This is my blog about the trials and tribulations of setting up our web site.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

So what's better??? Content or Links.

Both content and links have their place, but firstly each one should be looked at individually.

Content: There is the old saying, "content is king", which even today might be true. What content does is it not only gives you a bunch more internal links within your site but well optimized content will also bring in keyword traffic to your site that you would not normally get, most of this keyword traffic is usually not very competative also. The searchers are also looking for something usually more specific and finding it on your site might also make them look further into your site. MSN ranks page content when determining where to place your site in its listings much more than other SE's.

You can add content such as we have done with our customers pages to gain keywords such as with Bymark restaurant which on MSN we are #5. This is content directly marketed towards a specific keyword target.

The the second type of content is adding sections such as our "Ask Mr Coffee" section. In this section we have added pages with information about coffee. On these pages the more info you have the better. If you notice that when typing in obscure searches into Google it will find the words anywhere on the page, not necessarily together so the more keywords on the page the better. That is not to say you should write the pages for keywords, let the public who is reading or searching determine what the keywords are. You should just provide as much relevent information about the subject as you can. The rest will fall into place. When your site is new you will not see much in the way of results for all your effort but as time goes on and the pages are indexed properly and your site gains in PR the results will show. Even on our relatively new site you can see for the search Coffee in a metal can, we are right up at the top, although I did cheat there and used quotes as our site is new.

The most important type of content though is main page and product page content. You see so many sites with just pictures on their main page and very little product page text. Search engines need text to know why they should rank you at the top for your pages keywords and the consumers who will buy your product need to know why they should buy from you. Text is the best way to acheive both objectives. A must read by all web site owners is Jason Chance's article on Developing an Online Unique Selling Proposition. There he covers an important and overlooked part of a lot of web sites, that is telling your customers why they should buy from you. Adding text to the main page not only tells the customers why they should buy from you but also gives the search engines an idea of the importance of your keywords. For product pages adding a description of your products and also giving them all the relevent information they might need to make their desision will go a long way to not only people purchasing from you but also having your pages indexed and ranked properly. Also keep outgoing links here to a minimum, do not have on your product pages something like "visit the manufactuers site for more information". That does two really bad things, first it means you do not have all the info on your site and therefore your page will not be as relevent as it could be for the SE's. Second it makes the customer leave your site to find information and they might not return or find a link to a cheaper supplier from that other page.

Links: If like most people your anchor text for keywords is usually the same for most of your links, especially the ones you create. There are 3 types of links, the first being internal links which are links from your web pages to your Home page or All Products page. These are given some weight with the SE's. The second are one way links to your site which could come from directory listings, forum posts, blogs, etc. These can be created by you or by another individual. The third is reciprical links, they are other web sites where you both link to each other. These are tough ones and might get you penalized by the SE's if you link to a bad site or a link farm. It is best to be very carful who you link to.

Internal links throughout your site are very important, they help the search engines find their way around and also help your customers find information on your site. Internal links should be well thought out and also easy for the customer to navigate. If the customers can easily navigate your site, the Search Engines will also, design the links for the customers. On a lot of web sites you see in the footer links to the privacy section, terms of use. Mostly these are also available in the web sites information box so the second link is redundent. Also what do you think is more important, every page linking twice to your Privacy Statement or do you think it might be better to link twice to your All Products page, your Site Map, or even better to your Content Section. The consumer does not need the second link to the Privacy Pages but the SE's I am sure would like a second link to the content section. Giving your Privacy Pages more of a boost will not help you sell more widgets.

I should also add a part about links leading from your site. Most people add something like Powered by osCommerce in their footer and it is linked to osC from every page in their site. osC deserves the regognition for providing the software and working hard to help you but it is not doing your site any good. Better would be to have the link on your main page only and then on the other pages take the link out. If someone needs the clickable link they can still get to it from the one page but having it on every page takes away from your site. You can also add a page to your site for the companies that have helped you and give them the 1 link there. Here is a page of companies that Bean Coffee Shop works with.

Google really places a lot of importance on how many other sites link to your site, it is the single biggest factor for placing your site where they do. Applying to DMOZ and getting listed is a major boost to all web sites as there are so many other directories that run off of that. Read the rules before submiting your site and wait, if you get listed it is a great bonus for you but not the end of the world if you don't, there are lots of other directories out there. A good way to find other directories is by region such as for us type in "Toronto, directory", GTA, directory", "Ontario, directory", "Canada, directory", Coffee, directory", etc into SE's and if appropriate and there is no backlink required submit your site. Setting half an hour a day to this will help your site a lot.

Posting in forums that allow signature links is another great way of getting links back to your site. Post only relevent responses and don't spam as that will just piss people off and is not helping your business. Google Groups is often an overlooked means of generating links also. There almost anything goes and it is indexed by the SE's constantly, once again don't spam.

Posting on blogs or creating your own is another way of generating links. See my entire blog as an example of this. You are not limited to one blog and can create as many blogs as you want and can keep updated. Posting to other relevent blogs will also help spread around your links.

The hardest part of generating links is recipricol links which are links pages created on web sites. We put one up but are not sure if this will continue. Be careful who you swap links with here as it might be more detremental to your site than it is worth. Reciprical links are where both parties have decided to swap links, you are putting your repuation in their hands and if they are using bad SEO tactics it will reflect badly on your site also. Spending your time generating one way incoming links is by far much better than getting caught up in someones link farm strategy.

This shouldn't need saying but hidden links in your site, FAA pages, and doorway pages are never good and should be not be used under any circumstances. They WILL get you banned, maybe not today but someday they will.

So the question was, what is better, Content or Links. IMO it is a combination of the two. If you consentrate on content MSN will love you, if you concentrate on links Google will love you. A strong balance between the two will not only give you a well laid out and content rich site for your customers but also give you good SE position across the board. Setting aside 30 minutes each day for link building and 30 minutes for content over time will produce the results you need.

Later I will post the power of article submission but that is for another day.


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