When I started my career in SEO, I had to do it all, from fixing code issues to running PPC campaigns, all while building links, writing content, and using analytics. I’m like a grumpy senior citizen who had to walk to school uphill both ways in the sleet, dodging bullets. These days, we’re seeing loads of niche SEOs who just do one bit mainly…and link builders have emerged as one of the most visible groups.
Specializing in link building has partially happened due to the amount of time that it takes to development a quality inbound link portfolio. Even though I run a link building agency, I can assure you that nothing I’ve done in this field is quite as tedious as building links. Many sites choose to do nothing but link building, and they devote increasingly large budgets to employing link builders who produce quality links.
Many SEO agencies choose to outsource their link building to firms like mine who do nothing but build links. While this sounds like a setup for autonomy in the link building sector, it’s anything BUT…after all, even though link building can sometimes feel like a shortcut to ranking well, it’s little more than a safety net without the proper SEO behind it. With that being said, let’s turn to what I think are the 5 most important concepts of SEO that, as a mere link builder, you really should understand.
Whether server-side or client-side, you should understand how to identify if one is indeed in place and whether it’s the best idea in the specific case. Both the www and the non-www version of a site should not return a 200 in an HTTP header check. One of them (usually the non-www version) should return a 301, for a permanent redirect. It’s nice to know which actual URL you should be building your links to.
Yes, they may be incredibly unhip, but they do serve a purpose. If they’re all blank, or they’re all duplicates…well that’s just wrong.
Know when it should be employed, and how to determine whether it’s currently being used. With the lovely little add-ons that make all the nofollowed links pink, this may be irrelevant, but checking the source code for the rel=”nofollow” is my preferred method, since I’m a bit of a Luddite.
You should know how to check to see if your nice little page is accessible to the spiders, or whether it’s blocked by a meta tag or a robots.txt file. As funny as it sounds, you should always check to ensure that your entire SITE is not blocked. New sites moving from a test environment to a production one can easily have this problem. For the record, if your robots file has this, everything is blocked:
If you see this meta tag, you’re telling the spiders not to index the page, and to nofollow all the links on it.
[META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW”]
One of the most important things to remember here is that these do not always work as you hope they will. Robots can ignore the meta tag, spiders can find routes into pages that are nofollowed here but not nofollowed elsewhere, and chaos can ensue.
It shouldn’t (but continually does) surprise people that it’s nice to have at least one little mention of the desired keyword in the actual content. Yes, you can rank without it if you rely on anchor text from inbound links, but this is a very, very poor idea. While we’re at it, understand that you can find a singular keyword in its plural version if the spelling works out. For example, “shark” is found in “sharks” but “goose” isn’t found in “geese” is it? NO. Obvious, but I mention it because, yes, it’s come up. In this same vein, you aren’t going to rank for “sharks” if you only have a mention of “shark” in your content.
Obviously this is skimming the surface on the various pieces that fit together to form the basis of any halfway decent SEO campaign…but it’s a start. You might make your clients happy if you build great inbound links to their sites, but it’s not going to last on its own.
Julie Joyce owns the link development agency Link Fish Media, is one of SEO Chicks, and contributes to Search Engine Land and Search Marketing Gurus.