Link Value in a Penguin & Panda World

973325_92017268In one of my past posts back in May titled Latest on Webspam Combat from Google, I wrote about how Google was combatting spam by threatening and punishing sites or networks that sale or distribute paid links.  With all the “link building is dead” and “Google will swat you” talk swarming around, it’s no wonder businesses and agencies alike are partially afraid to engage in a link building strategy.  With that notion in mind, let’s dive into why Google focuses so much on sites and networks that attempt to sell links.

Do Links Still Matter?

Of course they do and I will go as far as to say they matter now more than ever.  The Internet thrives on links.  Links guide users to where the best content on the Web is located.  If you read an article that you feel is worthy of passing on to your friends, you send them a link to the article.  If you have a blog, you may even add the link to your blog post in your email signature or you may tweet it out for your followers to click directly into that content.

Links are how we put together the story and present it to others.  You can read all the hoopla about how links don’t matter; but, at the end of the day if no one links to your site it will not receive any traffic (in comparison to your competitors).  In turn, your site will not rank for any of your pre-determined terms/keywords.

Types of Links

No matter what anyone says, without high-quality links you can’t perform at an optimal level organically (at least not for long).  Nor can you weather algorithmic updates that crush sites with weaker profiles.

Google themselves have publicly printed information that confirms that their algorithm uses links as one of its core components:

Google Quote:
cGoogle has invented many innovations in search to improve the answers you find. The first and most well-known is PageRank, named for Larry Page (Google’s co-founder and CEO). PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.

So what makes a high-quality link?  We talk about links a great deal.  What we don’t talk about is the distinguished differences  between subpar, average, and high quality links.  There are important distinctions.

High-quality links usually come from authority sites.  These are sites that are an authority in their vertical.  Authority sites are just like a person that can be trusted to give you what you’re looking for and not take you the long way past a ton of advertisements.  These sites usually have high DA (Domain Authority) and PA (Page Authority) and are not in the business of circulating bad information or using their user base to serve ads.  Getting links on these sites are difficult and require you to have valuable content on your site.

Acquiring High Quality Links

Getting people to link to your site can be a challenge.  Unless you are a prominent figure or top business in your vertical, chances are you will need a link building strategy that includes tactics such as:  great content onsite, blogger outreach and social media marketing.  And although I know some of you will hate this I still have to include it…paid links.

Having great onsite content makes users want to link to your site for information.  Let’s say there is a new product release by Apple, and you host a tech blog.  Contacting Apple to possibly grab this product early to conduct a written review is an example of providing great engaging, valuable content.  This tactic will garner links from social media outlets, other tech bloggers and general users that have websites.

Another way to acquire quality links is to get your content posted on other sites.  Build your authority as a subject matter expert in your vertical and approach other sites that are in need of fresh content and ideas.  There are sites out there such as Business to Community that pride themselves in having expert author contributors.

Business 2 Community Mission Statement:

Our mission is to create an open community where business professionals can establish their thought leadership, increase exposure for their business/organization, and network with others.  We aim to provide a balanced view of the current business landscape based on industry news and trends, as well as the real-life experiences from our 4,000+ expert contributors.  We are committed to continually providing new and innovative offerings (i.e. webcasts, whitepapers, site functionality, etc.) that enhance the experience for both our contributors and our audience.

Acquiring high quality links sometimes means you have to buy them.  I’m not referring to the guy that promises you 200 PR (Page Rank) 4 links for $100.00.  This you want to stay away from as he probably has a network of thousands of junk blogs and sites.  You want to approach trusted, authority bloggers, site owners and content providers and ask that they do an unbiased review on your product or service.

There are also agencies that have already established relationships with these key industry writers and for a small fee (which covers the research and communication with writers and not for the link itself) can get your review/content on these high authority sites.

We as humans place great importance on endorsements.  Whether it’s your friend telling you the best place in town to grab a bite to eat or Emory University linking to a local medical center that they recommend pre-med students consider for an internship; endorsements matter.  They make an impact on us.  That’s the way we are wired and Google has used this same science and psychology for the Internet.

As more and more endorsements roll out, the high quality ones will stand out and be heard by the crowd.  This Is why Google depends so much on links and why you need to make sure you’re acquiring high quality ones.