Once you’ve published your blog content, the next priority should be to increase the perceived authority of those pages and posts in the eyes of Google, so that they appear as high as possible in the search results whenever people are looking for the kind information you produce.
There are several ways to accomplish this.
The most obvious would be to get your content shared across the various social networks, and we’ll talk more about social sharing in module 4, but there are also other strategies that will generate even more authority for your site.
Links are the basic unit of SEO currency across the web, and Google has relied for a long time on both the number and quality of incoming links as indicators of the popularity, relevance and authority of specific content.
In its simplest form, when one page links to another Google sees that as a vote for the page being linked to, very much like an endorsement. The web page that hosts the link donates a portion of its SEO equity (what we often call “link juice”) to the page being linked to, thereby increasing its authority.
The amount of link juice that gets donated depends on several factors, including the Page Rank (PR) of the donating page and the number of links that are on that page (essentially, the donated link juice is shared between all the links that occur on that page).
In the diagram shown here, website A donates less link juice than the link from website C.
There are some exceptions to this, the most common being the “nofollow” link (see the link from website B in the diagram). The “nofollow” convention was introduced by Google as a means of reducing the effects of what they call “link spam”, particularly the kind commonly found in spam comments on blogs.
In short, links that specify the “nofollow” attribute (identified by “rel=’nofollow'” in the HTML code for the link) do NOT pass any SEO value to the destination page – however, Google does usually count the link itself as part of the overall linking profile for the target website.The question most often asked here is:
“If ‘nofollow’ links don’t pass any SEO value to our websites, should we just avoid getting them in the first place and focus instead on acquiring the higher-value followed links?”
An absolute “yes” or “no” answer is actually hard to say, because some “nofollow” links can still be valuable for reasons other than pure link juice. For example, if the link is found on a highly-trafficked page you’re more likely to see a number of relevant referral visitors as a result of it, so the link is quite valuable despite not passing any actual SEO equity to your page.
The best strategy to use when trying to make any assessment of a link’s value is to think about all of the potential benefits, not just the potential SEO equity.
Internal Links Vs. External Links
Links come in two basic flavors:
- Internal – links to other pages within your own website.
- External – links that point to your pages from websites outside of your own.
External links are responsible for increasing the overall SEO value for your website, as well as for individual pages.
Internal links, on the other hand, affect the distribution of your SEO value across your website. In other words, internal links can give Google a better idea of which of your pages are the most important.
The point that so many people miss here is that the internal linking structure of a website is just as important as attracting links from other websites.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that working on optimizing the internal link structure should be a first priority before embarking upon any external link-building campaign.
Best Practices For Internal Linking
So what does a good internal link-building strategy look like, and what are the best practices to follow?
The best place to start with this is to understand that your internal links serve two distinct purposes:
- First, they help your audience find their way around the site, point them to the important content, and help direct them through your marketing funnel. This purpose should be the overriding reason for creating an effective internal linking structure.
- Secondly, Google and the other search engine spiders will use your internal links to crawl the pages of your site and discover all of your content, and how each of your pages fit into the big picture.
Helping Your Readers
Have you ever been to a website where you simply couldn’t find the information you were looking for, even though you knew it was there somewhere?
It happens more often than it should.
And it can exasperate your readers.
This is where your website or blog can go far beyond the basic navigation menu when it comes to helping your readers find the information they want quickly.
For example, if you have a resource page that offers makeup tips for brides then you can link to that page whenever you mention the topic in a blog post, as part of another article, or even in your replies to readers’ comments on your posts.
These internal links act as helpful beacons for your readers, leading them naturally to the important areas of your website where they can interact with you further and take the next logical step on the path toward becoming a valuable lead or client.
Helping Google Understand Your Website
When it comes to SEO and Google, your internal links help the search engine spiders crawl your website or blog to discover new content and build a map of the navigation routes throughout your website.
Your XML sitemaps (remember you can use the WordPress SEO plugin to generate great sitemaps for your site) can also help the search engines find your content, but if that content isn’t linked to from any of your other pages, or it doesn’t link to more pages in turn, it might be considered as an orphan page and of little relevance in the grand scheme of your website or blog.
Unless you specifically want a page to remain hidden outside the normal structure of the site, it’s advisable to make sure that at least one other page links to it.
Potential Hazards Associated With Internal Links
Of course, it is possible (although very unlikely for a small business website) to overdo things, and Google might discount the value of certain internal links, especially if they’re deployed on every page site-wide.
An example some SEO experts suggest that using a sidebar widget area to link to the same set of pages could be detrimental to your SEO. However, you must also consider the needs of your readers first, above the needs for SEO, so I wouldn’t worry about this becoming a problem unless you’re using internal linking strategies that are designed purely to game the system in some way.
Another potential area of concern is using the same anchor text on every occurrence of a link across the whole site. The anchor text is simply the text the user clicks on to visit the link, and if you use the exact same text every time the link appears across the site, Google might consider that as unnatural and devalue the links as a result.
The anchor text problem is not such a big issue on smaller sites, but it can become a nuisance on very large sites (those with hundreds or thousands of pages).
However, that being said, I do recommend you avoid using WordPress plugins that automatically detect certain keywords in your blog posts and then convert those keywords into links to specified pages on the site. Such automated linking programs definitely contravene the accepted SEO “rules” and Google is very good at sniffing them out.
Creating “Mini-Hubs” Within Your Site
When we think about websites, we usually imagine a home page with a tree-like structure of pages beneath that, where the user can traverse the site via a typical system of menu navigation links near the top of every page.
While this is accurate for most of the websites out there, this doesn’t mean that every page is created equal. Some pages are simply more important than others, and this creates the concept of “mini-hubs” that exist deeper within the website where certain pages act almost like home pages for their own small section of the site.
For example, let’s say you have a set of resources pages on your blog designed to help moms get the best out of having their kids photographed. You might have 5 separate pages, all talking about a different aspect of creating kids’ portraits.
You might even want to optimize those pages for keywords related to children’s photography in your city, but it doesn’t make sense to optimize for the same keywords on each of those 5 pages, as they would end up competing with each other for dominance in the search engines.
Instead, you can create an index page that talks about the topic in general, and then links to each of the 5 individual pages you created, just like the table of contents might do in a book. The individual content pages then each link back to the index page.
This creates a mini-hub within your blog where you can optimize a single page for the keywords you want to be ranked for but still keep your readers happy with well-organized content.Because the separate content pages are only linked to from the main index page, but ALL of the content pages link back to the index, it’s the index page that Google assumes is the most important of the group, assigning it a higher page rank as a result.
How And Where To Get Quality Backlinks
Comments On Other Blogs
This is the easiest of the link-building strategies and, while it doesn’t often result in an exchange of SEO value (because of the “nofollow” nature of most blog comments), it can be a good source of valuable traffic you might not otherwise see.
However, it’s not quite as simple as just visiting other blogs and leaving a basic comment!
For example, “Hey, great post, thanks!” does not qualify.
Your comment should show that you actually took the time to read the author’s post, that you assimilated the information, and it should add additional value in the form of a well-considered opinion or a thoughtful question.
It also helps a great deal if the blogs you comment on are relevant to what you do or, better still, attract the same readers you want to attract to your blog.
When leaving a comment on another blog, it can also be a good idea to share that post or article with your network via social media. Doing so will help build the SEO value of the post you commented on and also send it more visitors – some of whom might then make their way over to your blog as a result.
Finally, you usually have the option of including a URL with your comment (your name becomes the actual anchor text for that URL). However, a big mistake a lot of people make is to always use their home page as the URL for the comments they leave on other blogs.
Instead, I recommend you use the URL for a specific post or article from your blog on a topic that’s related to the subject of the page you’re commenting on.
Publicly-Accessible Assets And Social Media Profiles
It’s easy to overlook the profiles for your social media profiles as places to get good links, so pay particular attention to your profiles on sites such as these:
- Facebook (both personal profiles and business pages)
- Hub Pages
On some of these sites (for example on Google+) you can include more than one link.
Don’t forget, too, that linking to a special landing page might be more beneficial in some cases than just linking directly to your home page.
For example, you could have a landing page just for your Twitter followers, where they can get something that’s designed to appeal to that type of audience.
Editorial Links From Other Sites
The term “editorial links” refers to any link that another webmaster includes on their website without necessarily being asked to do so, because they know the content they are linking to is of interest or value to their audience.
This is where the power of your resource pages becomes evident, especially if your resource pages are of a very high quality that other people would naturally want to link to from their own content.
Of course, you can always approach other website owners and suggest your content as something their readers might be interested in, but it helps to build a good relationship with them first.
You can also acquire editorial links from the blog posts and articles of other businesses or organizations, such as a local charity, with whom you might be partnering on a joint marketing venture or project.
This strategy is a long-time favorite of people in the Internet marketing space, and can be very successful, as long as it’s not overdone and you stick to good SEO practices.
Essentially, when you post an article on someone else’s blog, they will give you credit as the author with a link back to your website or blog in the author information box. You can usually also include one or two links to pages on your site in the article itself.
When guest posting, it can be wise to use a specific landing page on your blog as the link from your author bio. That way, you can personally acknowledge visitors who come to you as a direct result of the guest article, and you can even offer them additional content that complements what they already read on the other site.
Link Strategies To Avoid
As always with SEO, there are some things you should really avoid doing if you want to stay in Google’s good books.
- Don’t pay for links from other sites – this is against Google’s explicit rules for ethical link-building.
- Avoid non-curated directory websites – if anyone can easily submit their site without scrutiny by a real human then Google will naturally devalue or discount those links. They may even penalize you for doing so if the directory website is perceived to be trying to game the system.
- Don’t duplicate content across multiple websites or blogs unless you really know what you’re doing with regard to setting up proper syndication, which is beyond the scope of this course.
- Try to vary the URL and anchor text of links that come back to your site, especially if they are under your control, such as social media profiles.
- Never ask other webmasters for specific anchor text on the links they give to you – it’s much better to allow those links to appear 100% natural.
- Don’t engage in rapid-linking schemes. Some SEO firms will populate the web with thousands of links at once, all pointing to the same website. Google notices this behavior easily and it will raise a red flag.
- Try to make sure that the majority of websites linking to you are relevant to your business and audience.
- Be sure to use something like Google’s Webmaster Tools on a regular basis to review the links coming in to your site and then follow Google’s guidelines for disavowing those links you don’t want or that could be harming your online presence.