4 Link Building Cardinal Sins

Every digital marketing agency’s SEO tactic has been changing exponentially since the industry came about, mostly because Google and other search engines have kept it evolving to keep providing results on content that is relevant, of a high quality, and add an overall value for the end user, that is to say whoever you are trying to direct to your website to, your target audience.

But through all the changes, the importance of backlinks have entrenched themselves deeper into SEO strategies, so much so that any mistakes made with them can have utterly devastating results for the overall rating of the sites concerned.

So if your traffic has been struggling to reach your target mark lately, you might want to take advantage of the internet to gather helpful tips in selecting a web hosting company, SEO firm, or whichever digital marketing agency you feel can best assist you in achieving your business’s goals, and reach your target audience properly by ensuring that your website ranks highly enough to reach your targets audience and provide a favourable conversion rate.

Or, you can go ahead and read on to determine where you could have been going wrong, and what you can do to change it for the better. This guide will help you review your link building profile and polish it up by pointing out some of the most common mistakes in this regard.

They include spamming your homepage with all your links; taking a backseat once you’ve achieved your initial results; not making the best use of your anchor texts and trying to push links to content which are not relevant to who you are attempting to link to.

So let’s start with the first of these:

Building most of your links to your homepage

Building most of your links to your homepage

You obviously do want some of the links referring back to your homepage, this will help with making your site all the more crawlable which will help your rankings, but it happens all too often that just about every one of a website’s links directs you back to landing pages.

The trouble with this is that it makes for very shallow indexing of your site, and so can end up being counter-productive.

It’s recommended to spread your link building efforts equally across your site to ensure that users don’t have to trawl around for ages to find what they need, and so it is incredibly good at building trust with your users and creating an overall, high quality user experience.

A good rule to follow is that when navigating your site, a user should never be more than three clicks away from finding content which is relevant to them, anything more and they start losing interest, which means you will undoubtedly suffer a ranking drop from a high bounce rate.

Deep linking (or spreading your links across your website) will give your site more link juice, making it easily crawlable and therefore having favourable outcomes for the site’s ranking.

As far as SEO is concerned, deep linking gives you more opportunities to achieve favourable search engine visibility since it backlinks to all of your pages. This also makes your links seem a lot less like spam, which Google dutifully penalises heavily for.

Slowing down once you get good results

SEO is a dynamic field, and changes are just about constant. Getting to the first page of the search results is an enjoyable achievement indeed, but don’t expect it to stay that way once you’ve gotten your website there.

Staying on top (in fact featuring at all) requires you to constantly work to get the best online marketing for your business today, and not later. So keep on building up those backlinks and with a bit of luck you will enjoy the fruits of your labour for a long time to come. Give up on it however, and you will soon be taken over by sites which are consistently active, since Google doesn’t really want to push sites that seem inactive.

This means concentrating on building an energetic link-building profile by reaching out to other website administrators who share some form of relevance to your site. Beyond that, your efforts should still be as strong when it comes to creating interesting and informative content that will attract backlinks, and most importantly, you should still be conducting regular site audits even when everything seems to be working properly.

Doing this will not only help ensure that you consistently achieve favourable rankings, but will tighten your current paradigm and keep your backlink profile easy to manage in the future.

Leaving these efforts until later may not have an immediate negative affect on your SERP appearance right now, but it will make things easier for your competitors, and will almost surely lead to poorer results when Google eventually releases any updates (forcing you to rush back to your profile and knock out another site audit to rectify your link profile when there isn’t really time to do so.)

Forgetting about Brand Anchor text

So you’ve opted for extensive keyword research through a supplier of SEO services and you are adamant that only the keywords that they kick up should be used as anchor texts. And why not? They are the professionals. But how many times in your content have you used your name, brand, or URL?

Using either of these without making them into backlinks is just a wasted opportunity here you could be doing more to push your brand, so try not to forget to do it whenever it comes up.

The important thing to remember here is that the names and URLs you’re referring to should come up as naturally as possible, if it sounds forced and robotic, it will likely just end up looking like spam.

Thereby taking what could have been a great marketing opportunity and making it detrimental to your efforts. Always take the opportunity to attach appropriate links to your company or brand name, unless it runs the risk of making the content sound unnatural.

Not bothering with content relevance

content relevance

Even before the days of Google, content relevance has been a big determining factor for search indexes. Search engines want to provide their users with websites that are of high quality and are relevant to what is being searched; and that’s the bottom line.

This is often overlooked, especially when sites take advantage of mass backlink services (or link farms) which may boost your ranking initially, but when users arrive at your site and leave in annoyance, not having been directed to what they are looking for, it will negatively affect your bounce rate, and ultimately damage your site’s rating.

Beyond this, irrelevant content will do nothing for a natural link building profile. No self-respecting website administrator wants to link with a site that may put a dent in their own profile, so in this regard, your content’s attractiveness should come almost purely from its relevance.

A final note

Always consider the do’s and don’ts of link building to stay ahead of the game. SEO and content marketing is a long running and time consuming process which, if you’re doing it within the search engine’s guidelines, shouldn’t give you staggering results over night.

If that’s what’s happened then chances are that you are exploiting some kind of loophole. These black-hat techniques may give fantastic results initially, but when they are eventually flagged by the search engine’s crawlers, your visibility will take a nasty hit, one that is an absolute hassle to fix.

The trouble comes when you’re not prepared when Google rolls out an update, and their newly developed algorithms make the site’s rating suffer horribly as a result. So avoid the temptation for the quick fixes in your link building strategies; slow and sure wins the race, and gives you time to learn from your mistakes.

Spreading the destination of your links out evenly, staying active on your website where you can (this is where blogs are helpful) and remembering to keep links relevant are essentially key points in achieving SEO greatness for your site.

Ultimate Guide to Page Speed Optimisation for WordPress

In this guide:

Introduction

Aside from having an effective SEO campaign, another thing that you might focus on when working on a site is having an appealing web design. But, one of the things that most site owners overlook is page speed. What’s the point of having a high ranking site and an appealing design if your site takes too much time to load? Your site’s visitors are sure to lose their interest when browsing your site because of it.

When you talk about page speed, it is simply the measurement of how fast your site’s content loads. So, when you talk about page optimisation, your page speed is also one of the things that you should be working on. It is one of the factors that can contribute to having a higher ranking and a profitable site.

What Makes Page Speed Important to Your Site?

  • Page speed helps increase your site’s ranking on SERPs. Google has indicated that one of the signals being utilised by its algorithm in ranking pages is the site speed. Slow page speed means that search engines can only crawl fewer pages with the given crawl budget. and given that there are only a few pages on your site that were crawled, it could have a negative effect on how your site is indexed.
  • Slow page speed will decrease your site’s bounce rate. Bounce rate pertains to the percentage of visitors to your site who click the back button or close the window after having only visited one page. When a person clicks on a link going to your site and it takes a few more seconds for your page to load, they will lose interest in continuing to browse your site. They will just click the “Back” button and look through your competitors’ sites rather than wasting time on your site that takes time to load. Google tracks the traffic of the site and if Google measures that most of the traffic of the site leaves within 5 seconds then it won’t keep that site on the first page of SERPs anymore. There may be a lot of sites on the first page of SERPs but it’s not a guarantee that they are all good if most of their visitors leave within 5 seconds of viewing one page. It would be safe to say that these sites are not that good.
  • Faster page speed increases conversion rate. When your site visitors deal with your slow-loading pages, you are sure to slowly lose potential clients as well. It is really beneficial for your business to have a site that loads fast. It will make your visitors happy and keep their interest to browse on the other pages of your site. In a study done by Strange Loop, they have found that having just a second delay of loading your site’s content can cost your business 7 percent of its sales. For those who are in the online shopping industry, most people will not complete their purchase when a site takes time to load.
  • Happy visitors. Having happy visitors could potentially turn into happy clients. If you want more people to browse your site and purchase your product or contact you regarding your services, you should put effort into making your site load faster. If visitors will have to deal with a site that seems to take forever to load, they will not hesitate to go to another site. Faster page speed will improve user experience. This is important especially for first time visitors as we all know that first impressions last. So, if first time site visitors have to wait for your site’s content to load, their impression is not going to be positive. The next time your site appears on the search Results, there is a possibility that they might not click on it again as they already have the impression that the site takes too much time to load.

Case Study: Digital Search Group’s UK Website

For this discussion, we will be working on Digital Search Group’s UK‘s site.

Tools for Monitoring Page Speed

Before optimising a site, you have to check the status of the site as this will help you in evaluating how much work should be done to it.

In this case, we will see the status of Digital Search Group’s site.

Google PageSpeed Insights

This tool is part of the Google Webmaster Tools. You can access it by logging in to your Google Webmaster Tools account and choosing the website that you want to work on.

Mobile Results: In accordance to Google’s standards, having 85 points or more is a good indication that your site is working well. The site’s mobile speed is just 72 points out of 100.

Mobile results

Desktop Results: The site’s Desktop Results is 82 points out of 100. The site needs a few improvements.

Desktop results

Pingdom

Pingdom monitors the uptime and downtime of websites helping you in keeping track of its performance.

Steps to Optimise Page Speed for WordPress Sites

There are nine main steps that can help in improving the page speed of WordPress sites.

1. Backup your site

Before doing major changes to your site, making a backup of it is really important. You can backup your site easily by installing the ‘Backup’ plugin. Backup is a free backup and restoration tool that you can take advantage of.

-	Backup your site

It is important to create a backup of your site because it helps you easily restore the previous version should you make mistakes or any drastic changes that could ruin your site. Restoring it to its previous version is probably better than doing it all over again from scratch.

2. Create a good site foundation

When you talk about a site’s foundation, you are dealing with the web hosting provider as well as the theme of your WordPress site.

When it comes to having a web hosting provider for your site, make sure that you choose one that’s reliable. You can take advantage of the different web hosting plans from different providers. Choose a plan that will fit with your needs and preferences.

Choose a plan that will fit with your needs and preferences

Make sure you keep an eye on this Uptime report (as well as hosting stats) to stay away from hosting providers with huge downtime:

Downtime report sitegeek

You can go with a shared hosting provider. Shared hosting usually costs between 3 to 9 USD per month. So, it’s actually cheaper than other hosting plans. But, remember that there are hundreds of sites that will be sharing that server so resources will also be shared.

Virtual private servers are also available. They are like virtual machines that come with an internet hosting service. In a virtual private server, there is an allocated amount of CPU and RAM for every site. It could cost 15 to 60 USD per month. The price is based on the speed of its CPU and the capacity of its RAM.

Another option is to take advantage of a dedicated server. Each site will be assigned to each server. and, the best thing about this is that the entire server will be yours so there’ll be no sharing of resources. This web hosting can cost between 100 and 500 USD each month.

Use Pingdom or Monitority to get instantly updated as soon as your site is down

Site down

Use Cyfe (that supports Pingdom) to archive my downtime reports and analyze them over time. Cyfe Pingdom widgets includes and archives the following metrics to measure your website performance:

  • Status Overview
  • Status Check
  • Performance Overview
  • Uptime
  • Downtime
  • Response Time
  • Alert Log
  • Outage Log
  • Test Result Log
  • + You can create multiple widgets for multiple domains to monitor the performance of multiple sites on one dashboard:

Cyfe

When you’re already confident with the web hosting provider you’ve chosen, choose a good WordPress theme for your site. It is best if you will refrain from using WordPress themes that are heavy on images as it can consume bandwidth and would take time to load.

refrain from using WordPress themes that are heavy on images as it can consume bandwidth and would take time to load.

Do not forget to test them for coding errors. Use the tools (Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom) check the load speed of the newly applied theme. The load speed should at least be 2 seconds and below. For Google PageSpeed Insights, make sure that the site, using the new theme, receives a score of 85 points or higher.

Page Speed tool will show you which elements of your page actually slow your site down.

Page Speed tool

3. Optimise your site’s images

Most of the time, high resolution images take time to load, affecting your page speed.

To optimise your site’s images, you can install the WP Smush plugin which works great in reducing image files to boost SEO which in return can significantly improve your site’s performance.

WP Smush plugin

When uploading images, make sure that you choose the correct image file type. When the image is rich in colours and has no transparency, use JPEGs for it. GIFs fit images with flat colours. If you’ll add flat coloured images with transparency, save that as PNG8 files. When your image has transparency and is rich with colours, use PNG24 as its format.

PNG24 as its format

Most of the time, site owners make use of JPEGs and PNGs as file types for their images. For images of people and things, save it as JPEGs. and, for images you prefer to be seen clearly like charts and screenshots, save these images as PNGs.

If you are going to add high resolution images to your site, you should be aware that it could consume bandwidth. By lazy loading such images, it will not just save bandwidth but will also make your site load faster. To do that, you can install the BJ Lazy Load plugin.

BJ Lazy Load plugin.

Aside than lazy loading your site’s images, you can also lessen the number of banner/slider images in your site. Besides, not all people will be able to see all the images in the slideshow. They will focus more on the products or services that you are offering. As you can see in the illustration below, the slider of the site has been reduced into 3 images only.

use PNG24 as its format

If you want to have quality images, you can look for large resolution images and reduce it into a smaller size, if possible. This will create a better quality for images rather than using a small resolution image and over-enlarging it. Doing that will just make the images appear pixelated and will not look good especially in the eyes of your site visitors.

To further reduce the file size of the images, you can take advantage of CSS image sprites. Image sprites are basically a collection of images that are combined into a single image. Usually, these are done for smaller images. In combining these images, it doesn’t mean that it will look like a single overlapping image, but rather will be aligned in a way that they won’t overlap.

Image sprites are helpful as your site doesn’t need to load multiple images in one time. With image sprites, you only have to load a single image for multiple parts of your site. and, with the use of CSS, you can specify which part of the image you want to show.

4. Minifying your site’s code files

Minifying your site’s code involves combining and compressing it into a lesser number of files. Check the HTML, JavaScript, and CSS files of your WordPress sites. For example, your site might have ten JavaScript files, which can be combined into a single file. And your CSS files may have multiple lines, which can be compressed into a single line.

 Minifying your site's code files

In the example, its normal CSS file is 16KB in size; after it was minified, it has been reduced to 6.6 KB only and it functions the same as the previous CSS file. It’s like asking for fewer things and receiving more from what you’ve asked.

Take note: Before you decide to minify such files, make sure to check if it’s compatible. It’s important to make sure that it won’t ruin your codes and make your site malfunction. Other than that, be certain that you can still understand the workflow of your code in case you will be making changes to it in the future.

5. Leverage browser caching of your WordPress site

Browser caching means saving some of your site’s files into the site visitor’s browser. If they visit your site for the first time, it may take time to load but when they revisit the site, it will load faster.

When you leverage browser caching, the amount of files that the browser will be downloading becomes lesser so fewer requests will be made to the server. In return, this will increase page load speed. You can install the W3 Fastest Cache Plugin for this step.

Leverage browser caching of your WordPress site

6. Delete plugins and WP themes that are not used

Keeping unused plugins and WP themes will just take up too much space. It is best to deactivate and delete unused plugins that you’ve been keeping for a long time.

To check that, go to the admin dashboard of your site. Go to ‘Plugins’ and click on ‘Installed Plugins’. Check the plugins that you’ve installed on your WordPress site. If these plugins are of no use, deactivate and delete them.

If you’re going to install new plugins, make sure that you will be choosing those that are frequently updated and were given positive ratings and reviews. Check the ‘Last Updated’ section to see if the plugin has been updated recently.

-	Delete plugins and WP themes that are not used

If some plugins are slow, it is best to delete them and replace them with faster versions. To easily check your plugins’ performance, you can install the P3 Performance Profiler Plugin. The P3 Performance Profiler plugin can create a performance report of your site like a detailed graph and a chart on the plugin runtime.

The P3 Performance Profiler

With regards to the WP themes, if you are still keeping those that are not in use, it is best to delete them. In the admin dashboard of your WordPress site, go to ‘Appearance’ and click ‘Themes’. You may have a number of themes that are still installed. Check it and delete them to free up some space.

‘Appearance’ and click ‘Themes’

7. Use appropriate social media buttons

Placing your social media buttons in the right place makes it easier for users to share content from your site.

Social media has been very important when it comes to digital marketing. and, there’s no doubt that one of the best ways to have content shared in social media and other online platforms is by adding social buttons on your site.

 Use appropriate social media buttons

8. Optimise your site’s database

Optimising your site’s database takes time as you still have to do queries in order to clean it up. If you want to do that easily, you can install the WP-Optimize plugin.

With the plugin, you can optimise the database without the need for manual queries. It will remove spam comments, post revisions, and other unimportant stuff that takes too much space in the database. You can also schedule it so it will automatically run, making it easier to optimise your database on a regular basis.

Optimise your site's database

And, always bear in mind to back up your database before you start with the optimisation process. It’s best to keep a backup than regret it afterward by the time your database is already ruined.

9. Perform other necessary optimisations

You can check your server and remove any unnecessary files. You can go to the File Manager of your web host or to the FTP client and see if there are any unnecessary files that can be deleted.

You can check your server and remove any unnecessary files

If you checked your site and it still loads slow, maybe it’s because of the number of posts appearing in the home page. It is best to decrease the number of posts as loading all of that content can just consume bandwidth taking more time before all the content appears.

Updating your plugins and WordPress into the latest version will also be helpful. Updating it means you are applying the latest improvements to the site and plugins. There are some updates which will add more features on your site.

When you sign in to your WordPress admin dashboard, you can check the ‘Updates’ section so that you will know if you already have the updated version of WordPress for your site. For the plugins, go to the ‘Plugins’ section where you will see a list of plugins installed in your site. From there, you can check if there are some plugins that needs to be updated.

Once you’re done applying such changes, make sure to double check the entire website. Make sure that you will be checking all the pages and test its functionalities. If you have found errors, take note of it so that you won’t miss anything by the time you’ll be fixing it.

Results and conclusion

After the site has been optimised, you can check its performance using the tools.

For our sample, we will be checking the performance of Digital Search Group’s UK site after we’ve optimised it.

PINGDOM Results

PINGDOM Results

As you can see, with a page size of 1.3 MB, the load time of the site is now 1.43 seconds. This means that the changes implemented on the site have greatly contributed to improving its page load speed.

GOOGLE PAGESPEED INSIGHTS Results

Desktop Results:

Desktop results

Mobile Results:

Mobile Results

As you can see, there isn’t much to be changed now compared to before. As you continues fixing these aspects, the site’s page load speed will also continue to improve.

The steps as discussed in the case study are the steps that you can do in order to optimise your site’s page load speed. Making sure that pages of your site will load faster will surely improve your site’s SEO performance.

A site that takes time to load will only give visitors a bad impression and lead them to visiting another site instead. A site that loads fast gives visitors a good experience leaving them feeling satisfied. And when you have satisfied visitors, there’s a high chance for them to convert into satisfied clients.

Keep your place on the first page of SERPs by optimising your site regularly and not only will you increase your brand’s awareness, you will also gain more profits for your company.

Link Building: Where Should You Even Begin? Basic Guidelines to Link Building

The world of SEO seems to be constantly in flux. With each Google algorithm change comes an existential crisis for the industry, although hopefully we are over the worst excess of that era and the present zeitgeist is one which is likely to be around for a while. Link building is the bread and butter of good SEO work, but is something that people often mess up. Below is a handy guide to how to make sure your link building is top quality.

Definition of link building

Building high-quality links is an arduous job that requires high quality content, website partners and well-optimized keywords.  Hyperlinks direct traffic from other sites to your own and are used to navigate around the web. Google uses crawl data to assess which links register most for key terms and uses this to position its search result rankings. Therefore, good linksmanship is an essential part of the SEO trade.

The importance of link building

Search engines need links to determine rankings and to identify the new kids on the block that need to be ranked. Google published a short videowhich breaks things down pretty nicely. While search engines identify key terms on a site, they also look to external sites to see how many are linking back to the original site. Google provides weight to different sites and getting a link on a clean, well- respected site is going to do you a lot of good when it comes to ranking. That’s why time needs to be spent on ensuring that links are getting built in the right places.

When you link to relevant and high quality sites that has been crawled by spiders and has made a correlation to your website, there will be a great possibility that Google will consider your site a prime candidate to appear on Page 1 on Search Engine Ranking Pages (SERPs)

Importance of Link Building

The anatomy of a hyperlink

A handy article I read recently provided a great breakdown of how the link building process works and how Google reads it in order to rank a site. This is basic stuff, but it’s good to know how the nuts and bolts of the process works.

  1. Anchor. This comes at the start of the hyperlink and lets Google know that link tag is about to follow that is going to need to be ranked.
  2. Link Referral location. This is the link address which you click on to take you to wherever you need to go on the information superhighway.
  3. Visible/anchor text of the link.  This is the text that users see on a page that guides them to a link. Think the ‘contact us’ phraseology as an example of this.
  4. Link tag closing lets Google know that the anchor is at an end.

Weighting of thematic clusters of ranking factors in Google

A number of different factors affect Google rankings and there is a good breakdown of that here. The algorithms are ever more complex, but quality is the key to Google search success these days. What this means has been discussed in-depth elsewhere.

However, finding quality partners that fit with your brand and that Google considers as ‘clean’ certainly helps, as well as ensuring that what you produce is informative and can generate organic traffic that is linked to from a variety of places is certainly the main factor affecting rankings.

Benefits of link building to your business

To rank well, there is no substitute for high-quality links to high-quality content. However, there are more than just SEO benefits to consider when building links. There are a number of intangibles that can help any business. One of these is that of building up business contacts that can reciprocate. By borrowing, partnering and generally working together, there are benefits to both sides in the short and long term.

The key thing to remember though, as I have stated multiple times already, is quality. Once you find a potential partner they need to find what you do worthwhile in order to encourage their audience to give you a chance. Quality content is key to quality partnerships and the rankings follow.

Social Media is always there to help

While it is still debatable as to the true impact of social media with SEO rankings, there are still many who insists that Social Media does add to the organic success of a website even if it is not directly obvious.

But, it is widely accepted that there is a relationship between SEO and Social Media. Some experts think that by appearing and being mentioned on a post in a social media site like Facebook can be a ranking factor. Even without a hyperlink, just by having your brand appear in a site is a signal to Google. Here we see the effectiveness of Social Media in giving your product an increase in brand awareness and promote more social mentions and conversations about your brand. Think of it like a snowball effect as its signals grow.

Lastly, believe it or not, Social Media can increase your website’s traffic which is a big factor in rankings. The most popular items we see in Facebook are informative and interesting content, funny or tragic videos, intriguing blog posts and other compelling content. You could get higher rankings especially when users read your entire blog post or watch the whole video before moving on to another site. This is measured by search engines: bounce rate, new visits, return visits, pages per visit and time spent on a website. The more engaged a user is measured, the higher the ranking could be.

Joe Ryan
Joe Ryan is the Founder & CEO of Digital Search Group Limited. Joe's helped numerous websites recover from Google Panda/Penguin related issues
Joe Ryan
Joe Ryan