Link building, or the practice of increasing the trusted inbound links to a Web site, is considered the cornerstone of an effective, ongoing search engine optimization campaign. For many sites, planning the strategy for link building is pretty straightforward. From a high-level view, many SEOs like to use directories along with soliciting links, link baiting, and even (gasp) buying links to create a nice mix of inbound links to a client Web site.
Imagine scoping an SEO project where the site to be optimized already has thousands, if not tens-of-thousands, of inbound links pointing to it. Is link development still necessary? You bet your ROI it is...
Enterprise-level SEO projects involve following the same basic best practices one would use in optimizing a ten-page Web site – just on a massive scale. In fact, with many big brands, new Web sites are developed frequently in support of new products or services. This article will not really dive into the new Web sites, but instead will focus on established brands and how to go about taking advantage of the thousands of links pointing to them to gain more traction within search results – especially for long-tail keyword searches.
Helping the Rich Get Richer – Investing in the Right Pages
The problem with many sites that have thousands of links is often, over 90 percent of those links are pointed to the site's home page. If you are an organization that only needs to get people to the home page to complete conversions, there is no sense reading any further. However, the likelihood of many people dropping off on that note is pretty low because most sites are designed with some type of conversion funnel – and conversions rarely happen on the home page.
In order to drive traffic directly to the deeper pages within a site, the page itself can benefit from getting rankings directly from search engines. No matter how perfectly a site is designed to lead people to the right place, with long-tail searches, the visitor reaching a highly relevant page directly from a search engine is more motivated than one who comes through the home page and beyond.
Some may be thinking, “OK, that’s enough with the basics of user experience, what about linking?” In order to efficiently drive increased rankings for those deeper pages, link building should be focused almost exclusively toward them. Of course, there are cases where some links toward the home page are advantageous, especially in helping search spiders understand that a particular keyword or topic is relevant. However, if an SEO is pitching a large organization to provide services, deep linking better be a clearly outlined part of the plan.
Capitalizing on Keyword Strengths to Improve Weaknesses
In a recent project involving link building for a travel-related site, we ran into many of the characteristics described above – thousands of inbound links to the home page and less than 10 percent to deeper pages within the site. One thing was clear – the search engines were already very enamored with the site when it came to a particular geographic term, which we will say was “Timbuktu.”
“Timbuktu travel” already ranked very well for that term, as well as many other Timbuktu-related terms. However, our paid search efforts revealed another set of terms was driving more conversions. In this case, the terms were “Timbuktu party” and “Timbuktu party packages.” Our team theorized we could count on the search engines already giving a lot of trust to the site for the term “Timbuktu.” So, in order to build on that, we could build links focused on the “party” and “party packages" terms, especially to deeper pages that were very relevant to these terms.
In short, within a few months, the site went from zero rankings in the top three pages to dozens of rankings across the engines for the targeted terms. Traffic levels started to increase accordingly. The rest of the site’s structure, in particular, the content on the pages as well as within titles and descriptions, helped to support this link building effort. But make no mistake about it – the advanced link-building theory and tactics achieved the new rankings for the Web site.
Link Building: Its Own Industry?
Some would argue that link building alone can be considered a cottage industry within the world of search engine optimization. With the number of link sellers and exchange networks out there, it is important not to fall into a trap that could lead to a site getting penalized. Link relationships should be evaluated on an individual basis and should always follow the golden rule: Will the link be useful or relevant to the visitors to the page on which it resides? If not, go directly past go and do not get lured by promises of high page rank and likely artificial traffic.
As usual, I invite people to discuss this article at Search Engine Watch Forums in the thread dedicated to this column, Just One Agency Point of View.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!