The SEO world has been changing of late, especially since the release of Google’s recent Panda and Penguin updates. One major shift has been in how Google tracks and analyzes internal keyword links on websites and online publications.
Gone are the days when you could just stuff your sites or documents with keyword links which were partially or even totally unrelated to your subject matter. Today, creating effective internal site links has become something of a very precise art form in order to rank high in Google search results, but always the focus must be on creating links that people will naturally want to use to find more information. It’s become a matter of quality versus quantity.
How Google Sees Links
In Google’s view, someone who clicks on a link to a site is “voting” for that site. More “votes” for a site means that lots of people find it valuable which gives it a higher Google ranking. However, the recent updates are all about reducing the amount of spam in the ranking lists, so Google’s algorithm is now consistently checking for unnatural links which, when found, will move a site down in the results list.
Some of the specific areas that Google now tracks include NAP (Network Access Protection), product branding, social media reputations, and anchor text.
Here’s a quick list of unnatural linking that can lower a site’s ranking or remove it from the results altogether.
- Using paid links that match your anchor text word-for-word. Google views this as a linking scheme meant only to improve your keyword ranking and not deliver valuable information to browsers.
- Using exactly-matched signatures or user names when commenting on sites or articles.
- Linking to a low-value site that has closely-matching anchor text but not much good content to offer.
- Creating inbound links from “bad” websites; i.e. those that are known to contain malware or other types of spammy content.
- Inserting irrelevant links: If a page is about the new ford mustang don’t add a link about “Insurance” and think Google won’t catch you.
- Linking keywords you want to rank #1 for when it doesn’t make sense: Don’t link the words “Minneapolis Minnesota Hair Salon” from a blog post to your main website if it doesn’t flow naturally. Google says that is “unnatural” and will penalize you if over 50% of your links contain all of the same anchor text.
If you build natural links, your potential customers reading your content will actual understand it. Since Google now tracks bounce rate, creating a good user experience now helps you in the search engines. This is obviously not a complete list, but it’s a good starting place to repair and improve your search result ranking.
Building Effective Links
As stated above, the way to create effective, Google-approved links is to make them natural. This means using related keyword anchor text to help users navigate to other pages that you have already created about the information. You can also link to an external site IF it is a viable source of information that Google will not see as unnatural.
A good model to follow is Wikipedia. Any page on this site has natural anchor text links that will provide a continuous chain of information on the subject of that page down to whatever level makes sense for the reader.
The blog you’re reading is also a good example of a natural linking strategy. Up to now, we didn’t have a page with information about building natural links, and so we had nowhere to point our readers for internal information on this subject. Now that this page has been created, we can create anchor text that links to this page wherever it makes natural sense to do so, as shown below.
How to ensure natural linking happens?
It is hard to overcome bad habits. Many employees and even SEO companies you hire need to be taught how you want links built. So take 30 minutes and create what I call a “Content Key.” What is a content key? It is a document that anyone promoting your company can refer to when making a decision on how to link to your website.
How do you build one? First you need to gather up local business information so you link to company correctly. Second, you need to gather up all INFORMATIONAL content you have published on and off-site. This includes articles you have published, your blog URL, your social profiles, and helpful sections of your website that people WANT to read.
Why do all this work? Anyone doing “SEO” for you now know has web pages they can talk about. So when they natural mention a word or a phrase they know the page they should link it to. When your employees or SEO team has this information linking happens naturally. Like mentioned above, it also helps you build more pages when you realize you need more resourceful pages built. See an example of part of a content key document I typed up for my content marketing team:
To continue to rank high and keep up with Google, create links that tie in naturally with existing information on your company, your products and services, or the particular information you want to share.