23 May 2008

The Achilles Heel of Free and Natural Links.

Last month I was having a chat with a SEM guru who knows a lot more than me in many SEM and website optimization areas, but he said something about "links" that I’ve regretted not giving my 2 cents on.

He said "Hey, I’ve got this client who’s been around since 1994, a big national brand company, and they’ve got over a million natural backlinks….now you can’t tell me that they need more links?"

For one reason or another I choose to not state my disagreement with that statement at that time….but it’s been bugging me ever since….so I’ll vent my thoughts here.

….I wonder what phrases this company targets. I can’t help but thing that a company of that age and stature might "deserve" to be #1 for some short tail phrases.  I wonder how they rank for those main industry phrases…. I wonder how they currently target those phrases on their site ….ok…a nicely optimized page helps (mentioning the phrase a few times naturally)….great content , serving what the searches intent is…maybe even content so good that people will start to naturally link to it….good internal backlinks to the pages your targeting….good title tags……but something’s still missing……they’ve got all this but they’re not on the first page for "dream phrase"….do you know what they’re missing? I do….

Getting to the top of search results often includes all the aspects I just listed above….but there’s one aspect that often will make all the difference between being #11 and being #1…..and that is Focused Link Text Linking to Targeted Pages.

Free links are great and certainly help the overall "health" of a website. These are all great to get:

Free links because your content was so great and you attract natural backlinks
Free links because your company is so well known & people just naturally link to it
Free links because  you got on Digg’s homepage and lots of blogger saw you and blogged your link too.

But in a sense, you do pay a price for a Free Link. You pay the price in that often the pages you’re targeting don’t get links using the phrases you’d like to rank for.

When getting Free backlinks it’s nearly impossible to get people to link to you using your targeted phrases….often when getting free links, is kinda like begger can’t be choosers….I can see us writing to an edu "Hey professor, here’s another great resource you should add to your page at …., would you mind using "Health Insurance" to link to us instead of the company name?" (Like he’ll do that….freakin SEO’s!). If Mr professor is going to give us a link, I’ll take it any way he gives it, and I’m going to try not to smell like an SEO when approaching him….same philosophy holds true most of the time when seeking "free" links be it an edu or not. And if people are naturally linking to the site, how many are using the "dream phases" as natural link text (probably a very very small percentage).

It’s basically the same arguement I made on my post in Jan 07 "LinkBait alone won’t do it. You need Link Ninjas", where I said:

I honestly believe a Link Ninja can beat a Link Baiter in the rankings, here’s some reasons why.

A Link Ninja can get focused link text. A link baiter is at the mercy of the person who links. (It can be really hard to rank for anything unless you’ve got some focus on getting text links with specific targeted phrases).

A Link Ninja can also get a site into the neighborhood that it needs to be in. A link Baiter often gets links from tech sites and blogs….but often not from the sites in the neighborhood.

…  A Link Ninja can get on older trusted pages from authority sites that might not be seeking to add more, unless a ninja influences them.  A Link Baiter often gets links from tech sites and blogs….but like I said, often not from the sites in the neighborhood.

A Link Ninja can control what pages get the link…and can get links to specific pages , homepage, product pages, etc….A link Baiter gets a link to a great content page mostly….but it’s not usually the page the site owner really wants to rank for anything.

Now I’ll give you, a mid level Ninja can do both, after all, true SEO is a combo of links and text, and the better of each you have, the better you’ll rank.  The better the content, the easier it is to get backlinks (via asking, or not).  (yes, we offer linkbait  content creation at WBP).

I can totally agree that the best backlinks in the world (and often easiest to get) are those that came because of great content (or call it Link Bait)….but without some Focused and Precise Link Building, you might not get to where you want to be.

Do you believe it?

I still do believe that. It’s the same logic as the old natural site with a million backlinks. I know from experience because we work with some sites like these….they’re basically nice in that they’re "Not Over Optimized" (Unlike sites that have had a lot of previous SEO work done on them, where most of those are "over optimized" (all homepage links with the same text)).

The natural sites that are "not optimized" in their backlink text  are fun and easier for us in that all they need is a small steady stream of focused link text and they’ll be feeling lucky, and then they get the rankings they deserve 😉

What are your thoughts?

Sphinn me 😉