Search Engine Optimization (SEO), is like a house. The pillars of SEO are like the framework that supports it, and if you’re missing any one piece, it can bring the whole thing down. Getting that “big picture” mindset is important for doing SEO right. Today I’m going to show you how you can do that by explaining what each pillar is and why it’s so important.

Table of contents 

  • How Search Engines Evaluate Authority
  • Why Links are Still Important in SEO
  • The Basics of Earning & Attracting Links
  • Wrapping Up

If you’ve found yourself in the grips of an all too familiar pattern of banging your head against the wall wondering why your efforts aren’t translating into the results you were promised, then it might be time to revamp your SEO strategy.

Of course, every business is different — there are so many factors that can affect what will work for one business and won’t for another. However, there are 3 foundational pillars upon which any good SEO strategy should be built: Authority, Relevance, and Trust.

These are the three pillars of SEO that every search engine marketing specialist must take into account when promoting a website.

To gain authority, you need to prove that your company is knowledgeable on the subject you are writing about. Relevance is arguably the most important factor in SEO.

For all aspects of digital marketing, it’s vital to make sure your content is relevant to your audience. To build trust with your readers it’s important that you differentiate yourself from the many sites out there that might share a similar topic or sell similar products and services, by providing an honest opinion or point of view and by earning quality linkbacks from other authority websites.

How Search Engines Evaluate Authority

When it comes to SEO, search engines are in the business of making decisions. These decisions have the potential to radically change your search traffic, and ultimately your business.

While modern search engines such as Google consider hundreds of factors (or signals) when determining the authority and importance of web pages, they can be categorized into two broad groups:

  • Content (relevance).
  • Links (external citation authority).

If a search engine runs into a web page with lots of user-centered content, then that page will probably be deemed as an authority when it comes to the topic.

First, a search engine will analyze and understand the page’s actual content and other features.

The engine then associates the page with related topics.

Initially, an on-page assessment was largely limited to this, but search engines have become much more advanced in their ability to interpret a page’s language, layout, and other characteristics in order to ascertain items like how thoroughly a page discusses a subject and how helpful it might be to a user. 

After the search engine comprehends the content and adds it to its database, it looks to external signals to verify and determine the page’s authority for the given subject.

After Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin invented PageRank, links have been the key signal used in such analyses.

Google treats links much the same way we would treat scholarly citations. The more scholarly papers that cite a source document, the better.

Also considered is the relative authority and trustworthiness of each citing source.

Why Links are Still Important in SEO

Though link popularity was the pillar of early SEO efforts, search engines have become a lot more advanced. It’s not easy to manipulate rankings by simply making thousands of links to your site, especially if you’re in a competitive industry. And now with penalties given to those who do so, it’s even harder. However, link popularity still plays a vital role in SEO despite the new algorithms of today.

But it isn’t all about links anymore. It’s about relevance and context. It’s not about the exact number of pages linking to your page but about the quality of those pages and their relevance to your visitors.

Gaining PageRank

While there is much debate about whether ‘page rank’ still exists Google has recently updated it’s page rank patent. Google defines it as “a numerical indicator of the importance of a web page, where the importance is calculated by considering the relative popularity of websites linking to that page.

Google PageRank is based on the hyperlink structure of the web.

What this means is that PageRank is determined through how many quality links come pointing to a page, which makes it more likely to rank highly in search results than pages that have much lower PageRank scores.

Each time a page links to another page, it imparts some of its PageRank to the page where the link is coming from. As a result, a page’s PageRank increases based on the number of links it receives.

All Links are not Created Equal

SEO professionals know that all links are not created equal. 

Some links help us to rank higher in the search engines while others do not, and only help our websites get better in other ways.  In other words, some links build SERP (search engine ranking power) while others just build social equity.

For example, compared to pages with lower PageRank, higher PageRank pages will be able to pass a lot more PageRank. In fact, you can have a link from one page worth many times as much as a link from another page.

Consider a page dedicated to the sale of a book that receives two links. One is from Amazon, but the other is from Bob Notch Bookshop. The one you trust most as a person is fairly self-evident, isn’t it? As customers, we understand that Amazon possesses greater authority on this subject.

As it turns out, the internet knows this as well. Amazon has a far stronger link profile (and a higher PageRank) than any other book-selling website. As a result, Amazon will have a higher PageRank and is able to transfer more PageRank to the pages to which it links.

It’s worth noting that Google’s algorithms have evolved significantly since the initial PageRank concept. The way links are assessed has shifted in major respects, some of which we are aware of and others which we are not.

The Importance of Relevance

Relevancy is the main reason people read website content. They want to be informed. You might think you are giving them what they want with your beautiful writing, but if the article you wrote is about something irrelevant, it doesn’t matter how well-written it is, or how many links you get — no one will care, and you’re wasting your time.

This proves that links are limited in their power as ranking factors, and it illustrates how relevance also affects the value of a link.

If a website selling home improvement tools gets a link from the Home and Garden magazine, then the link is highly relevant.

Think of it this way. Does Home and Garden magazine likely have some expertise related to home improvement? Of course, they do.

In contrast, if a site that usually focuses on real estate published a link to home improvement tools, is the link still helpful? Perhaps, but it is not as helpful, since there is less evidence to support the belief that the real estate site is an expert in home improvement tools.

What this means is that the relevance of the linked page and the linking site determines the value of the link.

How do I find the PageRank of a website?

Finding the PageRank of a website is easy. You just need to log into Google and look, right? Well, if you’ve ever attempted to find the PR of a site in Google, then you probably know it doesn’t work that way.

Google used to show a sample of PageRank to users of the Google Toolbar but has since discontinued this feature. Rather than that, many SEO practitioners rely on third-party metrics, such as the following:

  •         Domain Rank and URL Rank from Ahrefs.
  •         Citation Flow and Trust Flow from Majestic.
  •         Domain Authority and Page Authority from Moz.

Each is a good tool for determining a page’s merits as well as a working estimate of how much PageRank it needs to attain. It is important to understand this is only a back-engineered estimation of Google’s opinion of a page or domain and not an actual representation of PageRank.

There’s also something to keep in mind: none of these tools provide a complete view of all web links. These tools don’t have Google’s infrastructure for crawling the whole internet, so they focus on finding links that refer to a particular page or site.

What Role does Anchor Text Play?

Anchor text is a fancy SEO term that refers to the clickable link in your online content. It can be any word or phrase within your anchor text that links directly to another website. For example, in this sentence, the words ‘click here’ are the anchor text:  

Anchor text is used by SEOs to help a page rank for a particular keyword. It is also used by people trying to manipulate rankings. There are some places where anchor text can be used which can benefit a page or site’s overall ranking, but there are many more places where it is not allowed. And if you use it incorrectly, your site could be penalized and fall in the Google search rankings.

For example, if the anchor text contains the word “affiliate marketing” and the page contains material about that subject, the anchor text combined with the link serves as additional evidence that the page is about that subject. Thus, the link serves as a means of determining the page’s authority and relevance.

However, use caution, since you do not want to go for links that all use your primary keyword term as the anchor text.

Google will also look for indications that you are manipulating links manually for SEO purposes. One of the most straightforward tests is when the anchor text seems to have been slapped on and does not appear natural in the body of your content.

The Role of Trust in SEO Rankings

The reason large brands rank well in search engine results is that they have built up trust with potential customers. Trust is one of the things that can hurt your rankings. You can try all the on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and even technical SEO you want but if you rank without trust, you won’t generate conversions or sales.

It is pertinent to point out though that Google has said they do not use TRUST as a ranking factor.

These debates started after the announcement of a Yahoo patent on the concept of TrustRank.

The premise was that if you started with a seed collection of hand-picked, highly reputable websites and then counted the number of clicks required to get from those to yours, the fewer clicks, the more trusted your site is.

Google has long stated that they do not use this standard.

However, Google was awarded a patent in April 2018 for assessing the trustworthiness of links. However, the very fact that a patent has been issued does not guarantee that it is being used in practice.

But, if you wish to determine the trustworthiness of a site as a source of a link for your own purposes, using the TrustRank concept is not a bad idea.

But if you:

  • Sell and buy links
  • Create content that is below standard
  • And have a site that does not look reliable

The TrustRank concept will not work for you.

The Basics of Earning & Attracting Links

Now that you understand why obtaining links to your site is crucial for SEO performance, it’s time to develop a strategy for obtaining them.

The secret to success is appreciating Google’s need for a systematic approach to this method.

Google vigorously discourages, and in some cases penalizes, techniques for artificially obtaining connections. This ensures that such practices, such as:

  • Purchasing links for the benefit of SEO.
  • Participating in forums and blogs and leaving comments with a link to your website.
  • Hacking into other people’s websites and embedding links within their content.
  • Distributing low-quality infographics or widgets with links to your website.
  • Offering promotional codes or partner programs as a means of acquiring links.

What Google really wants is for you to create an amazing website and market it successfully, earning or attracting connections.

So how do you go about doing that?

Know Who Will Link to Your Website

Getting links to your site is a critical component of converting that site into a valuable online asset for you or your company and there are several distinct groups you need to get links from in order for others to consistently be able to find your site.

One of the most effective methods for getting top-quality links to any website is to get your content upvoted by innovators and early adopters, people who are itching to share cool stuff with their network. These are the kind of people that will not only link to your content but will be willing to put in the hard work for you (i.e., blogging about it, etc.)

Additionally, there are additional sources of links, such as domestic websites, a local chamber of commerce, or a local newspaper. You can even get opportunities with schools if they have pages that apply to some of the stuff, you’re doing in your business space.

Create Content People Will Want to Link To

When it comes to creating content that earns links, there are two main types of content you can create. One type is generic and the other is industry-specific. If you write something that’s generic, then you will have a wider audience and can get tons of low-quality links, but if your content is targeted to a niche market, then you might not have as many people linking to your site — but those who do link will likely link for long periods of time because they fit into your niche. The links you attract this way will be quality links too.

Ultimately, when you want others to link to your website, then you must create content that they find interesting or useful. If the content you publish is of no interest or use to anyone other than yourself, no one will want to link to it and those who do link to it will be doing so in order to help you – not because they really want to.

Build Trust & Relationships

To earn links, you need to understand what motivates people and companies to share, recommend, link, and even love your site.

Progress would be much slower if people don’t believe in you or are unable to take a chance on you.

It’s important to remember that any industry is part of a larger system. People would be unable to trust you if they believe you are just looking out for yourself.

Instead, figure out how to make the system work for you.

  • Help people on social media.
  • Respond to feedback in your social media feeds and on blogs you share online.
  • Attend conferences and give free presentations that educate the audience on topics of importance in your industry.
  • Attend local gatherings and offer guidance and counsel.
  • Become an influential and participating member of the society (that serves as your marketplace), and regularly share the advice and contributions.

If you share and connect to excellent content that others have published, the likelihood that they will share and link to your content increases significantly.

There are many elements that go into building good links and earning great links to your website, and the key is often in making meaningful connections and strengthening them over time.

Guest Posts and Publish on Third-Party Websites

Guest posts are a great way to boost your blog’s credibility without having to pay for it. It is also another good strategy to drive more traffic and build backlinks to your website.

Guest posting gives brands the opportunity to write content for other websites and link back to their site or another relevant piece of content. It’s worth noting that guest posting is not the same as link building — guest posting is often used more as a way to build relevant links back to your site, while link building is often used more as a way to gain links from irrelevant sources just for the link value itself.

Guest posts are a powerful way to earn backlinks and endorsements from niche-relevant sites. This is why it is important you focus your energies on the high-end of your potential target websites list.

Also, this brings us to the crux of the matter. Guest posting will not succeed if you do not know how to create relevant, useful, and high-quality content.

Leverage on Social Media

As a link-building strategy, leveraging on social media is to take advantage of your internal and external audiences’ engagement with social media channels. Social media is not just about posting, it also refers to all ways of interacting with users, be it Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube or any other social platform.

If you can build a solid social media presence, you can reach a vast audience with your content.

This, though, is contingent upon your establishing a favorable reputation with your target audience.

If you do this by constructive relationships with your audience, particularly pre-existing influencers, you have a fair chance of achieving positive results.

That said, getting the best outcomes from social media requires having relevant content.

It’s worth noting, though, that it’s extremely unlikely that some big search engines would use links included in social network content as an authority signal. They understand that links from social media posts are not quite as reliable as links from traditional websites.

Additionally, the majority of large social networking sites use the nofollow tag on outbound links, which instructs search engines to ignore the link’s PageRank.

Utilize social media to increase your personal and brand authority and trust, as well as to develop partnerships with relevant influencers, which may result in increased opportunities to earn links.

Remember, social media is a valuable tool for link building and can be used in many different ways to build links using both organic and paid social media.

Leverage on Social Media Influencers

We previously discussed the position of innovators and early adopters.

Another name for these two categories of individuals is influencers since they have an impact on others (including your potential customers).

Social Media Influencers are people that have well-established social media accounts which can be utilized to help promote your products or services. Oftentimes, these Social Media Influencers are more credible than bloggers or regular people because their audience of followers will listen to what they say and trust their view on products. This creates a huge opportunity to build high-quality links.

Attracting influencers to share your content is highly dependent on:

  •         The relationships and trust you establish with them.
  •         Your openness to sharing/linking to their content.
  •         The quality of material you create.

Social media influencers play a vital role in marketing campaigns. A study suggests that 92 percent of people trust the recommendations made by influencers more than they trust any other advertising source. They can build brand recognition and increase brand credibility.

With millions of followers on social media, their engagement with their fans is higher than celebrities. When an influencer likes your picture or shares your content it can have an immediate impact on your website traffic and conversion rate.

Build a Content Marketing Plan

Building links and growing your brand is a step-by-step process that anyone can do. The challenge is to find out the best way possible. But, to build links for your site, you need a content marketing plan first.

A content marketing plan is a strategy behind your link-building campaign which will help you attract quality links that are nofollow while still targeting the right audience to grow traffic for your website.

A content marketing plan is the foundation of your content marketing strategy, and it should be detailed in how you’re going to increase traffic to your business.

A Solid Content Marketing Strategy should be based on a plan that outlines the overarching tactics that will be executed over the next one, three, and twelve months. The plan can then be augmented with tactics for any shorter time period or day-to-day activities that are applicable to your business.

Don’t just start doing different things all of a sudden. Take the time to research what your competitors are doing in order to spend your content marketing resources in a manner that would possibly result in a positive return on investment.

One way to accomplish this is to obtain their backlink profiles through Majestic, Link Explorer, or Ahrefs. With the results you can get here, you can determine the types of links they’ve been receiving and then determine the types of links you need to acquire in order to defeat them.

Creating a content marketing strategy is difficult. It is, however, easier when you take a step back and consider the purpose of the plan itself. To create your content marketing plan, you can adopt the following steps:

Establish Your Mission and Objectives.

Establishing a marketing mission statement is a great place to start when developing a content management plan. This is a succinct statement that helps you concentrate on what matters – and what does not – so that when producing content, you can ensure that your content management plan remains on target.

Establish the Key Performance Indicators.

The most effective approach to accomplish objectives is to make them clear and measurable. This entails defining the content marketing strategy’s main success metrics (KPIs).

The KPIs can assist you in determining whether you have met your objectives by presenting checkable benchmarks.

Understand Your Audience.

A good content marketing approach requires an understanding of your audience in order to produce content that is relevant to them.

Carry out a Content Audit.

Many people and brands now have content available online. This includes material on the blog, as well as content on social media, shows, and podcasts.

That is why the next move is to determine if the existing content is assisting you in meeting your objectives. The ones that are can be updated to meet with current situations, while those that don’t can be repurposed or deleted.

Determine the Most Effective Content Channels.

The next step is to get a better understanding of where your audience congregates and where you already have a strong online presence. It is preferable to concentrate on what works and build from there rather than attempting to accomplish a lot at once.

Choose Content Types.

Consider the kinds of content you’ll need to make. Each digital marketing approach will require some types of content.

The majority of active content marketing campaigns begin with a core of content published on your own site that can then be repurposed and posted on other pages.

Create a Content Calendar.

As part of your content plan, you’ll need to determine the precise timing of your content’s publication on each of the sites you want to use.

Lack of preparation is a common content marketing error, which is why it’s important to use a content calendar to coordinate all of the content. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways.

For instance, you can use Google Calendar to store the due dates for individual pieces of content. That works reasonably well, especially if you don’t publish a lot of content.

Create Content.

There is a great deal of preparation involved with developing a piece of content. However, after all said and done, you need to create the content for your brand or business.

When creating content, you can decide to appear extremely formal, extremely relaxed, or anywhere in between. Additionally, you’ll need to strike a balance between demonstrating your experience and not patronising your audience.

Share Your Content

Sharing and marketing are the next critical components of the content plan. That is because you cannot get the desired outcomes until they are done properly.

Establish a timeline for publishing the content on your selected platforms, directly or using a drip campaign platform.

You can also share your content to subscribers through email marketing.

Then, notify any influencers that are included in your network to further help spread your work.

Measure for Success.

Finally, it’s time to evaluate the content marketing strategy’s effectiveness. To do so, you’ll revisit the key performance indicators (KPIs) you developed at the start of the content management plan to determine what’s changed and whether you’re meeting your targets.

Wrapping Up

While keywords are still the backbone of SEO, search engines are looking for much more than just keywords these days. The internet is such a vast resource that it has become increasingly hard to find what you’re looking for. In order to get your site to the top of the rankings, you need to develop quality content and acquire quality backlinks.

By focusing on creating awesome content that answers common questions and concerns about a specific topic while building links from authoritative sites in your niche, you can count on enjoying good rankings on SERPs.

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