Link Building Starts at Home

  |  June 18, 2008   |  Comments

Several link-building tactics that require attention. First in a series.

If we break natural SEO (define) down to its simplest constructs, there are three fundamental pillars required to support a foundation for building an optimal SEM (define) strategy.

The first pillar consists of the Web site's overall architecture and programmatic support. The second pillar is formed from the themes contained within the Web site's content. The third, and inevitably the most complex pillar to construct, consists of internal and external links.

Just like a building's foundation, these three pillars of search don't provide support for the entire structure of your optimization strategy independently of each other. Together, however, they can bear a heavy load of opportunities for improving your Web site's overall search engine visibility.

Starter Home

Link building is always a hot topic in SEO forums and social media venues, on blog posts and blog comments, and at specific sessions presented at nearly any online marketing conference. Link building is so challenging that opportunities for almost any Web entity are nearly evergreen.

Link building starts within your Web site, not without. Link building starts at your homepage.

In "Canonicalization Made Simple," I discussed how important it is to canonicalize your Web site in unto its singular self. If you don't canonicalize to one version of your Web site -- be it www or not -- then you're leaving your site open to potentially fracture its link love.

Google has gotten much smarter about how it aggregates inbound links to the homepage in particular. But not all engines are as bright as Google. So do yourself a favor and canonicalize your site structure as much as possible. Begin with the homepage and stay consistent with how you link to the homepage throughout your Web site. When it comes to canonicalization, consistency is king, and inbound links to a consistent homepage URL helps the engines figure out which URLs to display in their search results.

House Rules

If successful link building is all about increasing the number of high-quality, topically pertinent inbound links to a Web page in order to raise its visibility in search engine results for specific keywords and phrases, then there are several link-building tactics that require particular attention.

Internal link building tactics include:

  1. Serving up seemingly static hierarchical URL structures.

  2. Consistently crawlable, keyword-rich navigation.

  3. Optimal use of CSS (define).

  4. Limited use of JavaScript, Flash, and AJAX (define) or extended use of alternatives.

  5. Text embellished images.

  6. Audio and video landing pages.

  7. Use of alternative navigation schemes such as bread crumbs, pagination constructs, and tag clouds, etc.

  8. A site map.

Let's start with providing seemingly static hierarchical URL structures that will naturally lend themselves to being highly crawlable and ideally keyword rich. A couple of examples should suffice.

  • Suboptimal Category URL:

  • Optimal Category URL:

  • Suboptimal Subcategory URL:

  • Optimal Subcategory URL:

  • Suboptimal Product URL:
    cabelas plexi rod&cm_ite=netcon

  • Optimal Product URL:

Yes, the suboptimal URLs constructs are real. Only the domain names have been changed to protect the ignorant innocent. Yes, the optimal URLs are rewrites. (I probably should have mentioned that sooner.) If you don't know how to rewrite dynamic URLs to their static equivalents, then nearly all external link-building opportunities will be fragmented at best.

Yes, it's significant to have important pages proximate to the root domain. If you have to trade off keyword richness for root domain proximity, I'd say that's an adequate deal. Either way, the optimal URL constructs as exemplified are certifiably crawlable and therefore readily linkable, assuming that your content is worthy of inbound links.

As for crafting optimal CSS, your best bet is to visit the "CSS Zen Garden" and ask yourself if you want your navigational links to be visible to search engine spiders, or if you want to dump keyword-theme-diluting unlinked words on the page?

If the answer is yes, you want your Web site's navigational links to be visible to search engine spiders then you'll need to craft your CSS in an optimal manner -- one that allows spiders and users to crawl and experience the logical linking hierarchy of your Web site. Zen Garden is an example of just how pretty and pliable optimal use of CSS can be.

If the answer is no, then you must have a one-page Web site or log-in landing page on your hands. Why are you worried about link building? You've got one URL. That's a pretty straightforward proposition.

To be Continued...

I hope you're getting some good ideas about how and why link building begins at home. We'll talk about other link building matters when JavaScript, Flash, and AJAX are in play when we next meet. Until then, happy linking.

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P.J. Fusco

P.J. Fusco has been working in the Internet industry since 1996 when she developed her first SEM service while acting as general manager for a regional ISP. She was the SEO manager for Jupitermedia and has performed as the SEM manager for an international health and beauty dot-com corporation generating more than $1 billion a year in e-commerce sales. Today, she is director for natural search for Netconcepts, a cutting-edge SEO firm with offices in Madison, WI, and Auckland, New Zealand.

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