Creating Links To, From, and Within Your Website

The MadPipe team interviewed our Digital Ecologist® Daniel DiGriz about working with links. We culled 6 crucial insights on building links into a marketing strategy.

Should blog posts link out to other websites?

This usually gets asked because people are interested in search engine optimization. It’s a best practice is to link to authoritative sources when and if those sources extend the value you’re offering – for instance they provide more information or more in-depth analysis. That’s the key – links are valuable when they’re a natural outflow of what you’re doing. If you add links to a post, just to have links, thinking search will reward you, you’re underestimating the intelligence of search engines. A search engine is nothing more than high efficient reflection of human pragmatism. Likewise, if you’re not creating substantive content yourself, the links will take away the post’s value and assign it to the thing you’re linking to. There are no shortcuts, but the short answer is yes. Your content is likely to be considered more trustworthy by search engines if you link to trustworthy sites such as Huffington Post. But do so judiciously and only where appropriate to the content.

Aren’t there risks to linking out to other sites?

There are caveats – upsides and downsides. Links that replace your content, appear too early in the content, or are too excessive and replace the value that you should be adding in your own content, can send visitors away. That’s bad for you and sends the wrong signals to the search engines and social channels that sent them to your site to begin with. If you don’t care about your readers or just don’t want them leaving your site, and you really just want the SEO, you can link to high authority government information on official sites or at educational institutions that isn’t particularly fun to read and isn’t going to compete with you.

Be cautious in any case with external links. Don’t have excessive links away from any one page or post. Each link passes some of the authority of your page to the other; if the links are appropriate and sparing, they are offset by the authority that linking adds to your post. If they are excessive, they will pass too much of your authority to other sites. If very excessive, you can even take a penalty. Likewise, do a quality check; if you link to spammy, very low value sites routinely, that can cause penalties.

Should we link from one of our posts or pages to others on the same site?

Yes. These internal links from your own content to your own content on the same site provide an alternative form of navigation. They allow users to flow more naturally through your content to other pages and posts of content that interest them. It’s great for usability. It’s also, as a result, likely to mean your pages get better indexed in search.

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Remember, if you want others to give us backlinks, it doesn’t hurt to do them the same favor. We give to get. Recommendation: make sure you understand best practices for linking to other sites in your blog posts or other articles.

Should we get the brand listed in various online directories?

There’s wisdom in it, if it’s judicious. People hear that and then go off and sign up for everything they can find, which can produce nasty results. Backlinks, or links from other sites to your site, are still the main ranking factor left over from the days when SEO was king. That’s because it’s meant to reflect what other people think of your site. Directories, where you list yourself, is counter to that purpose, and so they can actually hurt you. There are reputable directories, but they’re directories with actual human users, usually leaving lots of reviews or engaging in other social behavior. The value of a backlink is a direct result of the page rank of the page on which your link would appear. This comes up a lot when you spend money for a link. Their home page ranking can look impressive, then they shuffle your listing onto a worthless inner page. If they do that a lot, you may be paying for the privilege of getting penalized for using link farms.

What’s the best way to get high quality backlinks?

The most effective way to get more sustainable backlinks that retain their quality is through PR. The more you can get written about or do the writing in highly ranked sites with lots of actual human readers, the more backlinks you’ll have, and the more they’ll count. That’s a major undertaking for most brands’ marketing departments. Done poorly, it’s a lot of fluff. Done well, you still need to maintain modest expectations for the rate of impact on search. It’s not something that happens instantly. Making PR a priority in marketing is a smart move. Unfortunately, so much PR is marked by crappy “SEO writing” that creates as much harm for the brand as it does good. It’s short-sighted. There are no shortcuts. One killer tip, though. It doesn’t hurt to have your alma mater do a story on your professional trajectory for their blog, newspaper, or site. You could also submit an editorial. They are likely a highly ranked site, and the .edu domain gives added weight to a backlink, when the college is authoritative.

How do you measure the impact of backlinks?

The usual resource is Moz. For instance, on a scale of 0-10, Moz might give your brand a 4.7 globally. That’s your global MozRank – or Moz’s estimation of the popularity of our site on the internet. It’s based on the number and quality of sites that link to your site. Technically, each page of a site has a MozRank but, generally, we’re concerned with the home page to start. Moz calculates this score on a logarithmic scale between 0 and 10. It’s vastly easier to improve from a MozRank of 3 to 4 than to go from 8 to 9. An “average” MozRank – or what most people think of as a normal page on the Internet is around 3. Average isn’t good. You don’t want to stay at average. The numbers are somewhat subjective, in that they’re based entirely on an algorithm, and they can swing drastically one way or another based on the latest sampling of the index by Moz, and what that sampling includes. What you really care about is your ranking vs. competitors. For a local or regional business, MozRank is less telling than for a global brand. For a small business, it’ll be a steep climb to move that needle relative to everyone else on the planet. Fortunately, the needle does move, albeit slowly.

MadPipe provides marketing leadership and strategy for brands that want to grow their businesses. Reach out via the contact form and let’s get your business moving toward more customer engagement.

Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides leadership in marketing, educational programs, and organizational transformation for brands that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, writes a Forbes column, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, and Success Magazine.

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About once/month, Corporate Storyteller and Digital Ecologist® Daniel DiGriz weaves together interesting stories around organizational transformation, education, and marketing.

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