I bet when you think about link building you don’t think VAVAVOOM!
Link Building: time-intensive, frustrating, and sometimes confusing.
Unfortunately, it’s unavoidable.
Link building is ultimately unavoidable because it’s still the trump card for higher rankings.
I like to break the job of link building into smaller more manageable steps. I like to use the steps VAVA.
That sands for: Link Volume, Link Authority, Link Velocity and Link Anchor Text. I had always used a VAVA like system.
However, Kelvin Newman’s @kelvinnewman eBook Clockwork Pirate helped me move my skill level from So La La to VAVAVOOM! Thanks to Kelvin once I integrated VAVA into my normal link building plan it was less of a chore and more like a proactive strategy.
Here are the VAVA principles of link building that Kelvin lays out in his book.
When I look at any website’s link portfolio, I look at four key areas:
Link Volume, Link Authority, Link Velocity and Link Anchor Text.
No matter what challenges a website faces I will look to improve these VAVA principles.
We can all easily get our heads around the idea that Google and the other search engines like websites with more links. And though the intricacies of link building require a nuanced approach very often a website can’t go too far wrong with a strategy that results in more links. Link equity is far more complicated than just volume this but it is still important, it doesn’t matter if you have a pile of links as big as Ben Nevis Mountain if your competitors is as big as Everest.
In real life not all recommendations are created equally, we know who of our friends and acquaintances are experts, and who doesn’t know what they are talking about. If we want advice on a new car, we trust our mechanic friend more than our dentist. Google when they look at link authority are trying to achieve something very similar. They make judgments about how much sway any endorsement should have. We’ll come onto how you can assess the authority of any given link later in this book but be warned the metric that most people use to access link authority, PageRank, is at best misleading and more likely damaging to link building efforts.
PageRank is the basis of Google’s original algorithm, and still has a part to play in how they determine rankings, but what they display as a green-bar and a score out of ten, is something very different. This score is only updated once a quarter, at best, and by that point will be several months out of date, if it was ever accurate in the first place.
Google have also been known to use this score politically, i.e. to punish link selling offenders while the change in score seemingly has no influence on results. So take PageRank with a shovel full of salt and use it for what it is useful for, a very quick, very inaccurate, finger in the air assessment of a page’s quality. A far more effective way of judging a site’s quality is your noggin, does it feel like a trusted site?
Does it appear to have the signals of credibility that you implicitly understand? Does it have readers who’ll take the content seriously? From my experience these ‘gut feelings’ are far more effective at judging site quality than PageRank or any other score. This is why people are far more important in any link building campaign than any tool or algorithm.
If you’ve looked at the volume and authority of your competitors you might find yourself scared stiff, but there is some good news though. Google have realised there is a fault in their algorithm; there is a lag, a lag between a page being important enough to include and when it has received enough links to rank. To rectify this there is a phenomenon, which is sometimes known as a Google Honeymoon Period or officially, “Query Deserves Freshness”, this means new pages don’t need as many links to rank when they are ‘fresh’.
It makes a lot of sense. Imagine two identical sites, one with 1,000 links but static growth vs. another with 500 gained rapidly over the last few months. Which do you think will be the best website to return for a topical search query? This isn’t the only way link velocity influences rankings, but there is a general trend if you can engineer a healthy link velocity you will benefit more than your link volume and authority may initially suggest.
Link Anchor Text
A varied and inventive link building campaign will usually deal with authority, velocity & volume factors by default, but are you making sure you get the right anchor text? Anchor text is one of the most complex of the four pillars so I’ve covered it in much more detail than its peers. But what is anchor text? If someone links to you in a piece of text and a few words are underlined and in blue, that’s known as anchor text. It’s the words or phrases people use when they link to you. Google use these words to understand what your website is about. If someone writes the word “foolproof widgets” and makes it a clickable link to your site, the search engine can be reasonably confident that your website is about “foolproof widgets” It used to be the case that if you wanted to demonstrate the power of anchor text in Google’s algorithm, you pointed someone at an example of a Google Bomb.
A Google bomb was when a swarm of websites link to a page using certain anchor text in order to influence the search results. The de-facto example was during George W. Bush’s time in the White House, disgruntled bloggers who were angry at his handling of the Iraq War en-masse linked to his biography on the Whitehouse website using “miserable failure” The Google algorithm at that stage assumed that page must be about ‘miserable failures’ why else would people link to it using those words, so made that page rank whenever anyone searched for that phrase. Not surprisingly seeing thousands of people willfully manipulating its algorithm didn’t impress Google so they altered their algorithm. With these changes, it’s a little harder to find such obvious examples of link text’s importance as “miserable failure” but it’s still highly regarded as a very important ranking factor.