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Authority Building vs. Link Building In A Search Meets Social World

Elisabeth Osmeloski, Managing Editor of Search Engine Land, moderated this panel with speakers Tom Schmitz of Schmitz Marketing, Philip Petrescu of Caphyon, Casie Gillette of Grasshopper and Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting. I’ll admit I’ve always been interested in the concept of building authority, so I was particularly looking forward to this panel. The main discussion points included:

Recent Google Updates Signaling Importance In Authority – According to Mr. Schmitz, both the Panda and Penguin updates were geared toward devaluing sites with either low-quality content or low-quality links, respectfully. If your site got hit with either of these updates, you should either remove as many low-quality links as you can or all of your thin, low-quality content, or possibly both. Sadly, he also laments that some domains can’t be rehabilitated. These signals obviously show how Google is trying to filter out low-quality signals in favor of high-quality, authoritative signals.

Search Engines Are Better Understanding User Intent – Even though Mr. Schmitz lamented that search engines aren’t that smart, they are getting better at understanding user intent across a wide variety of platforms, whether the user is searching for a product, getting directions, or getting price comparisons. Mr. Petrescu also stated that he finds that Google is getting better at understanding user intent. To target this, it’s suggested that you engage in local search as well as make sure your site has an optimized mobile version.

Managing Authority Is Achieved Both Onsite & Offsite – There are many ways one can manage authority, in terms of gaining it, bypassing it and budgeting it. On your site, architecture is important, such as using rel meta tags such as canonical, next and prev, which help give Google a better understanding of how your site is laid out. Having your social networks all connected is another method toward managing authority, so make sure all of your social profiles link to each other.

Authoritative Mentions, Shares & Other Social Signals Increasing In Importance – Getting authoritative mentions and shares from influential people and groups – Mashable and TechCrunch were often mentioned as examples – are very important. A large portion of Mr. Petrescu’s presentation focused on the impact of these signals in which just a simple tweet by an influencer in regards to a blog post can spread like wildfire, gaining the attention of others, who will in turn either mention the original tweet or retweet it. This prodded another author to learn about the subject matter of the tweet/blog and then write a blog post about. These authoritative shares helped this one blog post rise in the rankings without any links specifically built for it.

Influence Is More Important Than Ever – It’s been mentioned before, but it came up in this session again, so it’s worthy of more attention. Mr. Enge spent a long time discussing influencer marketing, as influencers carry with them much more trust than non-influencers. Even with the same amount of connections, an influencer can get five times as many likes and shares as a non-influencer. Finding influencers in your industry is key, and can be done by looking at Klout, Twitter hashtag searches, book searches and conference agendas. These influencers can then be marketed in many ways, such as sharing a link or even writing authoritative guest blog posts.

How To Obtain Authoritative Links – Since we were discussing links, Ms. Gillette discussed some ways to get authoritative links, such as creating valuable, targeted content that speaks to influencers, so it will get shared and mentioned. Mr. Enge also mentioned that you won’t get authoritative links through article directories, blog or forum comments, or WordPress themes. Therefore, links need to be obtained through existing relationships with influencers and guest blog posts.

Overall, while the concept of influence and influencers has come up repeatedly throughout the conference, it makes sense that influence would be a major factor in building authoritative links. Recent Google updates have shown us what type of links and content they consider low-quality. We therefore have to work harder than ever to create authority and value for our sites through high-quality content, proper site architecture, influencer relationships and the proper use of social signals.

There’s one more panel from day 1 of SMX Advanced 2012 to cover, which will feature Google’s own Matt Cutts! Stay tuned!

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