Stop Being Cute! Start Writing SEO-Friendly Links If You Want to Rank in Search!
It’s Not Your Content, It’s Your Links, Dummy!
There is a saying in our field; “You can be cute, or you can rank!” All too often we come across clients that want to stand out by using a different spelling or special characters in their business name. And while this may appear cute it definitely works against you as far as SEO is concerned. So if you want better search rankings you better start writing SEO-friendly links!
In a previous post I told you how to create SEO-friendly content. And maybe you created some of your own, and are excited about more organic traffic. So why is nobody finding your content? Most likely the culprit is not the content, but your links! If you are not using SEO-friendly links folks are not going to click on them.
…The objective is not to “make your links appear natural”; the objective is that your links are natural. Matt Cutts
Let’s take a look at why SEO-friendly links are so important for small business marketing. According to Search Engine Journal: 70% of all links clicked on by visitors are organic, not paid! Now you understand why building SEO-friendly links is so important for your content and search marketing, especially if you are a small business with a limited marketing budget.
SEO-friendly links, sometimes called “pretty links” use real words instead of automatically generated links that can look like this: https://espresso.digital/?p=123. Pretty exciting, isn’t it? Admit it, you can barely restrain yourself from clicking that! Well, a lot of folks feel the same way as you.
Lucky for you, building SEO-friendly links is actually pretty easy. Check out these simple tips and start writing SEO-friendly links that people will actually want to click. And you know what that means, don’t you? Yup, increased organic web traffic!
Building SEO-Friendly Links
1 – Use Hyphens – Not Underscores
I know it is hard to find that perfect domain URL, or write the perfect link, without separating the words. Unfortunately many of you are using underscores to do that. Personally I am not keen on them. And search engines like Google and Bing dislike them as well.
Solution: Use hyphens if you need to separate words.
2 – Stop Using Special Characters
Special characters like @, $, %, or # may seem cute. But they are not doing you any good! Not only do search engines omit them from search results; they consider special characters to be spam. And that means lower organic ranking. Not exactly what you want is it?
Solution: Keep special characters for your social media memes.
3 – Write Shorter Links
Not only are overly long links hard to understand, or even remember. They don’t rank very high, either! A research study from QuickSprout found that the URLs ranked in the top 10% of search engine results had an average of 37 characters. There is no fast and easy rule, but SEO-friendly links are more focused on the content.
Solution: Keep your links short, informative, and easy to understand.
4 – Consider Link Structure
This can vary depending on the type of website you have. Before you can start writing SEO-friendly links you need to consider how you are going to structure your content. Maybe you need to include dates, categories, even locations. Personally I prefer using the blog post or page title.
Solution: SEO-friendly links are most effective if they follow your site content structure.
5 – Include Keywords
This always puzzles the hell out of me. You are working your butt off to get better website rankings and search traffic. But you don’t want to include a keyword in the links? Search engines love keywords; it helps them understand what the page or post is all about.
Solution: Add one or two keywords to your links, but avoid keyword stuffing!
6 – DON’T USE ALL CAPS
URLs are case-sensitive. Some of you may not know that. If you create all caps permalinks you will simply confuse search engines. Plus using all caps is the equivalent of yelling at people. Didn’t your mom tell you that is impolite?
Solution: Keep all your permalinks lower case. Yes, even the first letter!
7 – Stop Using Stop Words
There are about 800 words that search engines consider stop words, including “the”, “a”, “of”, “at”, and verbs. You really don’t need them in your links. Search engines omit them anyway, and they make your URL look longer.
Solution: Avoid stop words and verbs in your SEO-friendly links.
8 – Write Readable Links
This is all about creating clean links. For the most SEO-friendly links only include the required information, and keep it simple. Include a word or two to grab readers’ attention. Avoid numbers, weird signs, and excessive sub folders.
Solution: Keep your links short, simple, and to the point.
9 – Use Link Shorteners
A 2014 study by RadiumOne showed that social sharing with branded shortened links that clearly indicated the site and content performed much better than long URLs and non-branded shorteners.
Solution: Use a link shortener like Bit.ly to shorten your links for improved social sharing.
10 – Think Mobile
I keep reminding you that we live in the mobile age. Mobile consumers not only expect SEO-friendly links, but mobile-friendly ones. Make sure that you include mobile-friendly links in your sitemap to get the mobile-friendly search ranking.
Solution: Make sure the content you link to is mobile-friendly.
11 – Be Consistent
Use the same URL format for all your site links. If you are using a back slash (/) at the end of your page URLs be sure to do the same for your blog post links as well.
Solution: Choose one URL format, and stick with it.
12 – Resolve Your WWW
I come across this a lot; a site uses both www and non-www URLs. Some links include the www, and others don’t. Even worse, if you don’t resolve this some links bring up the dreaded 404 page.
Solution: Choose the preferable version in the Google Search Console.
Writing Your Own SEO-Friendly Links
There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? I told you building SEO-friendly links is easier than most people think. For the most part simple common sense goes a long way. If you have a hard time understanding and following your own links others will feel the same. And if visitors don’t click on links you can kiss that improved ranking and increased search traffic goodbye.
So take a look at your own links. You can simply check the URL in your browser address bar, or you can use this great SEO Optimization Link Checker. Once you identify links that are not SEO-friendly use the above tips to correct them.
If you need some more ideas for building SEO-friendly links, or improving your overall small business SEO strategy, check out these posts on our ESPRESSO Shots Blog:
- 9 SEO Basics to Grow Your Small Business
- WordPress SEO Tips for Small Business Websites
- 15 Key Small Business Website Success Tips
- Key SEO Considerations for Website Redesign
- Web Designer’s SEO Guide – How to Improve Search Ranking
- Finding the Best SEO Service Provider – 6 Things to Consider
- A Guide for Creating SEO-Friendly Content
- 52 Local SEO Strategies Any Business Can Implement
- 11 Local SEO Tips to Get Your Business Noticed
Building SEO-friendly links is only the beginning. In order to keep your business website ranking highly you need to avoid common small business SEO mistakes as well. For many of you this will become second nature. But if you are already uncomfortable with SEO you may be better off engaging professional help.
We Write SEO-Friendly Links!
Why not say hello, and learn more about our small business SEO services, and how our team can help you improve your organic search ranking by writing SEO-friendly links.
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