Navigating the world of SEO can be extremely complicated, but in the end it boils down to a few major factors. One of those major factors is onsite optimization or making sure that your web pages are relevant to the search queries of your potential customers. In our last blog post we discussed how choosing the right keywords can help your new website start to generate organic traffic immediately. While optimization is essential, another major factor is the authority of your website and its individual pages.
So, what is authority? Authority is gauged by the number and quality of links that a particular page on your website has pointing to it from pages on other websites. For example if the homepage of my plumbing website has a link from the sponsors page of a local charity that I am involved with or preferred provider page from the local chamber of commerce, that helps search engines determine that my homepage is popular or has authority. As a website gains more links from different websites to its pages it increases the authority of the website and allows optimized pages to rank higher in the search engine.
A good way to look at authority is to think of it in a common SEO term called “link juice”. The concept of link juice is shown in the diagram below. When other websites (external websites) link to one of our pages they share some of their “link juice” with our website. As more external websites link to our page it’s link juice increases making it more authoritative. As more of your pages get links from external websites your websites link juice increases and your website as a whole also becomes more authoritative as well.
With authority being such a major factor in SEO it is important to spread the word about your business and find opportunities to get links from other websites. The process of building relationships that lead to links is called link building and simply said it is spreading the word about your business online.
There are many ways to start linking building and some of the easiest ways to start building authority are to make sure your business is listed in the major relevant online data aggregators. For example websites like Google My Business, Yelp, SuperPages, etc. can help spread the word about your business and give some small authority building signals to Google. To be clear these signals are small and won’t make major keywords rank on their own, but they can help spread the word about your business and drive traffic as well. Especially if you have a local address and are targeting a local customer base it is essential to get into Google My Business. Below is an example of a Google results page using Google My Business listings. In many locally based searches a series of maps listings with three or more featured companies like this appears at the beginning of the organic search listings.
As in many local searches Google uses Google Maps as another way for potential customers to find local businesses, and if you are listed you have a much higher chance of getting customer to your website. The same applies to relevant social media websites. As with online directories, social media websites only give small signals, but depending on your business type they can be very useful in spreading the word about your business which can lead to more link building opportunities in the long run.
As with most things in life the things that are harder to get or those that take more effort typically bring more value. This applies directly to link building as well. An article link from a website like Forbes will bring more value than a link you can get for free from a directory listing in Yelp. This is because online directories and social media websites use a tag on their links called a nofollow attribute. A nofollow attribute can get technical, but essentially it tells the search engine not to follow a link when crawling a website. The reason this is important is that Google gives little to no value to nofollow links. While a link in an article from Forbes is a dofollow link and carries with it the value of the Forbes website to your page. The illustration below gives you an idea of how link juice flow from a do follow versus no follow links. We can think of the larger glass “Website” as Forbes and the smaller glasses as websites it links to. If Forbes links with a dofollow link it will pass some link juice, but it uses a nofollow it will pass little to no link juice.
In most cases the more links that a particular website, like Forbes, has pointing to it the more value your website will receive if it gets a link from that particular website. That means that if you can get your website covered by a major or high authority website it can have a significant impact on your website’s authority. However, in many cases and especially for local business getting into a major website can be a bit of a challenge, but luckily local and niche websites can bring significant value as well.
As in my plumbing example above local websites like charities or chambers of commerce can be a great way to get relevant links for your business. Even if you are a brand new business building relationships can be essential in a local market. These relationships can lead to opportunities to get online exposure as well. Did you just do an awesome job fixing the frozen pipes that burst at a local school or business? Take a few before and after pictures and see if they will mention it on their blog and link to you. By being creative and building relationships it is easier to get someone to link to you. Have an interesting story or quote that the local newspaper or news station would write about, that is another great way to get a potential link. Building on and offline relationships with the local community and local businesses can lead directly to opportunities to get more links.
Similar to local businesses, niche websites can also be a great way to build links and promote your business. Niche websites are typically websites that are in some way relevant to your industry, but might differ from local websites because they aren’t in your geographic region. Niche websites include blogs that in some way talk about your business or industry, going back to our plumber example blogs that talks about DIY home improvement or a business that sells the materials you use might be perfect examples of niche websites. As a plumber I could approach the DIY home improvement blog and offer to write a blog post about tips for a specific plumbing project that would link back to my website. I could also go the my materials vendor and offer to write a testimonial or case case study that could go on their website and link back to me. Once again many times link building comes down to building relationships with the right people and being creative in our approach.
Over the last few years link building has become more difficult as Google has created penalties for websites that don’t follow their strict guidelines. Google creates these guidelines because they want to maintain a high quality search experience for their users and therefore try to push out poor quality websites that try and manipulate their search engine. We won’t attempt to cover all those penalties and pitfalls here as it would take many posts to cover. Instead we would urge websites who are starting a link building strategy to do your research and consult with a trusted SEO company or advisor who can navigate through the ins and outs of Google in both link building and onsite optimization. With that being said if you stick to building relationships and working with quality websites link building can bring huge traffic gains for your business!