Link Building: Where We Are?

At SEO Liverpool we’re always stressing the importance of link building as a key strategy for high search engine placement.

Like all Web marketing, the greatest aspect of link building is the trackability. This helps you quantify your progress and prove your worth to your superiors and clients.

However, there hasn’t really been a standardised tool that the industry accepted as “the” link monitoring tool. In fact, there are more tools that will tell you wrong information than there are tools that will tell you right information.

Most of the major search engines have link identifying queries that you can do. The standard search query is: link:www.example.com.

If you do that search, you’ll get a list of pages linking to that page. Because I can get you the complete set of data, I’ll do this for a current client.

Doing this query on Google returns about 14 pages linking to that URL. Doing this query on Yahoo returns 1,103 pages linking to that URL.

That’s a major difference! This is because Google intentionally doesn’t want to disclose all of the links it knows about a domain, which explains 14 links versus 1,103 inlinks. Google only gives a small sampling.

The more realistic number is 1,103. Yahoo is more open when it comes to link disclosure. Virtually every link analysis tool you use (such as SEOQuake) relies quite heavily on Yahoo’s link data.

Incidentally, you can do those searches for specific pages to see how many links point to that particular page on your site. That information can be telling of how a particular story or link bait tactic is fairing in gathering links.

However, the link reporting trail doesn’t end there. There’s one final way of getting a much more comprehensive tally of the links pointing to you. The most comprehensive, detailed list of links pointing into your site is found at Google’s Webmaster Tools.

If you haven’t setup your site in the Webmaster Tools section, I strongly encourage you to do so. All you need is a Google login. Then they ask you to either upload a page with a strange custom URL they give you or add some meta code to the of your site. Doing that verifies you own the site.

This gives you complete access to a ton of great information about your site. Not the least of which is your link information. If you recall, the total number of links Google showed on their front-end search query for my client was about 14 links pointing into that URL. Yahoo had 1,103. Google Webmaster Central has 1,471.

I have seen client data that is shockingly different.

Additionally, Webmaster tools nicely lays out how many links are pointing to each page of your site.

This information is interesting because I can instantly see that my clients blog gets nearly three times the number of links than the home page. This tells me that people are more interested in linking to the blog than the home page. So, as I move forward in asking for links I probably would want to suggest people link to our blog.

I also see that one particular page has 24 links. This is new for us in 2011. We’ve done no link building campaigns for this service. So, I’m encouraged to see that people are already linking to it with no suggestion on our part.

Finally, I would be able to take this data to a client or superior every month and track the progress of any link initiatives taking place. I would easily be able to chart link growth on a page-by-page level.

However.

Google discusses their link reporting at the bottom of that page, they write, “Note: While the External links page provides a larger sampling of links to your site, not all links to your site may be listed. This is normal.”

So, even in the Webmaster Tools section, we still may not know everything Google knows…. but it’s a decent start.

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Keep visitors engaged with Site-Search

Some websites do tend to be more difficult for visitors to find what they’re looking for!

Perhaps it’s because things don’t always fit neatly into more intuitive consumer categories. Perhaps it’s because B2B sites are often filled with so much diverse information. While site owners can engineer enhanced usability, better optimise and structure content, or create better organic landing pages, none of these options is a quick fix.

I’ve worked with a large knowledge management company, who’s product involved extracting information from vast online content and bringing the desired relevant information to the forefront. This technology was extremely expensive but created massive efficiencies for clients.

Google’s Site Search offers a quick, inexpensive way to keep visitors engaged and (hopefully) get them quickly to their destination on your site.

With SEO PPC, we’ve all clicked on promising organic search results and been quickly disappointed that the landing page doesn’t contain what we’re looking for. In many cases I’ll often land at a site I’m fairly certain contains what I want, so I’ll take a few clicks through the site’s navigation. But if I don’t find what I want in a few clicks, I don’t have the patience to keep searching. I’ll go to another site. All of us see these visits in our analytics, too. A four-page, 20-second visit. Then, they’re gone.

Site search functionality offers a way to keep visitors engaged a while longer. If visitors don’t quickly find what they want through navigation, they may try the site’s search tool. Many B2B visitors will go to the site’s search tool right away as an alternative to navigating to find an answer.

While many larger sites have already have site search functions, more often than not I’ve been disappointed with their search results. When I’m looking for a specific product or service, I’ll get hundreds of search results, but the first 30 results will be investor news releases or obscure technical articles. The results aren’t relevant to my quest. Not only do I leave without my desired answer, I’ve also formed some negative perceptions of the company and its website.

But then I tested Google Site Search. I think it’s a good answer for many B2B sites. It doesn’t cost much. Pricing depends on the number of pages indexed and the number of annual queries. For a site with less than 5,000 pages and less than 250,000 annual search queries, the cost is $100 per year. Pretty reasonable.

Getting all of your content indexed by Google can be a challenge, especially with large B2B sites. Google Site Search offers the opportunity of deeper site indexing for site-specific search. While this deeper site indexing won’t get more pages indexed by Google or help you in your Google rankings for web searches at Google.com, it will help you ensure all of your pages are reflected in the index of your site’s Google Site Search. This means searchers will get different (and likely better) results using Google’s Site Search on your site than if they used Google.com to search for information on your site (e.g., incorporating site:www.yoursite.com into the Google query).

Google’s site search also gives site owners the opportunity to “bias” the search results in a couple ways. For sites in which new content is typically more important, site owners can ensure search results are more heavily weighted to newer site content. Site owners can also bias search results to reflect certain sections of the site more than others, e.g., product-related pages more than company-information pages. This can help drive searchers more quickly to revenue-generating pages. This has been so impressive, under our search engine optimization training, we recommend this for our e-commerce customers.

If you don’t have search capabilities on your B2B site, it makes sense to spend £100 to try it. There’s not much you can do for $100 these days. So try it out. Then watch your analytics. Notice what visitors search for. That alone is great information. Also, see if your bounce rates decline, or if the average time on your site goes up materially. And watch your conversion rates.

If you already have search functionality on your site, you still may want to test out Google Site Search. Set it up and do some comparative searches. See if you think the search results are more relevant or if the user experience is better. I’m not sure if Google’s Site Search will be better than what you already have (and I’m not trying to sell Google’s Site Search), but again, for $100, it’s worth a test.

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