By John Egan.
SEO seems mysterious, with Google wizards seemingly orchestrating the action from behind the “Wizard of Oz” curtain. Yet SEO need not be the sort of undertaking that would make Dorothy run screaming down the Yellow Brick Road.
One aspect of SEO that might feel mysterious, but really isn’t, is whether inbound links still matter. In short, they do. In fact, two new studies underscore the vital role of links in SEO.
“When content lacks links, no matter how great that content is, it lacks the authority signals that Google requires to rank pages in search results,” Jill Kocher writes on the Practical Ecommerce website.
A session at the upcoming LeadsCon New York 2016, “Optimizing Your Content – The 7 Most Common SEO Mistakes,” will delve into the intricacies of SEO.
Data from a study by Stone Temple Consulting “strongly suggests that links continue to play a major role in rankings” by Google and other search engines. But a Stone Temple blog post about the study points out that links can’t rescue low-quality content or cause low-relevance content to rank.
“When you aren’t facing page relevance or quality issues, links can, and do, continue to significantly impact rankings,” according to Stone Temple.
Meanwhile, data from a study by Local SEO Guide indicates links are the “key competitive differentiator” in Google My Business local rankings. Local SEO Guide says links “dominated” its analysis of local SEO ranking factors.
“Content for search engine optimization boils down to words that send signals of relevance to search engines,” Kocher writes. “When combined with the signals of authority that internal and external links send to search engines, these two make up the first and second most important factors that Google uses to rank content for search results.”
So, now that you’ve been reminded, thanks to the two previously cited studies, that the value of links hasn’t gotten out of style, what are some things you can do to improve your link strategy? Here are three tips courtesy of Danny Goodwin of Search Engine Journal and Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting:
Publish great content that’s relevant to your target audience and will naturally attract links.
Don’t buy links. Google – the giant of online search – frowns on that as a “black hat” SEO practice and might penalize your website.
Market your business proactively and “do the types of things that cause people to write about you and link to you.”
Shedding more light on link-building strategies is a new study from SEMRush. The study found that the most common SEO issue affecting websites is duplicate content; SEMRush discovered duplicate content on half of the 100,000 websites it analyzed.
Other findings of the SEMRush study:
45 percent of the analyzed sites had image optimization issues
35 percent of the sites had duplicate title tags
30 percent of the sites had pages with duplicate meta descriptions.
25 percent of the sites had pages with no meta descriptions.
Although links are a cornerstone of any solid SEO strategy, Goodwin warns against focusing solely on picking up links.
“Think of links this way. You have about 640 muscles in your body. If you want to be healthy, are you only going to exercise your right arm?” Goodwin says in writing about the Stone Temple study. “I mean, your right arm is pretty important, and does a lot of cool stuff, but it’s just one important part of your body.”
“It’s the same thing with SEO,” he adds. “You can choose to only focus on links, but this will limit your success. You need to address all the important elements of SEO.”
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