External linking

Boosting external links is vital to SEO in competitive markets – on-page optimisation is insufficient, although it is less easy to control and often neglected. The founders of Google realised that the number of links into a page and their quality was great way of determining the relevance of a page to searchers especially when combined with the keyphrases on that page. Although the Google algorithm has been upgraded and refined continuously since then, the number and quality of external links is still recognised as the most important ranking factor and this is similar for each search engines. As we mentioned above, links shared through social media are now also used as ranking factors.

Generally, the more links a page has from good quality sites, the better the ranking will be. PageRank (a scale between 0 and 10 used by Google which is used to assess the importance of websites according to the number of inbound links or backlinks) helps Google deliver relevant results since it counts each link from another site as vote. However, not all votes are equal – Google gives greater weight to links from pages which themselves have a high PageRank and where the link anchor text is adjacent text contains text relevant to the keyphase. It has been refined to identify sites that are ‘authority sites’ or hub sites for a particular type of search. For keyphase where there is a lot of competition, such as ‘car insurance’, the quantity of inbound links will be more important than keyphase density in determining ranking.

While natural links will be generated if content is useful, a proactive approach to link-building is required in competitive markets. Recommendations to boost external links:

1. Identify and create popular content and services

By creating more valuable content and then showcasing them within your navigation, or grouping it within a few pages such as ‘Useful Resources’ or more extensive ‘Resource Centre’, you can encourage more people to link to your content naturally, or approach them and suggest they link or bookmark not only the home page, but directly to useful tools that have been created.

2. Identify potential partner sites

There are several options to find partner sites. It is helpful to try to identify the types of sites that you may be able to link with, for example:

Directories of links (often less valuable)

  • Traditional media sites
  • Niche online-only media sites
  • Trade associations
  • Manufacturers, suppliers and other business partners
  • Press release distribution sites
  • Bloggers including customers and partners
  • Social networks

3. Contact partner sites

A typical sequence is:

Step 1: Write and email encouraging to link (or a phone call to discuss from someone inside the company will often work best)

Step 2: Follow-up link

Step 3: Setup links

Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F., 2012. Digital marketing: strategy, implementation and practice (Vol. 5). Harlow: Pearson.

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