Many enterprise websites, particularly those associated with good brands, obtain lots of links to their home page without any focused link building effort. In some sense, you could say that they get these links “for free.” Since this is the case, do these sites really need to have a dedicated link building effort in place? I thought you would never ask …
Algorithm Update Regularity Increasing
I have been known to say that 2011 and 2012 marked a major transition in Google’s spam fighting capabilities and mindset. Panda, Penguin, EMD, DMCA/Pirate, & Page Layout / Top Heavy Ads all had one thing in common: Google used offline analysis to identify potential ranking adjustments and then fed these results into the main algorithm. This is why those updates happen periodically, causing Danny Sullivan to tell us that The Google Dance is Back.
In my view, these few algorithms represent the tip of the iceberg. By my count, there were 9 such algorithm updates in 2011, and 21 in 2012 — more than double the 2011 total. It is more than reasonable to expect that we will see much more in 2013.
While I went public with a stance against link buying in 2008 (I actually bought my last link in 2004), this notion is much more commonly accepted today than it was then. But, we need to think more deeply than that today. Google will continue to improve its capabilities in fighting bad link building practices.
To illustrate, let’s look at the number of Panda releases over time vs. the number of Penguin releases:
As you can see, the pace of Panda releases had accelerated over time, and we can expect the same thing to happen with Penguin. This means more and more updates targeted at punishing or devaluing poor link building practices.
Google is using its expanded spam fighting capabilities to push consistently toward one goal for its organic results: include in the SERPs the webpages most likely to make the user happy with the search results.
Search engines need to evaluate two types of metrics to make these decisions: the relevance of a page to the query, and of all the pages relevant to the query, which ones are the most important/valuable to the users conducting the queries? This type of analysis is performed on a query-by-query basis.
If the search engines evaluate on a query-by-query basis, it stands to reason that they evaluate the authority of a website in response to a query in a manner that is specific to that topic area. In other words, high level website authority is not sufficient to cause a site to rank for each product area that they cover.
Enterprise Branding & Link Building
A lot of major brands cover many types of different products. Proctor & Gamble lists 47 different brands on the All Brands page on its website. Even Ford Motor Company lists five major categories of product lines on its home page. Digging in a bit further, they list six major lines of cars, ranging from the inexpensive Fiesta, to the sporty Mustang, to the pricier Taurus.
(Did you notice how those two companies each got a “free link” from me just because they are major brands?) However, let’s look at these links, and the pages they point to. Would a user, or a search engine, use those links to decide that Ford is the best company to buy a sports car from, or that P&G makes the best laundry detergent?
Of course not.
We can learn from the example of the offline advertising world. Does P&G run ads to promote that they are a large consumer goods company? Again, not really. What do their brands do instead?
- Old Spice runs ads to tell you that they are the best deodorant.
- Tide runs ads to tell you that they are the best detergent.
- Ivory runs ads to tell you that they are the best soap,
- … and so forth …
Ford does the same thing with its line of products. They have one set of ads for trucks, a different set for SUVs, and another for economy cars. These ad campaigns communicate to consumers both the relevance and importance of a product line. This type of campaigning is the logical equivalent of deep link building. You establish relevance and importance on a product line by product line basis.
For fun, I decided to see how many ads were posted on YouTube for each of their car product lines. You can see it here:
My technique of using these search queries is admittedly crude, but the point is that they run ads for each of their product lines. Your online strategy needs to reflect this, too. Search engines try to look at signals the same way that users do.
One set of such signals is the links that your product category pages get. This goes back to the traditional model of links being seen as academic-type citations for your content.
So when you look at one of your product lines, some questions you can ask yourself are:
- Is my product covered in reviews of similar products in major magazines?
- Do major websites covering similar products write about your product at other times (not just reviews)?
- Do lots of bloggers who fit your target demographic write about you?
- Is there any evidence online that your company is an expert in your product’s topic area?
There are plenty of these basic types of questions. Let me enhance them one step further. Do the places that write about you online include links to the relevant pages on your site? Note that someone writing about you without a link could represent some level of endorsement, but implementing a link, which offers the user the opportunity to leave the site publishing a link is, by definition, a stronger endorsement.
The need for deep link building, or product line by product line promotion, is not going away. For enterprise sites, this will require a similar commitment to online promotion on an item-by-item basis that mirrors what they do (or have done in the past) in promotion offline.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.