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July 11, 2006

What’s the most important facet to SEO?

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Question: What is the most important component of your SEO campaign?

Is it your content? Your links? Tracking your results? Google? Some other factor?

A thread over at Cre8asite is debating what component should be deemed the most important SEO strategy. Content was touted the early winner by several members, which made sense. Around here you hear “content is king” on a seemingly endless basis. It’s content first and everything else second. But would great content alone get you noticed?

I’m going to say no (if you don’t hear from me tomorrow it’s because I was fired for saying that). In a perfect world, yes, content alone would enough. Also, the people who work the hardest would receive the largest rewards and little old ladies would receive an abundance of assistance while crossing the street. But things don’t work that way.

In a search world that’s becoming more and more focused on “trust” and “expertness”, links are still the main vote of confidence to the engines. Search engines can’t spider what they can’t find, and without even one link pointing your way, would Google or Yahoo! be able to find you in all that clutter? And if the search engines can’t find you, would anybody else?

Black_Knight quickly asserted himself as the leader of this debate over at Cre8asite and touched on something that immediately caught my interest – the concept of the invisible Web. What’s the invisible Web?

“The invisible web is the term given to the vast amounts of content that you have to already know about to find. That’s because it is usually inaccessible to spiders for any of a number of reasons. In some cases, there is even content that would be perfectly accessible to spiders if only there was some way they could know there was something there to access.”

We all know sites that are part of the invisible Web. Some are hidden behind logins that Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft can’t get into and others we consider our trusty backup sites. We google (I can legally use that as a verb now, right?) a query, can’t find what we’re looking for, and then remember old faithful. The site we know about it but Google, Yahoo! and MSN doesn’t. Though these sites are often chock full of information, they’re not attracting the audience they should because the search engines can’t find them.

Links help people find your site and are especially important in the post-Bigdaddy world. But the type of link matters.

We have heard Matt repeatedly tell us that Google is changing how they handle reciprocal link exchanges and situations of link buying/ selling. Sites linking to spammy neighborhoods or that are filled with low trust links will increasingly find themselves failing to rank.

Late last week, insiders began questioning the W3C site, examining its supporters page. Many asked if the “supporters” page was really there to thank those who placed donations, or if donations were received as payment for a link back. It was unclear either way. However, sites should avoid participating in link farms and link buying schemes at all costs. Matt Cutts commented on the W3C situation over at the Blogosphere saying:

“The trouble with supporting a site just to get PageRank-carrying links is that you don’t always get what you might want.”

It sounded somewhat ominous, but what Matt meant was buying a link from a PR 9 (like W3C) site won’t help your site the way you want it to. Google has developed ways of determining what sites are selling links and will quickly ignore votes coming from this site. The link you paid $1,000 to obtain now means nothing.

When it comes to links, it’s quality not quantity. A few links from respected, relevant sites are worth far more than hundreds of links from irrelevant, spammy sites. It only takes a few top quality links to move you to a respectable result in the SERP from the invisible abyss you once found yourself in. Participating in link farms will also move you – right out of the search engines.

Obviously a site must be well-balanced in order to rank well. You need to have expert content. You need all the other components that go into producing a successful site. But if you have expert content that no one knows about, you’re never going to get the ranking you deserve. As one forum member noted: “Spiders exist to find and index relevant content. But content without links has no relevance, no context, and will not be indexed.” Smart crowd over at Cre8asite.

If you’re curious who’s linking to you (or your competition…), Rand Fishkin shows users a few link reporting methodologies that may be of interest, broken up by engine. It’s pretty comprehensive and worth a look over. I found some links back to the BC blog that put a very large grin on my face.





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