Making One Incoming Link is Now the Last Thing You Do

Nowadays, one link is all you need.  Search Engine Optimization in 2019 requires making just one incoming link after you improve a webpage. Good SEO practitioners make an entry in a popular portal that links to a freshly improved webpage as a signal to Google cache bots to come scrape-up their hard work and remeasure and re-index the page accordingly. It’s a knock on the door, and little more.

Make and promote the 3rd party media with one link only after the subject webpage has been focused on the target search terms and improved to be more usable.  The freshly cached link in popular media tells the algorithm to remeasure the page, and that’s it. That’s all it does now.

Put the focus keyword (the search term for which you focused the page) in the anchor text of the branded incoming link (if possible) and then promote the media. That is the new best practice for SEO link-building in 2019, and it’s worth noting the link itself is not part of the algorithm used to calculate the index. Where the webpage ends up ranking on Google is a function of its own usability.

UK railroad links, red lights over empty tracks © Copyright Garry Cornes

UK Railroad links at Glasgow terminal. Photo courtesy of Garry Cornes.

How has SEO Link-Building Changed in 2019?

SMOJoe believes that,

1) Incoming links no longer affect search engine rankings by themselves.

2) SEO link-building into a website done in the absence of any improvements on the website’s pages will not result in any significant ranking improvements.

Make no mistake, incoming links are still necessary. But now I see them more like an electrical cord or a spark plug into a website, and less like hollow pipes filled with mystical Domain Authority.  The idea that websites can be improved or somehow made more important simply by linking them to significant others is also obsolete in my humble opinion.

Below is the new best practice – a use case study.

Joe Improves a Webpage and Makes a Link Afterwards

one incoming link from magazine into the concept

For best results, fix one page per month using this integrated marketing / SEO process.

Joe fixes up a popular webpage that consistently ranks atop pg2 of Google in searches for a popular keyword relevant to her business. She adds pictures and a video to her webpage and makes the text much easier to read and understand. She adds more ways to convert readers into buyers on the page, and that includes sign-up forms and whitepaper downloads and a spot for users to leave product reviews and testimonials.  Then, once the page contains more information and is a much better solution for a particular query, Joe writes a story in a major organ of the press. The story is published and promoted by the online entity. A lot of people like Joe’s story and they use it and share it.  Some readers even find and use the link to a resource (the webpage that Joe fixed up on her website) that supports the magazine story. The Google Bot caches the story with its link to Joe’s webpage and notices the destination has recently been improved, and so the bot measures the usability of the new page. If Joe did a good job, and enough people like her work, as measured by the user’s time on page, # pages per visit and low bounce rate and relatively high reader conversion rate (if possible), the page will rise in search engine rankings for the focus keywords.  That is good SEO in 2019.

Why does this happen? Because this is what Google most wants to happen. Pages rise and fall on their own merits, period. A branded link tells them to check out the website because it just might be a better solution that what they are currently showing on pg1 for the same results, and Google wants above all else to provide users with a clean and effective search experience.

Why has SMOJoe Changing his Mind on SEO Link-building?

This blog entry is necessary for me, as an SEO instructor at Humber College Lakeshore, and one about to teach SEO linking best practices; when I stood before the class to give theory and show practical examples of good link building, I found myself making excuses, adding caveats, and saying things like ‘it used to be that this was true, and this happened.’ Indeed much of the textbook that I created for the course (my last edition was 2015) is simply not the best practice anymore because it doesn’t produce the kind of results we used to enjoy.

SMOJoe is turning away from the idea that MOZ Domain Authority flows from high authority websites to lower authority sites through backlinks or incoming links to a page. Let’s also invalidate the notion that incoming links from high authority websites inherently raise the rankings of the websites to which they connect via links in popular content.

So What Are the Best Practices for SEO Link-Building in 2019?

Incoming links to webpages that appear in editorial content and that are shared and imbued with social signals are still cached by Google Bots same as before. But now, if meritorious, the pages to which the popular media connects will be crawled and re-indexed.  They will be tested. And this may lead to what I call The Ride, more on that below.

It’s our belief that SEO is still a two step dance, and now both steps are even more pronounced. Good optimization is done slowly, one page at a time, in a carefully choreographed two-step dance: Fix the page, and then make a link to celebrate new efficiencies.  Publishing the story with the link to the freshly improved page is like taking a ribbon and tying a bow around it and presenting it to Google as a gift; it’s like saying, ‘here is a better solution to a popular search query’.

Step one – fix up a page and focus it on the best possible search term(s). Use SEMRush or ahrefs or a similar program to determine which search queries will produce the page as a search result, and then isolate the best of these and focus the page accordingly.  Read SMOJoe blog post on Raison Detre SEO on focusing a website’s reason for being.  Focus the ideas on the page starting with the Page Title, the H1 Header, Sub Headers, body content and Alt Text under photos. Make a two or three word promise in the Page Title and live up to the pledge as best as possible in the body of the page. Add interactive elements especially if they are original, and increase the page’s overall usability wherever possible. Make a beautiful destination that is a more effective solution to a popular search query.

What is The Ride?

SMOJoe uses the term ‘The Ride’ to discuss the phenomenon seen below.  The anonymous SEMRush organic traffic graph for X company shows a sudden rise in traffic followed by an equally sharp and mysterious decline. What happened? The webmaster improved the homepage in September 2018, and immediately afterwards secured one incoming link to the page from a known influencer with a popular blog and a very large social media following. The company and blogger shall remain anonymous because this bump-graph is so typical (I’m sure I’m not the only SEO that has noticed a prevalence of hard-to-explain bumps), I could show a half dozen more graphs just like this from last year.

seo keyword ride

This is The Ride, and what happened is that a Google Cache Bot followed the influencer’s tweets and Facebook activity to her blog post, and in that content found the link to X company’s new homepage. The Google Bot noticed how the anchor text in the blogger’s link was the same as the Page Title and similar to the h1 header on the homepage and that is was new. The bot reported the new elements which caused the algorithm to ponder the page’s new efficiencies.  To further the data collection they gave the site The Ride. For approximately 14 days the website was indexed much higher, on page one of Google ca for the popular search term just so the machine ‘capacitor’ could collect more data. When the data flooded in, and the results were weighed by the algorithm, this particular page proved to be less efficient than the previously listed search results, and so the site URL was placed back in its original position in the SERP index (on page two) for the popular search term and traffic dropped accordingly. That is The Ride.

Webmasters, when you see this bump in your analytics you may conclude that certain webpages on site were tested and found lacking; the competitor’s webpages are more efficient and so it behooves you to go and study them and find out why they are winning. The answers will have nothing to do with their incoming links or their Page Authority, but rather their on-page experience. Are their pages laid out better? Do their pages load faster? Do they have better pictures and videos? Do they have smarter call-to-actions? Why do people prefer their website over yours?

The difference between rel=nofollow and dofollow links is?

Meaningless. Now the attribute to consider is natural honest-to-goodness traffic and even that is a means to an end; a small quantity good data is all the SEO practitioner should hope to secure by making the link to his work product, his newly improved webpage.

I should probably say that the difference is almost meaningless as I can see the need for influence bloggers and magazines to continue to use rel=nofollow links in order to preserve their MOZ Domain Authority so as to appear more attractive to the marketing schleps shopping for sponsored posts.  The changes I’ve outlined here are in reference to Google and not MOZ, Majestic, SEMRush or SEOProfiler all of which have measuring systems to test the strength and validity of backlinks to and from websites. These companies are going to continue to advocate for links and discuss link profiles etc which I see as nonsensical now. Scanning other people’s links is now only useful to see how you can knock on the door to bring the Google Bots by your own pages after you have improved them. But having a long list of incoming links that are not bringing traffic, or worse, bringing traffic that behaves badly, is not beneficial to any website’s search math. On the flip side, links that bring traffic that behaves well and lowers the overall bounce rate and raises users’ overall time on page are beneficial, but only because they yield this positive data.

What is the Future of Influence Blog Posts in 2019?

Brighter than ever before, but now limited to one link per post and to one singular webpage, and now the bloggers will have to get used to being the last phase of the SEO process.  Influencers make media filled with good information (or entertainment that keeps people using their media for a period of time),  and the one link they publish to a freshly renovated page is like a kiss – a spark – a knock on the door that invites a Google Bot to follow the traffic and measure genuine user satisfaction and, if impressed, raise the page’s rankings on the index for the popular search term.

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