SEO Guide – Part 4 : Back-Links

A very important ranking factor is the number of linking pages. It used to be measured solely by quantity. This was soon abused of course, and the internet was full of adverts offers such as “5,000 back-links for $100”. Many webmasters were able to boost their websites in the SERP´s just by buying them.

Google turned on this eventually and assess the rank or ´authority´ of the back-linking page and domain, and also the topical relevance of the linking page and domain to the landing page and its domain. Webmasters who read news about search engines, Google’s penalties,  and changes to the Google algorithm were scrambling to write disavow files asking to disassociate from these risky sites. The number of outgoing links from a page is also a factor, and pages with a large number of outgoing links are closely scrutinized to check they are not involved in link farming or other unnatural link building tactics. Inclusion in web directories is still good but the directories must be chosen carefully

Status of Back-Link Domains : Website owners and some SEO companies used to buy back-links by the thousands. Google turned on this and penalized those websites engaging in. Care must be taken to develop links from topically relevant sources, and the higher their rank the better. Any existing back-links should be analyzed to check there are no high risk and toxic back-links, and remedial steps taken if there are. For the same reason, back-link sources are monitored in case any fall out of grace with Google and become blacklisted.
I have run analysis of websites where I have had to write a “disavow file” for Google containing thousands of back-links from high risk websites from the other side of the world that had absolutely nothing to do with the activities of the client’s organization. They had bought back-links when they were cheap and hadn’t realized that they were harmful to the development of their online visibility.

Back-Linking Strategy : sources of high ranking and topically relevant links are found with a number of research techniques that include analysis of competitors, and ‘scraping’ the internet for suitable websites on which to place comment; to offer up guest posts; to nurture link partnerships; or to get listed in the better quality relevant directories. All of this is time consuming as the writing part of this cannot be automated, but any organization that cares for sustainable growth should engage in link building practices.

Anchor texts : this is one area where our Content Strategy and Back-Link Strategy intersect. Backlinks to your website should point to various pages in your website, not just the front page, and are more potent if the links and anchor texts containing keywords relevant to the topics covered on the landing page. Google has begun to penalize the repeated use of the same anchor text, so part of a content strategy should now include recording what anchor texts are used where in back-links to ensure that we use a variety of relevant keyword rich phrases. This is where we use both our keyword content strategy and our back-link strategy in conjunction.

Competitor Research : as with keyword research, one mode of research is to learn from your more successful competitors. The back-link profiles of competitors can be collected and analyzed to see who are their most valuable back-links. This will uncover many new places to obtain referring links via guest posting, press releases, or reciprocal link partnerships.

Social Listening : as I call it, or “Social Listening” is the monitoring of blog posts; forums; Q&A sites; social media; and video channels for mentions of keywords and keyword phrases that you have predetermined. This gives the ability to see newly published content and discussions in the topical areas that you are interested in. The opportunity is to comment and join the conversation. This places you directly in the attention of people specifically interested in your area of expertise, where you can 1) establish yourself as an expert and thought leader in the field 2) obtain backlinks from high ranking domains from pages that are topically relevant to you. This is where SEO work overlaps with the roles of Social Media manager or “Community Manager”.

Reputation Management : the starting point for online reputation management is using the ‘social listening’ tools to ‘listen’ for mentions of your own brand name(s) or domain(s). This allows you to see comments about you, both positive and negative, and to be able to join the conversation. It becomes reputation management when you have a predetermined set of responses to different situations and further strategies for dealing with a bad situation that escalates.