Being Found Requires Having Been Found
It’s ironic, but if you want people to find you via organic search, it’s important that other people have already found you.
Google has a concept of “search signals” which are the 220+ factors that are used when ranking websites on a SERP (Search Engine Result Page).
For more information on SERPs and how they’re formatted, click the link in the prior sentence.
I’ve learned from personal experience as well as the personal experience of others, that there are two search signals that are much more important than all the others.
- Having strong search-friendly title tags (more detail on that is provided below).
- Being linked to by other relevant websites.
Search and People Friendly Title Tags
Although the focus of this post is links, I did mention the importance of title tags, so it seems proper to elaborate.
In your title tag about 62 characters are displayed in the SERP. However, the length of the title tag field is 110 characters. I did not figure this out myself. Evan Bailyn of First Page Sage did. He conducted some experiments specifically to answer this question and found the limit.
There are two aspects to a good title tag.
Search Engine Friendly Title Tags
What you want here is that the title contains A LOT of words that people search for, either individually or as part of phrases, where no words are used twice (ideally) and the title reads well to a person.
Bear in mind that while a person sees only about 62 characters, the search engine bots see the entire title.
People Friendly Title Tags
In view of the fact that long titles are more search engine friendly, but get truncated after 62 characters or so, make sure you put the most important words on the left.
Let us assume you wish to construct a title to attract people who are interested in Inbound Marketing, Lead Generation, SEO, etc, etc.
The SEO Benefits of Strong Title Tags for SEO Success and Lead Generation via Inbound Marketing
Is a good SEO friendly title. No words are repeated and it contains many of the keywords you wish your post to be found for. However, it’s 95 characters long. This is what it will probably look like in the SERP:
The SEO Benefits of Strong Title Tags for SEO Success and Lead …
Alternatively, it might look like this:
The SEO Benefits of Strong Title Tags for SEO Success and …
The point is the words you most want to be seen by people must be on the left so they appear in the SERP.
Back to the SEO Importance of Having Already Been Found
The other really strong search signal is the aggregate of what websites link to pages and posts on your website. What matters is both quantity and quality.
It’s Called PageRank
PageRank is THE original search signal, from the day when there was only one search signal.
It is so integral to how Google ranks webpages that the first name of the search engine was BackRub.
The name was changed to Google about a year later.
Within the PageRank algorithm:
- Every webpage on the Internet is assigned a numerical value based on the value of the links which point to the page in question.
- Every link is assigned a numerical value based on the value of the webpage the links originate from.
The higher the PageRank value of the pages on your website, the higher they appear in the SERPs.
Below is a video of Matt Cutts of Google describing what PageRank is and how it works.
Not All Links Are Created Equal
While you need links to the pages on your website in order for them to rank higher, some “link building” practices became forms of Web SPAM over time, and Google updated to algorithm to no longer use those links.
A specific example of this is people ran sets of web servers that were nothing more than huge directories of outbound links. For a fee, you could buy hundreds of links from these “link farms” and artificially inflate the ranking of your site.
So while PageRank is still a critically important search signal, some links help while other links hurt.
How do You Properly Build Links Today?
The recipe is really quite simple and it’s a two-step process.
- Publish articles and stories you are proud to share with others.
- Ask others to share them.
Share, of course, means “link to”.
The way you know if your posts are good or not is are other people willing to share them. If they are, they’re good. If they’re not, they’re not.
Being found requires having been found. Proper link building as described above is a necessary part of obtaining a high ranking for your website. It is conceptually similar to priming a pump. You exert some energy to get it started before it runs on its own.