Controlling Your Links for SEO - dummies

Controlling Your Links for SEO

By Peter Kent

Before you run off to look for links to improve your search ranking, think about what you want those links to say. Keywords in links are tremendously important. The position of a page in the search engines depends not only on the text within that page, but also on text on other pages that refer to that page — that is, the text in the links. In fact, even a link from a low PageRank page can bring real value, if it has good keywords in it.

Converting good links to bad

For instance, suppose your rodent-racing company is called Robertson Ellington. (These were the names of your first two racing rats, and they still have a special place in your heart. And you’ve always felt that the name has a distinguished ring to it.) You could ask people to give you links like this:

Robertson Ellington

Everything you ever wanted to know about rodent racing — rodent-racing schedules, directions to rodent-racing tracks, rodent-racing clubs, and anything else you can imagine related to rodent racing.

You got a few useful keywords into the description, but the text in the link itself (known as the anchor text) — Robertson Ellington — is the problem. The link text contains no keywords that count. Are people searching for Robertson Ellington, or are they searching for rodent racing?

A better strategy is to change the link to include keywords. Keep the blurb below the link, but change the link to something like this:

Rodent Racing — rats, stoats, mice, and all sorts of other rodent racing

The perfect link text

Here are some strategies for creating link (or anchor) text:

  • Start the link with the primary keyword or keyword phrase.

  • Add a few other keywords if you want.

  • Perhaps repeat the primary keyword or keyword phrase once in the link.

You need to control the links as much as possible. You can do this a number of ways, but you won’t always be successful:

  • Some sites provide Link to Uspages in their websites. If this makes sense for your site (it’s a site that lots of people are going to want to link to) provide suggested links to your site — include the entire HTML tag so people can grab the information and drop it into their sites.

    Remember that although links on logos and image buttons may be pretty, they don’t help you in the search engines as much as text links do. You can add ALT text to the image, but ALT text is probably not as valuable as link text. Some site owners now distribute HTML code that creates not only image links but also small text links right below the images.

  • When you contact people and ask them for links, provide them with the actual link you’d like to use.

  • As soon as someone tells you she has placed a link, check it to see whether the link says what you want. Immediately contact that person if it doesn’t. She is more likely to change the link at that point than weeks or months later.

  • Use a link-checking tool occasionally to find out who is linking to you and to see how the link appears. If necessary, contact the other party and ask whether the link can be changed.

Whenever possible, you should define what a link pointing to your site looks like, rather than leave it up to the person who owns the other site. Of course, you can’t force someone to create links the way you want, but sometimes if you ask nicely … .

Always use the www. portion of your URL when creating links to your site: http://www.yourdomain.com and not just http://yourdomain.com. Search engines regard the two addresses as different, even though in most cases they are actually pointing to the same page. So if you use both URLs, you are, in effect, splitting the vote for your website. Search engines will see a lower link popularity.

Many sites use a 301 Redirect to point domain.com to the www.domain.com form. For instance, type google.com into your browser’s Location bar and press Enter. Where do you go? You go to www.google.com because Google’s server admins have “301’d” google.com to www.google.com.

If you want to do this on your site, search for the term 301 redirect for instructions. Also, the Google webmaster console provides a way for you to tell Google to use www.yourdomain.com as the primary address for your site; select Site Settings on the Settings menu and you see the following option buttons:

  • Don’t set a preferred domain

  • Display urls as www.yourdomain.com

  • Display urls as yourdomain.com

You want the middle option, of course. The Google Help text says that “If you specify your preferred domain as http://www.example.com and we find a link to your site that is formatted as http://example.com, we follow that link as http://www.example.com instead.”

Google does provide information about links to websites in another way; the associated Google webmaster account. However, this is only information for the sites over which you have control. You can’t get information about competing sites, which is often very useful; you can find out how your competitors are beating you, and perhaps beat them at their own game.