SEO Internships – part 3: Why are links so important to SEO?

As we’ve learned so far in this blog series, SEO has a number of important strings to its bow. But of all these component parts, link-building is arguably the most important for lasting success online. In this article Ed Hallinan, former Inspiring Intern and now web-editor for digital consultancy InterGreater, will be giving a lowdown on why links are so important.

If you’re considering a career in digital marketing, hopefully you’ll find lots of useful tid-bits here to help you hit the ground running. Just a little bit of insider know-how can make all the difference at interview – good luck!

So just what is link-building?

In the simplest terms, link-building is the act of sourcing links from external sites to point to your website. Almost all of us are link-builders and we don’t even know it. Take for example the last piece of celebrity gossip, funny joke, or crazy video that you saw online? Did you keep it to yourself, or did you share it, perhaps on Facebook, or in an email, or even on your own blog or website? Whether you thought of it this way or not, the fact remains that you published a link to that content – the link-builders out there would be very pleased!

Turning villages into towns

You can consider a webpage a bit like a village. The more ‘roads’ (links) that lead to that ‘village’ (your site), the more likely it is that people will stumble upon it and potentially explore it. Of course this has to be backed up by offering something people want to find – whether cheese-rolling or bell-ringing, it really doesn’t matter, as long as people are stopping to take a look. And the more people visit, the more business the village gets. This might see the settlement eventually grow into a town and, as such, more roads are built. Just think about how many roads lead to the heart of a city like London, with thousands of fascinating things to see – we want to emulate that.

So, using our analogy, we need to build more roads, or ‘links’ to our site, to develop it from a village into a bustling metropolis, in so doing attracting customers far and wide. As we covered in our last blog, there’s no point getting links unless you have something to say – content creation is key. But if you can build excellent content and lead unsuspecting passers by to that, then your site will surely grow. This is what link-building is all about.

Authority rankings

Obviously, the prime importance of link-building is to increase traffic to your site. But there are also particular SEO benefits which are of prime importance to my work at InterGreater. I’ve found that the more insightful my content is, the more links it will generate. Search engines use this as an indicator of authority on the web and rank pages accordingly. I like to use the SEOmoz Open Site Explorer to find who is linking to InterGreater’s content and see its ‘authority’ scores.

It stands to reason that the more reputable sites point to your content, the more authoritative it must be. SEOmoz’s page authority metric takes this into account and comes up with a score for each page. These figures are then averaged out among all the pages on your site to come up with an overall domain authority ranking. This is why it’s important not just to link to the same page all the time, but spread them out across your site. Below is an example of how SEOmoz analyses the authority ranking of www.inspiringinterns.com:

Here you can see the domain has some 6,652 links, from 174 separate root domains (i.e. 174 different websites). Because the majority of links will go to the homepage (i.e. the web address in its purest form) you will see that the page authority is higher than the domain authority. The scores work on an exponential level so that it is twice as hard to get from 0-10 to 10-20 and so on. You will see that news sites which have millions of subscribers and people linking to them will score into the high 90s.
At InterGreater, our approach is to aim to get links from websites with values above 30/100 as a good starting point for SEO.

Ever wondered why your website wasn’t getting onto Google’s front page? Why not compare your site with a competitor using Open Site Explorer? 9 times out of 10, you will see that sites which rank above you have higher authority scores – hence why link-building is so important.

Hopefully that’s given you a taste of why linking is so important for SEO. In our next blog, we will take a look at how to get those crucial links. Until next time!

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