Link-Building’s Not All About Search
At the Search Engine Strategies Conference in NYC this year, I encountered no shortage of opinions about the importance of inbound links. By and large, SMs and other industry folks agree that if you get links based on the merit of your site (that is to say, without having to pay for them), search engines see it as a testimony of your site’s quality and credibility and will reward you with better placement on the all-important SERPs.
A colleague of mine, Carolyn March, blogged about the importance of inbound links earlier in April where she pointed us to three very helpful articles on topics ranging from how and where to get links to making sure you get quality links.
You’ll find no argument here against the necessity of inbound links, especially since we know inbound links figure into search engine’s ranking algorithms. Instead, I’d like to devote some space to underscoring the symbiotic nature of link-building, especially when it comes to brand support and increasing your customer base.
- Need a Readership Boost? While increasing search traffic is crucial, most sites would also trip over themselves to bolster their site’s regular readership. Inbound links from good, reputable sites give your site credibility, not just in a search engine’s eyes but in a customer’s as well. Especially if your website is new or your brand isn’t well known, you need help getting exposure. Link-building is an easy, cost-effective method for drawing in new readers.
- Never Forget the Customer. It’s hard sometimes to remember we build websites for people, not search engines. That said, request inbound links from sites whose readership would find value in visiting your site. They’re the ones most likely to stay, revisit and, most importantly, transact.
- No Site Exists on an Island. The fear that outbound links give your readers portals to leave your site will always be there. However, if your product’s good, readers will return. And as far as search engines go, Randfish made a terrific defense for linking out in his February 24 blog entry, “5 Reasons You Should Link Out to Others from Your Website.”
- You Are the Company You Keep. Want to create a positive, confident brand image? Get quality sites to link to you and, just as important, link to quality sites. Your site’s readers DO pay attention to your outbound links, so give them easy access to important and interesting information. In case you’re curious, search engines pay attention to your links, too.
- Not a Numbers Game. Building on #4, the number of inbound or outbound links you have isn’t as nearly important as the quality of those links. There’s no magic number, but like Grandma Hall used to say, “You’ll do better with a few really good friends than a whole mess of sketchy ones.”