A link isn’t only for christmas…

by Peter Young on July 30, 2010 · 1 comment

Links, links, links – its a fundamental part of many modern search engine optimisation campaign. Ever since the day, Google developed their Backrub system the link has been a living online currency, increasingly comodotised by Google’s ongoing reliance on utilising link signals as part of their algorithm.

That is hardly suprising. Google is the lovechild of two scholars (Larry Page and Sergei Brin and the concept of backrub is similar to that of citations, a widely recognised academic method of recognising the authority of a particular document (research) over another. Given other potential signals such as social recommendations are in their infancy, the likelihood of the link as the mainstay of many campaigns is likely to continue for the time being.

I am therefore amazed that many organisations are still unaware or unwilling to integrate offline promotional activity into their SEO campaigns. Whilst I would add that in certain non-competitive sectors, it is possible to position your site with little or no offsite activity (particularly as Google appears to be factoring exact match url’s far more expansively these days), it is also imperative to understand that you are not going to get your site to the top of the search engines on a competitive vertical without focussing a heavy percentage of your activity into off-page promotional activity.

So what should you be considering as part of your off-page activity.

A link isn’t only for christmas

Link building is not a one off. You wouldn’t run a TV advert once and expect to get a massive response (excluding massive mass audience events such as the Superbowl or the World Cup Final), so why would you do the same with your link building and expect mass responses from it.

Link building is an ongoing process. This should also integrate multiple channels, particularly if you are looking for a long term focus on your search engine rankings. Social bookmarking, content spinning/distribution, PR distribution and the like should all be integrated (and even more so if you are looking at integrating potentially more ‘aggressive links’ within your link acquisition.

Further to this, compare site A against site B. Site A builds 10000 links one month and then stops (lets take potential Google evaluation of doing this out of the analysis, segmentation or differences in site authority), Site B only builds 750, but then continues to build links from there – 1000 the next, 1000 thereafter ongoing. WHilst Site A may take a lead initially over the long term Site B will start to take a foothold and eventually will overtake Site A. Thus don’t let your link building stand still.

Should Social be my mainstay

Social would appear to be a massive buzzword in the industry at present. Facebook, Twitter, Sprouter (who? – take a look) have all been mentioned at some point or another – and many from a link building perspective.

There is no doubting Google in particular can take some of this data and evaluate it – and the likelihood is that Google will continue to use this information as part of its evaluation process. However David Harry has mentioned this in the Dojo a number of times – particularly given the potential unreliability in terms of noise – which could significantly impact the potential usability of this from a behavioural perspective.

From a link building perspective, social activity has its place. Social bookmarks for example can provide a high churn, low value way of getting links to your website – not the earth shattering linkage but linkage all the same. However sites such as Twitter often utilise a multitude of redirect tools (which whilst many are 301 based) this is further confounded by the use of nofollows on many of the networks themselves (ie Twitter etc)

Paid links vs Content Strategies

This is a massive issue for many organisations. There is no doubting that paid linkage does work. Look at many verticals and paid links play a part in many of the link patterns of many organisations. However from a client perspective, these have a double edged sword.

Many paid links are based on tenancies. This can often mean that these links are often only valuable for a certain period of time. Once the tenancy expires, you either have to lose the link or renew which can make such campaigns expensive when compared to other link acquisition campaigns. That said, in many cases SEO is so significantly more cost effective than many other channels such as paid search or display that such business cases for increased link budgets can often be easily negotiated.

Content campaigns are often a preferred version of developing linkage to sites. Many well planned and implemented campaigns can have life times beyond the initial distribution of the content piece, providing value indefinitely to the site itself. Many organisations utilise these as significant part of the link acquisition campaigns, whether via guest posts or press distribution, These campaigns pay for themselves not only via the associated link benefits of a well received and authoritative piece of content but also in terms of the ongoing traffic benefits from such a piece of content.

Given the nature of many of the results at present, I would suggest this is still open to personal preference however on a personal note I wouldn’t rely on one technique – although if I did it would certainly be the content option. To compound this the development of content networks as a part of this as a SEO link building technique would potentially further muddy these waters.

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David Goldie July 30, 2010 at 8:17 am

Great thoughts Pete. Some clients don’t understand that off site factors have to be an ongoing concern. Once they are seeing the KPI’s they want, they think that it’s okay to stand still…

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