Over the past few weeks we have discussed several key concepts related to having an effective web presence. First, we talked about the elements of an effective (not just attractive) graphic design for professional photographers. Last week we had a primer on writing content that is optimized for search engines. If you have an optimized design and content that is targeting the right keywords, you’re off to a good start. If you really want to improve your search engine rankings, however, you’re still missing one piece of the puzzle: link building.
Link building, as the name suggests, is a proactive and ongoing effort to get other (related) websites to link to yours. Google built its empire on the concept of “PageRank,” the perceived authority a site has based on the quality and quantity of sites linking to it.
Which site would you expect to be more authoritative and reliable: “Timmy’s Photography Blog,” which has links from four other hobby photography blogs, or the “Photo Marketing Association International,” which has over 26,000 links from sites such as Kodak, Adobe, HP, Sony, and hundreds of industry associations? Intuitively, you would assume PMA is the more authoritative source, but search engines determine this based on the web of links surrounding a site:
Judging by the simulation above, PMAI is far more authoritative to search engines, and will therefore outrank Timmy’s Photo Blog for almost any search where the two sites are in competition.
So, the objective of link building is to build a web around your site like the one above on the left, instead of the one on the right. Now, you may be thinking “But how do I get links on other people’s websites? Isn’t that outside of my control?” Not entirely. There are a number of ways you can encourage others to link to your site, and I’ll share a few of them with you here:
If you want people to link to you, you need content. Not just information about your business, or sales copy – these things don’t inspire people to link to you. No, your site needs content that people will find interesting enough to share. An on-site blog is the perfect vehicle for this. **NOTE: If your blog and website are on different domains, you’re not getting any SEO value from your content!** For instance, if your website is ABCPhotography.com and your blog is abcphoto.blogspot.com or wordpress.com/abcphoto, you need to move your blog onto your website before it’ll help your rankings.
If you want people to link to your site, first they need to know that you exist. Look for your customers, suppliers, colleagues, your photo lab and other industry professionals and start interacting with them online:
Because link building is such an important part of SEO, an entire industry has sprung up around the concept, allowing people to accumulate links quickly, artificially inflating their reputation and rankings. Search engines are cracking down hard on these tactics, a few of which I’ll describe below:
Roughly half the SEO companies you’ll find online still use these tactics as their primary means of improving rankings. They’re behind the times, and we’d advise against using these tactics on your professional photography site. There’s a very simple acid test for link building: ask yourself “Is this adding value for my visitors?” If the answer is “No,” Google probably frowns upon it and may blacklist you for it. Instead, invest your time in creating good, unique content, and forge relationships with others doing the same thing. Links (and improved rankings) will follow!
This is a complex and confusing topic. If you have any questions, drop me a comment below!
Come back next week for the final SEO post in this series, in which we’ll discuss Local SEO and reputation management!
This series was submitted by Kyle Claypool. He will be representing the United States as the US Technical Expert at the upcoming Website Design WorldSkills competition in London. Kyle helps with the photo lab’s website.
hello, how do I Find sites that are relevant to my linkbuilding campaign? if you have a list, can you share it to me?