Building Links, Linking Builds

Posted by on Apr 7, 2012 in Search Engine Optimization

Links as a way of life

It is not a far reaching statement to say that link building makes up 60 – 75% of the process of Search Engine Optimization of a web site. The reason for this is the fact that links on social networks and supplier sites generate quality, viable, cost effective traffic.

Link building is the process of establishing links on unassociated web sites, social media outlets, blogs or other Internet locations with the purpose of driving qualified traffic to your site. Although we say “unassociated” web sites, they should be in some related field to your business.

If your site were designed to sale or promote coffee cups, links that could be designed for the site would be:

  • Office social groups
  • Coffee distribution centers and manufacturers
  • Retail locations selling your product
  • Companies that supply your materials
  • Corporate affiliations or partners

In link building, web links to your site are placed in prominent locations on pages or in resources sections. With most link building relationships, there is no cost or obligations on either side. There are organizations or companies that specialize in only doing link building but out of the multitude of these companies there are only few doing link building ethically, often referred to as ‘white hat.’ In part of the cost paid to these companies they may actually pay companies to put links on their sites. Many popular search engines penalize web sites for doing paid link exchanges, if they find out.

Anytime a link is added, it should be on a site or social environment in which the topic or focus is in an aspect related to your product and/or services. Links promote a site’s resource value to the search engines and give relevance to the site’s authority. As more effective links are built, search engines relate more traffic to the keywords and targets associated with the link. Simply put, if a link to your site is put into an authoritative article related to your field, more traffic will typically be generated by it.

The opposite is possible as well. If a link is added to a web article or blog concerned with a topic no way related to your profession, product or service, search engines may penalize your site’s ranking and the link will obviously be clicked on by users disinterested in your product. The true and honest purpose of link building is to increase consumer confidence in you; by placing links in quality locations or sites that support your objectives, processes, values and purposes.

Matt Cutts

Matt Cutts – Head of Google’s Webspam Team (photo credit: Ken Yeung)

Google uses more than 100 different factors, including the PageRank algorithm, to determine whether a site is trusted or reputable. If you think of the internet as a democracy, a web page that links to another page is “voting” for the value of the page. PageRank interprets a link from Page A to Page B as a vote for Page B by Page A. PageRank then assesses a page’s importance by the number of votes it receives. But that’s not the end of the story. If Page A itself has more votes from other pages, the vote carries more weight. Or to put it another way, if more people trust your site, your trust is more valuable.

c/o Google Librarian Central at (2009)

Link Structure & Architecture

What this title refers to is the layout and value designed into the links, internal and external, of links on a web site. When search engine robots index a site, they follow any links on site, unless the link(s) is designated as “no follow” in the syntax of it’s (the link) design. It should be noted that “no follow” links are requests by webmasters and may be ignored by some robots; it’s up to the discretion of the proprietary owner of the robot – say Google or Bing. Link structure affects several parameters concerning the value of a web page. This value is defined as the page rank by most in the industry and Google. By designating what links to follow or not follow when indexing, SEOs can allocate what pages contain the most beneficial information for your visitors and the most valuable pages for you in terms of revenue.

Creating a sales funnel.

Using internal site structures, it is possible to streamline the route your clients, customers and visitors travel. Customizing the route to be straight forward and effective is the end goal of SEO, the ROI that justifies the process. As mentioned earlier, once a visitor reaches the site, we want to take an unknown user and help them convert into a smiling consumer of your goods. In as few clicks as possible.
There are several architectures for managing and designing the way your site functions as a sales funnel and conversion generating tool.

Flat Architecture

Flat architecture is the attempt to reduce the number of levels in your link structure to the bare minimum. In small sites (30-40 pages) this can mean that all pages are linked from the home page. Craigslist is a prime example of a flat architecture in work. Connecting all of the content to the sub-domain homepage.

Flat Architecture

Flat Architecture is good for small sites

Flat architecture is effective in creating visibility to a great deal of content because you can use a known strong page to pass equal link value to a large number of pages. But it also becomes a barrier to growth because it is very dependent on the accumulation of links for the interior pages to hold enough link value to lift pages that are added deeper in the structure. You are expending all possible link juice immediately and hoping for outside sources to support expansion.

Pyramid Structure

Pyramid Structure Focuses on a hierarchy structure as opposed to giving “free” access to most pages right from the start. The Pyramid type of structure works well when you are receiving moderate external linking because it passes value very specifically and provides greater user connectivity than flat architecture.

Pyramid Architecture

The pyramid architecture is useful for keeping 'importance' (aka Juice) on main pages.

The important feature of this scheme is to increase interlinking as the structure becomes deeper. When you bring in external deep links you are looking for that value to primarily be passed into the deeper levels of your architecture, since you already have strong links at the higher levels.

Siloing is building a standard category hierarchy where each branch has a theme. If you need to reference information on your site across a silo you link to the category (theme) head. This creates very powerful category heads that can drive visibility through their branch, but it is a liability for users.

Silo Architecture

Silo File Architecture

You don’t want to frustrate your users, so this silo-archetype is best used by retailers or e-commerce web sites. Also this structure is not particularly applicable unless you have enough content to create a 10-20 page mini-site about the subject, otherwise you have to cross-link extensively and will frustrate users.

Link Value and Page Rank

The use of “nofollow” tags can serve many different purposes. They can be used to limit the amount of link juice that flows out of a page to external pages of different domains, or they can be used to control where the link juice will flow to within a site and its internal pages.

Syntax used in controlling the link value and managing page rank is a simple task of writing:
<a href="" rel="nofollow">This Is A Link</a>

Link Juice Flowing

Remember, link value flows, just like water in a bucket!

A good visual representation of this process is to visualize each page as a bucket. The homepage of your site represents the amount of link “juice” available. The amount of available juice is determined by the number of pages your site contains, the level of relevance of the material, history of the site (how long it has been on the www), amount of authority the internet community places on the site and the value of your optimization.

From all these aspects, your site is given an amount of link juice to divide among the site’s pages. The homepage will retain a large percentage of the value, say about 50%, meaning that each page beyond the homepage has to divide up the rest. This shows why link structure is valuable in search engine ranking. Without a skill to manage the links, a site will waste value on pages that users may never view.

Page Rank as determined by a Search Engine

Although any SEO would love to be in charge of assigning sites page ranks, we aren’t (even if we have been adamant about it with each search agent). Nevertheless, each search engine has its own process for defining the page rank of each and every web page in their databases. It is necessary to remember that every computer or technology functions in binary, the process of page ranking is done through high level algorithms.

The algorithms are mostly proprietary, so they are not letting anyone know exactly how page ranks are determined. But there is good news, we have a good understanding of math!

Page Rank FAQs

Because Google holds the market share of global users searches, most other search engines value their guidelines and so we use them as a rubric.

    1. The fast way to lose PR is to openly sell links on your website. This is officially against Google Webmaster Guidelines for inclusion.
    2. At the moment, the only tangible effect when Google penalizes a site is a reduction of visible Toolbar PR. Many sites that openly manipulated Google SERPS via paid revue blogging and link-selling had their Google PR dramatically reduced in the last quarter of 2007 in Google’s opening salvo in the “war on paid links.”
    3. Toolbar PR has little or no effect on amount of visitors Google will send you. Perhaps this is why bloggers who had PR devalued reported no loss of visitors from Google.
    4. Many Internet Specialists believe Google can’t find all paid links.
    5. It’s accepted that tools that offer a value of Page Rank may be more than a few months out of date.
    6. View any toolbar PR as ‘an indication of the PR of what your site might have been last month.’
    7. To get a higher Page Rank for your domain, you need to get a lot of other pages with PR to link to you.
    8. Page Rank flows, and so can be manipulated, channeled, blocked (with “NoFollow”) and screwed up.
    9. Remember sites don’t have Google Page Rank, pages do. That’s why it’s possible for an internal page to have a higher PR than the home page.
    10. Google looks to be rolling out PR changes month to month.
    11. Sites can go up or down from anywhere. From PR 0 to PR 7 in one update.

The Bottom Line:
Link Power. Link building requires dedication and consistent effort. It is the most difficult, time-consuming and important task an SEO performs to get a website ranked well. Certain strategies are well known to SEO agencies, while others are in the realm of the experts or forward-thinkers who puzzle them out. Link building and on-site architecture are the most valuable and effective ways to make a web site better and a valuable asset to your marketing program.

A. Chris TurnerAbout the Author: Chris Turner is also known as ChocolateSEO. CSEO is Chris' Nashville search marketing and consulting service offering a variety of services to help you, your company and any website maximize web-based marketing opportunities. He is the father of three girls, one boy (finally) and husband to the wonderful Savannah. Join the author's circle: Chris Turner on Google+.