Building, Sustaining & Winning Links For SEO Success

A win­ning link build­ing strat­e­gy con­tributes to the suc­cess in organ­ic search. These three phas­es will help more peo­ple dis­cov­er your con­tent.

Danny Goodwin By Danny Goodwin from Momentology. Join the discussion » 2 comments

Your website’s nav­i­ga­tion struc­ture and inbound link pro­file play an impor­tant part in your site’s abil­i­ty to be found in the search results. Google eval­u­ates the author­i­ty of your web­site in part by the qual­i­ty of the links point­ing to your site. The more rel­e­vant sites that point to your con­tent, the more pop­u­lar and author­i­ta­tive you must be, at least in the­o­ry. And on your site, the way your links are struc­tured can help both the search engines and your users dis­cov­er con­tent with ease.

Build­ing, main­tain­ing, and grow­ing links to your brand’s site all con­tribute to the suc­cess of your organ­ic search efforts. Let’s look at three key phas­es and how they con­tribute to a win­ning link build­ing strat­e­gy.

Phase 1: Build – A Strong Website Navigation Structure

When you think about your site as a set of doc­u­ments, you can start think­ing about how to best orga­nize those doc­u­ments in a way that groups like top­ics togeth­er – just as you would in say, your computer’s file fold­ers. Except on your web­site, these fold­ers are called direc­to­ries, and they rep­re­sent the dif­fer­ent sub­ject themes on your site, like your ser­vices, prod­ucts, or infor­ma­tion about top­ics that mat­ter to your busi­ness. These direc­to­ries are cre­at­ed through your web­site nav­i­ga­tion – link­ing sim­i­lar pages togeth­er. Direc­to­ries are impor­tant to orga­nize for a cou­ple of rea­sons; when the direc­to­ries and their URLs are orga­nized well:

  • It makes it eas­i­er for search engines to crawl and under­stand the con­tent on your site. This way, you’re effec­tive­ly build­ing mini-libraries of con­tent on a sub­ject, and can become an author­i­ty on it.
  • Your vis­i­tors can nav­i­gate through your site with ease, find­ing the infor­ma­tion they need faster.

Directory Structure Bot­tom line: When you orga­nize your website’s doc­u­ments using easy-to-read, sim­ple URLs that are linked togeth­er in a direc­to­ry, you’re going to improve the expe­ri­ence for search engines and web­site vis­i­tors. So, what does that look like, exact­ly? Sim­ple URL names and cohe­sive URL struc­ture, like: (home page) (sweater direc­to­ry) (hol­i­day sweaters) (Star Wars sweaters) (cash­mere sweaters) Remem­ber that you can also link like-pages togeth­er across direc­to­ries when rel­e­vant. One exam­ple would be a link from a post on about hol­i­day-themed pup­py sweaters to the page.

Phase 2: Maintain – Discovering & Fixing Links

Build­ing the foun­da­tion is an excel­lent first step, but it’s not enough to “set it and for­get it.” Your web­site needs tend­ing just like a gar­den to keep it healthy. Even though a great direc­to­ry struc­ture helps the search engines and users bet­ter dis­cov­er the con­tent on your site, tak­ing extra steps to improve that expe­ri­ence is key. Here are a cou­ple ways to ensure that.

Finding & Fixing Broken Links

A bro­ken link – or 404 (page not found) can be quite annoy­ing to your web­site vis­i­tors. Rou­tine (week­ly or month­ly) main­te­nance of bro­ken links is impor­tant to ensur­ing users don’t leave your site. Run tools to iden­ti­fy and fix those you can. Some­times this includes imple­ment­ing a 301 redi­rect to the best page, oth­er times, sim­ply hav­ing a cus­tom-designed 404 page that gives your vis­i­tors oth­er options they can nav­i­gate to can keep them on your site longer.

Sitemaps & Site Maps

No, that’s not a typo – those are two dis­tinct ways that search engines and users can dis­cov­er more of your website’s con­tent. An XML Sitemap is for the search engines to get a bet­ter pic­ture of how your site is orga­nized and helps the search engines bet­ter crawl the con­tent. An HTML site map is a page on your site that lists all the main sec­tions and links with­in your site in an orga­nized man­ner. This is your vis­i­tors’ road map if and when they are feel­ing lost. It’s impor­tant to keep this updat­ed as changes are made to your site to avoid bro­ken links.

Phase 3: Grow – Increasing Link Volume & Value

Ever since Google Pen­guin hit the scene, “link build­ing” has become a dirty word. But that’s just seman­tics – build­ing the vol­ume and val­ue of links is still an impor­tant sig­nal to Google that your site is a rel­e­vant and pop­u­lar choice. What’s no longer in vogue is the type of link build­ing that works to arti­fi­cial­ly inflate rank­ings. Think: buy­ing links. What’s more, bad link build­ing often leaves sites with a link pro­file that con­sists of inbound links from oth­er sites that aren’t rel­e­vant to your indus­try or top­ic, and that’s a red flag to search engines. While there’s still debate about what types of links mat­ter most, a laun­dry list def­i­nite­ly exists of what the indus­try believes to be bad links and bad link-build­ing prac­tices. Pen­guin cat­a­pult­ed brands into a fren­zy of link prun­ing – get­ting rid of those links that could be per­ceived by Pen­guin as low qual­i­ty, and ush­ered brands into a new era of what it meant to earn links the smart way. Today, brands work to grow their link pro­file in a way that allows their sites to thrive in the face of any algo­rithm or penal­ty that the search engines may throw at them.

Danny Goodwin

Written by Danny Goodwin

Managing Editor, Momentology

Danny Goodwin is the former Managing Editor of Momentology. Previously, he was the editor of Search Engine Watch, where he was in charge of editing, content strategy, and writing about search industry news.

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