Search engine optimisation has always been one of the most contentious, and contended, aspects of online marketing.  There was a time, not all that many years ago, when ranking highly in search engine results was pretty much entirely a matter of getting a whole bunch of links pointing back to your site.

What those links were, where they came from, and where they pointed, didn’t matter all that much. And so, humans being what they are, the internet was soon overflowing with quick sites filled with, not to put too fine a point on it, spam.  Low quality content, jammed to the gills with keywords, and peppered with keyword rich anchor text, all for the purposes of making the sites they pointed to appear credible.

Because at the time, Google’s main factor in determining the credibility of a site was based on how many other sites cited, referenced and pointed back to it.

And in theory, that was a perfectly rational model. The theory was similar to how academic works are considered.  If multiple papers cite one specific paper, then chances are that paper is definitive.  But it didn’t take into account our very human desire for short-cuts. “If Google wants links,” marketers thought, “then we’ll give them links.”

Moving From A Link-Centric Model

Once the internet was covered in low-quality links pointing back to millions of sites in the search for that elusive number 1 ranking, Google started to realise that maybe links weren’t the be-all and end-all of determining website quality, since they were actually quite easy to manipulate.

Through a slow and still ongoing process, Google began trying to take into account the source of the links, the quality of them, the content they were found in, and the content they pointed to. Today, they use over 200 signals in order to determine where a site should rank in search engine results. But despite their best efforts, links are still one of the most important factors.

They’ve just gotten a lot better at spotting when somebody tries to manipulate them.

Improving Your Site Rankings

In a post-link only SEO environment, there are a lot of things you can do to improve the chances of your site ranking well in search engine results. All of these things will help, but even today, naturally achieved legitimate links will still help the most.

  • Make sure you have good quality website content  – provide content that your users will find relevant, make sure your product offering is clearly stated, and update your content regularly.
  • Build a  link worthy site – make your site unique, well organized and resourceful. People are more likely to share your site if they feel it supplied what they need efficiently and with ease.
  • Use alt tags – alt tags provide descriptions of content of an image file in order to provide the best image related to your search query.
  • Optimize your meta data – metadata is grouped into 3 areas, namely title, description and keyword metadata. The meta title is important in helping Google to understand what a given page is about, while the meta description should be seen as a call to action for people viewing your listing in the results, to encourage them to click on your result. The meta keywords no longer have any impact on your search engine rankings at all, and haven’t for a long time.

Links are a huge part in determining Google ranking authority for your business. But investing in quality content, a well put together, easy to navigate sites and  making sure your focus is to add value to the customer experience is sure to put your site in a good ranking position.