One thing is certain, search results do not magically appear in the top 10 search engine result pages “for competitive keywords” on their own consent. In addition to great content, “it truly is a balancing act between link diversity, link velocity and link volume”.
For virtually every search you conduct online, a large percentage of the sites returned, have been optimized to appear on cue (like a trained seal) when its prominent keywords are queried using organic search.
Looking beneath the hood of search results, what becomes apparent is the synthesis of a combination of fresh content, aged content and a variety of links and how each work in tandem to influence a high ranking search engine result page.
Have you ever noticed that some pages do not “stay fresh” and rank in search engines as long term relevant search results unless the content or page heavily reinforced and receiving enough “link juice” and moral support from (similar or authority sites) on the web?
Understanding the link cycles (which are transient, permanent, have authority or lose value) and the types of benefits they deliver to your overall visibility in search engines is crucial to maximize your sites longevity and hang time in the SERPs.
Link Cycles – The Ebb and Flow: Some links provide more value than others. Finding the right combination of internal and external links can either leave your search results bobbing like a buoy in the sea or above the influence from transient fluctuations in link velocity, link diversity and thematic links.
Known Factors that impact Rankings are:
- Link Velocity – the rate in which you gain or lose links.
- Link Diversity – acquiring different types or diversity of links from a variety of sources is always better than multiple links from one source.
- Thematic Links – This can mean one of two things (1) that the link is coming from a familiar industry or niche or (2) that the link is contextually referenced (like Wikipedia) when using the most appropriate anchor text (the text in the link) to funnel traffic and link juice to other pages. Thematic links can occur internally (within your own pages or site) or externally (from other pages on sites) to produce a similar effect.
- Authority Links - This is the true mettle of the battle field in search engines, search results live or die by who has the most authority links. What is an authority link, topically aligned, aged and already ranking in the top 10 for the term you are targeting. Scoring one of these can pull your page into the spotlight, get enough of them and you will be at the helm of the keyword if your on page and off page is optimized better than your competition.
Then the final and most important ingredient…
Link Volume - Get it right and you stay in the relevant search category, over do it and you can bury your pages in the penalty box. Link volume and link velocity must be carefully managed, which leads to the next point.
The 90 Day Window and when Links Graduate or Dissipate:
Although this may not apply across the board, from personal experience I have noted that the majority of links have a 90 day window where they either (a) gain authority, sprout internal page rank and graduate to a strong search engine result page or (b) fizzle out, dissipate and join the ranks of transient links and sink to a less dominant position teetering on the verge of extinction (which is de-indexing from the search engine index).
It is important to track your links (using a spreadsheet or other method to determine age) and freshen them up from time to time, to ensure your competition doesn’t zero in on your spot. There are things you can do to eliminate or minimize the stale link factor such as, look back 90 days into your archives if you have a blog or sub-folders or orphan like pages see if they have PageRank (a measure of link popularity) or are starved for attention. If your internal pages are liberal in their internal link distribution, then they should be receiving enough life support to (a) be indexed and contributing to the sites internal thematic links or (b) have their own PageRank to fare on their own in the SERPs.
You can perform a link audit and determine if you have other pages which could be linked together to employ the buddy system and help each other out (such as aged content and fresh links) which encourages spider to crawl deeper into the site and freshen up rankings.
You can also consider up-linking stale pages (linking to sites with more authority in the category or industry to give your pages a lift. The reason being, search engines use spiders, spiders move about the web sifting through data to determine relevance.
If your site has topical information that is thorough, and also has links to more pertinent information, then your site will be considered a resource and gain authority (which can trump most other ranking factors) in search engines and evolve into a potential hub site.
Just like in real life, search engines are bored with sites that have a narcissistic tone “it’s all about me”. Sites like those are not going to win any popularity contests any time soon, considering that links are the fabric of the web (and without them there is no movement to or from a site).
It is not always about SEO value, sometimes it is just about quality and sharing information with others for the sake of linking such as “hey, thought you might like to see this”…
Another Tactic, Social Media Links:
Getting the right mixture of social media links is mutually important to indicate significance to search engine algorithms. Social media is great, but it’s not always about the votes, it is about the fact they they pass valuable one way link juice to pages that can elevate them to pages with PageRank in just a few months. Pages tucked away in sub-folders or if you create content regularly you have to freshen up the source over time to ensure that your site can support all of those hungry mouths (consider it building link insurance).
Just like forecasting a hot trend, link building is a science and an art form. You have to know where the hubs that are known to promote content and encourage the most organic & natural linking pattern. How and where to appeal to power users in social media (“the Linkerati” as coined by Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz) to reach vast expanses or related networks and the niche markets they impact through viral exposure and find links that you have control over for the sake of advertising or promotion the site in question (every SEO has their secret stash).
Keeping all of the above in consideration, in addition to performing some link tracking to see if you are slouching on the link building can keep your pages buoyant and anchored in the top 10 indefinitely as a result of relevance through and through.