Throughout the course of my two decades in Internet marketing, and nearly 20 years building links and watching trends come and go, I have come up with the following ideas.
The three tips that follow provide a framework for understanding what we mean when we talk about quality links.
Relevance and usefulness of a link for ranking and sales can be determined by understanding these factors.
It can help you better understand how to use your resources to their full potential.
1. What percentage of site visitors will convert?
To evaluate the usefulness of a link campaign that someone could suggest to you, you could ask yourself (or your SEO) how likely it is that visitors from the sites they want to attract links from will convert?
It is not about accuracy, like actual numbers.
I am looking for a back of the napkin estimate.
This is a quick way to tell if something is or is not useful.
2. Verify the quality of inbound and outbound links
Examine the types of links those sites have.
Inbound links are great if they have good quality ones.
If their links mostly come from obvious link building schemes, stay away.
Examine their outbound links next.
What sites are they linking to? Are they shady or irrelevant?
Back away if that’s the case.
Would you be willing to pay for a link from these sites?
I’m not suggesting that you pay for a link.
It is merely a mental exercise to ask yourself if you would spend money to advertise on that site.
Consider putting a dollar figure on it if the answer is yes.
If you are paying so much, you should ask yourself why.
If your answer is based on some third-party metric, stop. End of story. 🙂
Traffic isn’t the most important metric
All sites do not send traffic.
There are not all quality webpages with a high PageRank (or whatever metric you want to use).
Outward measures of quality are low on some pages.
They do, however, have a different kind of power, that of relevance and belonging to a good community.
Having a topical neighborhood that is relevant is a good thing.
There are times when these neighborhoods are small and don’t have a lot of traffic, but that’s okay.
That’s just the way certain link neighborhoods work, especially in B2B niches.
3. Relevance on a semantic level
I used to chat with a well-known link builder many years ago. We were discussing how to identify quality links.
According to him, relevance is about matching words, so he encouraged people to think semantically about relevance.
The link between a Thai recipe site and a Thailand travel site, for example, would be good because both sites were about Thailand.
It made sense to him, and many people agreed with him.
However, I strongly disagreed with the idea of semantic relevance.
You can quickly determine whether a “semantic relevance” link is useful for ranking purposes by estimating if the traffic has the potential to convert.
The link is good if it does.
The link is probably not a good one if it doesn’t have the potential to convert.
What is the reason for this?
Now let’s return to the Thai recipe site.
Relevance of the visitor’s intent
What are the chances that a Thai recipe website visitor will buy a ticket to Thailand?
Are recipe site visitors likely to buy a cookbook?
The answer to that question indicates what I would call the relevance of visitor intent.
Intent to travel
According to another relevance rule, a link should bring traffic if it brings traffic.
The statement is true.
Traffic, however, is not always good.
There is some traffic that is useless.
Some traffic is useless due to the visitor intent behind it.
What draws them to the site?
How it works is explained in the following.
Campaign for Viral Links that Was Unsuccessful But Wildly Successful
I held a link building clinic in New York several years ago.
A member of the audience stood up and shared the amazing results of his company’s viral link campaign.
Business to Business (B2B) was the nature of the company. University science labs and the U.S. military bought their products from the company.
A trend-hijacking strategy was used to build their links.
The idea is to select a trend and then come up with a way to make your product fit into that trend.
It can be as simple as a holiday sale. At its most ambitious, it could involve a video game or popular television show.
Creating a novelty event directly tied to a video game that had been in the news for weeks trend-hijacked a wildly popular video game.
BoingBoing, a viral website, featured a special webpage which featured the event.
After that, the website went viral.
All the links from newspapers, social media, blogs, and videos slammed the servers.
According to the marketing person, the site received thousands of links and experienced the highest level of traffic they had ever seen.
His confusion came from the fact that their rankings remained unchanged.
After the viral marketing campaign, I asked if there had been any sales bumps.
The sales did not increase, he said. In the absence of any links or traffic, the sales curve stayed the same.
The site gained a tremendous amount of traffic and links. Sales did not increase as a result of the massive traffic, so brand awareness was not increased.
What caused this to happen?
It’s the same as when dozens of kids form a circle around two kids fighting. It’s not to show support for one or the other.
The site was linked for all the wrong reasons.
The link’s traffic relevance intent was all wrong.
It is, in my opinion, for this reason that certain viral link campaigns, where the relevance is off-topic, are worthless.
As measured by links and traffic, the viral link campaign appears to be successful. However, link popularity is not a true indicator of success.
The most important metric is sales, which is measured in ranking, relevant traffic quality, and traffic volume.
Analyzing the quality of links
Now you know three ways to determine if a link is useful.
The three methods complement each other and should be helpful.
To begin, ask whether the traffic from that link will convert.
Another method is to look at the inlinks/outlinks to determine their link neighborhood.
An examination of the user intent to click on a link from a page to yours is the third method for determining whether a link is relevant.
Finally, thinking about links from a semantic paradigm may not be the best approach.
A person begins to imagine connections that do not exist in the real world, leading to wishful thinking.
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