Everything you need to know about SEO, delivered every Thursday.
Of Linkbait And SEO Bank Shots
There’s a subtle, but meaningful, connection between billiards and SEO. How so, you ask? Well, when I was younger I was a pretty good at billiards. I could see all the angles really well, and I understood when to use bank shots (using an indirect shot off the bank of the table rather than a direct hit on a particular ball), and when to avoid them. I use the lessons I learned from winning at billiards to improve my SEO performance.
When I relate bank shots to the world of SEO, I am thinking about links. I am going to explore two ways that bank shots are bad for you in SEO, and one way in which you can use them to your advantage.
First, many sites make the common mistake of not using their home page effectively to spread link juice across the site. Most people learn that putting too many links on a page is a bad idea, so they build well structured hierarchies in a very top down fashion. The home page links to category pages, the category pages link to sub-category pages, the sub-category pages link to product pages, etc. Of course, the depth of these things varies by site, but you get the idea.
What I’ve described is exactly the way you should build your site architecture. It is a natural structure that is easy for users to understand, and the structure is also good for search engines.
The problem is that in the four-level hierarchy I just laid out, your killer money page is probably one of the product pages, and it’s three clicks from the home page. Search engines look at your internal link structure as a way of getting signals about you what you consider the most important elements of a site. If a page is three clicks from the home page it can’t be that important, right? This is a multi-bumper bank shot, and it is the bane of many otherwise well structured web sites.
The solution is simple. Avoid the bank shot. Take your top money pages and link to them from the home page. Add a box somewhere can call it “top selling products” or “featured products” or something like that. Now your key offerings are one click from the home page, which is a beautiful thing.
Now for the good one. Hopefully, you are actively going out and building links to your site. You are implementing campaigns to promote your site to other authoritative sites, and getting some good link love. Imagine you get that link from MIT that you were praying for. This is a site that has a home page PageRank of nine, and this suggests that the site can communicate a lot of authority and trust to yours.
However, as you dig further and look at the page on which the link is placed, you find discover that it has a PageRank of zero. Ouch. Note that I believe that the link still has value because of the overall authority of the domain, but PR Zero pages are not crawled very often, and your showing up there is likely to limit the benefit of the link significantly.
Why not prop it up? Perhaps you can implement a simple campaign to get that PR 0 page a few links. I would not go off the deep end here, but with a little creative thinking you might be able to get two to three links to the page. For example, find a quality directory where it would fit, and request the addition of the page to that directory. If the page deserves it, this should be pretty easy. This should bump the PR a bit, and this is a signal that the link will have some more value. Pretty cool.
Finally, a situation somewhat related to the first one—but, a case where a bank shot can really harm you. You see an opportunity to push a particular product really hard. Imagine that you sell golf clubs, and you have spotted a huge opportunity for your collection of left handed golf clubs. You create a killer page to promote them. Then you write an article as a great piece of linkbait about left handed golf clubs and it gets tons of links.
Then as a smart SEO, you implement internal links to your killer page that you created for the products themselves. Whup—Bank shot. Not good. This is where you need to get creative. Figure out how to get linkbait directly on that killer product page. Avoid the bank shot here. Get those great external links coming in to your product page, and rankings will soar.
The lesson is to avoid the bank shot when you can, except in the case where you are trying to add more value to an external page that links to you. Perhaps that ill-spent time spent clearing racks of pool balls was not so ill-spent after all.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.