SEO is a bear. There I said it. I have been practicing this “Art more than Science” form of self-abuse for nearly 15 years now. I don’t play golf. But I can tell you that almost every golf joke that explains the frustration of never being quite perfect at the game also applies to SEO. The course changes. The rules change. The players change.
The only CONSTANT? Change.
However, there are a few old and faithful rules of SEO. Back Links—or “External Links”–are one of these. External Links are valuable to your website. They produce traffic and they help your site’s Search Engine Ranking.
SEOs can use difficult, complicated (and sometimes risky) External Link strategies. But with the basic knowledge, you can create External Links by making only minor adjustments to your daily routine.
You’re already doing the work. Now let’s maximize your efforts.
First, let’s start with some background explanation.
A hyperlink is an element on a website (typically in the text of a page or post) that links to another place on the same website or to an entirely different website (or document). Typically, you click on the hyperlink to follow the link. You can often-times recognize a hyperlink by its underlined and/or blue color that makes it stand out from the adjacent text–signaling to the reader that it is clickable.
Internal links point to a page or section of a page on the same website. External links point to a domain outside of the current domain. External links–when clicked–will take the reader off of the site they are currently reading.
In layman’s terms, if another website links to you, this is considered an external link TO your site. Similarly, if you link out to another website, this is an external link FROM your site.
Creating an external link is quite easy. In a word processing environment, like WordPress, you can simply HIGHLIGHT the words you would like to link and click the link button (DISCLOSURE: I am a RAVING fan of WordPress and believe ALL real estate sites could and should be using this platform….but I digress). This button typically looks like a chain link. However, even without a WYSIWYG editor, the HTML code to create a Hyperlink is quite simple… Here is an example…
<a href=”http://www.external-domain-example.com/” title=”Keyword Text”>Keyword Text</a>
But external links alone will not give you the maximum SEO benefits. The most important part of the external link is the “Anchor Text”. Anchor text is the term for the actual word or phrase you choose that displays the link on the web page. For example, in the following example, the anchor text is “Click Here.”
For MORE information on the use of anchor text… Click Here.
Anchor text is the most important part in the creation of external links because Google, (and those other search engines) use the anchor text to determine the meaning, keywords and value of the link. If you have a desire to rank for the term “click here,” the above example would be great. But my guess is, you have a much more important goal. Using my own company as an example, I would change the anchor text as follows:
For more information on the use of anchor text, visit Virtual Results guide to Internet Marketing.
This tells the search engine spiders (Google algorithm) that the page I am sending the reader to has important information about Internet Marketing and it helps the site’s authority for that term.
So, the idea is to always use descriptive keywords in anchor text that match the search terms that you would like to rank for on Google (or other search engines).
Top SEOs believe that external links are the most important source of ranking power because they pass “link juice” (ranking power) differently than internal links. The search engines consider them third-party votes, and therefore have more link juice than internal links. This is one of the ways that the Google algorithm decides where to rank your site.
The founders of Google were Stanford boys, and as a graduate student, you are required to write a thesis. That thesis can grow into an important, authoritative document based on how many other researchers use that thesis as part of THEIR research. Probably the most authoritative one of these ever written is Einstein’s Theory of Relativity… Why? Because it is heavily cited in other research as the basis of their work.
Nice story, Jim, but how is this important to me?
Well, Google works the same way. If other websites LINK (cite) to your website…. It must have value. It must be important. It must be authoritative. It must be worth ranking! Google introduced this algorithm years ago and called it “Page Rank” named after one of the founders, Larry Page. This algorithm–although MUCH more complex–still exists today.
From: 10 Illustrations on Search Engines’ Valuation of Links
Today, the major search engines use many metrics to determine the value of external links. Some of these metrics include: (from SEOMOZ)
- The trustworthiness of the linking domain.
- The popularity of the linking page.
- The relevancy of the content between the source page and the target page.
- The anchor text used in the link.
- The amount of links to the same page on the source page.
- The amount of domains that link to the target page.
- The amount of variations that are used as anchor text to links to the target page.
- The ownership relationship between the source and target domains.
Although Google looks at ALL these Metrics, External Links are still considered the holy grail of SEO.
The cool thing is you have the ability to gain External Links to your site with just a bit of work. Here are some ways you can get them…
Create Great Content on YOUR Blog and Promote it: This is always the first choice. If you can create compelling posts that people not only read…. But SHARE with their friends. You will gain External Links from this effort. We call this “friend of friend” content. It is golden.
- Guest Blogging: Blog owners are usually always on the hunt for new interesting content. It gives them free content, and gives you an external link to your website. Approaching a blog owner with a guest posting request is simple, just look for a contact form or do a “WhoIs” look up in order to find out who owns the blog. Make sure the article you submit for review is of high quality, will engage the blog’s audience, and is completely free of any grammatical errors. Finding blogs that focus on a topic in which you know very well, or enjoy, will help with the writing process.
- Beg: One of my favorites. Not really BEG…more like ask. Look at the web pages for the businesses in your town. The town’s page. Fellow bloggers’ sites. Anything that is relative to your readers. And theirs. And just ask, trade, offer, buy, etc. Depending on the authority of the site, the link could really help your authority. One link from Stanford, Harvard or Google? You are on your way…. (good luck with that)
But remember, it is not just the LINK you want. You want the link to be formatted like the above example, with the ANCHOR TEXT being your keywords. Hey, look at that…you just learned something, didn’t you.