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September 8, 2010

SEO Tips: Quality Links

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We have written about the benefits of quality over quantity links in SEO ad nauseum, but I do still think it is a subject worthy of discussion.

As Kaspar Szymanski, Search Quality Strategist at Google says in his recent blog post: Quality links to your site, published on Monday – “a quality link is always going to be worth much more than a hundred ‘spammy’ links.” So, how does a person determine which links are ‘quality’ and which are not?

Well, I think a lot of this comes down to experience. When I first started dabbling in SEO a few years ago, (and, my, how the discipline has changed since then!) I know I fell into some pretty easy traps and pitfalls when it came to link building. One thing that I do know about link building is that it isn’t easy. Whichever way you come to look at it, ‘easy’ is not a word I would use to describe it. Not that it’s technically very difficult, of course, just that it’s time consuming and requires patience, dedication, and to some extent a certain amount of luck.

So, what pitfalls and traps could green SEO newbies easily find themselves slipping into?

Lets start with Rubbish Directories. When I started my first SEO Campaign (many moons ago now) I seem to remember spending hours (literally hours) submitting my site to a gazillion directories. Some were OK, and I would even go so far as to say I would use them again today. Some, however were absolutely diabolical.


What do you look for in a good directory then? I hear you ask – and because I am feeling generous I’ll let you in on a few little secrets I’ve picked up the hard way…

1. Is the directory relevant? At the very least it should have a relevant category.

2. Does the directory provide SEO friendly links (by this I mean, make sure the links aren’t PHP forwarders or other such uselessness)?

3. Is the directory active?

4. Look at the page you want to link from. Does it have a lot of other links? – The fewer the links the better.

5. What is the PageRank of the directory?

6. Are the links Follow or Nofollow (not that Nofollow links should always be discounted, but, if the site asks for an administration fee, then bear this in mind)

This seems a good place to add in a comment on Kaspar Szymanski’s blog that caught my eye:

Zack Pike said… “Kaspar – Very relevant article. I lead the SEO strategy for a Fortune 200 company and I get cold calls on quick turn linkbuilding all of the time, it gets especially frustrating when someone above my pay level catches wind of “linkbuilding” and how this “great” new strategy can get you to the top of Google. It takes a lot of time educating my internal stakeholders that the key to generating quality links, that are going to have any effect, is great content and interaction with our consumers and KOLs online. I’m glad you wrote this post so I can reference it in my presentations… Straight from the source. Thanks!”

Kaspar Szymanski goes on to say in his blog post that your site’s content is extremely important to gain quality backlinks through natural processes. Well, I tend to agree with him, and this is why I say that link building isn’t easy.

To continually come up with unique and interesting content for your site is an ongoing and arduous task. It’s important to weigh up the value a page one listing will have over the time you spend on this task. If you know that the time spent on such things is worthwhile, then invest your efforts there. If it’s not going to make commercial sense, then look to other online marketing activities such as email marketing or PPC Advertising and invest your time and money there instead.

But, this isn’t the place for such discussions. We’re a SEO blog, and SEO is what we’re all about. So… if you have decided that it’s worth your while developing your content, then look outside the box. There are many forms of content besides plain old text, though text is still extremely important (and will remain so for as long as Google uses text as fodder).

Think about including a web video on your pages. This will add value to your users, can increase the time spent on-site (I think this is a Ranking Factor), and generally get you noticed. If you employ Video Optimization techniques, then your videos will even start to appear in the SERPs and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that videos are much more likely to get clicked than text. You’ll also find that your videos will get distributed and linked to by others within your community.

I would say, if it’s a lasting effect you are after then humor will have its down side. The benefits are often short-lived. You will get a spike in traffic, but it will always remain just that – a spike. For lasting results, add something your users will want to return to regularly and will find useful in the future.

Kaspar also talks about Social Media. I have to confess, this is an area that I feel a little out of my depth, however, with a strategy behind it, I think it can be very powerful. It’s just about leveraging what you want from it (like pretty much everything else in life, eh?). His tip of making sure you provide a link to Twitter or Facebook is a great and simple one to implement. It’s just about making it easy for non-techy folk to share online content.

Finally – Look at your competitors’ SEO – where have they got links from? Could you get links from similar industries? If it works for them, it could well work for you too. Don’t copy, obviously, but use your competitors for ideas. You never know where it may lead.


Written by Amelia Vargo, SEO Consultant for Creare; experts in Web Design and SEO.

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