Almost anyone who has gotten involved with trying to drive traffic to a website through the search engine optimization process has at some point had to make some choices about how to address the implications. In the earliest days of the internet, the SEO value of inbound links was incredibly straightforward. A link to a site was made, and the targeted site was rewarded with increased traffic for whatever the anchor text was. As search engine providers, particularly Google, began to narrow their focus on providing quality results to users, this became more complicated. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that inbound links bring value to websites.
Follow vs NoFollow Links
One of the biggest challenges of determining how to start a search engine optimization campaign is cutting through the fog of confusion that’s deliberately imposed by the search engine giants. This only becomes more so when thinking about the value of “follow” vs “nofollow” links. There’s little dispute that the overall value of a follow link, the “juice” that’s passed along to the target site, is superior. The question is, do nofollow links have value?
In terms of natural user traffic, a no-follow inbound link still has value. Someone can click on it and still come to your website. Does Google, however, pass along any juice for any nofollow links? The company’s answer is cagier than we might anticipate. Google’s Matt Cutts, widely seen as the firm’s ambassador to the world of webmasters, has stated, “In general, we don’t follow them.” This leaves wiggle room for the algorithm occasionally passing along juice, although how much isn’t quite clear. Even if you do get a nofollow link and no juice, that’s still better than getting nothing.
Quality of Inbound Links
The quality of inbound links pointing toward a website is of increasing importance to Google. In the earliest days, all links were treated equally. This led to mass spamming of links, with webmasters creating massive link sharing networks. It was not unusual for sites that were topically unrelated, such as car insurance and gaming, to provide each other reciprocal links.
As a rule, the big search providers now prefer that links come in from sites that are topically related and high-quality. A link from a popular website in your niche is worth a lot more than one from an even bigger site outside the scope of your usual content. Google’s algorithm crunches a lot of information to determine the topicality of each website, and these complex calculations ultimately determine how much the search engine values a single page’s content relative to a specific query from a user.
Natural links are generally the best kind. These are links that occur when another party, typically a blogger or someone on social media, links to your site simply because the content is informative to their readers. It’s wise to avoid trying to goose these numbers yourself, as the big search algorithms do target the deliberate construction of networks to produce unnatural links.
In extreme cases, black hatters have been known to use the quality algorithms to attack websites. They essentially use the SEO process to create networks of low-quality websites that pass along negative juice and penalties to sites they link to. Black hats may also try to target your site with keywords outside your niche, driving searchers away from your core products and services. If the algorithm fails to flag these negative campaigns against sites, the most obvious recourse is to disavow the links in Google Webmaster Tools.
Google has tightened up the amount of information it makes available to webmasters over the years. Where it was once easy to look up the company’s PageRank scores for individual sites and calculate their relationships with outbound links to other sites, that’s now impossible. Using Moz’s Open Site Explore system, you can, however, get a rough idea of how a particular page or website is performing. While the Moz data does not provide a one-for-one match to Google’s search results, it at least allows you to gain a more detailed picture of how linkage to your site is working.
Acquiring Inbound Links
Advant Local can help you in your inbound linking efforts. We can assist you with obtaining a nice mixture of both follow and nofollow links. Check out our Services page and Contact Us to get started!