Accountant link building 101: what you need to know
Although this article is aimed specifically at accountants, the principles below apply to any website.
Incoming links, also called inbound links or backlinks, are links from other websites to yours. They are currently the main “off-page” (external to your site) ranking factor used by search engines such as Google and Bing when they rank a website on their results pages. Put simply,
The more links your website has coming from external, relevant and trusted websites, the better your rankings will be.
Trust, relevancy and link position are the factors search engines are giving more and more importance to, and the anchor text is still an old favourite. Here is a bit more about each of them.
Trust or Authority
Trust, also sometimes referred to as a website “authority”, is an intangible value that search engines (and in particular Google) give to a website. The “trust” is gauged by taking into account the history of the site, the number of sites that links to it and their own “trust/authority” factor.
Let’s take the ICAEW website for example: the Institute of Chartered Accountants website receives links (over 34,000) from many resources including the BBC News website, Wikipedia and Companies House. These sites are well established, with thousands of pages and thousands (millions in the BBC and Wikipedia’s case) of other sites linking to them. They are “trusted” because perceived as important, a “hub” for many other sites.
Additionally, websites from recognised academic or governmental bodies (Companies House) have another layer of “trust” attached to them because of the “official” status of their domain names (.ac.uk and .gov.uk can only be obtained by academic or governmental entities).
The relevancy of a link is often assessed on a page level (although it is better to be both page and site relevant).
For accountants, the relevancy can be a page discussing tax or setting up a business, but also local pages discussing events in an area covered by the accountant.
Let’s take the ICAEW site again. Most of the websites linking to it are accountancy related : either accountancy practices or accounting software vendors. And when the BBC links to the ICAEW site, it is from a page about finance and the recession. These are very relevant to what the ICAEW is about and are the best links to get.
Location of the links on the page
The location of the link on the page is pretty self explanatory: where is the link? Is it in the footer, in a sidebar or in the main body of the text. The last one being the best.
The location of the link is important because footer links tend to be carried over the entire website and Google – through Matt Cutts – have said in this video that they may disregard some of the value for these types of links. Editorial links (links within the main body) are a lot harder to “fake” hence their greater “value”.
Going back on the ICAEW website, most links to their website will be in footers and sidebars (accountants mentioning being a member of the Institute alongside their other memberships or copyright notices), so they may not be the best example of optimised links in terms of SEO.
The anchor text is the link itself (the – usually – underlined text). This is where webmasters need to pay special attention when they get links. Avoiding the “click here” and “read more”, and adding keywords to the anchor. For example the “in this video” above is a bad achor. A better anchor would have been “links in footer are treated differently“. For accountants, their services and town/city is usually a good combination.
Talking about the Institute for the last time, most of their links are either images or on their name ICAEW but their main target keyword probably is their name, unlike accountants who may want to appear for their services or “Accountant in …”.
Things I haven’t talked about
Trust, relevancy, position and anchor text are 4 non-technical variables. For people who are involved in link-building there are other ones they tend to also consider. These are: surrounding text, site and page PageRank ™, whether the link is dofollow or nofollow, the number of links on the page, the position of the page in the search engines, the last cache date… they will all be covered in a forthcoming article.