In my earlier columns, I shared some techniques on how to improve your website’s relevance and direction. The next step is to encourage people to connect with you online, which demonstrates a level of trust and authority to search engines.
A link is a referral, and referrals are golden
When someone links to your website, that’s their way of saying “I trust these guys, go and visit them to find out more about what I’m talking about,” and are willing to point their current website traffic to you.
The search engines treat a referral the same way we do, and like we do, only take advice from the qualified refers who are trusted. They measure the quality of the referrers’ website and then weight the connection accordingly.
How to determine a good referring link
In everyday life, the referrals we earn in business are triggered, such as by delivering a great service. Any referral from people who have played witness to your excellence would have more influence than that of a salesman, getting paid to generate you leads. That is exactly how you should compare earned links in relation to quick and easy links. That is the key to success: to earn your links.
Techniques used to easily acquire links that quickly influence your search positions are not taken very seriously by the search engines – to which they may remove you from their results pages. Two of the most common ways people acquire ‘easy referral links’ that have little substance or influence are:
- Uploading free content to article directories. For example, eZine articles or Go Articles
- Submitting your website into free directories that have no approval processes; for example sites named like “littlewebdirectory.com” or “greatestdirectory.com”
Earning strong referral links
One way is to quite simply put yourself out there and keep people informed with what you’re up to. Raising awareness of your business through social media, blogging and making contributions within discussion groups are a few ways to get your website and content seen. In time, you’ll start to get recognised and noticed for your work, and people may mention you or reference you within their own blogs. It’s not easy. It takes time and focus.
You could get mentioned for anything. For example, you may have recently:
- Won an award which triggers conversation and online discussion
- Been involved in a large local project that people are talking about
- Launched a new product or service that is unique to other in the market
- Recently published some great hints and tips that people find useful
By encouraging such activities and earning these referrals, you will notice your referral traffic will steadily increase with people genuinely interested to learn more, and search traffic will steadily increase as search engines continually recognise your referrals are credible and real.
With everything you do, think like Google
It’s their job to recommend the most relevant and trusted websites to us when we make a search. For relevance they look at the quality of your content and for trust, they take signals from your “referral network” and how trusted they are within their community.
There are no quick wins or shortcuts when it comes to improving your search engines rankings. Search engines are extremely sensitive to manipulative behaviour, and won’t hesitate to remove you from the results if they notice something fishy – just like we’ll instantly stop recommending someone.
I’m going to talk more about this at the Lincolnshire Marketing Expo in October, so if you want to hear more, you can come along.
Phil Kelsey is the Managing Director of Spiral Media, a Lincoln-based website and online marketing consultancy. Phil and his creative team create online strategies for their clients by combining their design, development and online marketing skills, which involves search engine optimisation to increase traffic and conversions.