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Not All Inbound Links Are Created Equally

SEO results It is true that inbound links to your website are a good thing and we can be pretty sure that certain universal principles apply, such as:

  • Back links will increase your search engine rankings and get you more traffic.
  • Link Popularity is a measure that search engines use to determine page rankings.
  • Search engines typically view back links as "votes of confidence," depending upon the nature of the links.
  • Search engines typically view relevant back links as one of the more important factors in increasing a page's ranking in its SERPs (search engine results pages).

Google especially is very fussy when it comes to doling out value for back links to a website. That wasn't always the case. When Google first introduced its link share algorithm, SEO's promptly jumped all over it, creating link farms and directory free for alls that got great results for a lot of spammy sites. Then came "Google bombs," prime (and often funny) examples of link share manipulation. So, link share had to be redefined in terms of how links were evaluated.

This redefinition process led to the current state where we find that not all back links are created equally. The number of back links determines link popularity, a.k.a. link share. But numbers alone do not determine page ranking. The quality of links has become more important than just the number of links:

  • Reciprocal links are not as valuable as one-way links.
  • Topical links are links that are coming back from other sites within the same industry or vertical. These are valuable. A topical link is considered to be a vote of confidence for your site. It is also called a "relevant link." Normally, you can't buy these links.
  • Topical links from established, trusted sites are even better. Established sites typically have a Google Page Rank (PR) and are considered as "authority sites." One link back to your site from CNN, for example, could be worth 1000 links from other sites.

To those clients who clamour for that instant success and to skyrocket to number 1, I tell them all they need is a good link from CNN or one minute on Oprah - instant fame, instant traffic and a real boost to their rankings. For CNN, all you have to be is really bad news and for Oprah you just need some kind of celebrity status, I suppose. And although there seems to be a lot of bad news celebrities out there, most of us really don't fit that description. So, what can you do? The short answer — plenty!

We know that building back links is important to improving site ranking. We also know that free for all, directory links are not given much weight because they are not relevant. So, how do we build relevant topical links within a particular vertical?

Business Directories:

  • Find directories that are relevant to your business. For example, realtors may want to list in (a paid service similar to
  • Choose only directories that have a page ranking.
  • Choose one way links rather than reciprocal links.
  • One way to find industry specific directories is to type into a search: your industry or business category + directory. For example, "realtor + directory," "lenders + directory," "roofing + directory," etc.

Exchanging Links:

  • Exchange links with people you do business with, such as manufacturers, suppliers, etc.

Association Links:

  • Get listed as a member of an association or organization that is specific to your industry.

Most important of all: make your site as relevant to your industry as possible.

  • Create content that others will find useful.
  • Create content that is interesting.
  • Create content that is unique.
  • Create content that is entertaining.
  • Create content that stands out.
  • In short, create content that is relevant and inviting enough for people to want to share it with others by linking to your pages.

Content is everything. The nature of your content depends upon the nature of your industry. The goal is to create content that is relevant, interesting and timely. Update your content regularly. Some examples of content include:

  • Newsletters — weekly, monthly offerings on what's new, what's hot, promotions, etc.
  • Periodic articles — weekly or monthly continuations on a topic.
  • Authoritative articles — become an expert in your field.
  • Hints & Tips — people are always seeking advice.
  • Reports — what are the latest statistics, market trends, etc?
  • Updated listings — daily, weekly, monthly changes to industry information. Real estate, market information, fashion trends, or any industry that is constantly changing are good examples.