Visitor Source #3: Useful Links From Other Sites
Incoming Links Are Still The Preferred Currency Of SEO
You can’t have a website and not know how much and how often SEO keeps changing (mostly because of the great efforts by Google to plug the loopholes allowing people to unfairly manipulate the search rankings).
And yet, some things haven’t changed all that much at all.
Dating back to the early days of Google and the other search engines, incoming links are still considered to be a major ranking factor in search engine optimization.
Maybe not as much as they once did, given the many other factors Google now incorporates into their ranking algorithm, but links do count as a vote of confidence for your website.
Of course, not all links are created equally, and a single link from a highly authoritative website can be worth many times more than a link from a website with little or no influence. For example, a mention in a news story on the CNN website (for the right reasons, of course!) is going to carry much more weight than a link from another small business in your own town.
The more links your website attracts over time, and the more natural your link development appears to Google, the more value they will add to your overall SEO efforts.
However, this course isn’t about SEO, it’s about attracting website visitors and building traffic without having to rely on SEO.
The Anatomy of A Link
In case you’re wondering about the technical way links are created within posts and web pages, here’s what a typical link looks like in HTML:
<a href=”destination URL ” title=”The link description”>The Anchor Text</a>
- The destination URL is the page being linked to.
- The title is the text that shows up when someone hovers their mouse over the link.
- The anchor text is what the user actually clicks on to visit the destination URL.
“Followed” Vs. “Nofollowed” Links
Before we get into the details of different types of links it’s worth noting the difference between normal links and those designated as “nofollow”.
Normal links are what we call “followed” links, and this is the default setting, but many of the links we see online these days are actually categorized as “nofollow”. This attribute tells Google not to count the value of the link in their ranking calculations. Essentially, Google behaves as though there was no link there.
You can recognize a “nofollow” link quite easily, by examining the underlying HTML. In your browser, right-click (ctrl-click on a MAC) the link and then choose “inspect element” to see the code:
<a href=”destination URL ” title=”The link description” rel=”nofollow”>The Anchor Text</a>
The addition of the rel=”nofollow” attribute is what tells Google not to pass any SEO value for the link to the destination URL.
You should probably consider using “nofollow” on links on your own website and blog in the following situations:
- For any links inserted into comments left by your readers (the “nofollow” is automatically added on most WordPress sites).
- When linking out to a website that may not be 100% relevant to your topic, but which your audience may still find useful.
- When linking to websites who have already linked to you with the “nofollow” attribute.
Let’s take a look at some of the different classes of incoming links that can direct a stream of new visitors to your website.
Editorial links are the best kind of links you can get because they tend to happen naturally, usually as a result of someone reading one of your blog posts or articles, and finding it so interesting and useful that they link to it from their own content as a resource for their readers.
The number of referral visitors you see landing on your website from these links obviously depends on the quality of the content on the page your link appears on, but you might expect to see an initial spike when the content is first published, and then a gradual tapering off to a background level once the initial promotion of the page has run its course.
If you do happen to notice visitors arriving on your website from a referral website you’ve not seen before, you should take a look at the page to see what it’s about. If the content is appropriate or of interest to your audience, go ahead and share it across your own media platforms. This is not done to draw attention to the fact you were mentioned, but simply to give the page more traction and authority.
It’s also good practice to reach out to the owner of the website, usually on social media or via email, to thank them for including the link. This is a great way to build new relationships with other website owners, possibly leading to guest-posting or other business opportunities.
A couple of things to be wary of here:
- We know that keywords can be important as part of the anchor text in links, but don’t ask the website owner to manipulate the anchor text for the purposes of your own SEO. It’s far more preferable to accept whatever text they use because you lessen the chances of having too many websites linking to you with the same anchor text, which might be seen by Google as potential link-spam.
- If the link turns out to be a “nofollow” link, don’t take it personally or worry about it too much. If you already have a well-established business relationship with the website owner it might be worth mentioning, but otherwise leave it alone. Google will still see the link, and they expect a large proportion of the links pointing to you to be “nofollow” anyway, so you can raise flags if your link profile appears unnatural.
- Don’t feel compelled to link back to the page or website linking to you – it’s not expected or essential, and can only serve to lower the value of the link they gave you (since you’ll be giving some or all of the value back to them).
Another way to get noticed on other websites, albeit indirectly, is when someone mentions your brand in a post, article, or a comment.
Many times, there’s only a mention of you or your photography business, but no actual link.
This is a good opportunity for you to try to have the brand mention converted into a powerful link, but how do you go about finding these mentions?
It’s actually quite easy – just head over to Google Alerts and create an email alert for whenever your actual name or brand name appears on a new page somewhere.
When you receive an email alert, you’ll see the actual pages that triggered the alert so you can visit them to check them out. If there’s no link to your website associated with your brand mention, you can try contacting the website owner to ask if they would mind converting it into a link for you.
Most of the time, they’ll be more than happy to do so.
Comments You Leave On Other Blogs
Although almost every link you’ll find in blog comments on the web is now set as a “nofollow” link, that doesn’t mean such links are not useful for generating visitors to your website or blog – remember we’re not talking about SEO here.
People reading these blog posts will very often read the comments as well, and you’ll find some of them will click your name to view the page you specified as the link for your comment.
The more substantial and valuable your comment is, the more visitors you’ll see as a result, so it’s worth taking the time to leave well thought-out comments.
The key here is to find blog posts that talk about the same or similar topics you do, and then leave a comment on those.
If their commenting system uses the traditional “name/website/email” style of comment, I recommend using a different URL than your homepage, which is what most people seem to do by default.
Instead, use the URL for a specific post or article related to the content you’re commenting on.
Link-building is a constant job for any website owner, including you, so be on the lookout for blog posts and articles being published in your chosen niche (you can also use alerts to find these pieces of content).
When you do find a suitable post where a link to a specific post or page of your own would create additional value for the reader, get in touch with the website owner to offer up your blog articles as suggestions to see if they will link to them as extra resources.
Links To Avoid
Before we finish up, there are also some kinds of links you should avoid at all costs!
First, never pay another webmaster for links, since doing so is against Google’s best practices, and it quickly becomes obvious to Google. This is a tactic used by what we call “link farms”, which are pages with hundreds or even thousands of links created by SEO firms to artificially (and temporarily) boost your rankings. Quite often, these sites use odd-looking domain names and visually poor. In other words, it’s more than obvious what they are.
Next, try to avoid any kind of link from non-curated web directories. These are usually recognizable because they’ll let you submit your page for free (sometimes with a paid option), and then your link is added to some kind of directory. Google sees these for exactly what they are – a form of link-spam.
Of course, there are a few human-curated directories, and they’re treated less badly by Google, but you still need to be careful.
I would also be wary about “find-a-photographer” type websites. There are lots of these around, and they’re mostly legitimate sites, but there’s not often much value being listed there in terms of actual website visitors.
Basically, the general advice is to avoid any kind of link where you have the direct ability to manipulate the link (the exception would be on your social media profiles, which we’ll talk about in a later chapter).
Here’s what you can start doing today to make this strategy work for you:
- Take 3 or 5 recent posts or articles from your blog and search the web for other posts or articles closely matching those topics where you can leave a valuable comment. You can do this a couple of times a week.
- Set up Google alerts for your brand name and other keywords relevant to who you are, where you are, and what you do.
- Identify and reach out to other webmasters who produce content similar to yours, and who might find value in linking to one of your posts or articles.