Most digital marketers know that links are already being devalued as a ranking signal, and will soon become obsolete. But you have to think about it from the search engine’s point of view. If they devalue links as a ranking signal – what will replace it? You can’t simply eliminate a very strong signal, and not replace it with other equally important signals. To be able to transfer out of links as a signal, Google has to have other signals to replace it, and do it gradually so the results remain relevant.
In the meantime, links continue to play a large role in ranking. Unfortunately, with the Penguin penalty filter, link building has become a risky proposition. If you build links that are of low quality or have too many footprints, it’s possible to be penalized and lose a large portion of your traffic/rankings. What can you do in the meantime to improve your positions?
Consider Link Attraction
Instead of BUILDING links, focus on attracting them. Everyone knows you need great content to attract links, but there are other ways. How can you provide something that’s unique to your industry that will cause others to link to you?
Many companies use education landing pages – simple information – to attract links. Brilliance, for example, offers a series of diamond education information for link attraction, this is really helpful for customers who do not know where to start. Think of your audience, and what problems you can solve for them programmatically. Can you offer them a free template? A free app? Finding programmers can be difficult and expensive, but the rewards can be of great value if you manage to build links without getting penalized.
When optimizing pages for SEO, the best thing you can do is to concede right away that there are no shortcuts and no magic bullets. SEO is all about methodically structuring pages so they communicate to search engines that they are relevant, credible and worthy of a good ranking.
Make URLs Attractive to Search Engines
If you can only do one thing, fix your URL structure. URLs carry a lot of weight with Google, and businesses make mistakes with URLs more frequently than perhaps any other key SEO element.
Avoid Google’s suspicion by making URLs meaningful and straightforward. URLs should contain keywords, and not just consist of punctuation and a string of numbers and characters. Specify canonical URLs with a special tag in cases of duplicate content. Also, use robots.txt to conceal irrelevant pages, pages that contain privileged information or any page that doesn’t contain keywords, such as a Terms and Conditions page or a privacy page. Next, create an XML sitemap, which is different than an HTML sitemap. Unify all domain versions — both www and non-www — and give preference to static URLs over dynamic URLs.
Title, Links, Keywords and Page Optimization
Keep title tags under 55 characters, including spaces. Your title should mention the keyword, and it should be wrapped in an H1 tag. Link to authoritative websites. Google looks at your outbound links to determine what kind of site it is and how reliable it will be for your visitors. Make sure to mention your keyword in the first 100 words, and use keyword synonyms — Google can identify when your page contains words similar to your keyword.
Google is putting more and more emphasis on how web pages respond to mobile devices, so use code for responsive web design to make sure that your pages adapt to tablets and smartphones. Optimize for sharing by including social buttons, which are crucial to boosting your number of inbound links. Finally, monitor and optimize your loading speed. Google has stated that page speed is a high-priority signal.
Special Notes on SEO for WordPress
If you run one of the roughly 75 million websites that are built on WordPress, you’ll have to use SEO-optimized plugins and themes. SEO’s foundational rules about written content — namely that it is shareable, helpful and unique — still apply. The same holds true for ethical and appropriate linking structure, image usage, anchor text and keywords. Consider using one of the many WordPress plugins, such as Yoast or Social SEO Pro, to make SEO easier on WordPress and to automate whatever processes you can.
People who use WordPress have to make sure they’ve implemented best practices for WordPress SEO — but the basic standards of SEO don’t vary from platform to platform. Clean, healthy URLs are a critical, yet often overlooked element. Link to authoritative sites, use the right tags, make sure you are optimized for mobile and most importantly, design your page to be one that you would want to find if you were the one conducting the search.
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