If you’ve ventured into SEO at any depth, you’ve come across the concepts of backlinks and link building. Search engines crawl almost unimaginable amounts of sites and content. Understanding how they read the content is one thing, but understanding how they ascribe value to is another thing all together. Probably the most simple way to understand it is through links. Links are the roads between pages and how search engines understand the relationship between pages.
Understanding the Value of Links
We really have to look at how search engine evaluate links. And while we can’t completely understand the insanely complex and patented metrics that search engines like Google, Firefox and Safari use, we can look at years of experience, real-world testing and analysis to come up with a list of meaningful factors. The root of understanding links is that it equals trust. We are find the signs that point back to Google proving your site and pages are authentic and authoritative.
This one is easy enough. The more popular your site is the more links it will have. Sites like ESPN and Wikipedia have millions of sites linking to it because of quality content that people read and share. While most of us will not be dealing with backlinks in the millions, over time you can accumulate links through linking partners and sharable content.
Local / Topic Specific
“Local” is a newer idea that has be added to the equation and it’s important. For most services, traffic is really looking for someone local. It doesn’t help to find a roofing business in Spokane if you live in the Tampa. This is good, because you aren’t competing with everyone in the world. Local links help build authenticity. They know you are who you say you are because the people around you confirm it. That same is true for topic specific links. If you are a gun shop, it looks better that your info is also on the NRA’s site and not on HGTV.
A great signal for engines to use are is anchor text. If many of your links all use the correct keywords, it is very likely that you will rank well for those keywords. It is one more important layer for search engines to consider.
The next level gets to the heart of link building. Not all links are equal. More than half of the internet is just pure spam and dead pages. Search engines have to weed through all the muck to get to relevant and trustworthy content. There are ranking measurements like Domain Authority, Page Authority and Local Score that can help you understand. In the same way you are trying to build authority for your site, the sites you want links from needs to be authoritative. Fewer links from established sites are better than many links from blog networks and retweets from fake Pakistani twitter accounts.
Links decay over time. Many sites that used to dominate the web have now become old news. Search engines can tell when you got the links and if you are continuing to get them. Continuing to get consistent links show that you are still in active in the game and you should be rewarded.
Social has really changed everything. Content is no longer just designed to be read but shared too. It’s important to note that search engines treat the content in a different way and it’s still hard to know how it factors into the search algorithms. But social media is really denying that there is a rising importance of social engagement with your content.