The weight that inbound links have for improving a web page’s rank on Google is widely known.  This ‘insight’ into the Google algorithm has caused tunnel vision for website owners trying to optimize their sights for organic search.  Far too much focus is now being put on inbound link campaigns prematurely, and I believe this trend is one of the greatest arguments for search engines keeping their algorithms a secret.  When any algorithm factor is proven to be valuable independent of the others, all the optimization efforts by site owners are thrown into optimizing for that factor alone.

On more than one occasion in the recent past I have provided site analysis for optimization that has included the basic fundamentals for editing the site’s pages to provide a direction for relevance to make it possible for search engines to determine the subject matter of the page.  As always, keyword analysis was provided in depth and long explanations of why the content messaging of each page is essential for optimization.  Even with all of this advice the initial request for first steps for optimization are beginning a link building campaign.  I know you have read it before, so this statement isn’t coming at you from left field – any advice you have received about building link campaigns has likely included “create good content that other sites will want to link to”.  Without a defined content message focus, how can you have a focus for a link building campaign?

Back to SEO Basics

The search engine crawlers are indexing pieces of the site and categorizing certain features – determined to be worthy of including in their algorithm.  After looking at leading indicators to determine the page’s intended subject matter, the crawlers look to the copy on the page to verify it is in line with subject matter outlined in the meta tags.  That is the basic foundation of a page.  Making the page a standout out for relevance by the search engines requires providing a sufficient amount of copy to not only verify the subject matter, but substantiate the content of the site is a valuable resource for the targeted topic.  It is only after this has been performed that a link building campaign can be effective.

Content Is Protected from Panda

A link building campaign done well requires more than a large amount of links.  The authority of the site that is the source of the link plays a big role.  Getting a large amount of links from sites that are irrelevant has obviously paid off in the past, but the Panda update, as well as the trail of Pandas that will follow – Panda 2.2 coming soon – are designed to prevent the ill gotten success.  In Google’s Matt Cutts’ interview at the SMX Advanced conference last week he reiterated the fact that the page’s content is the foundation and is taken into consideration both for the usability side of their algorithm engineering and the spamming side.  He defended the effects of Panda has had on some sites even though they were not participating in link farms by reiterating that if a site has relatively high quality, Panda will have less of an impact. If other sites cannot compete with the authority that your content provides for the subject matter, even if your site falls within the Panda restrictions, you can still rank for the keywords used effectively within the page content itself.  This supports the primary importance of building a foundation for your web pages before putting all of your focus on link building.

Building a Link Campaign to Nowhere

Another important factor for inbound links is the anchor text of the inbound link.  The link itself is supporting the page, but the anchor text is giving even more weight to the keywords that will provide the most benefit to your bottom line.  An opportunity has been missed if the inbound link you strategized for does not give weight to the keywords you are targeting.  Starting a link building campaign before the content messaging is defined and developed is a waste of time and resources for building inbound links.  The reason link building has been given so much weight in search engine algorithms is because doing it right isn’t easy, but a properly executed campaign will pay off in ranking and in site visitor experience.