In the first post of this series SEO for Travel Bloggers – Crafting Keyword Specific Posts I talked about On Page SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I’d recommend that you start there as it is the foundation for this post where we are going to be expanding out to touch on Off Page SEO and the fundamentals of links.
Before we get started on today’s link fundamentals let’s see how our flying sloths post from the last article ranked in Google after just one day:
Number 1. Not too shabby. Now we know our keywords are doing what they’re supposed to and we can move on to links.
What I’m going to cover today:
- Links and the inherent democracy of the net
- Understanding the composition of a quality link
- The basics of creating quality links
- To follow or no follow
- Why blogrolls and link lists don’t help SEO
Links and the Inherent Democracy of the Net
There was a time, not so long ago, that Google was not a verb included in most every dictionary on the planet and links were not a commodity. Links were simply a means to share information around Al Gore’s exceptionally cool new invention called the Internet. Links have always been used to promote sites and draw traffic, but the Google era added a whole new level of importance.
Google turned the link from not only a means to share information, but into a vote for the best information. Think of a link that way a moment – A link is a vote. Each vote by a respected citizen of the net raises the authority of the citizen they voted for. In turn, when the citizen with the now raised authority casts a vote for someone else he has behind him a piece of the authority of those that have voted for him.
As you cast your vote as a respected citizen of the net it should come to mind that you are saying the same thing to two different entities. Intellectually you are saying to your readers that the site you are linking to has content that is in line with your own values, your own standards of quality and will be helpful in expanding, promoting or solidifying the idea you are trying to convey. Technically, you’re making the exact same case to the search engines.
Of course, there is a lot more at play here, but this is the fundamental system. Just like a democracy the net has thousands of representative bodies, if not hundreds of thousands. Think federal, state and local governments and then think niches. Think Congress, State Senate, County Council, City Council – Dwell for a minute on where you fit in right now and then: Think Global – Act Local.
Link building in your neighborhood will be covered in the next post of this series SEO for Travel Bloggers – Link Building Ideas
Understanding the Composition of a Quality Link
Relevance: We’re going to head back to the importance of keywords here. A relevant link will be from a post or article that shares the same or similar keywords and topic matter. A link for an article about flying sloths from an article about diamonds is irrelevant. Sure, it is a link and it helps a bit, but a link from an article about sloths or an article about flying animals to an article about flying sloths is much more relevant and therefore, much more heavily weighted.
Context: Context and relevance go hand in hand. “In article” links with good keyword densities, proper H* headers, relevant URLs and well constructed Meta Data equal good context. A listing in a link list or a blogroll will never have these qualities.
Authority: This is the value of the link so long as it’s contextual and relevant. Remember, it’s the citizens of the net that vote people, sites or blogs into authority. When a site of authority links to you that authority trickles down and increases your own authority. Who’s at the top of the authority chain? Think Slashdot, BBC, Technorati, Google, Lonely Planet and well established sites from the old days, best of the web, for instance. And the holy grail of authority: .gov .edu and .mil sites.
The Basics of Creating Quality Links
It’s wonderful when you respect an article or another blogger’s post enough to send them a little link love, but let’s make sure to get it right. You already know that if you’re going to do your fellow bloggers a service you’ll be linking to them from the text of your own articles with the same or similar keywords, relevant context. There’s one more piece to the puzzle and that’s Anchor Text. Say it with me – Anchor text. There’s nothing worse than staying up to the wee hours of the night pounding away on a great post to wake up in the morning and see:
Brandon’s great article about flying sloths here
“Here” is the anchor text of this link. Thanks for the link. I really do appreciate it, but since you already went through all the effort to find the resource and create the link it would have been twice as useful had you just went the extra mile and linked to my article as such:
Brandon’s great article about flying sloths
And please, please, please don’t do this:
Brandon’s great article about flying sloths: https://www.freewheelings.com/flying-sloths-kernerbal-island/
The anchor text you use to link to another article should support the keywords of the article you are linking to. Just look at the headline and the URL. If they’ve done a good job with their on page SEO than it should be easy to see what their target keywords are. Using the correct keywords when linking to an article helps that articles ranking. If you take the time to do it for others, they’ll take the time to do it for you. Crafting keyword specific posts is covered in the first article of this series.
To Follow or No Follow
The net used to be a place of wholly followed links. That’s not the case these days. Adding the ‘no follow‘ html attribute to a standard href link will indicate to search engines that it should pass over the link in its indexing process thus excluding the link from its ranking calculations. We talked about the benefits of authority a moment ago, now let’s talk about the “downside.” Once you have accumulated authority you pass a bit of it along to others as you link to them. The no follow attribute prevents this.
There are many circumstances where this is useful. For instance, if your pointing out a spam site or a site of ill repute to your readers for educational purposes, but you don’t want to associate your site with the site your using as an example. A no follow link will do the trick. This may come as a shock, but many blogs today are ‘no following’ their comments sections. Meaning the little bit of link juice that we get from posting well crafted comments that include our URL are not being followed. I don’t do that here, don’t worry. Wikipedia has instituted a blanket no follow policy over their entire site. That essentially makes them a ‘link juice black hole.’ They absorb it by the train load and never release any. I personally hope they revert their policy before they collapse in on themselves. I’ve stopped linking to them in the meantime.
While greed might make you rich it won’t make you friends or lead to a life of prosperity. Follow your links and spread the wealth around a bit only using no follows when absolutely necessary. Your peers will invite you for drinks next time you’re in Bangkok instead of cursing you quietly in their bungalows. But remember, linking to sites with a poor reputation will tank your own.
Why Blogrolls and Link Lists Don’t Help your SEO
Or anyone else’s for that matter. The speculation is that Google has entirely discounted blogrolls and sidebar link lists in their ranking algorithm. If they are not entirely discounted they are certainly depreciated. If you’ve read through this series you’ve got a handle on what makes a link valuable and should be able to easily see the shortcomings of blogroll links.
- They have no context
- No keywords and no relevance
- They have no or minimal anchor text
BUT, if they are well placed and not part of an overwhelming list they can drive direct traffic and that’s certainly helpful. It may also be a good idea to no follow your blogrolls and links pages as while these are valuable to your visitors they may be walking the fine line of spam with the search engines.
Seriously, I was trying to keep that under a thousand words, but it just didn’t work out. This should be a good primer however for our continued SEO discussion and the next post in the series:
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