Without a doubt, one of the toughest things to do is to build link popularity for your Web site. This is one reason new domains have such a hard time finding their way into the SERPs and so many small businesses have an uphill challenge trying to compete with the big brands.
Certainly, the Web allows for some easy ways to generate links, through blogging and social media promotion, but getting those "powerful" links can involve hours of work to build the relationships and content necessary. Even more challenging is finding a way to have the keywords that you're focused on in the anchor text of those links.
Getting your keywords into the links is an important factor because search engine bots read the links as they crawl the Web. They can understand the association between the words in the hyperlink (the anchor text of the link) and the page that it's being linked to. While Google has gotten much better at addressing Google bombs, it's still an important factor.
One example of a Google bomb was when a bunch of folks linked to George W. Bush's bio on whitehouse.gov using the words "miserable failure." His bio ended up ranking number one on Google for "miserable failure." Of course, this content was nowhere on the page, which goes to show the value of anchor text in links, and the importance of links in general.
Now, with that as background, let's get into link optimization.
Some of you already have links pointing to your Web site. Perhaps you even have more links than other competitors, but they have the "allinachor" edge on you. Or perhaps you have some links that aren't linking to a live page any longer.
Here are a few tips to help you give your link building initiatives a boost.
Google Webmaster Tools
If you don't already use Google Webmaster Tools, start today. You can learn so much from Google Webmaster Tools, such as:
- Understanding how often GoogleBot visits your Web site.
- Finding errors on your site (404s, etc.).
- Content analysis (which will show you if you have duplicate title tags or meta description tags or content that isn't indexable).
- Statistics, including top search queries, crawl stats, subscriber stats (if you publish a RSS feed of your content and people subscribe to these feeds using iGoogle, Google Reader, or Orkut).
- Viewing your site from the search engine's perspective (What Googlebot Sees).
- Learning which pages of your site are indexed in Google and which other Web sites link to your site (Index Stats).
Looking at the "What GoogleBot Sees" report is awesome. It shows you the top 200 phrases that other Web sites have used when linking to your site, and a comparison of how the content on your Web site may or may not "jive" with those links. Obviously, you would prefer that the links pointing to your Web site are consistent with the content on your Web site.
For those who don't already know, doing a "link:www.sitename.com" check on Google isn't reflective of the entirety of links that Google actually knows about. Going into Google Webmaster Tools will give you much more accurate data.
For the purposes of this column, there are two major takeaways from Google Webmaster Tools:
- You can find 404 errors on your Web site and you may have had other Web sites linking to these 404 pages. If you can 301 redirect those pages to the new location of the content that used to exist on this page (or perhaps to something closely related to the content that was on this page), you're recovering a lost link.
- You can view pages with external links by looking at the Links section. This can be pure gold. You may find some Web sites that you already have a personal relationship with that are linking to you. Perhaps they would be open to you suggesting that they change the anchor text of their link from "Company Name" to "Keyword Here."
While Google Webmaster Tools is great, it won't give you the information you really need to optimize the links you already have. You need to get a list of the links that you have and show the associated anchor text for each link.
If you don't want to use one of the many available paid tools, Aaron Wall offers a free backlink analysis tool that should work for you.
There's an expression in the sales business that the "easiest sale that you will ever make is to upsell an existing client." Well, in link building, one of the best and easiest links that you can get is to modify a link that you already have.
I hope that this helps you folks who are struggling with link building. Let's start talking more about link optimization!
Next week, I hope to write my Quarterly Site Review, so please contact me if you have a site that you believe could use some work and would provide some insight for other readers. As always, by virtue of submitting your site for review, you are granting Incisive Media (Search Engine Watch) permission to use your company name.
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!