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Linking Strategy: Time to Assimilate the Animals

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SEO Linking strategy changes

SEO Linking Strategy

To Link or Not to Link. Is that the Citation?

Travel PR’s Paul Bondsfield muses the latest search algorithm changes and what they might mean.Paul Bondsfield

SEO seems to be entering a new phase – or perhaps simply the next stage on a continuing and evolving conveyor belt, slowly edging its way towards a search nirvana, where quality and relevance rule masterfully over trickery and spin.

There was a new Panda algorithm release in July – the 18th to be precise, so a birthday present for me (thanks very much Google) – but it’s hard to spot exactly what or who has been affected as, according to the search giant, the roll-out is actually going to be gradual and over the next…well, who knows how long!

Into the Core

Now also, the feeling is that algorithm updates (such as Panda and Penguin) will no longer be launched in their present format – as big, chunky add-ons to the core Google algorithm, released with much fanfare. Instead, these will be assimilated into the core algorithm, where any changes will become invisible – simply part and parcel of the greater and gradual push towards the utopian dream mentioned above.

The message is clear: work towards great, relevant content, build trust by achieving genuine citations on, and build links from, other good quality, high domain-authority and relevant sites.

Follow?

There has been some speculation about links of late. It used to be that a “follow” link was all that mattered. “No-follow” links were a waste of time and effort and simple, unlinked URL mentions mattered not one jot. This may still be the case to some extent. Recent studies have suggested that Google places far less stress on URL mentions and “no-follow” links and links behind pay-walls are less likely to attract the same level of SEO juice as “follow” links.

Citations Are Good

But, here’s the thing. A citation is part of the algorithmic equation and a branded mention – whether a brand name or a URL – is a citation. It’s another site recommending you. Google is moving more into semantic search, where its bots will pick up on phrases and keywords that are in turn picked up by users from third-party sites and used as search terms. If your URL is mentioned (but not linked) on another site and users go on to type your URL or brand name into Google, then some reward should come. There are suggestions too, that text around a link mention is also being “read” by Google, in an attempt to join the dots and create a clearer picture of what the context actually is.

Similarly, with “no-follow” links, the URL or brand is there and the bots will spot it, so it stands to reason that these links will become increasingly important as sign-posts that your brand or website is trusted. Paywalls may still be an issue as another recent (but limited) study apparently showed that bots can’t, or won’t, go beyond those walls. But there’s still no conclusive evidence of that and as change is the only constant in the digital world, then watch this space.

Mix It Up

So, my advice is to keep on looking for those golden “follow” links wherever you can, but absolutely don’t discount “no-follows” and URL mentions. Build for the future – the longer those links and mentions exist, the better placed you will be, come the time when Google really ramps up its semantic capabilities – a time that won’t be announced, but will simply happen; quietly, smoothly and gradually.

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When I first started out travel writing, twenty years ago, I was writing a weekly round-up for The Independent. The first PR agency I ever tapped into for their clients' holiday ideas was Travel PR; they were always full of great suggestions for the column and responded quickly. Over the years, I've worked with them on many occasions and their close association with AITO has always paid dividends. Nothing has changed; some of the best story ideas I get herald from them, and their response time remains very speedy. They are a pleasure to work with.

Mark Stratton, Freelance Travel Writer

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