The Answer Is… LINKS!
Many people have asked me: “What’s the most important metric for Google rankings?” Well, there have been many case studies that others, myself included, have done to figure this out. The answer – which has been the same for years and will continue for long into the foreseeable future – LINKS!
Realize that no amount of technical SEO (schema markup, meta tags, keyword density, content length, mobile responsiveness, URL structure etc…) on your page is going to rank you for more than a few low competition searches – which usually aren’t worth competing over – without LINKS (which is why the bulk of my SEO efforts for clients involves awesome content marketing). From my own testing, I know that you can rank for just about any keyword with links ALONE – even if the keyword doesn’t appear on your entire webpage – it just takes longer for Google to realize what your page is about. Surprised? Well it makes sense, Google can determine a lot from a link: where it’s coming from, what text the link is using, what topic of content the link was in, where the link was placed, when it was placed and so on… knowing this Google starts to understand that your webpage is an important resource for certain keywords and you can rank for things that aren’t even on your page!
Not too long ago, when Google introduced links as the main ranking factor for their search results, it was possible to rank for ultra-competitive keywords like “Make money online” with massive amounts of spammy, crap links. Directory spamming, Blog networks, Russian hacked links, and many other techniques that tricked Google into thinking the website was super popular and needed to be placed at the top for more customers to see. People made a ton of money doing this.
Obviously, this was a problem for Google as they could not ensure the very best results were actually showing up at the top and so they began patching their algorithm – called the “Panda Update” – to catch and penalise any websites that tried to abuse link building campaigns that tried to “cheat” the search results. Google intelligently found ways to help differentiate which websites were receiving genuine links and those that were not, and they’ve gotten quite good at it. It is now very difficult to get away with, or be rewarded for using manipulative links.
**To those of you who are quick to the take will understand that this created a new weapon to harm other businesses. My industry calls it “Negative SEO,” which means using these malpractices intentionally on a competitor site to have them penalised and wiped off Google. I’ll talk more about this and how to protect your website from it in another post.
The right way to build links is tedious but has big advantages. Anything from making a good comment on an industry blog, making content to be included in a link roundup, creating new resources for companies to share, infographics, the list goes on and it can get very creative. The truth is this… if you want to dominate search, you’re going to have to dominate content, and that takes time, effort and expertise in creating effective resources. Does that sound like something fun? Well, most of the fun comes from the results (I handle the time, effort, and the many years learning and testing this stuff for you).
So How Do We Properly Get Links?
I love practicality, so I want to leave you with one practical strategy you can use today to get a quality link for your webpage for FREE.
For this strategy, we’re going to be focusing on getting a link to your piece of content from a relevant forum.
We want to confirm 3 things:
- The forum is active
- The forum is relevant to your content
- The forum is worth getting a link from
Let’s start by finding the forums to look at. To do this, we’ll be using a search operator on Google. Type your keyword with one of the search operators below into the search bar.
A few search operators to choose from are written below. These operators ensure all of the results we see are actively accepting comments, or are open to having content provided for them. Note that many websites that have not accepted any comments likely never will, save your time and target the ones that are active!
- “powered by Fireboard”
- “powered by lp.board”
- “powered by phpbb”
- “powered by phpbb3”
Example: Plumbing “forum”
Step 2. Confirm
Now that we have some search results, we want to click on each result and check for if the forum is relevant to your content and is active. Check to see if there are daily forum posts, if not, move on to the next forum until you find one that fits.
Step 3. Sign Up
Now that we have our forum that relates to our content and has daily activity, we’re going to sign up for the forum and activate the account. Record the login information for later.
Step 4. Finding the Thread
To make the most of our link, we’ll need to find the best threads to leave it on and comment in a way that naturally drives traffic to your content.
Let’s use a plumber as an example again, and we have a resource on preventing leaks. We would look for the search bar of the forum and search for a “preventing leaks” thread. If it doesn’t turn anything up, try related keywords.
For a backup method we’ll be using Google to help us. Type in the search bellow with the forum URL replacing forum.com.
- site:forum.com “preventing leaks”
This search will find where your keyword appears on the entire forum and will help us pin down a thread that we can post on.
Step 5: Dropping the Link
Try your best to find a few threads that are relevant to the content you want to promote and start reading the thread, understand what they’re talking about and what they want.
Leave a well thought out response in well written, perfect English (at LEAST 100 words) and at the end leave a link to the piece of content.
Make absolutely sure you frame the link correctly and don’t spam the thread!
Here is an example:
I think you’ve got a great start – the key to tightening the nut properly is to ensure it is tight enough to stay in place for years, but loose enough that it doesn’t damage the teeth and jam it in place. I think the biggest mistake most people make is trying to make it far too tight, and later when there’s a clog, or they accidentally drop their ring down the sink, they can’t undo the seal without cracking the pipe, thus creating a leak.
If your hand hurts while turning the wrench, you’re probably doing it too hard.
Here’s a really good piece on getting this set up without causing future leaks:
[Link to content about leak prevention]
Annnnnd BOOM! You just earned yourself a quality link to your website. Bravo!
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