There are a handful of SEO writers who manage to get the technical aspect of their writing perfectly combined with an exceptional sense of wit. I recently read a great post by Jon Ball that was not only an entertaining read, but also raised some really valid points about how building links cannot be mastered effectively when your site isn't up to scratch.
Working in digital, we have first-hand access to the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of websites. There are some real "beauts" out there that fail to comply with the most basic of user experience, design or SEO standards and yet these sites still want and expect to rank on the first page of Google.
Basic Standards For Link Building
Let's face it; link building is no small task, especially since the latest Panda update and Penguin 2.0. It requires time, effort and a lot of outreach and you don't want to be wasting all of that on a terrible site that no one wants to link to. You won't receive returns for your clients and you could potentially damage relationships with other site owners who would normally expect quality associations from you.
Consider link building to be construction and your website to be the foundation of your house. With a rotten foundation, everything that's built on top of it is at risk and has the potential to fail. There are a number of aspects that contribute to a rotten foundation and they're actually all the basic must-haves for a standard site that has the expectation to perform.
- Well-structured site that is easy to navigate representing a legitimate business
- Something that's also pleasing to the eye, making use of great fonts, design and imagery
- Properly structured URL that is indicative of the business or website
- Great website content that's actually readable and relevant
- Properly structured content
- Clean navigation with a logical hierarchy of pages
- Site built according to best practices from user experience point of view, SEO and design
- Contact details in obvious places
- About description also in an obvious place
- An awesome online experience
Jon Ball lists his own version of similar attributes and iterates that identifying decent sites from the rest becomes somewhat of an occupational skill. In his words, "More than anything, though, examining a website is a sense developed with time and experience. Within the industry it's commonly referred to as the "smell test" - basically you know if something stinks." Love it! And it's certainly a "sixth sense" acquired with many years of time spent online.
One of the most poignant points repeated again and again relates to the fact that we need to build sites for humans; the same applies to building links.
Building On The Right Foundation
If a site shows all the promise of the above list, it's so much easier to acquire strong, contextual and relevant links to it from other web owners. People want to link to something that's awesome, people want to share incredible stuff with their followers, in fact they want to be the first to do so. Bottom line, with the right (beautifully constructed) site in place, the work is already done for you and link building becomes so much easier to administer.
"Other websites are more likely to link with considerably less persuasion, and we aren't forced to rely on clever strategies and tactics. The value is already there, built into the website itself - there's no need for us to provide, manufacture, or otherwise sell value."
Image courtesy of: http://marccortez.com/2012/12/04/assessing-barths-universalism-part-4/