I have read quite a few articles online recently that advise that back-links are no longer relevant for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and that your on-page content is now the only thing that matters.  This is simply not the case.  There are a number of contributing factors to the Google algorithm, around 180 of them in fact.

There are still 3 main areas to focus on:

On-page – the structure of the pages in your website in terms of technical compliance to Google’s website guidelines, and critically the quality of the content on your pages in terms of relevance and value added to the reader.  Another very important on-page factor is to add fresh, original new content to your website regularly.  One of the best ways to achieve this is via your blog – if it is hosted on your own domain.

Social Signals – There is no doubt that being found, being talked about and having your content shared on the social networks does help to boost your organic search engine position.  A recent Forrester Research survey showed that whilst 52% of people still find what they want online via a search engine such as Google or Bing, 32% use a social network to find what they want.  Interestingly, the same survey also showed that only 18% of people use paid search!

Off–page – Off page optimisation is still very much driven by links.  What the latest Penguin 2.0 rollout has done is to shift the focus away from link quantity to link quality.  Some people have mis-interpreted this shift as Google saying ‘links are not important anymore’ – believe us they are and they are likely to always remain so.

The acid test for links is three-fold:

a)   how relevant is the link

b)   who is the link coming from

c)   the anchor text used to create the link

We will look at these in a bit more detail:

How relevant is the link:

Google has stated repeatedly that its number one priority is to make sure that the searcher sees the very best results in terms of finding what they are looking for when they do a search on their engine.  It follows on from this that Google is now only taking links from other relevant web properties to your website into account when determining where your website will show in the results.  Links from non relevant web properties are discounted and links that Google might view as being ‘unnatural’ will actually cause your site to be demoted down the results.  If you have links from spammy websites or sites that are infected with malware this will harm your ranking.

How can you find out? – a good starting point is to look at your Google Webmaster Tools account or ask us to do this for you.  We can run a complete back-links analysis and if needed we can ask Google to ‘disavow’, i.e. ignore any links that fall into this category.

Who is the link coming from?

Once you have satisfied yourself that all your links are genuine and from relevant web properties the next assessment needed is to look at the quality of the website giving you the link.  Google and the other search engines view back-links as a recommendation and as in life, not all recommendation carry the same value.  The higher the standing of the site giving you the link – defined by the PageRank (PR), Citation Flow (CF) and Trust Flow (TF) the more valuable to you it is.  Back-links from no authority (PR 0, low CF, low TF) websites are of little or no value for organic SEO.

Anchor Text:

It is now increasingly important to have a good mix of phrases used as the anchor text in the links pointing to your website.  Websites that have only a few different anchor texts in their links appear to have been penalised in the latest Penguin update.  This is because using the same phrase, most likely a keyword phrase, as your anchor text is deemed to be unnatural by Google.

Best Advice for Link Building:

Links are still a key component of organic SEO, in fact they are still the largest single factor to influence the Google algorithm.  Link building is still required however the focus now needs to be on quality links from high authority relevant web properties.  If you are creating content you should use ‘keyword clusters’ i.e. 4 or 5 different but closely related keyword phrases to create the anchor texts for your links.

If you would like to know more about our organic search engine optimisation services please leave a comment below, or if preferred use the contact form.

Chris Griffin
Chris Griffin
Chris has been a Digital Marketing Consultant since 2005. Since 2007 he has specialised in Search Engine Marketing, both Paid Search and Organic SEO. He has an excellent record of helping businesses of all sizes, both in the UK and overseas, to achieve their online marketing goals.

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