Q and A: How do I choose a backlink strategy?

Question

Hi Kalena,

After a search of backlinks to the page one ranking sites for my main keyword ‘carpet cleaning Brisbane’ I noticed that the top spot at that time was a site with 29 backlinks to their main URL and 29 backlinks to their whole domain. The number 2 site at that time had 253 / 349 backlinks respectively and the number 3 site had 195 / 9873 backlinks respectively. How are we supposed to determine the best path for our own backlink strategy with such variation?

Thanks Mark

Hi Mark,

As you are probably aware, there are many things that can influence search rankings (Google has indicated that they take over 200 factors into account).  Clearly some factors are more important than others, and it is generally accepted that backlinks (links to your site from 3rd party sites) are amongst the most important.  In my opinion backlinks come in position 2 of ranking factors – right after good quality, keyword rich, unique content.

It is important to recognise that not all backlinks are equal, and it is not just the number of backlinks that you should be considering. In fact the “quality” of your backlinks is more important that the quantity – Some backlinks are much more likely to improve your rankings, and some can actually have a negative impact.

What makes a Good Backlink?

Some of the factors that influence how useful a particular backlink might be include :

  • Site Authority – How “important” the site is generally (Page Rank is a rough guide to this) but also in terms of the keywords relevant to the niche
  • Relevance – How relevant the linking site is to the linked site – a site about Carpet Care is clearly going to be of more benefit to you than a site about Acne
  • Anchor Text -  Does the text used in the link contain relevant keywords
  • Neighbourhood – Are other sites linked to from the same page/site related, and trusted?  If the site contains lost of links to unrelated sites – particularly if many of the links are spammy.  The “neighbourhood” can extend to the server and other sites hosted from the same server

Backlinks are not going to be the ONLY factor that influence your competitors rankings – but they are likely to play a significant part. 10 Great backlinks are likely to be more effective than 100 good ones, or 1,000 OK ones, and 100 bad backlinks can have a negative impact on rankings.\

What about “Bad” Backlinks?

I’ve had a very quick look at the backlinks to your site (URL provided), and you currently have over 8,000 backlinks – which on the surface might seem a good thing. Dig a little deeper though and we see that many of your backlinks come from sites about such topics as – weight loss, yeast infections, various other health issues, making money from home, weddings, iphone apps, and a host of other topics – in fact I was hard pressed to find any of your backlink sites even vaguely related to carpet cleaning.  This is a very good example of “bad” link building and to the search engines is obviously not the result of natural links, and may very well cause ranking penalties (which could very well be the reason you are appearing well down page 2 of the search results).

Analysing which sites link to the top ranking sites in your niche is likely to provide you with a useful insight into the types of sites that you should be pursuing for your own link building strategies.

Andy Henderson
WebConsulting (SEO Brisbane)

Promote JS! A noble cause ruined by dodgy implementation

promote js

CAUTION: Rant Ahead

I was alerted to the Promote JS! site today by a programmer pondering the benefits and tweeting to ask about the SEO logic behind the idea.

Basically, Promote JS! is a cause born out of the JSConf held in April this year. The idea is for JavaScript programmers to spread the word about Mozilla’s JavaScript Developer Center via the use of links to try and improve Mozilla’s Google ranking for searches relating to JavaScript documentation.

A noble cause right? Maybe. However the implementation is inherently flawed in several ways:

1) First of all, the site provides a banner for web site owners and bloggers to place on their sites.  The banner uses a script which creates a link to a different page of the Developer Center at every refresh so you can choose the destination link of your choice. This method is just plain silly, in my opinion. They’ve taken a noble idea and tried to implement it using link farm tactics. A series of identical banners with nearly identical link code smells very much like an affiliate program to Googlebot. Their code has basically created an affiliate link farm which is likely to be filtered out by Google’s ranking algorithm, potentially doing more harm than good to the Developer Center’s link popularity.

2)  The alt tag for the banner is stuffed with multiple JavaScript related keywords. Keyword stuffed tags of any kind can easily be detected and ignored by Google’s ranking filter. There’s just no need to shove multiple keyword repetitions in there.

3) Developer Andrew Hedges had written a blog post about Promote JS! questioning the value of linking to multiple sub pages of the JavaScript Developer Center and suggesting perhaps everyone should link to their home page instead. He cc’d me on his tweet asking for SEO advice and inviting comments on his post. My response is that people should link to ANY page in the Developer Center that they want to promote! If their blog post talks about APIs, they should link to the API documentation. If they were impressed by a particular javascript tutorial, they should link directly to that tutorial.

The whole point of the PageRank algorithm is to attribute relevancy weight based on inbound links to specific pages. It’s not about the top level domain. If everyone points to the home page, the inner pages – those containing the most valuable, useful content – won’t rank as well. For a web site to rank well for a wide number of keywords, you need to spread the link juice, not channel it to a single page. You have to trust Google’s own system of rewarding good content – they have a zillion brains working on this full time.

4) Andrew had also tweaked the Promote JS! code somewhat to create a banner that generated a random link at every refresh. In my opinion, this method is also flawed. Link popularity is based around the acquisition of trusted, related, inbound links to a page. If links appear and disappear to a page, that’s hardly trustworthy, right? Google won’t be counting your links as trusted. They are looking for solid, stable links from directly related topic pages.

This is another reason why it makes sense to link to specific inner pages at the JavaScript Developer Center, based on your specific blog post topic/s. If your blog post talks about JavaScript drop down menus and it points to the documentation specifically about those, the TrustRank of that page goes up, as does the eventual ranking potential for related search queries.

Promote JS! shouldn’t be creating link farms to promote the value of the JavaScript Developer Center.  They should simply be encouraging developers to use logical linking strategies as recommended by Google to promote great content. Either that or convince Mozilla to make their JavaScript documentation more search engine friendly!

I’m sure there’ll be developers out there who disagree with me and that’s fine. I don’t know how long the Promote JS! site has been live, but it doesn’t have a Google PR, so it’s either too young or hasn’t built up any TrustRank. Make of that what you will.

Q and A: Why isn’t my home page indexed – and how can I fix it?

Question

Kalena…

Google appears to have indexed my Products page but not my front page or the information in my header source code. Why is this happening and how do I rectify this issue?

Thanks
Chris

Hi Chris,

Sometimes it takes us a little longer than we would like to respond to questions (sorry about that), so by the time I managed to reply, it seems that your home page (URL provided) has actually been indexed.

It appears to me that the site is relatively new, and although you would normally expect the home page to be indexed first, this is not always the case.  It appears that your product page was crawled and/or indexed first – and then (some time later) the home page appeared.  This may happen if you have more links to the internal page  nthan home – but at the moment it appears that you have just a few links to the home page,

For new sites, the types of things that you should do to help speed up the crawl/index/ranking cycle include :

  • Link Building – this is THE most important thing you can do
  • Check Crawl ability – ensure that your site can be properly crawled by search spiders (do a Google search for “Spider Simulator” for tools to help with this)
  • Add your site to webmaster tools – this won’t necessarily help with the crawl rate, but can at least show you how/when the site is crawled by Google and highlight any crawling issues
  • Create and submit a sitemap – this would normally only be of significant benefit for larger more complex sites – but for a new site can help with the crawl process

Your site is still quite young, and now seems to have at least been properly crawled and indexed, but there is plenty of scope for optimisation to improve your rankings.  I suggest that you start with the basics – look at generating additional content, optimise Page Title and description tags, implement search engine friendly URLs, and most importantly, undertake some link building.

Andy Henderson
WebConsulting (SEO Services Brisbane)

Q and A: What keywords should I be optimizing for?

QuestionDear Kalena…

I’m not sure about keywords. Should the most used keywords be used to promote a website to the search engine, or least used words?

Florence

Great question Florence,

There is a great deal of confusion over how to go about selecting which keywords to optimise, and part of the confusion is because there is not really a “correct” answer.  The keywords to choose for optimisation will depend on what you are offering, what your goals are, the niche you are targeting, and may very well include  high volume (popular) keyword phrases or low volume (long tail) keywords – or a combination of both.

At first, it might seem obvious that the high volume phrases should be the ones that are most important, as these are likely to generate the most amount of traffic.  But high volume phrases also tend to be more competitive, and you are likely to find it much more challenging to achieve good rankings for these phrases.  Also be aware, that high volume phrases might also be more “general” in nature, and the people using these phrases may be more likely to be in “research” rather than “buy” mode, so even if you get the visit, they may be less likely to follow through with a sale.

Lower volume phrases, tend to be more specific, and are also likely to be much easier for you to achieve good rankings.  Low volume phrases (which are often known as “long tail” keywords) are also more likely to have a higher conversion rate, and although generating less traffic may actually provide you with more sales.

Ultimately, the keywords you optimise for should be the ones that convert the best – i.e. the ones that result in the most sales, leads or enquiries.  You should be able to determine this by analysing your site usage statistics (analytics), or if you are running a Paid Advertising (PPC) Campaign, you can look at the types of keywords that are generating sales – these are the keywords that you should be optimising for organic search.

Andy Henderson
WebConsulting (Brisbane SEO Consultant)

Q and A: Why use paid advertising and not consider organic listings?

Question

Dear Kalena…

What are some of the reasons a person will continue to spend thousands of dollars a day on paid advertising and not consider Organic listings. How would you begin to approach persons like this aside from the obvious question…Why?

Willie

Hi Willie,

As you are probably aware, there has been debate for years over the Pros and Cons of  Pay Per Click (PPC) versus Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – with many people holding strong opinions for and against both.  There is way to much info on this topic to cover properly in this little old Q and A, but I’ll try an summarise the highlights and give my perspective on the issue.

Some PPC benefits

  • Fast results – can usually start seeing results within hours (or even minutes) of activating a campaign
  • Only Pay when a user clicks
  • Relatively easy to target the Keywords you want
  • Don’t necessarily have to change your site
  • Good Tracking capabilities (so can monitor, measure, adjust and improve)
  • You get to define where users go (you specify the landing page)
  • Can target Specific regions/localities for your ad to appear
  • Achieve Page 1 visibility quickly and easily (but not necessarily cheaply)

PPC can be a very effective way to promote a website (particularly a new site). However once you stop spending, your ads stop showing, and the visitors stop coming – there is no long term benefit for the expense.  PPC is relatively quick and easy to setup – but it is just as quick and easy for your competitors – if they have deeper pockets, they could ultimately win, no matter what you do.

As long as you know what a click is worth to you, and are certain that the returns are greater than the cost, PPC can be very effective.  You don’t care if it costs you $2,000 (or more) a day as long as it generates $5,000.

PPC is one of the few ways a brand new site can get found in the search results and start to generate traffic (and revenue) while the longer term SEO strategies kick in. The data generated from a PPC Campaign (such as which keywords are converting) can also be an extremely useful source of information for an SEO campaign.

About SEO

Here are some of the benefits of Search Engine Optimization:

  • Visitors from Organic Search are Free
  • The rankings a website achieves through SEO can continue for a long time after the work has been completed
  • On-page changes (which are probably necessary for SEO) can help improve conversions as well as traffic
  • Typically more searchers click the natural search engine results (88%) versus the pay per click ads (12%), so you are likely to get much more traffic from Organic results.
  • Users typically feel Organic Search Results have a higher “trust” level

Of course SEO is not free – it requires effort and investment, often over a long period.  In some competitive niches it can be very difficult (or even impossible) to achieve page 1 rankings, but in most niches it is possible to relatively easily achieve reasonable rankings and traffic. As far as I am concerned, it’s the user that should be at the heart of any SEO strategies. Pretty much whatever you do to improve the user experience is likely to improve your rankings and conversion rates (and ultimately increase sales/enquiries)

I’m actually a fan of both PPC and SEO (and I’m not just fence sitting), there are Pros and Cons to each and depending on your specific needs, one or the other (or even both) could be right for you.

Andy Henderson
WebConsulting (SEO Brisbane)