Increasingly, our public relations and earned media efforts encompass search engine optimization tactics. One particular tactic that has long been a standard practice of search optimizers is link building: the acquisition of links to your content.
Keywords vs Links
What set Google apart in the early days of search from the Alta Vistas and Hotbots (for those of you old enough to remember) of the world was the recognition that a link was essentially a vote in favor of content.
Rather than simply digesting websites and matching search queries to the keywords found in web content, Google built it’s algorithm on the underlying infrastructure of the web: The hyperlink.
Not only did Google recognize that a link was a vote but it also recognized that not all votes were equal; that some links were more valuable than others.
6 Factors Affecting Link Authority
What makes one link more valuable than another apart from the traffic you may enjoy as a result of people clicking on that link? What makes one link more valuable in terms of search ranking than the next link?
1. Content Vetting
One of the things to think about is whether the organization providing the hyperlink has a formal system or policies in place that dictate to whom and in what scenarios they will link to another site.
Another thing to think about (and these often go hand-in-hand) is the degree to which that organization is responsible for providing objective and unbiased information.
2. Link Authority Of .gov, .mil & .edu Sites
Websites with a .gov, .mil, or a .edu top-level domain are considered to be the most objective and unbiased. Links from those sites are therefore given a lot of weight by Google in terms of search visibility, for several reasons:
- Only specific, authorized organizations can obtain a .gov, .mil or a .edu domain. They are not available to just anyone.
- Those sites typically have very strict linking policies, so links from them are typically earned based solely on the merit of the content being linked to.
3. Link Authority of Brand Websites
Websites of brands are also typically selective in linking externally if for no other reason than the purpose of a brand website is to promote a brand, not other websites.
These websites typically adhere closely to thoughtful brand guidelines and policies, as well, so links from them are also difficult to obtain.
4. Link Authority Of News Organization Websites
While they rarely have the type of strict linking policies that governments and educational institutions do, news organization are presumed to have a vetting infrastructure in place, which can include:
- Reporters required by journalistic standards to obtain three sources to verify facts (not so common any more but still a standard)
- The use of fact-checkers
- Simple journalistic competition
- The policy of a “church/state” separation between editorial teams and advertising teams (though this is fast eroding at a lot of news organizations)
News organizations link to other sites very selectively, so these link are hard to earn.
5. Link-To-Link Topicality
Another reason links from news organizations are so valuable in terms of search is that they are placed within the context of a certain topic. The link is usually placed within the body of an article devoted to a specific topic from a presumed authority on that topic and the link points to another web page about that very same topic.
There is usually a strong topical correlation between the two pages of content, which is a strong signal to Google about the relevance of those two pages to searches about that topic.
6. Citation Authority of News Organizations
Search engines’ ranking factors are a closely-guarded secret but it doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to think that the mere fact that a company gets cited in a news story–even absent a link–might help to boost that company’s ranking within relevant searches.
This is where traditional earned media efforts can pay online dividends beyond links to websites. It’s a tactic we consider for both our traditional public relations efforts as well as part of our search engine optimization services.