Google used to heavily weigh the number of other websites that referenced your website. These were called “backlinks”. Backlinks, traditionally, would show up in discussions, blogs, or on other pages built by web designers who wanted to reference other pages for their excellent content. So, for example, you are reading a site about bicycle parts, and you notice they have a link to Schwinn.com. That link to Schwinn’s official website counts as a backlink for Schwinn.com, and because it is coming from a site that is all about bicycles, it carries weight in the Google algorithm. Those external links, however, became far too easy to scam. Robots were created that went around the internet seeking blogs with related content and posting relatively ugly attempts at backlinking. You’ve probably seen them, showing up in the middle of a discussion on the New York Times editorial page.
Rather than downgrading those links, however, Google’s new algorithms have added weight to what are called “internal links”. These internal links are found within the pages you create and control, and they make reference to other pages you create and control, within the same web site. This is another glorious gift from the Google gods, especially if you are just starting your site. You have the ability to cross reference between your own articles this way, adding more and more mass to your own “gravity well”, simply by creating strong links between posts, pages and products. Let’s see how this works by using a graphic representation of those kinds of links.
Up to this point, all of this seonomy work has been within your site. There is another important element of SERP rankings, and that is how you are viewed by the rest of your community. Search engines want to know what the rest of the world actually thinks of your site. If you are well liked and respected, they are more likely to refer their customers to you. (Sounds like regular face-to-face networking, doesn’t it?) Search engines ascertain this by seeing how many other sites actually refer to your site, your articles, or your products. They also look closely at the quality and appropriateness of the links. Here’s an analogy for understanding backlinks. Think of them like business cards. If I find a stack of business cards on the counter at my doctor’s office, they hold a certain level of respect, and I am going to overlay that air of dignity onto your business. If I find a stack of your business cards in the bathroom at a seedy, run-down gas station, I will probably make a point of avoiding your business at all costs. Backlinks work the same way. If you are the manufacturer of a medical device, then a backlink from sites like the Mayo Clinic or WebMD is worth a lot more to Google than one from a site that sells pirated software.
There are three areas where you can positively affect your seonomy, and they are direct backlinks, directory listings and articles. Let’s look at those three areas individually.