My wife and I still get a giggle out of that bit from the Blues Brothers movie:
Elwood: What kind of music do you usually have here?
Claire: Oh, we got both kinds. We got country *and* western.
What does this have to do with link building? Well, for starters, there are two kinds of link building that everyone needs to do. Not country and western link building, of course… I’m talking about authority (PageRank) and anchor text (reputation).
Why do you need to know the difference? I see people making the same mistakes over and over, wasting time and money on ineffective strategies. The economics of the text link ad "industry" at the moment seem to be driven by people who think that there’s only one kind of link building.
How does this help you? Well, if you’re promoting a real business and not some kind of made-for-adsense type of site, it means that you can better focus your link building efforts on the stuff that makes the needle move on your rankings and traffic.
The bottom line? To get good SEO results, you need two types of links… and how you go about getting those links can be very different.
Link Building For Authority & PageRank
PageRank and other link-based measurements of a web site or page’s "importance" serve two purposes for search engines.
First and foremost, they allow the search engine to reduce the number of pages that they need to consider when trying to produce 1000 search results from potentially millions of pages that match the text of a searcher’s query. This helps the search engines solve the huge problems posed by the large scale of the web, especially when handling queries that return millions of potential results based on on-page factors alone.
Secondly, link-based measurements of authority, trust, or importance can be helpful in ranking web pages for presentation to a searcher. Depending on how sophisticated the search engine is, and how well their link approach can scale up to handle the web, they may be able to apply a certain amount of topical or semantic sensitivity – most likely very little.
The big concern for search engine optimizers is that first factor – selection of pages for ranking. If your pages aren’t important enough, they won’t even be considered, and all the fancy work you did on tweaking your title tags and "keyword density" won’t mean a thing. Therefore, a substantial portion of your link building effort needs to go toward creating more links, more authority, more PageRank… but this is actually the easiest part of the job.
Why is it easier? It’s easier because any old links will do. It doesn’t matter what the text of the link is, as long as you get more links. That means that the entire spectrum of online (and to some extent offline) marketing strategies and tactics are at your disposal. The obvious SEO-focused stuff, like directory submissions, and the not-so-obvious stuff, like actually doing marketing and promotions aimed at your target audience.
If, for example, you carry out a blogger relations campaign targeting those who speak to your potential customers, you may see real bottom line benefits. If a marketing campaign brings in some good traffic and a few links, you can evaluate that campaign based on its profitability, and consider SEO benefits as icing on the cake. As Mike Grehan said once upon a podium, presence builds presence – simply being present in more channels will lead to you getting more links, more authority, more PageRank.
Link building for authority is easier, because you can do just about anything you please. Link bait, public relations, press releases, viral marketing… It all works to get you more links. If you can find any ways to promote your business profitably, and also get links, you’ve got the "authority thing" more or less solved, because at the moment, relatively few of your SEO competitors are bothering with real marketing.
To build authority, you just need more links. Should you focus some attention on trying to get links from real authority sites in your market or niche? Of course. Should you buy a Yahoo directory listing? Of course. But you can get most of the job done just by promoting your business… and at the end of this article, I’ll explain why this pays off more than you might think.
Link Building For Anchor Text & Link Reputation
The hard part of the SEO’s job is getting the right anchor text pointing to the right pages… and it’s made even harder when you try to combine this type of linking building with the first kind. People trying to do two different jobs with the same tool are the reason why the price of a "PR7 text link" is so high.
Once you liberate yourself from this kind of thinking, "getting anchor text" gets a lot easier.
Once you stop worrying about "PageRank" in your anchor text & reputation, now you’re only worried about getting links with the right text pointing to the right pages. As long as the search engines are indexing the page and finding the link, any anchor text link is a good one.
In terms of getting a page ranked higher for a specific search term, give me 10 "PR4" pages with the right text over one "PR7" page any day… and "give" is a whole lot more likely when your only standard for the linking page is that the search engines are going to index it.
I get text links given to me for free all the time, simply by providing unique content to webmasters – call it article marketing, content distribution, or whatever else you like.
When I say "free," I don’t mean that this activity has no cost. In fact, it does cost real money to create good unique content that will be attractive to content publishers… but there is no monthly rent for the link, and it’s easy to ensure that the content is going to get indexed. Slap links on a couple search keywords in the author’s bio on the article, and you’ve got yourself a nice long term link.
The main difference here is that our options for building "anchor text" links are considerably more limited. It’s no surprise to me, therefore, that so many people are hung up on using paid (or rented) links for building anchor text. It sure sounds tempting… but if you think you just need one more PR7 text link ad to get you over the hump, good luck, and enjoy your ever-increasing link rental bills.
Fortunately, in most markets, you probably don’t need nearly as much anchor text link building as you think.
When It Comes To Anchor Text, Don’t Forget Your Own Site
It’s not unusual to examine a search results page and see that the largest site is ranked #1. There’s a reason for that.
Naturally, for a large site to get all of its pages indexed, it needs to have more authority (PageRank, whatever) to make that happen. But the other advantage that a large site gains, as more pages are indexed, is that they have more opportunities to create their own anchor text and link reputation within their own pages.
I’ve seen countless examples, where my students are able to take control of a huge share of search engine referrals in their own markets, simply by making better use of internal linking. In fact, some of our greatest success stories involve students who put almost no emphasis on anchor text in their link building campaigns, and focused instead on creating more unique content within their own sites.
It’s Up To You – Laugh, Cry, or Take Action
Some SEOs will applaud this article, others may disagree with me. If it doesn’t make sense to you, feel free to ignore it. This article, like the rest of the site, is primarily for the benefit of my "SEO Fast Start" readers. Any interest from the larger SEO community is definitely welcome, but that must be a secondary consideration if I am to serve my audience.
If you want to get out of the link rental rat race… if you’re interested in getting an education in creative link building that goes beyond "just buy ‘em," then I encourage you to register, download my free book, and watch the free link building clinic that all of my newsletter subscribers receive.
Thanks for reading, and we’ll talk more soon.