The Past, Present and Future of Links

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You know strong links are important now, but how did they become so valuable to search engine optimization?

wdwc_linksIn the beginning, there were keywords. In the early days of Google, they indexed and ranked pages based on how often they used certain keywords. This system was too easy to game, so Google introduced links as a ranking factor. The idea was that if a page had incoming links from other sites, there must be something worth linking to. Additionally, they used the anchor text — the words that were actually hyperlinked — as a way to identify the topic of the page being linked to.

Links were also part of the motivation to create the now famous PageRank scoring system. PageRank was designed to measure the relevance of a page for a set of keywords on a scale of 1-10. Getting a link from a page with a strong PageRank was more valuable than a link from a page with a low rank, making it much harder for black hat SEOs to game the system.

The PageRank system is still in place today and remains at the core of how search engines rank websites and how webmasters, writers and SEOs create content. As Google refined its search algorithm, a revolution was happening elsewhere on the web that has thrown a wrench in the SEO community: social media.

Social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ create huge numbers of links to websites. These links are almost always considered “no-follow,” meaning they don’t pass PageRank from the linking page to the linked page. They do, however, send traffic to sites, which can be analyzed by Google, thus making them every bit as important as links from other websites. Google is handling more links than ever, but treating them all differently. One thing that has remained consistent is that Google is constantly changing its algorithm to keep everyone honest.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you pursue links today and in the future:

  • Links from reputable sites are still very valuable and will continue to be in the future.
  • Links that are “no-follow” are important because they bring traffic to your site and could attract someone who will eventually link to you from another site.
  • It’s okay to link to other sites from your own site. Yes, you give away some PageRank each time you do, but if sending your visitors elsewhere improves their experience, Google will recognize it and reward you.

In general, linking is a matter of being a good citizen of the Internet. Don’t try to game the system; stick with a strategy that focuses on making your readers want to come back to your site again and again.

Now that you understand the background of links and their importance for your SEO, let’s talk abouta few ways to earn new links for your website.

Engage in Social Media

We’ve established that no-follow links are still valuable, but there is another benefit to social media. Social media websites potentially put your content in front of a new, very engaged audience. Heavy users of social media carry real influence on the web and if they decide to include a link on their blog about you or recommend you to a friend, it can translate into actual business. Seek out your potential clients on sites like Twitter, follow them and respond to their tweets. Real social connections don’t happen by scheduling tweets to go out each time you post a new blog; they happen when you dig in, target potential clients and like-minded lawyers, and create new relationships.

Get Listed – Article and Business Directories

Many in the SEO community assume that directories are dead. In many cases, that is absolutely true. Don’t be fooled by sites that offer to give you links in exchange for a link in a meaningless database. However, directories that offer value mean that links can be valuable also. Take a site like Avvo, for example. They offer tons of valuable resources for lawyers and potential clients. An Avvo profile, full of information about you and the firm, reviews and peer endorsements, serves a meaningful purpose. Avvo is to lawyers what Yelp is to coffee shops. If you don’t have a profile, you are missing a good link and a big opportunity.

Take Your Web Content to the Next Level

Without a doubt, the best way to earn links is to create content so good that it gets people talking. On the web, “talking” translates into posts about your posts and links to your content. This means getting creative. Lists are a great way to generate good content. “11 Questions About Employer Liability Answered” and “16 Copyright Experts You Should Be Following on Twitter” are posts that are begging to be written. When you highlight other people or other blogs in your post, you have the opportunity to reach out to them via social media. If the content is good, it’s likely they will share your content and link back to it on their own site.

Don’t know where to start? Not to worry. We Do Web Content can handle all of your SEO needs at an affordable monthly rate. Don’t know what SEO services you need in order to outdo your competitors? Not a problem! As part of your package, we will complete a full analysis of your website, as well as your competitors’ websites so you come out on top. Until then, be sure to subscribe to our blog and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google + to continue learning about new ways to leverage SEO for your business.