The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.
Most SEOs have a love/hate relationship with links. We love a good link but we hate what it takes to get them. At best, link building is time consuming and tedious. At worst it's the thing drives good SEOs to the dark side of black hat magic. It's the one thing that most SEOs don't to do and very few actually can do well. Show me a link builder that advertises they can get 100 PR4+ one-way links and I'll show you 100 barely readable blog posts on 100 barely read blogs.
I'm not bitter (maybe just a little) but I just haven't found a quality link builder that isn't out of my most of my clients' price range. I think this is the case with many SEOs, which is why most of the affordable link builders deliver what they can for the price, which is whey the link quality tends to be sub-par. As for the link builder's who's rates are unaffordable... well, you can't afford NOT to use them. See? Love/hate.
How Links Work
Links are the highway of the web. Without links nobody would be able to navigate, move from page to page or from one site to the next. The only way to find anything on the web would be to manually type in the URL of each web page. But luckily, hyperlinks let is click our way around websites gong from one page to the next and off to other websites.
In the simplest term a link is a vote for the web page it leads to. It's a lot more complicated than that, but for now that definition will suffice. If you like something you link to it. If someone likes you, hopefully they'll link to you.
Links can come in many forms. You submit your site to a directory and you get a link. Someone finds you in that directory, follows the link to your site. You link out to more information the reader is interested in (whether it's your own site or another) and the visitor follows that link until their navigation path has been satisfied.
If the reader likes what they see along the way they might throw a link back. People reading the newly linked site then follows the link to you, they navigate (via links) to other pages that interest them and the process continues. Of course, not every person who finds your site will link to you, but it sure would be nice if they would. Of course they want the same from you too!
Links spread like word of mouth. If you have something worth telling others about (or linking to) then more people will spread the word via their site's, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and whatever else strikes their fancy. The easiest way to get links is to have something worth linking to. Yes you, in the flow meter industry... you can create link-worthy content.
Giving Context to the Web
Aside from providing a means to navigate through the web, links provide a way for the visitor (and search engines) to know what any page is about before they even click into it. Or at least they should.
Far too often we use links that say "click here". That tells the visitors what to do but doesn't do much by way of providing a clue as to why they click here. The reader will likely be forced to read around the link just to understand it. That's not a problem for all those who read every word of a page, but unfortunately those types are few and far between.
Most people skim pages, looking for what interests them or where to go to find it. While we may want the reader to hang on every word we say, most don't. Adding context to your links--making your link text briefly describe the page being linked to--adds value to both your visitors and the search engines.
The search engines use this as a signal toward analyzing the topic of a page. If people link to a single page using words such as "pre-owned vehicles," "used Lexus," "buy Mazda Miata," and "low mileage cars", the search engine gets a good idea about what this page is about: used cars, possibly with a focus on Lexus and Mazda. The more content links pointing to a page the more the search engine can glean about what the page is about.
The search engine can match the links up with the content for additional relevancy and ranking analysis factors. Not to mention the visitor looking to buy a Mazda Miata knows that clicking that link likely gets them to the information they need.
Missed a part of this series?
Part 1: Everything You Need To Know About SEO
Part 2: Everything You Need To Know About Title Tags
Part 3: Everything You Need To Know About Meta Description and Keyword Tags
Part 4: Everything You Need To Know About Heading Tags and Alt Attributes
Part 5: Everything You Need To Know About Domain Names
Part 6: Everything You Need To Know About Search Engine Friendly URLs & Broken Links
Part 7: Everything You Need To Know About Site Architecture and Internal Linking
Part 8: Everything You Need To Know About Keywords
Part 9: Everything You Need To Know About Keyword Core Terms
Part 10: Everything You Need To Know About Keyword Qualifiers
Part 11: Everything You Need To Know About SEO Copywriting
Part 12: Everything You Need To Know About Page Content
Part 13: Everything You Need To Know About Links
Part 14: Everything You Need To Know About Link Anatomy
Part 15: Everything You Need To Know About Linking
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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