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Links are the focus of both Off-site and On-page SEO efforts


The links to your websites from other websites have always been important. The quality of links, your involvement in link spam, link selling and link schemes to boost your rankings are all under investigation and siege and penalties are likely.


Linking out to other sites can improve your trustworthiness by showing your industry memberships. It can increase your authority by linking to leaders in your genre. Links to your qualifications authority add to your expertise…


The safest way to build keyword-rich links to your content is by creating what is perceived as “editorial” links within your own website’s content. In my experience, it’s much easier, safer and as effective as building backlinks.


Navigational is critical to content indexing. Make sure all the main pages are directly accessible from your menus. Use XML sitemaps for search engines, and HTML for your visitors. Make site navigation easy by providing pathways in your website content.

Links – when less is more…

This is the area most often overlooked…The safest way to build keyword-rich links to your content is NOT building lots of incoming links/backlinks! It’s by creating what is perceived as “editorial” links within your own content… The keywords in your website’s navigational links in the header, sidebar/s and footer don’t count so much for SEO. However, any links in the “main content” columns to other pages absolutely do create a lot of ranking traction. Use these wisely…

  • Confine yourself to linking 1 to 5 words within a sentence in an entirely natural way.
  • A small block of 3 to 5 links – as per the Yoast SEO plugin’s “related links” in a list – may do more harm than good…

Google considers the words surrounding a content link. You need to write in a natural style and only add a link that adds value to the reader, and only where it makes contextual sense to do so.

All that said, adhering to best practices when cross-linking throughout your website can turbocharge your content very nicely.

Reference: Semrush – linking content – guide to building strategy that works

Navigation is extremely important to both visitors and search engines alike. Google et al derive an understanding of the website’s structure and the relative emphasis on the pages within it from the menu/s and content links. The “Main” menu usually references the most important pages. Home, Products and Services plus About Us and Contact Us. Footer links are often to the Privacy Policy, Terms & Conditions and Sitemap.

  • Consistent navigation structure across the entire website is important.
  • Care should be taken not to overload any of the Menus with keyword-rich phrases… less is more!

Where you have additional menus in the sidebars and footer, it might be sensible to NOT repeat the main menu texts exactly. Keyword repetition is not the best way forward in 2023.

Each link you place outwards effectively subtracts one vote from your accumulated total. Links to “bad neighbourhoods” can really hurt you. Take care who you link to!

The sensible way to use outward links is to provide a dofollow link to your industry affiliation site/s, and/or to authority websites in your genre.

  • If you’re a chiropractor, you could link to the industry association, to other medical practitioners you recommend, or to great articles published on specific aspects of chiropractic services.
  • If you’re a builder, you could link out to your listing in the Master Builders association, to your favourite plumber or electrician or to articles on new building materials, or the local council’s building regulations.

When you want to link to a selection of sites that might provide useful information to your visitors, add a NOFOLLOW tag to the links on the page. This stops your site from being suspected of selling links to boost Page Rank. It indicates to the SEs that the link should not be counted as a vote of support by you.

It is not necessary to make submissions to spider-based engines such as Google, Yahoo, MSN etc. In fact, most NZ SEO experts do not recommend it. They will quickly find and index new sites from links pointing to them from other sites – in fact, in Google’s case, if there are no links to your site they probably won’t bother to index it, whatever you do…


d Bad

Backlinks – the links to your websites from other websites – have always been important. The quality of links, your involvement in link spam, link selling and link schemes to boost your rankings are all under investigation and siege. Linking OUT to low-quality websites is also unwise.

When it comes to backlinks, a natural “profile” has always been important, but now there are TWO reasons for it;

  1. Good links are still good for rankings
  2. Bad links destroy rankings!

Link Building, or acquiring incoming links, particularly 1-way incoming links (backlinks) to your site from high-quality, trusted sites is still of great importance. There are many important factors in search engine rankings, but the consensus of opinion is that links can make or break your website. An SEO specialist will cheerfully explain all of this and assess your website’s inbound links

A normal small business will usually do better with dozens of links from reputable business-genre web directories, and local, regional or national directories that list businesses by name, address and phone number. Links from location-relevant local businesses are also good.

  • Links from related genre websites in other countries are questionable. Is it a Private blog network? Is it part of a scheme to boost domain authority and page rank?
  • Links from unrelated genre websites in other countries are at higher risk. That just doesn’t happen by accident! Someone has deliberately and knowingly set out to create such links for your advantage…

Google and other major SE’s take the view that;

  • Each back-link to your website is a vote of confidence
  • The more important the website that links to you is, the more value the vote has
  • Sites with related content that link to you give the highest value
  • Links from pages with related content give good vote value
  • The keywords in the back-link (Link Title) text should primarily be your business band or domain.

Google also believes that low-quality links with over-optimised link titles are bad, and they may penalize you severely for it. If that has occurred to your site, I can help with Penguin penalty reversal services. If you are very lucky, they might choose to completely ignore the link on the basis that it’s not relevant to your business… Overdo it, and leniency might not prevail.

Reference: SEJ- link building create backlinks

Are keywords in anchor texts still important?

Yes, but not for the previously accepted reasons! Extreme caution is advisable. It’s more important to ensure that your overall profile remains “natural” and contains a dominant mix of domain name and/or business name and your “brand” in the anchor text. Diversity is better than repetition.

The use of many identical “exact-match” competitive keyword phrases in an incoming link title text can trigger a penalty. Deep page links are also a challenge. If they occur naturally it’s great – where a reader likes what you’ve written so much that they add a link from their site to yours. If deep links are done as part of an orchestrated link-building scheme and use exact match keyword-rich anchors, it’s not okay.

Were of minimal value and now count against you as an unnatural and manipulative linking practice! Reciprocal links were once a natural part of link growth, but are now likely to hurt you, based on previous comments by Google’s web spam team.

The best link value comes from 1-way incoming links from trusted sites in a similar genre.

For a new site, it’s really helpful to get a handful of good links to start developing the site’s “Page Rank” at the earliest possible time. In most cases (with a new site) you end up consigned into what was once referred to as the Google “sandbox” – a probationary period, where you must earn trust before rankings accrue.  The sooner you start working your way out of THAT, the better! 🙂

Basically, the main SEs (Google/Bing) see it this way; if no one at all links to you, you may not be worth indexing, regardless of how well your content is optimised.

Gaining a couple of high-quality links is the initial goal – focus on quality, because quantity will cripple you before you get started.  Non-reciprocal links – the sort of links that would occur if someone visited your site, thought it was an excellent resource and created a link to it of their own volition. The words that appear in;

  • The Title or anchor: should be a Business name, brand or domain name
  • and the surrounding Description text

…are what the SEs will use to categorise your site, and this should be supported by the content of the site, through effective content optimisation.

A very careful assessment of your current incoming link portfolio is required before you do any link-building for your website. The keywords in link titles in links to your site, the overall link quality and relevance, and anchor-text optimisation are still among the more important factors in search engine ranking algorithms. However, getting it wrong means almost certain punishment!

Particularly useful are citation links from “trusted” sites from a similar genre of sites to your own. These must be “editorially placed” links added by a human reviewer who decided that a link to your site was of value to his visitors.

However, of equal or greater importance is the way text anchors are optimised. Even if the sites you have links from are trusted, too many exact-match keyword phrases in text anchor may still incur an algorithmic penalty!

In generating links, you should use brand + keyword/s that the SEs would naturally associate with your site. Specifically;

  • Domain Name, Brand and/or Business Name should make up the bulk of link text
  • Brand + a keyword + synonyms are useful
  • Brand + non-targeted anchor text is useful
  • Editorial link text that a human editor writes is useful
  • Reciprocal links are now regarded as “manipulative”
  • Avoid forum/blog signatures with links
  • Don’t do article marketing
  • Avoid press releases unless they are to high-end resources and contain genuine news
  • Think hard about the value of links from unrelated countries and genres
  • Almost every link-building scheme anyone tries to sell you is risky. As Google identifies such schemes, penalties are built into the Penguin algorithm. Once you are exposed, penalties can demolish your ranking and take +70% of your traffic away overnight!

The safest form of link acquisition is via link citation-building services

Years of experience prove that a couple of dozen really good quality citation links is sufficient. For most small business websites, you absolutely don’t need hundreds or thousands of links to rank highly!

Having very high volumes of links immediately makes your site stand out as “deviating from the normal backlink listing” in your niche…

Reference: Backlinko- link building strategies

In the real world, an organic or natural link portfolio conforms pretty much to the other sites within the same genre or industry group. Does your site stand head and shoulders above the rest due to efforts to increase inbound link counts? If you manipulated the keywords in the anchors, you may have a bit of a problem.

The perceived value of your site (and the pages within it) – was once expressed as Page Rank. The higher the PR is, the more important it is within its particular theme. The problem with PR was that everybody and his dog moved heaven and earth to boost their page rank to gain an advantage. Google no longer shows the real assessment value for PR. So the next measurement that could be manipulated was Domain Authority and Page Authority…

To avoid algorithmic penalties for dodgy links, you must ensure your backlink portfolio is similar to other sites in your industry or genre. A mix of dofollow, nofollow and text references from local business directories and business listings to your business is normal for a small business website. Hundreds or thousands of links from guest posts, private blog networks, press release distribution networks and the likes are definitely NOT the norm…

Reference: Outreachmonks – natural link building/

Are sitemaps are useful?

Sitemaps are a crucial component of a website’s structure. You should have two:

  • An XML version for search bots, submitted in Google Search Essentials, and referenced in the robots.txt. This ensures that Google et al know what you’ve got, and how to find it. This prevents “orphan pages.”
  • An HTML version for human readers, with a link on the Home page – usually in the footer or main menu. This helps a person looking for information local the correct page.

These come in three flavours – chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. Just kidding…

  • Broken links inside your website – this is bad karma and you need to find and fix them ASAP
  • Broken outward links – use the Broken Links Checker plugin or Website Auditor.
  • Broken incominmg links – from other sites to you. These can be therough checked with SEO Spyglass.

Learn how we can improve your website – click for a no-obligation SEO audit!

Page last updated on Friday, October 13, 2023 by the author Ben Kemp