How To Gain Links And Influence Search Engines

Wrapping your head around the basics of search is actually far less daunting than it seems. Many of the principles upon which Google grades information have an equivalent in human, social interaction.
  • Many of the principles upon which Google grades information have an equivalent in human, social interaction.
  • 'Build it and they’ll come' is not a reliable online marketing technique.
  • Simply treat links like you would relationships – invest in them and they often flourish over time.
  • Limit your networking to respected websites and keep your contributions relevant and useful and you’ll develop a reputation that translates into greater prominence in search.

Search engine optimisation can seem dubious and the mechanisms of search engines themselves, formidable. Couple this with the growing who’s who in Google’s algorithm zoo, Panda, Hummingbird, Pigeon…) and you may quickly be driven to the conclusion that SEO as a whole is an enigma – better outsourced to the experts.

But that can quickly lead to a strained relationship with your online marketing team where you feel left in the dark and they feel misunderstood.

If you’re a well-adjusted social being, you’ll be happy to know that many of the skills you are already using to network professionally are transferrable to the online world.

Even if you don’t take on any of the SEO yourself, this analogy will leave you feeling far more in the loop.

Imagine if you will, you are invited to a party…

Search engine optimisation in real-world terms

Never being one to turn down an invitation, you show up to the party in your finest. Commence mingling.

As you make small talk, you occasionally mention that you’ve just started a small catering company. (In fact, you’ve just printed your first batch of business cards.)

Since it’s a quirky, small-scale foodie undertaking, you decide to only bring this up in the company of people you think are equal in quirk and gastronomic fascination.

Your fellow-party goers offer enthusiastic encouragement. But since your social feedback mechanisms are mostly intact, rather than bang on endlessly about your own company, you also talk about the catering industry in general, comment on the food at the party, share humorous foodie anecdotes and deviate a bit to talk about the weather, sports, the sex-appeal of mixologists…

You leave a few (hot off the press) business cards with those who sounded particularly keen. A few weeks later, you start getting calls – your first referrals.

Some of these calls may have come directly from the people you’ve spoken to. But these account for only a few. Far more of your referrals come from people who know the people you’ve had a chat with at that party.

The same principles that work for real world social networking apply to getting visitors to your website and converting them.

You are not an island. Get out there.

If you did not make an effort to tell others about your business, your phone simply would not ring. Painfully obvious in a real world context, the same applies online.

“Build it and they’ll come” is not a reliable online marketing technique. Think about the internet as the web it is – without direct routes being spun from other sites to yours, you’re an island and few people will find you.

Simple mentions of your site are not enough though. You need to leave a trace; in the real-world: business cards, and their online equivalent: backlinks. Every site that mentions you with a link back to your site will add to your online equity. More routes to your site mean more visits from Google’s crawlers – a powerful indicator of your relevance.

Build relationships selectively.

Just like you wouldn’t strike up a conversation about your business venture (and leave a business card) with just anyone, you need to be selective about the company you keep online.

A referral from a gallery owner (who hosts many openings and thus has extensive experience working with caterers) will usually mean a lot more for your boutique catering venture than a recommendation from “that guy” who works in what he rather vaguely described as the “import-export” business.

There are two important factors here that translate quite directly to online marketing and SEO. First, a link to your site from a blog, editorial platform or other resource is far more valuable if it relates to your field.

Second, overall reputation matters. A referral from a site that has a low authority and association with spam is probably going to do more harm than good.

The simple rule of thumb applies: Network only with the websites you are proud to openly be associated with. It doesn’t mean you should ignore the smaller sites or the new kids on the blogging block. Simply treat links like you would relationships – invest in them and they often flourish over time.

Be relevant, be appropriate, be useful, be entertaining.

In social contexts it’s the kind of behaviour that will brand you a pariah. Online it will raise the ire of other bloggers and most damagingly, Google.

If you don’t keep your input relevant, fail to tailor it to your audience, shamelessly punt your enterprise (or yourself) at inappropriate times or are just simply boring, you won’t score points – socially or with search.

Do the opposite though, and become known not just as “Jen, that (self important) caterer”, but Jen the wealth of useful catering ideas, source of entertaining foodie anecdotes and provider of amazing food.

In the real world you’ll be invited to more parties which will lead to further opportunities to divvy out business cards. Queue ringing phone. Whilst online you’ll become known as a valuable resource and a social media entity worth following.

Google is getting increasingly adept at determining the context of links, and whether you’re entertaining and useful or not will quickly become apparent through indicators like organic backlinks, referral traffic and bounce rate.

Network well and your reputation will precede you.

We’re told not to let it bother us, but what people say and think about us does matter – particularly in a professional context. This is because reputation has a way of travelling far beyond the reach of our immediate networks. When that reputation is positive, it can directly impact the success of our business.

In a social context our reputation can be a patchwork of casual hear-say, dramatised retellings of events or sweeping deductions based on the company we keep and the clothes we wear.

Thankfully, online reputation is a bit easier to manage. Limit your networking to respected websites and keep your contributions relevant and useful and you’ll develop a reputation that translates into greater prominence in search.

If Google recognises your site as reputable, it’s much more likely to prioritise it in search results – giving you a valuable head start. Think of it as the online equivalent of a recommendation for “Jen’s adventurous catering” from the likes of Grace Dent.

If you’re looking for a website audit, or would like to discuss a potential SEO campaign run by Go Up, please give us a call. We offer the highest level of expertise in SEO London has to offer and have a track record of delivering results.