Creating a Successful Link Building Strategy

If you are starting your link building strategy from scratch, the process can take several weeks before you start seeing any results. By gaining valuable backlinks from a rich variety of relevant of sites you are on your way to improving your site?s ranking and visibility within search engines.

Links on relevant sites

Building links on relevant sites should be an integral part of your link building strategy – the more links you have on individual sites, the more search engines will value your site. Links on non-relevant sites such as article directories will still help your site rank but they won?t carry as much value as a link on a relevant site. For example, if you own a clothing website, you should try and gain backlinks from other relevant clothing or fashion websites. The more influential the site, the better your link will be. What many online retailers tend to do is offer an influential blogger a freebie in return for an organic link back their website – the blogger will usually review the product and include a valuable and relevant link to the website.

Anchor text

Your anchor text is the text you choose for your link; it is important this text contains the primary keyword for the page you are linking to. For example, if you are linking to a page selling printer cartridges, you may want your anchor text to be something along the lines of, ?buy printer cartridges?. Remember that the anchor text must flow with the rest of your content. Search engines will look at anchor text to discover what your site is about so the keywords are vital, but they must fit in seamlessly with the article because interesting content is just as important. If your article is crammed with the same anchor text it will not have a positive effect on your ranking, search engines are wise to this technique! Ensure you only use keywords in anchor text a couple of times and this will have a positive effect on your website?s ranking.

Link building takes time

It can take search engines a good few weeks before they see your links and can take months before they get indexed (before they start ranking). This is why it?s so important to keep track of your links so you can see how they are benefiting your site and your ROI. If you don?t track your keywords, you will never know how your site is improving in its search rankings.

Writing META Tag Titles and Descriptions

Since 2009 Google informed us that keywords in META tag titles and descriptions do not influence any ranking factors, but that doesn?t mean your titles and descriptions aren?t important, quite the opposite. META title and description tags are the main snippets of text you see when your website appears in search engine result pages (SERPs) so the copy needs to appealing and summarise your website?s content.

META Titles

Your META title tag should be no more than 70 characters long (if you exceed the character amount, it will appear as ellipsis (…) on results page). Although keywords in title tags are no longer counted in Google?s ranking algorithm, it doesn?t mean they shouldn?t be used. Here?s an example of why they should be used:

If a user is searching for ?search engine optimisation? services, all title and description tags including this phrase will appear emboldened on results pages – improving your site?s visibility and click-through rate. Include keywords in your META title but don?t cram it full of them, you only have limited character space and want your title to be readable and friendly to the user.

Make your META title concise; ensure it displays your services and describes your website?s content and you should be on your way to a very ?clickable? META title tag.

META Descriptions

META descriptions allow you a little more leeway (in the form of 150-160 characters) to illustrate your site?s services. You need to try and squeeze in all relevant information and a few keywords (think of the emboldening technique stated above) but you also need to create a compelling snippet of text to advertise why the user should click your link.

The key point to remember about META titles and descriptions is that these small spaces of text decipher whether your user is clicking through to your website. Include a few keywords but most importantly, make sure your text encourages the user to click on to your website.

Bing Copying Google Search Results (Allegedly)

Google have accused Bing of copying their search results after the search giant created some synthetic queries which tied two previously unconnected terms together and discovered that the same connections started to appear on Bing.

An example of this, Google linked “hiybbprqag” to a result about seating in a theatre. The only link between the query and the result was Google, yet a search for the term “hiybbprqag” brought about the same result in Bing. Proof, Google says, that Bing are copying their SERPs. Pretty good evidence it is too. See for yourself:

Oh dear, oh dear. Microsoft simply responded with “We do not copy Google’s results.”

Not particularly useful or informative, so it was good that Corporate Vice President Harry Shum expanded later on, saying:

We use over 1,000 different signals and features in our ranking algorithm. A small piece of that is clickstream data we get from some of our customers, who opt-in to sharing anonymous data as they navigate the web in order to help us improve the experience for all users.

That would seem to be a fair explanation, at least in part, but Google are not letting this go. They have written a long post on their official blog explaining how they allegedly caught Bing red-handed. If you’re technically-minded, you’ll enjoy it!

Google essentially claim that Bing is using IE8, Bing Toolbar and perhaps other ways to send data on what people search on Google and what results they click to Bing, which they are then using to determine what SERPs they offer up. Or as Google puts it:

…some Bing results increasingly look like an incomplete, stale version of Google results?a cheap imitation.

For a really good piece on the background to this and some very well reasoned opinion, read Danny Sullivan’s post on Search Engine Land.

It’s getting very catty between the rivals now and I even read a headline earlier today that claimed Google was copying Bing’s SERPs! Which is just madness, obviously… Right? Well, who knows?

From an SEO point of view, having Bing copy Google’s SERPs would certainly make life easier. Everything could be optimised for one search engine instead of many, one set of rules could be followed and monitored, one set of results tracked.

But it also minimises the scope for innovation, big wins and successes – for SEOs AND Google and Bing (and anyone else who dares enter the marketplace in the future!).

Will 2011 be the Year of the Mobile for SEOs?

SmartphonesNichola Stott of theMediaFlow certainly thinks so. Randfish of SEOmoz is less convinced. It’s something we at iSupport Websites have been thinking about since late last year – what do we need to do to ensure our clients take full advantage of the growth in mobile search?

A number of options have been considered. Mobile optimised websites for one. We tended to agree with Randfish here though – they are an uneccessary use of time, money and skills unless a client’s website really does not render on mobile devices. Smartphones are getting ever closer to laptops and PCs in their capabilities, there really is no real point in building websites for them.

Mobile apps, however, is a different story. That’s not really search related as such, however. Suffice to say, if you’re interested in having a mobile app developed for your company, pop on over to our sister site and contact iSupport through there:

We came to a very similar conclusion as Randfish:

…search – the process, the intent, the results –  just isn’t that different on mobile devices vs. laptops and desktops.

There really isn’t that much difference between what you search for on your phone or on your PC. Think about it…you may well make more local searches on your mobile device than you might on your PC, that’s just common sense, but overall you’re after information so no matter where you are or what you’re on, you’ll be searching for the same things.

From a pure SEO standpoint though, this bullet point from the article really stood out:

  • A single set of SERPs – I searched for a good 20 minutes on my laptop and Android phone without finding a query where the web results are in a different order (both are location-aware to “Seattle, WA”)

What we read into that is what we’ve been thinking for quite some time – local search engine optimisation is really the key to mobile SEO for those businesses that require it, while ’standard’ methods of optimisation remain just as important in the mobile world as they do in the laptop and desktop worlds.

Mobile optimisation = Local optimisation + ‘Standard’ optimisation

In our opinion, 2011 will not be the Year of the Mobile for SEOs. It may well be the Year of the Mobile in terms of impressions, clickthrough rates and cost per click but getting to the top of the SERPs on mobile devices will require much the same time, effort and techniques as non-mobile SERPs – with a slightly more heavy leaning towards local optimisation.

With regard to impressions, clickthrough rates and cost per click – read this piece of research. It’ll give you a lot to think about.

New Google Ranking Signals – from Twitter?!

It’s true, Google (and Bing) are now using Tweets as ranking signals for your website. They admitted as much to Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan in this interview. But does that now mean you should dash off and start Tweeting hundreds of times a day? NO. Don’t do it!

It’s important to understand HOW Google and Bing use Tweets about your website as signals. Patrick Altoft at blogstorm pulled out this extract that pretty much covers it:

Q: If an article is retweeted or referenced much in Twitter, do you count that as a signal outside of finding any non-nofollowed links that may naturally result from it?

A: Yes, we do use it as a signal. It is used as a signal in our organic and news rankings.

Q: Do you try to calculate the authority of someone who tweets that might be assigned to their Twitter page. Do you try to ?know,? if you will, who they are?

A: Yes we do compute and use author quality. We don?t know who anyone is in real life :-)

Q: Do you calculate whether a link should carry more weight depending on the person who tweets it?

A: Yes we do use this as a signal, especially in the ?Top links? section [of Google Realtime Search]. Author authority is independent of PageRank, but it is currently only used in limited situations in ordinary web search.

What this tells us is this:

  1. If you haven’t yet got a Twitter account, get one.
  2. Check your competition – do they have a Twitter account? How do they use it? Who do they interact with?
  3. Tweet out your content, retweet others in your field, get involved.

It is likely that Facebook and other social networking platforms will count in the future – if they don’t already. In other words, practice good social media etiquette and actions.

It’s who you are, your ‘HumanAuthority’, that will determine how much authority is passed onto a link you share. As Bing put it:

We take into consideration how often a link has been tweeted or retweeted, as well as the authority of the Twitter users that shared the link.

That is massive. You need to gain good authority on Twitter and the people who retweet you need to have it – because despite links on Twitter being nofollows there IS authority being passed on!

What it comes down to, as ever, is good content and a good strategy. That your social media strategy is now even more closely connected to your SEO strategy is a good thing. And if you don’t have a social media strategy, now is the time to get one, because if you are matching your competition in pure SEO terms but they do better in social media – and especially Twitter – it is likely they will soon start to outrank you.

Optimise for Local Search or Suffer the Consequences

As you may or may not know, Google recently carried out a rather intensive make over of its local search results pages, resulting in some equally dramatic changes in ranking for some websites. The big question was what, exactly, had changed, apart from the layout of the page itself.

Well, those wonderful people over at SEOmoz have done some research and the results are not to be ignored. After reviewing the rankings of around 50 sites pre- and post-changes to the SERPs they found that 30 of the sites had improved organic rankings, while only six had dropped – and, importantly, most of those seeing an improvement could attribute it to their local listing performance.

To see the actual stats, have a read of their blog post on the subject. SEOmoz say that:

Generally, it can be said that sites performing well in both organic and local perform even better in the new consolidated SERP. In several cases you can directly see how a well-performing Google Places listing now pulls up your organic ranking.

However, for those sites that saw a drop in rankings it wasn’t so much the poor business listing that was dragging them back “but rather that, due to the local results being buried so deep in Maps, Google didn?t associate a business?s Places page with their website. As a result, other websites that did have strong Places pages were ranking higher.”

What does all this tell us? In a nutshell, that as well as having a very well optimised website you also need a well optimised Google Places listing. Not only do you benefit in terms of ranking, but there’s the potential for taking up more real estate in Google’s SERPs.

We at iSupport Websites have always recognised the importance of local search engine optimisation and are quite happy to see these results from SEOmoz’s research.

The Importance of a Natural Link Profile

Thursday, November 25th, 2010 at 12:01 pm

As any conscientious SEO should do, we keep our eye on the latest developments in the world of search engine optimisation. That could be industry news from Google and the other major search engines, opinions fro our fellow SEOs or results from testing that are generoulsy offered up on hundreds of high quality SEO blogs.

Just lately there have been a number of posts we’ve read relating to anchor text, link building and link profiles. Two great examples can be found here and here. Both of these have noticed changes in the way brand and exact anchor text linking is affecting a website’s rank, particularly in Google.

It got us thinking about a website’s link profile and how it needs to look to Google et al.

A lot of the work we do for our clients is link building – incoming links are an important part of search engine optimisation and, we think, always will be. But only if it is done smartly.

Let’s get back to exact anchor text linking. This basically involves trying to rank for a particular term by creating inbound links with that exact anchor text as the link. For example, if you wanted to rank for “cheap pet food”, you would create as many inbound links as possible that looked like this: cheap pet food. A simple enough concept and one that works – to a point.

If a website has a lot of incoming links with exact anchor text then yes, it will rank well for that specific term. The same applies to brand anchor text. However, if those are the only links it has, it will soon start to fall down the SERPs.

Why? Because it is clearly not natural. Google and the rest will penalise a site that is so obviously trying to manipulate the SERPs (and rightly so). That is why a natural link profile is so important.

What is a Natural Link Profile and How Do I Get It?

We at iSupport Websites have always taken a logical, common sense approach to link building. If a client wants to rank for “cheap pet food” we will point our link building efforts in that direction. However, in the interests of maintaining (or creating) a natural link profile, we will also sprinkle around some links with anchor text that doesn’t say “cheap pet food”.

A natural link profile has a healthy mix of exact anchor text links, brand anchor text links, site name text links and, as the previously linked post from Search Engine Land describes it brilliantly, “crazy noise” links (“click here”, “learn more”, “here”). It’s also a good idea to create links from a sites with a range of PR values.

Directing these links to an array of relevant pages on a website is also part of building a natural link profile. What some SEOs can forget, however, is how to make link growth look natural.

Ideally, you’d want to start your varied link building slowly, and increase it month on month. There are occasions when spikes in the number of links created occur but even then, as long as it is natural – from a viral campaign, for example – that’s not a problem. This post on SEOMoz explains natural link growth very well.

Google Instant Preview – How Does It Affect SEO?

Thursday, November 18th, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Google’s new full page previews on the SERPs have been in place for a little while now, allowing us to take a proper look at how they may affect things from an SEO point of view and we’ve come to the conclusion that the answer is “hardly”.

At least, not in the case of actual ranking. But an SEO’s job should never be just to improve the ranking of a website, it should always focus on the end game and consider ranking a step towards it. Click through and conversion to enquiry or sale should be the goal and when it comes to this Google Instant Preview DOES matter.

If you’ve yet to see it in action, take a look at this screenshot:

Looks alright, doesn’t it. It’s not hugely intrusive as you have to click either the little magnifying glass icon you can see or the excerpt (but not the link – that still takes you to the webpage, obviously!) to view the preview. There was concern it would appear just by hovering, which would have proved very annoying indeed. But I digress…

Oh yes…how does this affect us as search engine optimisation specialists? Well, as click throughs and conversions are our ultimate goal, we’re now going to have to be concerned with how a website or landing page looks, that it renders correctly in the preview and that any text highlighted is relevant (more on that in a moment).

Let’s deal with all you people who have Flash only websites. Google hates Flash as much as Apple hates Flash. You might want to look away now…

Oh dear. All Flash website owners might now want to consider creating a HTML version of their site and directing Google to it – assuming they think that people using the preview function are more likely to click through to a site they can see, rather than a big grey box!

That’s an extreme example, of course. But sites with any Flash content will be previewed with grey boxes where their formerly no doubt beautiful content should be. Non-Flash sites should also take a look at their preview and see if there is anything they could do to attract the all important click as well.

Now about that highlighted text I mentioned earlier. On certain searches and results, Google Instant Preview highlights relevant text (containing words from the search term used) on the webpage in an eyecatching orange box.

THIS is where a good SEO can make a bit of an impact.

Good content is King, as we all know. Google is now underlining that with this little addition and a well crafted, well designed page with relevant content and a nice design is going to capture the clicks . Placement of the copy is, of course, important, though as you can see if it appears below the fold, Google will handily snip the page and display it anyway!

So how much should you worry about Google Instant Preview and optimising for it? Not a huge amount – but you shouldn’t ignore it either. It is just another thing an SEO has to bear in mind when going about his business.

In fact, perhaps web designers and developers should worry about it more. After all, Google Instant Preview has been described as the death of Flash (well, as speeding up the demise of it anyway)!

Welcome to iSupport Websites. We are an established team of online marketing professionals specialising in search engine optimisation, social media strategies, online PR and email marketing. iSupport Websites are the specialist search team at iSupport Creativity. We?ve been working hard to build up the search and social marketing side of the business to the point where it was worthy of it’s own website.

A staggering 90% of people use a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo to search for whatever they are looking for online.  That?s why your website and ultimately your business needs to be getting on the first page of those search sites. Have a look around our new website for more details on Search Engine Optimisation and all the services we provide to help your site reach its full search potential.

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