You’ve caught me in the middle of a series entitled “SEO for True Beginners.” So far, we’ve covered writing content for human beings, identifying and placing your keywords, using images and formatting text, and updating your web site frequently and consistently with blogging. In this post, we’ll be covering links — internal, outbound, and inbound — and how they impact your search results.
Links are imperative to search engine optimization because spiders follow links from one page to another, from one site to another. Therefore if nothing links to the site or page you are optimizing, the search engine spiders are not going to find it. It won’t be indexed nor will it appear in search results. Bummer, huh?
Let’s start with your web site and work outward. Internal links link from one page of your site to another. They allow your readers to find and read other content on your site, and they allow spiders to find and index additional pages on your site. Where do they go? I incorporate my internal links into my regular content. For example, in the opening paragraph of this post, I linked to the previous posts in this blog series.
If you want every page on your site to be found and indexed by a search engine spider, you need to link to every page on your site. If you don’t want to do the manual labor that this involves — and who does? — I recommend installing the Google XML Sitemaps WordPress plugin. This plugin will generate a site map that includes a link to every page on your web site. (From there, I recommend using Google Webmaster Tools and adding the sitemap.xml file to your web site’s information.)
In addition to internal links, your content should include outbound links — those links that begin at your site and go to another. Though they don’t necessarily add to the SEO value of your site, they are good SEO karma. In other words, if you do something nice by linking to another web site, someone will likely link back to you. This is especially true in the blogosphere; there is a sort of unwritten rule — an etiquette of sorts — that if you link to someone, they should link back to you. But if you’re still a small potatoes blogger and you link to a big dog blogger, don’t expect a link back.
So who or what should you link to? Use your common sense. Link to companies and web sites you mention by name. Link to big dog bloggers. Link to other small potato bloggers (you’re more likely to get a link back from them). Link to articles you find resourceful. Throw in an Easter egg every once in a while, and link to something cheeky. Whatever you link to, make sure it’s worth your readers’ time. Don’t link to utter crap.
The last kind of link — inbound links — are the trickiest because they start at another site and link to your site. When it comes to SEO, these links are the most valuable. And guess what. You don’t exactly have control over them; inbound links are up to other people. That’s why they’re so valuable. A link from one web site to yours tells the spiders that someone besides the site owner found your web site useful. The more links you get to your web site, the higher your site will fall in search results. It’s a popularity contest — just like high school.
Inbound linking is so valuable yet so tricky that whole companies exist to help with inbound marketing, so instead of writing the book on generating inbound links, I’m sending you to Hubspot.com and Heligonix.com. These two companies are experts on the matter of inbound marketing. To get you started on generating inbound links, share your content via social media, comment on other blogs, submit your site to industry directories, and become a resource on industry forums.
A Few More Linking Tips
Before I wrap up, two more tips for creating links:
- Use keywords for link text. This gives context to both your readers and the spiders. Don’t use ‘click here’ or similar phrases when creating links.
- Add a title attribute. The HTML of a link looks like this: <a title=”Format Your Text | SEO for True Beginners” href=”http://austincreative.co/format-your-text-seo-for-true-beginners/”> Adding a title creates hover text to your link. Use keywords in the title to give context to your readers and the spiders.
Phew! Who knew that linking was so important to SEO, right? Thanks for sticking with me. Tomorrow we’ll wrap up this series with some best SEO practices. Hope you’ll join me!
Read the entire “SEO for True Beginners” series:
- SEO for True Beginners | An Introduction
- Write Content for Human Beings
- Know Thy Keywords
- Place Keywords Strategically
- Optimize Your Images
- Format Your Text
- Update Frequently and Consistently
- Link Judiciously
- Best Practices