.
For example, if you’ve ever been in a web forum, you’ve probably seen posters answering questions with links to irrelevant websites. This used to be more popular than it is today, and was used to get those websites to the top page of Google—but Google has since changed the rules, and designed programs specifically to catch these kind of links and render them useless.
Doing this kind of linking now would be considered black hat, while foregoing this in favor of more relevant, helpful types of links would be considered white hat.
White Hat or Black Hat—Which One Is for Me?
If you’re a small business owner looking to bring customers to your site, you likely want to move up the Google ranks as quickly as possible. Black hat SEO marketers offer amazing speed, but don’t forget that what looks too good to be true probably is—because these SEO marketers are breaking the rules, they’re also a huge risk. They could get your site removed from Google’s results entirely!
White hat SEO is by its nature a little slower, but there is also almost no risk involved. Also, as more and more white hat SEO marketers perfect their methods, they can offer huge results in three or four months—not much slower than the black hat marketers, and with a great deal less risk.
The important thing to remember is that you don’t just want to get to the top of Google—you want to stay there.
They say that SEO is dead. At least, that’s the word that seems to be emanating from a variety of SEO experts who have been running around like chickens without a head trying to figure out what to do now. Certainly the old way of building links is becoming obsolete. You can’t simply spam the Internet with massive numbers of links anymore since Google now penalizes websites that engage in such practices.
Even some tried and true methods of link building, including things like guest postings are now considered no-nos by Matt Cutts. That said, if you want to rank well in Google, natural looking links are still vital parts of your SEO strategy. The trouble of course is getting those natural looking links in a world where they’re increasingly hard to create.
In point of fact, the fact that Google insists on penalizing websites for bad links can be a good thing for those who do SEO correctly, by creating relevant, high quality links from real websites instead of spammy garbage links. After all, in a world where junk links are a problem as opposed to merely worthless, the good links will stand out even more.
All this does make me wonder though why blogs I own continue to get hit by thousands of efforts at obvious spam links. Haven’t these guys gotten the message yet that such techniques are worthless? Unless of course such efforts are people trying to engage in negative SEO, either against my site or against other sites who have legitimate links from my site.
So What Works Now?
The things that work now are pretty much the same things that have always worked in the past even though people have always tried to find ways to create shortcuts. For example, links from relevant websites with good quality comments in the blog still work well. The trouble is that you need to get the links into the first few pages and you need to create a link only on blogs which are heavily edited to ensure that the link will count for you and not against you.
Even guest postings can still work if done correctly. They can be especially useful if you create them on websites which already have high levels of traffic because you get direct traffic from those sites. Matt Cutts even changed his blog post to reflect this fact. I’m also not convinced that the Google algorithm will ignore or penalize all guest post links. I have a feeling that guest posts on quality websites will still count for SEO purposes as long as both your site and the site you place the guest post on are high quality sites.
You Do Need to Be Careful Though
All that having been said, it is vital that you remain vigilant in ensuring that your links are done correctly. In this day and age, it is very easy to not just create worthless links but to actually damage your website’s SEO efforts if you are not careful. Thus, if you aren’t 100% certain of what you’re doing, it may be time to hire a pro to do the job for you.
It used to be really easy to do your own link building. Just get yourself a copy of XRummer or SENuke, set it and forget it. Okay, it was never quite that easy but the tools that existed then (and which still exist today) made link building a relatively painless experience. The problem of course is that as with anything else, once someone finds a method that works, everyone piles on and bad actors eventually ruin it for the rest of us.
There was a time when this didn’t matter though – if you ended up creating junky links, it wouldn’t hurt you necessarily but it also wouldn’t help you at all in building the kind of link profile you need either. Google’s algorithm simply ignored the junk links and focused on the good stuff. I still maintain that Google should have stuck to this policy because they’ve created a problem for legitimate SEO people with their new system.
The Rise and Fall and Rise of Google Bowling
We’ve been down this road before – back in the mid aughts, Google tried to penalize websites for creating junky links to their own websites. The idea was to cut down on the ever expanding world of bot links created by the likes of XRummer and the like.
Of course, as I said above, as with all good things, bad actors found a way to ruin it for everyone else. Google bowling was the result and people started creating garbage links to their competitors in order to drag them down and by extensionl, hopefully give themselves a leg up in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
After a short while, Google’s engineers cottoned to what was going on and changed their algorithm. Instead of counting crappy links against you, they would simply be ignored completely or have so little value that even creating millions of them would be all but worthless.
That was then and this is now. Around a year ago, Google re-introduced the whole concept of penalizing sites for crappy links pointing to their sites. I’m not sure why exactly but if I had to guess, I’d say that they found that the bots had been getting better and better at creating natural looking links so that they were having trouble keeping them out of the rankings.
How they think it’s better to penalize bad links (i.e. how does the system know that something is a bad link and therefore a site should be penalized for it) any more than whether it’s legit I don’t really know. I do know however that Google is trying to help out legit website owners who are targeted for Google bowling. They have beefed up the Google webmaster tools to allow you to continually monitor your site’s health and they created the disavow tool to help you when all else fails.
Today, It’s Too Easy to Accidentally Google Bowl Yourself
The problem as I said is that today, it’s just too easy to accidentally Google bowl yourself. The powerful link building tools still exist and they can even be a big help for those who know what they’re doing with them. However, if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, you’re best off just hiring a pro to do the job for you because you can easily mess things up for yourself.
There’s a funny thing going on regarding the concept of link baiting. You don’t see too much talk of link baiting these days even though it is actually one of the best ways to do SEO and it’s still the only method that Google is 100% in favor of. The trouble with link baiting however is that lots of people are trying to do it and few people are doing it right. Here’s what you need to know:
So Just What Is Link Bait Anyway?
In its simplest terms, link bait refers to creating content which is so compelling that people are going to want to tell their friends about it. It’s basically the original form of creating content which goes viral. The problem with link baiting of course is that few people know how to do it right and even then, it’s not necessarily guaranteed that it will end up spreading like wildfire.
The Link Bait Dilemma
So now that we know what link bait is, it should be easy to create it, right? Well, not really. The problem is that nobody has ever been able to quantify exactly why something might go viral while something else kind of just sits there, not being noticed by people. That’s why I said at the beginning of this blog post that a great many people tend to do a bad job with link baiting – they think it’s easy but it’s anything but.
Common Ways to Do Link Baiting
Over the past decade or two, there has been an effort to quantify what it is that makes people notice specific content so that it gets linked to and goes viral. For example, if you have pictures of babies, cats or dogs, you are more likely than not to see your content go viral. Of course, just simply having those things in your content is no guarantee but it does help.
It also helps to have content which people will want to share. For example, if you create content which is particularly funny, people are more likely to tell their friends about it which will in turn create additional links until the content goes viral.
Another great way to grab attention is to reveal something shocking. In fact, in this day and age, you don’t even need to have something shocking to talk about which is entirely factual. Simply reporting on a rumor (although preferably one which is sourced from somewhere that is reliable) can make content go viral.
You may also see content going viral if you create something shocking which is intended to be a satire. A good recent example of this is a post by a site called Empire News where they claimed that Orange is the New Black, the hit TV show from Netflix, had been canceled. It was just a hoax on a satire website but it quickly went viral because people love the show.
So How Can You Do Link Baiting?
Today, the easiest way to do link baiting effectively is to grab onto someone else’s coattails. Write a controversial article or create a funny, satirical video about a company or product which is well known and you are likely to attract attention from that person, which will in turn get your content to start going viral. If nothing else, you could always try insulting Donald Trump…
Article marketing is so old, it’s become new again. Well not really but I still see other SEO experts mentioning how article marketing is dead. The thing is, they say this because they don’t understand what article marketing actually is. It is not article directory marketing and it’s technically not SEO either. However, it can have an effect on your SEO efforts even though that’s a secondary rather than a primary benefit of article marketing.
What Article Marketing Isn’t
Okay, let’s start with what article marketing isn’t. It is not the old style BUM marketing which is better called article directory marketing. That kind of SEO involved creating thousands or even millions of links from article directories all over the web and then using those for your SEO efforts. It worked for a while but hasn’t been a good method of SEO for at least 5 years and probably longer.
The Right Way to Do Article Marketing
The right way to do article marketing is to create really high quality content which will get picked up wire style by major newspapers. In order to understand what this involves, go and pay a visit to your favorite major newspaper website. Doesn’t matter which one you choose. They’ll all have the same kind of thing.
There will be a mix of articles on the site, many by their own staff reporters. However, if you check carefully, you’ll find that a number of articles say they were written by AP or Agence France Presse. These are known as wire services. They have reporters all over the world whose stories will be run in multiple newspapers.
Real article marketing in essence means becoming like a wire service. You create high quality content within your niche and then you take that content and then include a link in the about the author section. Large websites pick up your article and they then provide a quality link back to your website.
The Main Benefit of Article Marketing
The main benefit of article marketing is not really about SEO though it does have to do with link building. The main benefit is that you get a link from a well known website which will provide you with plenty of direct link traffic. The search engines never actually enter into this equation and often, the articles will be ignored by the search engines because they are the same content as exists elsewhere.
Secondary Benefit Related to SEO
The secondary benefit of article marketing, which is related to link building SEO is that you develop a reputation with the public at large. This will then allow you to get lots of high quality natural links back to your site because you are considered an authority. In addition, you may also get linked back to directly from the website where you placed an article because they also consider you an authority.
Article marketing is still one of the most effective methods available for getting plenty of traffic to your website and it even has benefits for your SEO efforts. However, it has to be done right. Write very high quality, long form articles which quality websites and newsletters will WANT to publish and you’ll see the traffic beat a path to your virtual door.