If you’ve completed everything else we’ve discussed this week, you’ll have mapped your website, assigned search terms to pages and focused the pages on those search terms. That’s the key work in setting up your website to be as good as it can be. Now comes the final – and hardest – part. It’s a job you’ll never “complete”, it’s an ongoing task which will continue to reap rewards. It’s called link-building.
Imagine Google finds two pages on the web about blue widgets, one on your site, and one on the government’s site. Google’s job is to work out which is the most important of the two sites to most web searchers, and to put that at the top of its results. So which is the most important site? Google isn’t a human, able to make some sort of complex subjective decision based on its life experience. What it does is to survey what humans think. And how does it do this? By seeing how many other websites link to the two.
The chances are that over time, more people – on their own websites, on social media, wherever – will have linked to the government’s web page about blue widgets than will have linked to yours. So in this case, you’ll be in second place. But if your competition is another supplier of blue widgets, there’s every chance that you might have more external links than they will. It’s your job now to make that happen.
For each page on your site, especially the important ones, you need to encourage (or set up) links from other sites. Any link is good, although if you get the chance, links like we discussed yesterday (with the key search term as the anchor text) are really good. The “quality” of the linking site is also important, so a link from (say) a main page on a government site will be worth many times that of a link in a signature on an obscure chat room. However, with no external links, your page will usually trail a long way behind any from competitors which do have external links. Remember, there’s no trickery involved here: Google is just trying to measure what the rest of the web thinks about your page (and your site), and it uses links as its currency.
There are dozens of smart ways to get other sites to link to you. On our Insider Programme we give members a whole sheet of ideas. Create your own external links, by finding articles on blogs about the topics concerned, and adding a useful response which also happens to link to one of your pages as a source of more information. Or get in touch with the owners of other sites. Publications, trade associations, suppliers …there are all sorts of people you can approach. However, in most cases (especially the important ones), it’s your knowledge of the market, and your contacts, which will make things happen. That’s why external SEO consultants need so much time (and money) to do a good job, because they have to learn all this.
Link-building is a never-ending job, and it’s a difficult one. Many companies – probably most companies – conveniently abort the project at this stage, because it seems too much like hard work. But I’d say you’re less than 50% of the way there until you start link-building. Those competitors you keep coming across in the Google results? They’ve been working on it, some for a long time. But you can catch them up rapidly.