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)

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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.

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Q and A: Why isn’t Google showing my Backlinks?

Question

Dear Kalena…

I am a dentist who owns his own practice. My website (domain provided) currently has a page rank of zero and zero backlinks. This is despite many attempts to optimize my site, requests for backlinks, etc. I believe I do have a few linking sites with Page Ranks greater than 3. I don’t understand why they won’t show up in google backlinks? (Yes, i have the toolbar.) Any advice you could give me (in lay terms, i’m a website novice) would be greatly appreciated. thanks.

Ryan

Hi Ryan,

I’ve had a quick look at your site and you have a reasonable amount of keyword rich content, but the dentist niche (like many others) is rapidly becoming more competitive.  It’s not clear how long your site has been active, but with the PageRank of zero I’m guessing that your site has only been around for a relatively short time.  These days Google only updates the published PR of sites a few times a year so it probably doesn’t reflect the “real” PR value of your site.  Don’t be too concerned over this – it is likely to improve over the next few months.

Google is notorious for only publishing a very small subset of backlinks.  You are better to use Yahoo for checking your backlinks – use a search query of linkdomain:yourdomain.com -site:yourdomain.com , which will show you most sites that link to your domain (excluding your own internal links).  For your site, Yahoo is currently showing 29 backlinks.   Yahoo still only shows a subset of your links – but it is typically a lot more than Google shows.  For a more accurate list of backlinks from Google you should register your site with Googles webmaster tools.

As you are probably aware, establishing links to your site from external websites is very important to your rankings, so you should always be on the lookout for related sites that might be prepared to link to you – and don’t be afraid to ask.  There are many strategies for link building, and many agencies that offer a link building service.  You can even learn how to do it yourself via Search Engines College’s Link Building Course.

Andy Henderson
WebConsulting SEO – Brisbane

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SMX Sydney 2010: Bulletproof Link Building

Greg Boser from 3DogMedia is now up to talk about creating a bulletproof link strategy.Greg Boser of 3DogMedia

Step 1: Link Map / Blueprint

Greg’s team creates a Link Map Profile. Greg says analyse the top sites in your space and work out the job ahead

Things to look at during this stage:

– average number of links

– average age of competing sites

– average PR of competing sites – will determine how hard it’s going to be to compete. Also take into account the unique IPs.

– average number of linking domains

– average age of linking domains

– average PR distribution of incoming links

– average concentration of anchor text

Greg then showed an example profile for an *Online Poker* site – to give us an idea of the data he’s dealing with. Each of these profiles will be different. This particular profile proves that it’s going to be a hard space to get results in using link strategy. Provides the blueprint

Step 2: Tactics

Once you have the big picture – your blueprint and now it’s time to look at the individual tactices each competitor is uins to gain links

– make a list of the top 2-3 tactics

– usually competitors will only be using 1 or 2 tactics, giving you the opportunity to overtake their efforts by using all tactics available to you.

– Yes, you can purchase links – provided they fit the criteria established in your blueprint.

– Get the quality links first – because as links age, they count more.

– When you get to the end of the process, your link map will look just how you planned it.

Tools

– Majestic SEO is highly recommended by Greg

– Linkscape

– Use tools that go out to get data then compare with your own

– Site Explorer

– RavenTools

– SEOBook Toolbar

During Q and A, Greg Boser said that if you want to target Australia and get good link popularity in Oz, make sure 90% of your links are from Australian sites.

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Q and A: Is Google PageRank Dead?

QuestionHi Kalena

Just wondering what your view was on PR being dead – it’s what a lot of SEO professionals are saying.

I guess I’m curious also because it seems it’s the only way to be able to track any kind of progress with our linking campaigns. What are your thoughts? Is PR dead?

Sarah
————————————–

Hi Sarah

Regarding the death of PageRank, I wouldn’t go that far. It might be true that webmasters don’t need to obsess about the little green bar that is the Google Toolbar PageRank score, but the influence of links in Google’s PageRank algorithm is alive and well.

Just take a look at the results of the 2009 Ranking Factor survey that SEOmoz gives to 75 top SEO professionals worldwide (me included) every two years.

You’ll see that 4 of the Top 5 Ranking Factors (as agreed by the world’s busiest SEO practitioners) are link related.

So while Toolbar PageRank scores may not be as indicative as they used to be, link building is still absolutely vital as a way to boost search ranking for a page. Measurement now though is via observation, individual search query rank, number of pages indexed and number of backlinks achieved.

Of particular importance is the flow of linkjuice between inner pages on your own site and the achievement of external links pointing to those inner pages rather than all pointing to your home page.

Kalena

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