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5 Steps to Better Link Building

5 Steps to Better Link Building

5 Steps to Better Link Building

We have been covering the shift in web content and SEO practices recently, and now we get to the practice of link building.

Links are not the beginning or the end of Search Engine Optimisation, but they do hold a large portion of weight in the algorithms employed by Google/Bing to rank websites on their Search Engine Result Pages (SERP).

It is worth spending some time to understand link building, to incorporate link building into your content creation processes, so that you can reap the rewards from the effort in the future.

A Short History of Link Building

In their simplest form, links are like map locations for search engines to navigate between on their endless quest for information. Another way to look at them, is to consider a link as a vote from one website for another. Links help search engines calculate the popularity of websites and specific pages based on the number of other websites that carry links pointing to them.

Rand Fishkin of Moz, in 2009, summarised the history of link building and described it as follows: Between 2000 and 2002, direct link buys, email requests for links and link exchanges were popular. In 2003 and 2004, link networks, blog commenting and paid text links became popular. 2005 saw the advent of social media links, linkbait and quizbait and in 2008-09 came content licensing and editorial content for links.

After 2009, Google started introducing software like Hummingbird, Penguin and Panda which fished out websites that were aimed at fooling search engines. These complicated software algorithms were created to penalise such websites and to stop them from appearing at the top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).

The Better Way to Link Build

Nowadays, the best practice for link building is to consider the bigger picture, and focus on building your link profile. QuickSprout has a great article - What is a "Good Link Profile" and How Do You Get One - that is worth reading if you have not heard of the term before.

Step One: Focus on Content

The first step is to produce quality content which is relevant, meaningful, and will gain popularity on the Internet in its own merit. Unless you create content which readers would want to share, you aren't going to create reason for other websites to link to your website.

As mentioned earlier, links are like votes. So if a website posts a link to your content, it is like the owner of the website voted for you. If a website which is considered an 'authority' links to your content, the value of the 'vote' increases. All of this affects where your website shows up on a Search Engine Results Page.

There are several ways in which you can structure content on your website to make it more appealing. Articles which list the '10 best' or '10 worst' of a topic are very popular with readers. Infographics or white papers providing insight into specific areas of your industry are also very popular and make the content easier to share as well.

Step Two: Only Aim for Natural Links

According to Google, their algorithms are configured to use only natural links for indexing and ranking websites. Search engine algorithms are able to distinguish between genuine links to your site posted by people who think the information would be helpful to others, and links which are posted specifically to "boost votes". The latter are referred to as spammy backlinks, which hurt your link profile.

Step Three: Promote, Promote, Promote

The content that you have created needs to be promoted aggressively by you. Do not wait for people to notice your content first and then start sharing. Instead, reach out to authority websites and "influencers" in your industry and share your content with them. If they find it useful and share it with their followers, your reach will increase exponentially.

Use paid options offered by social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to promote posts. You can also buy ad space in online journals using content syndication networks like Taboola and Zemanta to promote your content.

Step Four: Diversify your Back Links

Mix things up by requesting backlinks in different formats and on different platforms. Aim for some backlinks to be through social media, and some to be contained within content.

Another popular way to diversify link building is through guest blogging. However, today, guest blogging has become vastly more complicated than before. To establish your own set of followers, it is imperative that you contribute high quality content regularly. You must also promote the content you contribute and respond to queries / feedback.

Step Five: Backlink Management

Keep a constant watch out for any websites which feature your name or that of your brand. Check these websites regularly and request backlinks to your website if you have been mentioned, but not linked to. Another popular way of tracking mentions is through Google Alerts. You can enroll for competitions and also submit reviews of products to websites in return for a backlink.

In Summary

We have provided a very basic introduction into the practice of link building for today's content writers and provide a list of articles that should provide you with some more in-depth information. If you would like to discuss how you can improve your link building strategy or your overall content strategy, feel free to Get in Touch.

Further Reading:

Want to discuss this some more? If you would like to know more about content marketing or about anything in this article please let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


6 Good Reasons Why You Should Be Thinking "Mobile First"

6 Good Reasons Why You Should Be Thinking "Mobile First"

6 Good Reasons Why You Should Be Thinking Mobile First

Almost everyone would agree that mobile is the current focus for the Web, even Google holds a "mobile first" mantra for their products and services. Even still, the websites of numerous large companies are not taking advantage of rapidly growing mobile consumer market.

The team at Voucher Cloud have put together a Portrait of a Mobile Consumer; an infographic that highlights the current status of the mobile consumer market, and, once again, it gave some compelling statistics that took even us by surprise.

If your website isn't mobile friendly, here are 6 good reasons why you should be thinking "mobile first":

  1. It is estimated that there will be 8.2 billion hand-held mobile devices by 2018. The estimate for the global population in 2018 is only 7.4 billion.
  2. Within the next 3 years, m-Commerce sales are predicted to hit $626 billion, which is just shy of the 2013 e-Commerce sales total of $638 billion.
  3. 90% of consumers are already using their smart-phones for pre-shopping activities, such as to find directions to and the opening hours of a business.
  4. More than 50% of Amazon customers completed a purchase on a mobile device in the last fiscal quarter of 2013.
  5. Near Field Communication ready point-of-sale checkout terminals are expected to increase to 44.6 million within the next 2 years. I.E. Check-out/Pay via your smart-phone.
  6. Retailers are starting to use mobile-devices to create interactive in-store experiences, pairing the smart-phones with contact-less technologies such as Near Field Communication (BlueTooth for example) or QR Codes. So far, real-world examples are offering vouchers or membership benefits, but the possibilities are endless.

If you need to move your business on-line, or you want to make your website mobile friendly, Get in Touch for a FREE demonstration.

View the Infographic: Portrait of a Mobile Consumer

More Information: Portrait of a Mobile Consumer - An infographic by the team at vouchercloud.

Got an opinion? What was your reaction to the statistics put forward in the infographic? Share on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014

The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014

The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014

It seems like only yesterday the "experts" were advising that to achieve the best search engine performance you needed a properly optimised website layout along with the use of hand-picked keywords in the important areas of the pages.

The way Google ranks search results has changed the SEO game dramatically, however, and the tactics and strategies for Search Engine Optimisation have shifted to be almost totally content focused.

It would seem content marketing has replaced "traditional" methods of search engine optimisation (SEO), so we ask, how relevant are these   traditional SEO practices and is there any use in still following them?

Let's begin with a quick look at the history of traditional SEO.

Traditional SEO

Keywords and inbound links are the two broad philosophies directing the SEO industry. The goal: to have your website at the top of the results pages whenever a specific keyword is typed into a search engine.

This gave rise to strategies that aimed to deceive search engines using techniques such as "keyword stuffing" (using keywords or phrases numerous times on a page without any context or providing meaningful content for the reader), creating link farms and other practices that took advantage of the simplicity of search indexing algorithms to gain a higher ranking.

Legitimate websites found it difficult to rank highly in Search Engine Results Pages against these tactics, and it ultimately led to search engines changing the way they index and rank websites to ensure that the end user was being given high quality search results that gave them the information they were searching for.

New Age SEO

In response to deceitful SEO tactics, Google introduced a new algorithm that uses latent semantic indexing, which follows the idea that words used in the same context tend to have similar meanings. For example, the phrase "complete guide" is given the same ranking as "definitive guide" when either phrase is used in a search query.

Suddenly, the websites that had a stronghold on certain keywords and key phrases, and that were reliant on being at the top by pushing the competition out of the circle, found themselves now having to compete with websites using similar phrases. The distinguishing factor was now the content that was being provided to the user, not just the keywords in the search query.

Enter Content marketing. Content marketing, which involves the creation of high quality content to get ahead in website rankings is being touted as the new SEO.

Content marketing strategy also provides a greater return on investment by boosting a website's ranking through content being shared on a variety of social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and others.

A case study by Kissmetrics, presented by Neil Patel, studied the number of visits and back-links to 47 info-graphics which cost $28,200 to produce. These info-graphics received 2,512,596 page views and 41,142 back-links from 3741 unique domains. The social media contributions were 41359 tweets and 20,859 likes.

Patel estimates that the costs of trying to manipulate Google by buying Tweets, Likes, visitors and links would be $1,072,905.80 as compared to the $28,200 spent on producing the infographics. 

That is quite a difference.

Apart from the cost factor, another major advantage for content marketing as an SEO strategy is the fact that good quality content will remain unaffected by future changes that search engines might make to their algorithms.

The Conclusion

The positive practices of traditional SEO that helped search engines to deliver high quality search results to their users have remained a part of the New Age SEO practices, while the practices that worked against helping search engines have been dropped.

The answer to our question - how relevant are the traditional SEO practices today and is there any use in still following them? - is that since the positive traditional practices are part of the new age practices, it is worth focusing on a content marketing strategy to provide and boost SEO rather than trying to implement and manage two strategies in parallel.

As Aaron Agius from Louder Online told Huffington Post recently, "Content is the foundation of any successful online marketing campaign. A great strategy is needed in order to fuel social media activity, to create high converting landing pages for pay per click marketing and to power increases in search engine rankings for target keywords."

Further Reading:

What is your current SEO strategy? Have you shifted your focus, or are you still following the same practices? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


Is Your Content Accessible?

Is Your Content Accessible?

Is Your Content Accessible?

The Internet has created a platform to provide solutions to many every day problems. From basic websites that share information or entertainment, to highly complex applications that allow people to complete banking transactions on-line or see other parts of the world in real-time, we have been able to open our world like never before.

Just like in the real-world however, website owners must consider how their website or on-line application is used by visitors, including people with a disability.

For a web developer or a content author, this means that there are some techniques and tactics that need to be considered when creating a website or a piece of content that is published in the Internet.

So, we'll take you through what Web Accessibility is all about, and what you need to do to play your part in building an accessible World Wide Web.

What is Web Accessibility?

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.
- Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

Very simply, Web Accessibility ensures that the same detail of information is accessible to a viewer with a disability as is accessible to a viewer without a disability, so that the end experience for all users is as equal as possible.

The disability could be from a visual impairment, or a hearing impairment or a physical or mental disability that affects how the user is able to interact with the website and the content.

The Web Accessibility Initiative

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been ensuring that all areas of the World Wide Web are accessible to everyone since 2005 as part of their Web Accessibility Initiative (WIA).

As stated on the Web Accessibility Initiative website, web accessibility depends on several components working together in order for the Web to be accessible to all, and content is one of the essential components that, when formatted to meet the WAI guidelines, could substantially improve Web accessibility.

The Web Accessibility Initiative website provides strategies, guidelines and resources for website developers, software developers and user agent developers to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities.

For website content, this standard is outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guideline, and it is up to version 2.0.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 was first introduced in 2008 and it defines how to make Web content more accessible "with a goal of proving a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally". The recommendations and techniques provided to achieve WCAG 2.0 compliance are updated once a year to stay current with changing technology.

The guidelines, along with the resources that come from the guidelines, are all built upon a foundation of four principles of accessibility, such that anyone who wants to use the Web must have content that is:

  1. Perceivable
    Which means users must be able to perceive the information being presented, it must be visible to at least one of their senses). For content, this means providing text based alternatives for non-textual content like images or audio. Multimedia content should have captions which are accessible to screen readers, or should also provide an alternative version such as a written transcript. The guidelines also cover techniques of displaying content that should be avoided, such as time-based media that may not be displayed for long enough to be read properly; or styling content in a way that makes it difficult to read or hides content from view.

  2. Operable
    Which means users must be able to operate the interface (or put more simply, navigate around a website) using in the very least, a keyboard. In most cases, users have a keyboard and a mouse to interact with a website, but alternative means to navigate around a website must be provided. This alternative is typically provided through the functionality of the web browser (using the TAB or arrow keys to scroll through navigation elements on the page), or it is handled by assistive technologies that are based upon keyboard commands to a web browser.

  3. Understandable
    Which means users must be able to understand the information as well as easily determine how to use the website. Authors of websites must make their text readable without much effort by the visitor. This includes choices of font, size of text as well as the layout of the page. Content must also be structured in a predictable format so as to not leave the user guessing. For example, providing the user with clear and meaningful feedback after interacting with the website, such as after submitting a form.

  4. Robust
    Which means users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible). From a content point-of-view, this principles means that content is structured in a way that is future-proof. Using valid HTML with correct semantic mark-up is the best way to ensure that your content will be future-proof.

So what does it mean for you?

As a website owner or content author, you should check your website to see whether it meets the current WCAG 2.0 standards, and then take steps to address any areas that are not up to standard.

For most websites, this will typically be ensuring that meaningful images also have meaningful text alternatives (so background images don't count), and that hyper-links and anchors have meaningful titles and can be activated (clicked) by using the keyboard. If your website has video, then ensure that your videos provide subtitles and/or a transcript that users can read instead if they are unable to watch the video.

Services like AChecker will let you check if your website meets the WCAG 2.0 standard of accessibility for free. Several other such services are available online and can be found in a list of tools provided on the WAI website.

It is also highly recommended that you read the Techniques for WCAG 2.0 document to give you an idea of what to consider when creating content to ensure that it will be WCAG 2.0 compliant.

Further Resources:



Do you think Web Accessibility is important? Join our discussion on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


If you Post It, Will They Come?

If you Post It, Will They Come?

If you Post It, Will They Come?

5 Content Marketing Fundamentals

A well planned and executed content marketing strategy is no longer optional in order to stand out in the crowded digital landscape.

Content marketing is now a mandatory component of any Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy and a powerful way to give your audience a great experience of your brand.

Content marketing helps attract new visitors and build a loyal audience, which generally leads to increased conversions. Content marketing as defined by the Content Marketing Association is the discipline of creating quality branded editorial content across all media channels and platforms to deliver engaging relationships, consumer value and measurable success for brands.

For most of small businesses, all media channels and platforms typically means a corporate website, some Social Media engagement and hopefully some level of pro-active marketing in the form of promotional e-mail campaigns or other digital or traditional media advertising.

To point you in the right direction, we've listed 5 Content Marketing Fundamentals to help you plan and develop a content strategy that delivers on your investment.

1. Plan: Know your Audience and Objectives

Before you start chalk out a plan.

You may not have all the questions to begin with, let alone the answers, but beginning with why, who, when and how is a good place to start.

Who are you talking to and what areas of your business is of interest to them? How will you communicate and engage your audience?

Remember - it's all about building a community interacting with your brand!

2. Be Prepared to Spend

Ongoing creation of high quality content is neither easy nor cheap.

As a professional in your industry you are well placed to set the content agenda, but if you're talents (and time availability) don't allow you to be hands on in the entire process you might consider outsourcing as an option.

Here at Hub Com Digital, our management team develops an editorial calendar containing the topics we want to focus on for the coming weeks.

We then internally work up an overview for each individual content piece.

In the case of an article that will be published on our company Blog as well as our Social Media platforms, we would first develop the overall premise of the article and give it a working title. We then attach a couple of suggestions for a headline and send all that information to our graphic designer to create a suitable image for the article.

The articles themselves are either entirely written by our internal staff, or outsourced to external professional content developers, who write the actual article based on the premise / title and headline suggestions we provide.

3. Content for Brand Building

Gaining respect for your brand is not easy. It's the outcome of a process containing many steps over time.

Relating information about the evolution of your brand and your journey to the present gives credibility and builds empathy.

When planning your content marketing strategy, be sure to include reference to your origins, what motivates you to succeed and what motivates your customers to keep coming back.

The aim here is to create personal connections with your audience and reinforce what your brand represents.

According to Robert Rose, Chief Strategist at the Content Marketing Institute, telling the story of your brand can be likened to conventional story telling at a level. In a post on CMI, Rose lists out ten steps divided into three broad categories which will help you understand how to create content that captivates and enthrals.

4. Content for Reputation

On-line reputation management, which involves the maintaining of your digital reputation as well as dealing with negative public feedback, has become a thriving business today. Many of us have Googled the names of companies along with keywords like 'negative', 'bad' to check the reputation of companies (and people) we are planning to deal with.

While most reputable organisations are unlikely to be subject to an attack like the infamous case where a large number of websites attached the keywords 'miserable failure' with a link to George W Bush's official biography page hosted by the White House, the reality is that social media networks have given customers a powerful platform and dealing with negative feedback - whether it is true or not - is an increasingly important part of modern business operations.

A pro-active content marketing strategy distributing positive content on-line is a powerful way to mitigate the damage of an attack. It also pays to have a solid policy for dealing with negative feedback in place. Refer to our Blog article: Five tactics to address negative customer feedback.

5. Content for Search Performance

Search Engines like Google are making it increasing difficult to manipulate their search rankings artificially. Google's documentation clearly states they reward "high-quality" sites, and by this they mean websites that give "great user experience" and "fulfill information needs".

Just as Google rewards "high-quality" sites, it penalises sites for "low-quality content". Before embarking on your content marketing journey have a look at this important article on building high quality websites in the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

Summary

A content marketing strategy requires a significant commitment of resources. The impact is not usually instant and mistakes can be very costly.

On the other hand, the long term benefits from building and nurturing a community centred on your business are coveted by many for good reason.

Want to discuss this some more? If you would like to know more about content marketing or about anything in this article please let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.