Conversational Search, Real Meaning, and the Waning Importance of Backlinks

How to design a site that attracts links and, more importantly, traffic

Content Performance Marketing requires you to develop content that can target organic demand, that your audience readily consumes, has on-page optimization, and attracts backlinks.

There are two main reasons you want links to your site: page rank and traffic. In the SEO industry we have been more concerned with the former, but now is a good time to recalibrate how we orient our efforts to page-building efforts and performance. On May 5, 2014 Matt Cutts released a video that described that backlinks will become “a little” less important over time because they have determined that “people care about the quality of the content on that particular page” and “Google is getting better and better at understanding actual language.” We can also surmise that it is harder to game quality content than it is to manufacture backlinks and therefore will become a better measure of worthiness as a destination to send traffic to.

When people link to your website they provide you with a lift in SEO. Google looks closely at how many people link to content as a way to gauge how helpful the site is and whether it answers people’s questions and provides them with value. The search engine operates on the premise that when quality sites link to another site that website can also be trusted, but as its ability to understand language, meaning and intent evolve, it will shift weight away from backlinks.

Reputable websites that produce the quality backlinks you want for your site are most interested in keeping their readers engaged and providing them with value. Linking to a website can be likened to giving the site a nod of approval. The link says that this information can be trusted, so people generally are careful about where they link. Professionals want to link to other quality websites that they know will treat their readers to the same level of value that they receive on the initial site.

If you are interested in generating backlinks to your website, you need to understand these needs and make sure that your website is equipped to be that professional page that has the answers for readers. When others see that your site is worth visiting, you will have a link-friendly site that can improve your SEO and reputation. Check out this post to get some backlink building ideas you could do in a day.

The Importance of Design

For people who arrive on your website, the first thing they are going to notice is the page load speed and the second is the design and UI. People will form an opinion about websites in two tenths of a second, and the simpler and more logical the design, the better impression the site will have on visitors. Google co-published a study demonstrating that sites with the least complexity and designs that mirror what customers expect rank the highest for likability. Make sure that the design is visually appealing and it is easy for people to navigate your pages and find information about your brand.

Conversational Search

Flashy advertisements can be particularly detrimental for the beauty of the site. Readers will struggle to remain focused on the content on your page when they are continually distracted by blaring advertisements on the side.

Similarly, if there are any graphics on the websites, they should fit well with the information on the page and not disrupt the flow of the content. High-quality images and graphics can be enormous assets to written content, articles with images receive 94 percent more views, but if the images draw attention away from the written content, they may reduce your chance of earning backlinks.

The layout of the page also addresses the ease of navigation. People do not like to click or scroll excessively. You want to avoid forcing your visitors to click from page to page unnecessarily whenever possible. This means that you do not design articles that require people to click to see pages 2/3/4 of the article.

The Value of the Content Itself

Quality content will be what brings people to your site and first entices them to link back to you. People do not want to link back to posts that are weak and lack substance or direction. Writing the type of content that people will link to requires three criteria:

  • understanding your buyer personas
  • educating your personas on topics that interest them
  • writing regularly

When trying to develop content that your buyer personas will be interested in, begin by looking at your own FAQs. Consider the questions that people ask you when they first enter your office. Think about news related to your industry and your opinion on the stories. Use information that can help your personas educate themselves.

The articles should not be thin and only retell information that can be found on thousands of other pages on the internet. You should work to include your own expertise and experience through the tone, depth of the content, and the information you provide. When a website links to content, they do so because they found the content helpful and believe that others will as well, so write with this intent in mind. Keep the writing clear, concise, and informative.

Some keys to organically popular and linkable content include:

  1. Useful information
  2. Entertaining content
  3. Fresh, current, timely
  4. Original information based on unique findings or research

Good content also incorporates appropriate on-page SEO:

  1. Naturally incorporate keywords in the prose and anchor text
  2. Scannable writing with headlines, subheadlines, bullets, and lists that use the H1 and the H2 tags
  3. Promoting articles on social media to boost traffic and reach and recorded social signals to indicate topical trending

This will make it easier for people to discover your content and the value you offer.

Monitor success

As you work to build backlinks and traffic to your page, use a technology like the BrightEdge StoryBuilder to build a Backlinks Report to track your overall progress. The powerful technology will enable you visualize the backlink data from every perspective. The image below is breaks out links by product line. It will be helpful for you to see how your site is ranking and if your efforts to build links are having the desired impact. You can use this information to enhance your future efforts and build a well-connected site that serves your business well.

Backlinks by Product Line

Encouraging people to link to a website, however, requires making sure that the site is valuable, professional, and inviting from the content on the page to the design and appearance.

By optimizing the quality of content on the site, however, you can help to create a page that is link- friendly and can help build your traffic and brand’s impact.

 

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