This post is written by Anthony Young Director of Search Engine Optimization at eightfoldlogic.com
Anything in life worth having requires time, attention, and dedication. Usually there are no shortcuts – a few noteworthy exceptions being the very lucky, the criminally-minded, or the insane geniuses among us. When it comes to SEO and link building, the same holds true. I’m reminded of one of my favorite cartoon strips growing up, created by Antonio Prohias, called Spy vs. Spy. Gracing the pages of Mad Magazine since 1961, the main characters are dressed in identical trilby hats and suits – one is black and the other white. Both are hell-bent on introducing the other to his demise using ever more sophisticated devices and counter schemes.
Admittedly, an overused metaphor for SEO, the white-hat vs. black-hat iconography in this case still serves to highlight the extreme and sophisticated measures many folks in the online world will stoop to substitute specious techniques for a strong business model, compelling content, and diligent website management. Our world of SEO is divided primarily into these two camps: White Hats (the good guys you want to hire) and Black Hats (mostly good guys, albeit misguided, you don’t want to hire). When it comes to link building (or SEO for that matter) be sure you know in which camp your SEO lives.
Google maintains that if you build great content then by virtue of its compelling nature, those heralded natural links will flood in, conferring value and prestige upon your site. Unfortunately, the days of sheer meritocracy on the web are long gone and great content doesn’t magically guarantee a tsunami of inbound natural links. Inbound links were once a way to share information and guide users to additional relevant content as well as a way to get traffic. Nowadays, links have become a commodity primarily for conferring value onto websites to boost search engine rankings and it is this fact alone that has lead to a general lowering of quality on the web and even problems with relevance in search engine results pages (SERPs). Buying and selling of paid links for the purposes of manipulating the SERPs is so widespread that it hurts everyone from business owners to consumers.
Unless you have a site that commands high-levels of user attention then you must undertake a link building campaign to remain viable long-term. Link building is painful, tedious and very time-consuming; however, the quality of your inbound link graph is a very strong signal to Google that users find your site useful and relevant. So how does one build quality inbound links? Comparing certain site metrics to your competitors’ can help webmasters formulate a targeted strategy around which types of links are necessary to obtain to compete for key word phrases. Type your target key phrase into Google and review the websites that rank on first SERP. A few of the most important signals or metrics to compare include: 1) individual page and domain authority; 2) raw link juice (or PageRank); 3) diversity and number of linking root domains; 4) anchor text (there’s been some disagreement lately about how strong of a role anchor text still plays after Google’s most recent algorithm update, but that’s a topic for a future post).
A targeted strategy will save precious time and resources, allowing you to focus on the quality and not the quantity of inbound links to your site. For example, if your competitor’s link graph looks similar to your own except that his site has more diversity of links then you know immediately that you must garner links from a broader variety of sources. If individual page authority is an issue then you’ll need to spend some time sourcing higher authority sites to link to you. Essentially, you need to identify for which segments your competitors are doing better and focus your efforts there.
In the long run, white hat SEO techniques that are within search engine guidelines will always pay dividends. Since the early 2000’s Google has vastly increased the sophistication of its algorithms. Short cuts and bad behavior may bring short-term benefit but longevity depends on building solid, quality content for your community and industry as well as domain authority through trusted links from reputable and relevant neighborhoods. Focus on quality not quantity and you will enjoy a competitive advantage in the market place.
Editor’s note: Anthony Young is a guest writer on the Majestic SEO blog and all views expressed are his own. If you would like to write on Blog.majesticseo.com please contact Dixon Jones.