If You’ve Been Told That Lots of Links Will Boost Your Search Engine Rank, You May Want to Read This
By Kathy DalPra
Things are changing rapidly with SEO, or search engine optimization. It’s even a bit intimidating for someone like me who keeps up with it on a daily basis! And since we both know that brides and grooms are relying heavily on Google and Bing to find services and resources for their wedding day, we can’t afford to ignore the current SEO evolution.
That’s why I want to clarify a common misconception I’ve been hearing a lot lately in the wedding community; which is that acquiring lots and lots of links to your website, or backlinks, is what will get your website ranked higher in the search engines. While this is partially true, it’s also a very outdated notion and I think you may want to know how it’s changed over time so you can adjust your online efforts.
Who Links to You Matters
In the old days of SEO…the really old days…you could pretty much have any website link to your website and it would help your search engine rank. Popularity was the name of the game. But this just isn’t the case anymore.
As Google has improved the quality of the search results it is displaying for users, its standards have gotten much higher (Bing is still a bit behind the times in this arena). Today, Google uses the quality of other sites that are linking to you to determine whether you really are an authority on your subject matter or not and it is comparing your website side-by-side with other websites who are also trying to get ranked higher for that same subject matter.
Here are just a few of the many factors Google is examining to determine whether a site is really “high quality” or not:
- The website isn’t a directory of publicly submitted information and articles
- The website manually reviews its content before hitting the publish button
- The website is well known it its market and is frequently cited
- The website is managed by a brand or individual with a strong social media presence
- The website has good longevity; they’ve been around for a while
Action Step: If you really want to outsmart the competition and get ranked higher for your expertise and services, then you need to be pickier about which sites you ask to link to you or which sites you approach with guest content.
How Other Websites Link To You Matters
It’s not just the quality of the website that matters, its also the way in which they link to you. Believe it or not, if your backlinks are over-optimized and look unnatural, that can sometimes (but not always) hurt you.
Let’s take a look at an example. Let’s say that you are a wedding florist and your website is listed on one of the resource pages of a local wedding planning site. If your website is linked under your brand name, Perfect Petals, that looks pretty natural to Google. But if, instead, you ask the wedding planning site to link the words “Miami wedding florist” to your website, a tactic known as ‘anchor text’, that might seem a bit manipulative to Google.
Action Step: If you’re using optimized anchor text in some of the links you’re getting occasionally, I don’t think it should hurt you. But if it becomes a frequent habit, Google may frown upon it. Just try to be as natural as possible and use anchor text sparingly and strategically.
You Don’t Always Need a Link to Rank Higher
Believe it or not, sometimes you don’t even need a backlink from another website to improve your rank! Google’s algorithm has been getting smarter and smarter about recognizing when a person or a business is mentioned on a website, even when there is no link involved.
If you don’t believe me, just sign up for Google Alerts and notice how Google is able to report when your company is mentioned anywhere on the web, regardless of whether there is a link involved.
Action Step: Anytime you want to invite a colleague or contact to mention you on their website, without being too demanding, skip asking for a link. If they simply mention your business name and location, Google should be able to determine who they are referring to and give you credit for the reference anyway.
About the Author:
Kathy DalPra is a former bridal-preneur who unexpectedly fell in love with web design and SEO. Today she helps other wedding professionals use their website to get more traffic, leads and inquiries so they can create a thriving wedding business in any economy. Learn how to turn curious visitors into paying brides™ on her website at http://brideappeal.com