SEO – Now develop a linking strategy

When I get on a train of thought, I can’t stop myself, and since yesterdays post was about the very elemental basics of keyword research, I thought I would do a follow up post today on the very elemental basics of link building.

The purpose of both these posts is to show that neither of these seemingly easy and innocuous SEO tasks are actually that straight forward. Sure they can be – but for suboptimal results. It is like saying that doing your tax return is easy – it sure is, if you don’t mind getting fleeced. Doing it effectively and for the maximum benefit takes a lot more time and consideration.

Before we get started, a very brief introduction for those newly initiated into the world of SEO. The bottom line is this – Google will recommend your site, if others recommend it first. This means, to get high rankings in Google, Google needs to know that others find your site useful. How does a search spider know what people think about your site? Links. If people are linking through to your site, the Google spider will think your site is well liked. If relevant sites are linking through to you, this is even better, because Google will consider you to be an authority on this topic.

So, how do you go about getting the nice mix of links that Google might consider appropriate? Well, you can just dive in and submit your site everywhere you can think of.  Or you can take the longer, more well thought-out way around…

1. Before you even start – look at who your client is. What is and isn’t going to be effective for them? Where and where wouldn’t they want to be seen? You need to know exactly what the limitations of your link building strategy are going to be. For example, if you have a government body as a client, you are going to have to think VERY conservatively.  Similarly for national brands or straightlace industries like insurance. On the other hand, start ups, media and online retail might be more willing to take risks. You need to note all this down, and make a memo of what kind of strategy you will be following. This is particularly important if you are sharing this client work with others.

2. Which brings me my next point – assigning the work. Link building is often assigned to junior staff, or as a starting task. Now, sure, it might seem like brainless work – but if your junior gets an irrelevant or inappropriate link for your client, and your client or a competitor sees it, you will have a lot of explaining to do. Please make sure that the person doing your links has some experience, and has read your client memo.

3. Now, in the interests of corporate knowledge and continuity, it is also recommended that you keep good records of every link you do for your client. No, not so you can copy this strategy for the next client (see point 1.- client suitability!), but so that you can go back and see what has worked and what hasn’t.  Going hand in hand with this is the obvious monitoring of rankings to see how your efforts are affecting them.

4. Step 3 will help you with step 4. Evolution. You can’t just get links and then stop. This isn’t what your competitors are doing you know. You need to constantly increase, improve and diversify your sources of links. This takes creativity and experience, and is yet ANOTHER reason why the most junior people in your organisation shouldn’t always be given linking to do. As part of evolution you need to monitor your progress, learn more about your client and keep up with their latest developments (look for linking opportunities), and also keep on top of general SEO industry developments.

This is the general overview of how a linking strategy should be undertaken. Sure it is a lot more complicated than just submitting your site to link farms, or sending out a mass email, but SEO is about having the edge over your competitor, and these steps will help you get there.

If this advice is too vague for you, here are some more specific do’s and don’ts:

  • Do use relevent anchor text, which helps Google to know what exactly it is you are an expert about.
  • Don’t use ‘click here’ as your link – ever!
  • Do try to diversify your links – 100 links from one site isn’t the same as 100 different links
  • Don’t use irrelevant links – Google can spot this a mile off, and may penalise you. Also, it just doesn’t look good if you want to retain some dignity for your brand
  • Do try and generate buzz with good content so that links will come to you naturally
  • Don’t undertake any paid links without thinking very very carefully about the implications
  • Do contribute valuable content/comments/reviews to other sites, with links embedded
  • Don’t try and contribute spammy content with embedded links

Go forth and link responsibly.

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