Posted 28th March 2012.
<--- Warning: this post is going to get a little technical! --->
If you're interested in getting clients from your website, you'll no doubt know that the most important factor in getting your site to show up highly in the search engine results – by far – is the number and quality of links to your site from other people's sites.
Google takes it as a vote of confidence in your site.
The assumption in the algorithms is basically that links are “natural”. In other words that people link to pages on your site if they genuinely like the content there and “recommend” it.
Historically though, search engine optimization experts have been able to use links to manipulate rankings. They've bought links on other people's sites. Or created huge networks of websites under their own control and pointed links at sites they want to rank highly.
What it's meant is that despite google's best intentions, it's always been possible for someone with deep pockets to buy their way to the top of the results.
But recently google have really started to shake things up. They've been actively searching for these networks of sites and removing them from their index so that the links don't count towards search engine rankings.
As a result, websites that have achieved high google rankings because of these networks have dropped like a stone in the results pages. One of the networks that's been hit, “Build My Rank”, has had to close its doors to paying customers as the majority of its sites have been deindexed.
And this is actually all good news for the rest of us.
I'm guessing that very few people reading this article have participated in this kind of link buying. Mostly our search engine rankings have come from natural links. People genuinely linking to us because we've created great content on our site that they'd like to share with others.
With the recent changes google is making, these natural links have become even more powerful.
One great way to get these natural links is to create what's known as “link bait”.
These are blog posts or other resources on your site that you've deliberately created to attract links.
A classic example is the “top 10” post. Where you list the top 10 of something or other.
People always find these list posts interesting and often link to them or mention them on social media. I'm not fully sure why – but given a choice between a thoughtful, in-depth article and a list, most of us (me included) click over to the list to see what's on it.
You can get even more pulling power if rather than just a list of things, you make a list of people.
The top 10 marketing bloggers. The top 20 women in management under 40. 5 writers on strategy you probably don't know about but should.
Why do people lists make even better link bait?
Because the people you mention in the list are flattered by it and promote the list for you – often without you even asking.
If someone appears on your list of 10 influential and insightful marketing bloggers, the chances are that influential marketing blogger will want to tell everyone he's on the list and put a link up to your post from his (influential) blog.
End result: valuable links and traffic to your blog post.
And yesterday, I found the very best example of this strategy being used I've come across.
In this case, salesforce.com (the guys who make the online CRM system) didn't just create a top 10 list – they made a “dream team”. A fantasy football team comprised of influential bloggers on marketing, sales and social media.
They gave them all positions, created little icons for each player, created a little bio for each player.
Really fun stuff. Stuff that even a hard bitten blogger who knows exactly what's being done couldn't resist.
Then they emailed all the bloggers to tell them they'd made the team (there's a European Dream Team and a US Dream Team).
Not surprisingly, the bloggers have begun to link to the post. All adding interest, generating traffic and vauable links to salesforce.com's website.
How do I know about this?
I made the team. Number 10 for Europe. The Lionel Messi role.
And even though I know exactly what's going on, I think they've done it brilliantly. And they deserve this link to the #SocialSuccess Dream Team.