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March 11, 2009

SEO – A Non-Spammy, Natural Linking Strategy

Despite there being over 200 parameters taken into account by search engines when ranking sites, one of the most popular facets of search engine optimisation (or SEO) continues to be linking.

However, this article isn’t about non-spammy content, it is about non-spammy linking strategies. Yes, although linking has fast become an industry whereby directories have popped up everywhere and links are put in footers, headers, background color, or a myriad of other disguised ways, there is still a non-spammy way to do links. Whats more, my history shows that this way works better for your ranking over the long term as well.

Before we get started, a very brief introduction for those newly initiated into the world of SEO. The bottom line is this – Google will recommend your site, if others recommend it first. This means, to get high rankings in Google, Google needs to know that others find your site useful. How does a search spider know what people think about your site? Links. If people are linking through to your site, the Google spider will think your site is well liked. If relevant sites are linking through to you, this is even better, because Google will consider you to be an authority on this topic.

So, how do you go about getting the nice mix of links that Google might consider appropriate? Well, you can just dive in and submit your site everywhere you can think of. Or you can take the longer, more well thought-out way around…

  1. Before you even start – look at who your client is. What is and isn’t going to be effective for them? Where and where wouldn’t they want to be seen? You need to know exactly what the limitations of your link building strategy are going to be. For example, if you have a government body as a client, you are going to have to think VERY conservatively. Similarly for national brands or straightlace industries like insurance. On the other hand, start ups, media and online retail might be more willing to take risks. You need to note all this down, and make a memo of what kind of strategy you will be following. This is particularly important if you are sharing this client work with others.
  2. Similar to point 1, point 2 is about relevancy. you don’t want to damage your brand image for some basically worthless links, so make sure all your links are on topic in some way. Its best for your SEO and it is best for your brand. The effect of directory links seems to be negligible these days, so you might want to consider if this is worth your time. In content links however are much more valuable.
  3. Assigning the work. Link building is often assigned to junior staff, or as a starting task. Now, sure, it might seem like brainless work – but if your junior gets an irrelevant or inappropriate link for your client, and your client or a competitor sees it, you will have a lot of explaining to do. Make sure that the person doing your links has some experience or good training, and most importantly, that they have read your client memo.
  4. Now, in the interests of corporate knowledge and continuity, it is also recommended that you keep good records of every link you do for your client. No, not so you can copy this strategy for the next client (see point 1.- client suitability!), but so that you can go back and see what has worked and what hasn’t. Going hand in hand with this is the obvious monitoring of rankings to see how your efforts are affecting them.
  5. Step 4 will help you with step 5. Evolution. You can’t just get links and then stop. You need to constantly increase, improve and diversify your sources of links. This takes creativity and experience, and is yet ANOTHER reason why the most junior people in your organisation shouldn’t always be given linking to do. As part of evolution you need to monitor your progress, learn more about your client and keep up with their latest developments (look for linking opportunities), and also keep on top of general SEO industry developments.

This is the general overview of how a linking strategy should be undertaken. Sure it is a lot more complicated than just submitting your site to link farms, or sending out a mass email, but SEO is about having the edge over your competitor, and these steps will help you get there. Website Marketing is an increasingly popular and competitive form of marketing, you need to make sure you are keeping up with the Jones’s not just looking for the fast or easy route.

If this advice is too vague for you, here are some more specific do’s and don’ts:

Do use relevent anchor text, which helps Google to know what exactly it is you are an expert about.Don’t use ‘click here’ as your link – ever! * Don’t forget to check if a site you are trying to link from is nofollow’ed * Do try to diversify your links – 100 links from one site isn’t the same as 100 different links * Don’t use irrelevant links – Google can spot this a mile off, and may penalise you. Also, it just doesn’t look good if you want to retain some dignity for your brand * Do try and generate buzz with good content so that links will come to you naturally * Don’t undertake any paid links without thinking very very carefully about the implications * Do contribute valuable content/comments/reviews to other sites, with relevant links embedded * Don’t try and contribute spammy content with embedded links that aren’t relevant. Your content will either get blocked, or Google will devalue the links. * Do think laterally – always be on the look out for good, relevant, linking opportunities. There are opportunities out there if you remember to keep thinking, developing and diversifying.

This article was written by Tracy Mu Sung for MooMu Media, the search engine marketing experts. MooMu Media provides search engine optimisation, PPC marketing and web analytics advice. MooMu’s clients include multinational companies including professional services, online retail and digital media.