Link development is one of the most overlooked components of a successful SEO (define) campaign. Web site owners can put all the keywords they wish on a page and develop a search-engine friendly navigation scheme. But without a well-planned link-development campaign, search engine visibility is short term.
Today, some tips and guidelines on creating and maintaining a successful link-development campaign.
What’s Link Popularity?
Link popularity is the number and quality of links pointing to a single URL. A site’s home page usually has the highest link popularity because site owners tend to link to home pages rather than deeper content.
Click-through popularity used to a measure the number of clicks to a URL and how long a visitor stayed on a site after she clicked from an SERP (define). If she clicked on an SERP link and continued to view the site, she found the information she searched for and didn’t need to return to the SERP to view other Web sites. However, if she clicked on an SERP link and quickly returned to the SERP, she didn’t find the information she searched.
Due to the rise in click fraud, click-through popularity is now a less important factor in determining a page’s relevancy. Now, when a search engine marketer (SEM) refers to link popularity, he means the number and quality of links pointing to a URL, not click-through popularity.
Why Link Development Is Important
As I wrote previously, the building blocks of a successful SEO program are:
Copywriting, site design, and information architecture are easily imitated. Often, imitation is a copyright violation and technically illegal. That hasn’t stopped a number of search engine marketing firms from doing it. Cloaking (define) often hides copyright infringement.
Enter Google. The company adds another component to the SEO puzzle: link development. Now, not only must Web site owners place keyword phrases on their pages and allow search engine spiders access to that text, end users must actually find the information on the site to be useful and helpful.
What I particularly like about the link development concept is sites of all sizes have difficulty maintaining search engine visibility unless they’re useful. In reality, no one searches for ads.
When other site owners link to your site, they consider your content important. Likewise, search engines will consider your content important because human beings, not software programs, link to your site’s content.
Rise of Free-for-All Link Farms
Link development can be very difficult to imitate. Sure, a resourceful software engineer can create artificial links and imitate them many times over. Getting multiple, identical links from a reputable news source is difficult.
And if link development is identical, or nearly identical, on two unrelated sites? That’s often a red flag, indicating the link popularity stems from link farms.
Unethical SEMs purchase keyword-rich domains for the sole purpose of developing link farms. They often cloak the domains’ content to hide the gibberish from their unknowing clients. They also purchase expired domains that already have link development, hoping human directory editors (at Yahoo, Open Directory, etc.) won’t notice.
Unfortunately, sometimes link spam works. Directory editors are overwhelmed with the number of sites they must maintain in their categories. Savvy but unethical SEMs realize a site won’t be penalized for the links pointing to it (no one controls how other sites link to you). So SEMs create link farms and ensure clients don’t link to the farm sites.
Search engine software engineers always look for spam tactics. When a new company purchases a domain name, Google automatically resets the PageRank to zero. In addition, when a software engineer discovers a link farm, all the domains in the link farm are banned. Result? Link popularity vanishes.
Link Development Tips
Link development is essential to a successful SEO campaign. The main disadvantage is it takes time, whereas paid search advertising (in Google, Overture, FindWhat, etc.) results are nearly instantaneous.
Link development’s main advantage is dynamic, cumulative, and difficult to imitate. Many sites maintain search engine visibility and the resulting qualified traffic because of successful link development, not just based on the number of keywords on a page.
Some link development tactics we commonly use:
Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.
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Shari Thurow is the founder and SEO director at Omni Marketing Interactive, a full-service search engine marketing, Web, and graphic design firm. Acknowledged as a leading expert on search engine friendly Web sites worldwide, she is the author of the top-selling marketing book, "Search Engine Visibility," published through Peachpit Press. Shari's areas of expertise include site design, search engine optimization, and usability.
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