Google Webmaster Tools Part 1: Links Still Count
August 1, 2013
I often times wonder what it would be like to work at Google. With blog after blog dedicated to its every move, it would have to be amusing to watch as people speculate if and when there were updates and what every little change it makes means. I recently had this thought when the industry went abuzz after Google removed the first paragraph from their link scheme help article, seen here:
“Your site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to you. The quantity, quality, and relevance of links influences your ranking. The sites that link to you can provide context about the subject matter of your site, and can indicate its quality and popularity.”
Was this Google’s subtle sign that links are no longer an SEO factor or was it just a simple addendum to a document because it enlisted a sort of “no @#$% Sherlock” kind of response. Personally, I error on the side of the latter. Links will always be important. I just think Google has been asking everyone to step up their game, not just in terms of back links but making sure you are a well-rounded site. This now starts with a well-designed site that’s user friendly as well as making sure you have credible validation (aka backlinks).
While it’s imperative to keep up with this industry trends, as they do move quite fast, it’s also easy to get caught up and lost in the search engine speculation, especially if you are trying to maintain SEO on your own site. All the while, Google has given us a guiding light on what they expect from a site, and it’s called Google Webmaster Tools. While I gave a brief overview of its capabilities here, the amount of information it contains is endless and is what has to be what Google views as its open door source to your ranking factors. For this reason, I will be going through each of the major sections in the weeks to come, and how you should use them both as a guide and to your advantage in your search engine marketing game plan. We will begin first with the hot topic of the hour:
Links to Your Site
Found, in the “Search Traffic” sub menu, this section is basically like a snapshot of how Google views your backlinks. Until this section disappears, links should still be counted as important. And while you can pull detail reports from a number of online sources this is probably one of the most straightforward views of your backlink health. Broken into the following three sections each play a large part in how relevant your site is in the industry what you want to rank for:
- Who links most
Take a look at the top five sites that are showing for under this section. Are they from high quality sites that pertain to your industry? Or are they from sites that really have nothing with what you have to do. If they look even remotely spammy, you have a problem. If they are legitimate sites but still not really relevant, it’s still time to put some backlink effort. You want those top five links to be the best of the best, and just having any old link is no longer going to cut it. You’ll want to go through the rest of your backlinks as well but priority should be given to those top five as those are those ones that are giving (or taking away) your credit with Google.
- Your most linked content
This is a great source to see what your strongest pages are and should be viewed as the popularity chart of your site. The pages seen here are what people find the most interesting so it best to pay attention and use to your advantage. If you have a blog styled website that is very content driven, you will be able to view which posts garner the most attention and any features (such as adding a video) that drew people in. If your site contains more static content, knowing which of your pages is the strongest can help keyword targeting to conversion tracking.
- How your data is linked
Not sure how your site is being represented out in the web? This lists every term used as anchor text that links back to your site. This is a great source to view when determining keywords as well as your creating your own personal word cloud of your site. Trying to market yourself as an expert in French culture but don’t see anything remotely French popping up in your list of anchor text? Google most likely will not qualify you as an expert without any supporting evidence so it might be best to rethink the way you want to brand yourself.
Elisa Houghtelin is one of the Account Managers at SEOhaus. If you would like to stay up-to-date on all of the latest SEO industry news and tips, you can subscribe to our blog here. Thanks for reading the SEOhaus blog!