Here’s a topic I’ve covered many times over the years, but haven’t touched upon in the longest time. The catalyst for writing this article came from a brief discussion with a long time friend of mine about the gripe I have with Google and my blog articles.
Truthfully, Google sometimes feels like they hate me. Many times my article don’t show up within the first 300 links on there and it irks me to no end. In those times, I’ve learned that the only time I’ll find an article of mine is when I type the entire title of the article surrounded by quotation marks (that’s how you search for anything that has specific terms in the way you want to see them).
I said to my friend Chuck that whereas Google seems to hate me, both Bing and DuckDuckGo seem to love me. I’m almost always in the top 10, many times in the top 5. Since Chuck often writes for Search Engine Journal, I wrote him on Twitter saying this might make an interesting topic to cover one of these days. He agreed with me on that, but added this one bit of perspective regarding Bing:
“Quick answer – bing is using more machine learning and relies less on backlinks than G”
I had to stop and take a quick breath on that one. It’s something I hadn’t remembered about Google, yet it started to make sense. They tend to believe that the relevance of websites is determined by how they stand when other people link back to them. It’s not 100% on that, as there are other ways of doing well with linking, but in general it’s the way they see things. It explains why there are so many people contacting us, asking if we’ll add a link to their site on our site. I used to make money on my former finance blog adding links to other financial sites for a small sum.
What’s funny is that this wasn’t always the case. Back in 2008 there was a website that sued the New York Times for linking to their article, which showed how little people thought about its benefits at the time. I wish the New York Times would link to anything I’ve written anywhere… as long as I haven’t committed any crimes. 🙂
In that regard, I thought it was worth the time to talk about linking again. I might link to some older articles because, as I said, it’s been a long while, and there’s not a necessity to skip out on those if they give a bit more detail than I’ll give in this post.
Let’s start from the beginning for the uninitiated. Linking is pretty much what the internet is based on. Every time you see something on a website that has an underline on it, and you hover over it and you see some kind of change, that’s a link that’s going to take you somewhere else. On most of my sites I don’t have links underlined (I haven’t totally figured out this theme yet to make that change), instead bolding certain words and topics so that everything doesn’t look overly messy. Not all sites use underlines, so I’m not the only crazy person out there.
Links are important because they help the writer highlight something that will either help the reader gain more understanding, or give the reader something else to read on behalf of the writer, or sells something. Links are good for almost everyone almost all of the time. For instance, if I was writing about marketing and mentioned the topic “branding”, I could link in that post to my article telling a story about a friend of mine and how he branded his business without having to rewrite the entire thing in another place. However, if I happened to mention an encounter with a cute dog and posted a link about a cat, just having it be a story about a pet wouldn’t work well.
Hopefully in today’s world, most people know that someone linking to your website or blog is a very good thing, especially if it wasn’t asked for. This is known as “backlinks”, or one-way links, and search engines consider those valuable because, in their minds, the site owner has deemed that content important enough to link to without requiring the person to give a reciprocal link back. So, even if the writer is using your content to help them with what they have to say, online it helps the originator of the content just as much.
The only time someone might not benefit is if they’re content is being linked with someone whose content is somewhat controversial; that’s a nice way of putting it. If you write about roses and you find your link on a hard core pornographic site, you might not appreciate it as much and want the link taken off; that “guilt by association” thing. However, people aren’t under any obligation to remove your link from their sites, and most of the time, it’s good news for you. It’s also not as beneficial when someone is stealing your content as soon as you’ve written it, but there are ways of getting those people.
External links help drive people to your site; no links, and you have to hope for your hard core visitors only. On my blogs I give people who comment the opportunity to link back to their blogs in two different ways. One, if you put a link back to your domain it’ll highlight in your name, even if people don’t immediately see it. Two, I use CommentLuv, which gives commenters the opportunity to pick from a short list of articles of theirs that they want to highlight for people to see what they’re producing.
I’m nice that way, but not too nice. If a commenter adds a separate page to their domain link, I remove it. If they had a blog article they were being linked to, CommentLuv immediately removes that once I’ve removed the added extension. I don’t like being taken advantage of; some won’t see it that way, but I do.
Links are important, and backlinks are great, but one can have great success without backlinking. Back in the day when we used to be able to track the ranks of our sites (it’s been a while), I went on a quest to find a site that had a perfect 10 out of 10. I found this one which I talked about in an article titled The Almost Perfectly Optimized Website, which is the W3C site; if you don’t know about them and you have coding questions, that’s the place to go.
The thing about them is they don’t have any external links (at least they didn’t used to), but a lot of internal links to every specific topic they talk about. They do that in every single article, which is pretty amazing and helpful. It also makes them a pure authority site that Google understands.
Another site that’s “almost” perfect is Wikipedia (I shouldn’t have to link to them lol). They have lots of internet links, and a lot of people link to them in their content. They also have external links to other information; it depends on who’s writing or editing a page to add those things, and for many topics they link to outside sources at the bottom of the page.
One last thing I want to cover is a coding difference you want to make where it concerns external vs internal links. If you add an external link, the last thing you want to do is send people away from your site with the possibility that they won’t come back. If you add this, target=”_blank”, at the end of an external link (don’t forget to add a space after the previous quotation mark), when someone clicks on an external link it’ll open another page while keeping yours where it is. You can decide to do that for your internal links if you wish, but I choose not to.
I think that’s enough of that. I’m sure there might be a lot more questions, but hopefully I’ve covered the basics for you. Let me know your thoughts if you have any.