Balancing your links – Be Natural

November 9, 2006

Un tal Steven Bradley wrote recently an interesting post about balancing your links. The adage is that you should make them look “natural” and avoid over-optimization.

There is nothing wrong with this advice, if your site is purely designed for Googlebot, Slurp or msnbot.

If your site is designed for real users, and your goal is to sell them something (be it a product, service, or subscription) or to give them something useful (such as valuable posts and articles or some useful utility, plugin or extension), let me give you another advice.

Instead of SEOing your site and worrying about making it look natural, be natural. By that I mean that every link you put on your site should be of value for your users.

There is nothing wrong with Steven’s advice, because by trying to look natural you will probably achieve linking structure that will benefit your users. However, I strongly believe that by being natural and focusing on your user’s needs you can achieve superior results, both in usability of your site and in long-term SEO. It pays well to be authentic and natural. You can stop worrying about ongoing changes in ranking algorithms and focus on building a useful site. SE bots learn and get better every month in distinguishing value from manipulation. Being natural (instead of looking natural) is the safest long-term SEO strategy.

Let me give you a natural alternative to Steven’s advice.

  • Steven: Mix up links to your home page and to deeper pages of your site
  • Ubibene: Try to predict / anticipate user’s informational needs on every page and provide links to satisfy them
  • Steven: Vary the anchor text in links to your pages
  • Ubibene: Put the anchor text in links that best explain the content of the target page. Avoid misleading the user. Different context to different (but related) anchor texts.
  • Steven: Trade a few links to balance out the one way inbound links
  • Ubibene: Mix outlinks and internal links always having in mind the user and his/her needs. There is nothing wrong with NOT having any outlink if the user does not really need them on some page. There is nothing wrong with having ONLY outlinks if it benefits the user.
  • Steven and Ubibene: Link out as well as linking in. Here we completely agree, however, I suspect the motivation is different (Steven focuses on naturally-looking linking structure, ubibene on linking structure that best satisfies user needs).
  • Get site wide and one off links (this one I don’t really get, my English is not that good.)