Link building is relationship building

Seomphony - Backlinks - Photo by Emre Karatas

Link building refers to the creation of backlinks = links pointing to your site from elsewhere on the internet.

Backlinks are a form of off-page SEO. Off-page SEO, in turn, refers to search engine optimization. SEO consists of building quality signals for Google to determine the relevance and quality of your website and its pages.

Those signals include links from other websites that point back to your website. People sharing your content on Facebook, Twitter, Google and other social networks also work as backlinks.

Indeed, even though this research has found that “backlinks no longer primarily determine search engine rankings”, a handful of quality backlinks will benefit your website much more than a thousand social shares.

What are backlinks?

Backlinks, also known as incoming links, are simply links from websites that point at your own website or web page from another website. Backlinks are used as quality signals by Google.

Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B.

The more votes (backlinks) your website/pages receive has a large influence on your website’s search engine ranking, popularity, and importance. However, not all backlinks are equal: some carry more weight than others.

Understanding Google PageRank

PageRank is Google’s link analysis algorithm, named after one of Google’s co-founders Larry Page. It assigns a numerical weighting (from 0 to 10) to pages on the web based on hundreds of different signals. Don’t confuse PageRank with your search ranking positions, it’s not the same. PageRank (PR) is simply a means of identifying a page’s relevance, quality, importance, and authority. The higher the PR number of a page, the more authority that page carries.

Backlinks from web pages with high PR, preferably higher than the PR of your own website are the most beneficial for your website. One backlink from a PR3 page is worth thousands of PR1 page backlinks. But often the higher the PR, the harder the links are to obtain.

Backlinks and anchor text

Anchor text is one of the most powerful SEO signals. It provides a message to Google regarding the content of a page. For example, if your website sells red widgets and the backlinks pointing at your website’s pages include red widgets’ in the anchor text, then this is a vote from another website that is independent to yours that says: “this website is all about red widgets”.

In turn, Google increases the visibility of your page in the search results, because if users are searching for red widgets, this is what Google wants to give them.

However, you should not abuse the use of anchor texts, because it will not improve your rankings. It would instead land your site with a penalty for trying to manipulate the search results.

When building links, it needs to look natural. The should be built, or they should look like having been built by people genuinely linking to your website, and not by you building them yourself or buying them.

For example: if one hundred people linked to your website about red widgets, it’s highly unlikely that they would all choose to use the same anchor text. Examples of anchor text used might include: “click here”, “cheap red widgets”, “Bob’s red widgets”, “awesome widgets” etc.

So, if you are building links, it is very important to use different anchor text for your backlinks.

Follow and nofollow backlinks

Adding “nofollow” to the links of pages that you link out to is like saying that you don’t want to give your vote to this page, although you are still happy to link to it. So if someone links to a page on your website but adds the “nofollow” attribute, then you will not benefit from this, at least not as much as you would if they left off the “nofollow” attribute which means it’s a dofollow link.

It is good to have a mix of both nofollow and dofollow backlinks. This looks a lot more natural than if all links were to be dofollow. However, the number of nofollow links that are pointing at your site are generally significantly lower than dofollow, often only 10% of total links.

How and where to obtain backlinks

If you follow Google’s advice to obtain backlinks, then they basically just say that if you create amazing content the backlinks will come automatically. This, however, is rarely the case, and you are going to have to go out there and build them yourself if you want your site to rank well.

Ideally, you will want to obtain backlinks from high-quality websites, and also websites that are in a similar niche to your own. But there are literally hundreds if not thousands of different places on the web where you can potentially get backlinks from, some of these include: other websites, blogs, forum profiles/signatures, directories, comments, social bookmarking, YouTube etc…

Anyway, you can search for page ranking services with this search.

Checking your competitors’ backlinks

One of the best ways to discover where to try and obtain backlinks from is directly from your competitors. You simply look at their own backlink profiles to see where they are getting their links from, then try to duplicate them for your own site.

There are a number of tools available that do exactly this for you, and a whole lot more. Majestic, Ahrefs and Moz’s Open Site Explorer are the big three. These are paid services, but they also provide a limited free version which can still prove very useful.

Build backlinks slowly and avoid spam

So, it’s important that everything looks as natural as possible when building backlinks. If you have a new website with a clean backlink profile and you build thousands of links in a very short time, this will raise a red flag or two with Google that may result in a penalty.

Also, you should never consider buying backlinks from people offering link building services. These will do your website more harm than good. If it’s very easy to obtain, then it’s unlikely going to be a good quality link. You should check every single link that you build, and always ensure that you have the possibility to update or remove the links if you need to in the future.

Keep track of backlinks

It’s important to keep track of the backlinks that you build because doing so will allow you to easily carry out a backlink audit if your rankings suddenly drop. You can then find the offending link and remove it. We recommend creating a spreadsheet that contains all of your links, including the date obtained, the PageRank of the page they are on, anchor text, and a contact to update or remove the link.

Actively monitoring your backlinks will also allow you to spot if your competitors are performing what’s called negative SEO. This is basically building lots of spammy links to your website that can potentially result in a penalty for you.

Finally, if you try to remove links that you believe are harming your site, but for whatever reason are unable to, then the Google disavow tool can be used to disavow these links.

Backlinks library: our top 10 articles

Why re-invent the wheel when there are so many great articles out there about backlink building? Check out these backlink building articles from the industry’s leading experts.

 

Basics

ahrefs.com/blog/link-building

Link building guide for beginners.

 

pointblankseo.com/link-building-strategies

The author claims this is the most complete list of link building tactics on the Web. It certainly is comprehensive and includes actionable items that you can execute right now as well as others that take several weeks to complete. A good guide to start off with.

 

blog.monitorbacklinks.com/seo/get-good-backlinks-website

A short guide to 6 ways to build backlinks

 

ahrefs.com/blog/get-backlinks

8 actionable ways to get backlinks by spying on your competitors

 

ameerrosic.com/ultimate-guide-how-to-get-quality-backlinks-the-smart-way-part-1

The first article in a series about actionable link building tactics

 

digitalbrandinginstitute.com/5-ways-to-gain-quality-backlinks-through-content-marketing

Five basic link building tactics

 

Advanced

moz.com/blog/weird-crazy-myths-about-link-building-in-seo-you-should-probably-ignore-whiteboard-friday

8 myths about link building, deconstructed

 

moz.com/blog/3-surprising-lessons-from-building-26000-links

Fractl combed through the 26000 links they built over the years and found out that high Domain Authority sites don’t necessarily attract a lot of social engagement, most sites don’t consistently use the same types of links and certain publisher verticals are more likely to feature a lot of visual assets.

 

viperchill.com/advanced-link-building and viperchill.com/link-building-2016

Two very long articles about link building, the smart way.

 

https://www.robbierichards.com/seo/13-killer-link-building-strategies

17 link building strategies

 

backlinko.com/backlinks-guide

Brian Dean’s “the most comprehensive guide to backlinks on the planet”

Web analytics visualizes the behavior of your customers

Web analytics by Seomphony - Photo by Clem Onojeghuo

Web analytics means the measurement, collection, reporting, and analysis of your website visitor behavior data in order to understand and optimize their visits for a better experience.

You can use the findings for

  • market research
  • assessing and improving the effectiveness of your website and
  • measuring the results of an advertising campaign by helping to estimate how traffic to a website changed after the launch of the new campaign.

Typically, web analytics provides information about

  • The number of people that visited the site
  • Their location, device, operating system and language used
  • How they spend time on the site and where exactly
  • The pages that were the most preferred within the site
  • The number of clicks that was required to reach the desired information
  • The rate of a goal completion

Through analysis of such information, it is possible to understand the needs of the users of the website and therefore to provide content that is relevant to the users.

This is especially important for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

SEO is the use of specific keywords that makes a website more likely to appear among the top search results when someone types these keywords into a search engine such as Google.

Google Analytics and Open Web Analytics are examples of web analytics tools that can be used to track the traffic of a website.

Twitter Analytics, Facebook Insights and Buffer, on the other hand, can be used to analyze social media channel traffic specifically.

Web analytics versus goals

The web analytics data should always be used to measure the goals of your website.

For instance, if the objective of a web page is to convert visitors to newsletter subscribers, the analytics would highlight this by showing how many completed this task, and which pages they used to arrive to the actual subscription page.

Web analytics also enable the management of eCommerce sites to determine how many people visited the site in general, what were the most popular products on the site based on the number of visits or clicks, what was the average age of the visitors to the page, and many other demographical information of these visitors.

Types of web analytics techniques

There are generally three main types of web analytics based mainly on the scope of the data being collected:

On-site analytics

On-site web analytics tools are generally designed to measure the various variables of web users once they log in into the specific website under analysis.

Therefore, this type of web analytics can be seen as being internal and focused on the data once a user logs into a specific website.

Off-site analytics

This refers to analytical tools that provide the general analysis of the users of the internet.

In this case, these tools provide an analysis of website usage despite the fact that you own the website or not.

This is generally important especially while the owner of a website is targeting a particular market niche or target group in the internet. It helps researchers to identify potential opportunities and the general trend of internet users.

 

How do web analytics tools access information from a website?

There are generally two ways:

Analysis of log files

Web servers always create a log of all the interactions of the page. Web analytics can read these interactions and get the specific data required for the analysis.

Usually, web analytics tools capture the number of request to the server by clients to view the pages of the websites. This method of access to web analytics information was effective in the past when webpages consisted of simple HTML files. However, when images and other media files became integrated into webpage codes this system was deemed ineffective.

Page tagging

This is the other way that web analytics pages gather necessary data for analysis. Page tagging generally involves monitoring the number of times an image was displayed using JavaScript and cookies.

JavaScript is used while displaying images and other media files on a page and can be accessed remotely by the various web analytics tools in the market. Page tagging is more preferable in current web analytics tools due to the dynamic and highly multiplatform nature of websites that include HTML, JavaScript, PHP, Python and other software; and also the fact that websites also comprise of a wide range of images, audio and video files.

Hybrid

This refers to tools that incorporate both page tagging and log files as sources for data. This is a more robust and accurate method of carrying out web analytics since it taps into the advantages presented by both methods of data access.

Other methods of data analysis

Click analytics: by monitoring the number of clicks and the specific pages, links, images or content within a website, the web analytics tools is able to identify a certain aspect of the webpage usage. Moreover, this type of analytics enables for a real-time analysis of the user behavior and in the long terms be able to determine certain meaningful behaviors of the customers.

Internet Protocol address: IP address can be used to determine the location of the various users who log into a website. This can provide important information concerning the countries, regions, cities and postcode of the visitors of a website and therefore help in creating the demographics that are critical in web analytics.

Customer behavior analytics: this type of analysis ties all the various aspects of the analysis such as the number of clicks, page views, IP addresses to a particular customer. When these customers visit the web again, a cycle is developed and analyzed. This helps in understanding the needs of the customers, web optimization and funnel marketing strategies.

Advantages of web analytics

Marketing: One of the most expensive costs for any organization is marketing. Running advertisements on mainstream media is expensive and therefore all effort must be put in place to ensure that marketing ventures are as effective as possible. The only way to have effective marketing strategies is by having accurate and relevant information about the target audience. Web analytics provides information about the target audience and therefore enhances the marketing process.

Web analytics also provides an analysis of other companies or organizations providing the same services. Therefore, the management is able to compare and learn from the experiences of other market players and formulate strategies that are best suited for best results.

Knowing one’s customers is also another advantage of web analytics. Once the management is aware of the preferences and needs of their customers, they can align their production goals to those of the customers and be able to make more profit.

Web analytics provides insights that indicate the areas that the organization is not performing well and therefore provide an opportunity to make the necessary corrections.

Through web analytics, the management is able to forecast based on current trends. This is helpful in aligning organizational change to impending shifts in business and also minimizing future risks to the organization.

Web analytics enables management to identify key performance indicators that can be used to monitor and evaluate the general performance of the organization. For instance, key indicators can include data such as the number of new customers, amount of revenue generated, losses incurred, and the number of items sold online. These performance indicators can be evaluated in relations to the goals and objectives of the organization.

Web analytics terminology

Visitor: refers to an individual user that logs in to a website. However, there are other codes that access a page and it is imperative that a web analytics tools establishes that the visitor is actually human. Some web pages have verification codes to ascertain that a visitor is actually a person.

Session: refers to the duration that a visitor spends on the website in question. It reflects the entire period from the time the visitor logged into the website to the time he/she logged out.

Page View: this refers to a successful request made by the visitor to view a web page from the server. A page view does not count the other elements on the page such as images or content but counts the entire page as a single view.

Hits: refers to the successful request of an element of the web page such as an image from the server. Mostly, many managers place a lot of importance to the number of hits, however, most I experts in web analytics agree that hits are not as valuable in terms of determining the success or otherwise of a website. The reason for this is based on the fact that a lot of hits can be generated from a single webpage and this undermines the actual popularity of the website. Page views are a more preferred aspect of determining the performance of a website.

Session summary: provides a summary of the activities of the various visitors of a website. The information provided includes total sessions, total page views, total hits and the average of these various pieces of data.

Referrals: refers to the geographical information about the main source of traffic to the websites and also traffic that was generated from other websites. For instance, the web analytical website can indicate that 20% of traffic to the website was from Google Search.

Keywords: web analytics also provides a report detailing the most used keywords in relation to the Meta tags used by your website. This is very important since it provides the owners of the website to align their keywords with that most commonly used by search engines and therefore generate more traffic to the website.

Keyword searches: This is a report provided by website analytics sites outlining the actual keywords that were used by users to get referred to the website. This report includes all search engines that the customers used.

Top entry page: refers to the first page that was viewed by customers. It is not always that the home page of a website is the one viewed first. Web analytics provides data on the number of top entrances in ascending or descending order. This is critical in determining which pages on the website were most appealing to the customers.

Web analytics is a must

Web analytics is crucial to ensure the success of web-based business and organizations.

Web analytics is a tool that enables the website experience to be driven by information and therefore to become more enhanced.

Operating a website without web analytics is like driving with your eyes closed, so get yours activated today.

How to conduct a SEO audit?

SEO audit by Seomphony.com - Photo by Dmitry Pavlov

When done the right way, Search Engine Optimization can can have a significant positive impact on your online presence.

It can determine whether potential site visitors end up on your site in the first place, and whether they can navigate it and find what they are looking for. In addition to website traffic, it can also affect the conversions you get.

This is why it’s critical to conduct an audit of your site to determine whether it’s meeting its full potential. This is especially true if you have operated a site for a long time.

Here at Seomphony, we specialize in the more scientific marketing and sales tactics, but they cannot really be utilized before your site is in shape first.

So let’s get going.

What is an SEO audit?

Simply put, an SEO audit is a health check for your site.

It is a thorough analysis of all the technical infrastructure on your site, as well as the off-site and on-site elements that could help improve your website’s usability, visibility, and accessibility.

Depending on the size of your site, the process could require a lot of time and effort, but there’s usually several things that you can correct immediately.

There are software on the market that can help with SEO audit, and it makes sense to use one again if you have thousands of pages online.

On the other hand, it is better to learn the SEO audit basics below so that you can look for and identify the right things to fix.

Who needs an SEO audit and when?

Every website can benefit from an audit especially if one has never been conducted. Roughly, the longer the site has been up, the more need there is for the audit. One way to decide about the actual audit timing are major Google algorithm updates, or for example once a year.

The fairly simple audits that I’ve done for sites with max a couple of dozen pages and articles have all easily resulted in a list of fifty to one hundred items to fix. Older and bigger sites may require a full redesign before the site begins to match current search engine requirements again.

Benefits of an SEO audit

An SEO audit determines your as-is state based on which you can determine a workable plan for improving your site’s rankings on major search engines.

It also allows comparison with competitors. SEO audit is a great benchmarking exercise that can give you an idea of what your competitors are doing. This can help you devise tactics to improve your own visibility and accessibility.

It educates you about all the factors that could affect your ranking on major search engines. This will allow you to pay more attention to them in future.

Supports you in creating a winning SEO approach to serving your customers better. By knowing the weaknesses of your website, you can create a strategy that helps you fix issues and improve your domain authority.

What does an SEO audit cover?

A Search Engine Optimization audit covers three main areas, mainly:

– Technical aspects of the site.

– On-page analysis

– Off-page analysis

Technical Aspects of the Website

A technical audit involves an analysis of the technical foundation of the site. These are all the nuts and bolts that help your site run. This type of audit makes it easier for search engine spiders to crawl and index your site for easy accessibility. Some of the website features to analyze include:

DNS settings

This analysis helps you ensure that search engine bots don’t get an error whenever they try to crawl and index the site. To do this, log into your Google Search Console and check for crawl errors and the current status on your dashboard. If there is a green check under DNS, the site is good to go. However, if there are errors, you need to perform a more thorough check to get an explanation of the problems you need to address.

Server Error

On the same Google search console dashboard, look for a green check under ‘Server Connectivity’. You can go into further detail in the search console to look for any crawl errors, as well as the total server connectivity errors.

Robots.txt fetch

This is also available on the console dashboard. As long as there are no errors, you are good to go. You can also use the Robots.txt tester to ensure specific parts of your site are not being blocked.

404 errors

All sites get 404 handling errors. Therefore, a small number of these errors is nothing to worry about. However, if you are getting thousands of 404 errors, or if you experience a sudden spike in the number of errors, there could be a problem with the site. 404 errors indicate that there are missing pages, and this could mean that the server has issues, or that there are problems with the site’s performance.

To check for 404 errors, go to the Google search console dashboard and click on crawl. Click on crawl errors, and select the ‘Not found’ tab. If there are a lot of errors, will have to delve deeper to discover what the real issue is.

Site security

Search engines such as Google give preferences to sites that are secure. Therefore, having security in place can help reassure your users and even slightly improve your search rankings and traffic. Check your site on your browser to ensure there is an ‘s’ after ‘http’.

Indexation

This analysis ensures Google is indexing all the pages it should. Start by going to your Google dashboard and clicking on Google Index. Select ‘Index Status’ to see the total number of indexed pages. Next, go to Google search engine and search for ‘site:[yourwebsite name]’. Look for the number of indexed pages the results page returns. The numbers should be equivalent, and any major discrepancies should be analyzed further.

HTML validation

Use a HTML validation tool to determine any errors your site has. Be extra vigilant for any fatal errors. Give the report to your web developer to improve a site accordingly.

XML Sitemap

Ensure the site has an XML sitemap to make it easier for bots to scan the pages. It’s important to ensure the sitemap is simple and straightforward, as cluttered instructions can weaken the sitemap’s integrity and cause bot confusion. To scan your site’s XML sitemap, use the free W3 syntax checker.

Malware scan

Most search engines can find viruses and malware on a site. A site that has a lot of viruses can be marked as unsafe, and visitors may be wary of browsing through its pages. Therefore, it is advisable to run a scan to check for risks.

Mobile friendliness

An increasing number of visitors access websites through their mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets. Making a site mobile friendly can help tap into this market and reach the site’s full SEO potential. The Google Developers mobile friendly test can help you determine if the site can be easily accessed and navigated on a mobile device. What you need is an ‘Awesome’ score from Google Developers. If you don’t get this message, analyze your site further to determine any issues it has that may affect its responsiveness on mobile devices.

Site speed

The speed of a site has a lot of impact on the user’s experience, and it can influence their decision to stay on a site or to visit it in future. Most of the time when conducting an SEO edit, you’ll find a problem affecting the speed of the site. The likelihood is fixing this issue will have a huge impact on the traffic volume as well as conversion rates on your pages. Websites such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights can help you determine the speed of your site on both desktop computers and mobile devices. It is important to note that you’ll never get a perfect score on these tests. However, you should watch out for certain factors and results, including:

– Code to text ratio

– The size of a page

– The size of images on your site

– Cache installation

– Minimizing or externalizing scripts to improve site speed

On-page SEO audit

A thorough on-page audit would involve an analysis of every single page on a site and that makes sense if you have a maximum of a few dozen of pages. However, this is not practical for sites that have hundreds or thousands of pages. For such sites, it is better to take a sample of 50 to 100 pages and analyze them to determine the health of the site.

Main and Footer navigation

Navigation affects the experiences your users have on your site. Navigation on the site should be simple, accurate, and intuitive. Everything should be logically arranged and keyword focused to make it easier for users to access the information they need. There should also be straightforward navigation on the page’s footer.

Breadcrumbs

If the site has any breadcrumbs, analyse to ensure they are relevant and functional. Breadcrumbs can help with schema markup and improved navigation, as long as they lead to the right pages and convey the right information.

Content

Content is king on any website, which is why it is important to ensure the site has the right information. To stay competitive, it is important to update the content on a site consistently and continuously. The articles and on-site information should always be optimized for a certain keyword relevant to the industry or target audience. These long-tail keywords improve a site’s chances of ranking highly on search engines. More information in my article about SEO Copywriting.

URL analysis

URL is the path that search engines follow to access a site. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the URL is analyzed for usability and indexation. A good URL should convey what the particular page is about. When analyzing URLs, ensure there are no numbers or symbols. The URL should be short, simple, and keyword focused.

NAP Presence

NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number. A business site should have this information on all pages on the site to make it easier for users to contact the owner. The NAP should be present on the header or footer to ensure it can be seen throughout the site. The information should also be consistent on all pages. For SEO purposes, you can also integrate maps on your site to make it easier for users to locate the business.

Page-by-page analysis

This involves a deep analysis of all the pages on the site. Some of the details to look out for include:

1. Page title

2. Meta description

3. Headers

4. Keyword focus

5. Relevant copy

6. Interactive and visual content

7. Internal linking

8. Alt tags

9. Broken links

10. Advertisements

11. Layout and readability

12. Spelling and grammar

13. Call to action

Off-page audit

This is the final phase of the audit, and it mostly involves backlinks and social media audits. It is important to know where traffic to your site comes from, and whether the sites are authoritative and respectable.

Traffic

One of the best tools to use when determining the traffic to your site is Google Search Analytics. To access it, go to the search console dashboard, click on ‘Search Traffic’ and select ‘Search Analytics’. You’ll see a chart with information on your site’s ranking, performance, and search viability.

Search penalties

If a site has been penalized, you may have to go through quite a bit of to get it indexed again or ranking higher on search engines. There are two types of penalties, manual and algorithmic. Manual penalties are enacted by staff members in Google, and they spell real trouble for site owners. To check if a site has been manually penalized, go to ‘Search Traffic’ on the Google search console dashboard, and click on ‘Manual Actions’.

Algorithmic penalties are automatic, and represent a decrease in site traffic after algorithm changes. There are quite a number of tools to help you determine if an algorithmic update affected your site’s rankings or traffic. If you see any decline in traffic after an algorithm change, it means that your site was penalized because it didn’t conform to the rules of the new algorithm.

External links

An audit should analyze the quantity and velocity of inbound links. Ideally, inbound links to a site should increase steadily over time. If the velocity is too high over a short period of time, it could suggest that the content on the page went viral, or that there is spamming or negative SEO. Negative SEO tactics and spamming could get a site penalized. It is also important to ensure that the deep links are more than the home page links. Deep links are inbound links to internal pages on a site. Home page links are links to the site’s start page.

Inbound links should com from Top level domain sites. Generally, the most authoritative and beneficial links are from .gov and .edu sites. You can also get a lot of benefits from .com and .net sites. But: to determine the actual quality of a site and a link, use a professional tool such as SemRush, Moz or Majestic.

Another factor to consider when auditing a site’s inbound links is the link topic. The inbound links should come from relevant industries and sites, not ad-heavy or adult-themed sites.

Conclusion

After conducting an SEO audit on a client’s site, hold a meeting with the site owner to discuss the findings of the audit and advise on ways to correct issues and errors for improved site performance.

Want to know more?

Robbie Richards has excellent ideas about removing “dead weight” from your site.

With GTMetrix you can get a quick overview of your site’s technical health.

Link-Assistant.com has a good checklist for performing technical SEO audit.