Rusted Links
Creative Commons License photo credit: Scintt

Arguably one of the most important ways of obtaining high search engine placement is through obtaining of links, and scouring places such as Digital Pointless you can find people willing to buy, steal or borrow links. Often they judge first on Pagerank, a little green bar within Google’s toolbar which gives every page a score out of 10. If you don’t have large pagerank, then you don’t get your link.

Often new bloggers or SEOers will take links from anywhere & occasionally they will chase unrelated, yet high page rank sites that they can put their links on. Whilst obtaining links from large sites is well worth going for, they can harm your site in the long run if you’re not careful.

My (Friends) Story

A friend of mine did his fair share of affiliate marketing, though he stayed in industries that he knew things about, one of which was football – he ran an affiliate site for football kits – shirts & shorts mainly. He did okay but he wanted to do better, and as such read up on SEO & link building. He heard that good quality links improved your site in search engines. He asked his friend, who worked in the local council to put a link to his site from a council’s page – the one in particular was the local fire safety news page, which had high page rank (around 5 or 6).

Sure enough the site had improved rankings, and improved traffic, but most of the new traffic were searching for fire safety keywords, not good. His football kit site was still new, so my only thought is that Google thought “this site appears to be about football kits, but this authority site thinks it’s about fire safety, so I’m going to say that it’s that”.

This traffic was nigh on useless, furthermore the poor chap had trouble ranking for keywords he actually did want to rank for. In the end, he gave up, the council removed the link when his friend moved on, and in the end the site was sold on.

My Thought Process

The story above happened a few years ago, I think before even the Florida update, either way I am fairly confident such a unrelated update in the search engine rankings cannot happen with one link now (ever since Googlebombs were removed), but I think that it still teaches an important lesson.

When doing link building, I will rarely search for pages with “high page rank”, instead focus on building links & connections with people I view as authoritative within niches. Often they don’t run huge pagerank of 6 or 7 blogs, instead write on sites that are around the 2 or 3 pagerank (most don’t have a clue what “page rank” is even if it hit them in the face – but they produce good content), if it’s similar area to my site, then I will try and contact them to form some sort of alliance (guest post usually), and go from there.

By all means don’t limit yourself just to your niche, and if you’re a blogger you should post outside it, but focussing on the links you’d like to attract does have a benefit SEO wise, and debatably it’s better than a high ranked, unrelated link.

The Other Benefit

Links not only can improve your standing in the search engine, but also can get you more interested individuals reading your work or viewing your site. This can help achieve what those SEOers, linkbuilders & affiliate marketers dream of – natural link building & your site going viral.

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