By Julie Joyce
Over the years, one of the least fun parts of my job has been nicely explaining to clients why no one is going to link to them.
Many of them think that because they offer something awesome, people will naturally know that, seek them out, and generously link to them. Few of them like it when I point out all the problems with that mindset.
I wouldn’t want to link to a poor quality site myself. In fact, just this morning as I was writing something, I needed to link to a source — and immediately rejected one because it had a broken image, a video that did not play, and a code error that appeared on the page. It ranked very well, but that initial impression wasn’t something I wanted to be associated with.
So, how come no one is linking?
1. Website Bloat
Perhaps your site is so bloated, it’s impossible to pin down which page to link to.
You might have poorly chosen link targets because you want certain pages to rank well, but there’s not much to gain by trying to rank 10 pages that say the same thing with slight variations.
Yes, we did that a decade ago and it worked well then — but today, you’re just taunting the Panda.
2. Load Time
It could be that your site takes way too long to load — and by way too long, I mean more than 3 seconds.
If you’re a huge retailer like Amazon, people will wait it out, of course. Otherwise, long load times risk losing everyone’s attention.
3. Broken Media
Maybe you have broken images, or videos that can’t be played in your posts.
To be clear, I’m not talking about one broken image/video on some random page deep within your site. I’m talking about your main home page image, or a video in a post that basically says, “Hey, here’s a video of how to do this!”
4. No Sharing Capabilities
Are you missing social sharing buttons on your posts?
If I’m linking to something, then I want it to show signs of life. Why would I want to promote a post that the author doesn’t even feel like promoting?
Obviously, this applies only to certain types of content, as most people aren’t going to be tweeting your About Us page. However, if it’s a blog post, take the two minutes to install a WordPress social buttons plugin.
5. No Fresh Content
Perhaps your blog hasn’t been updated in over a year. If you can’t update it, why do you have it? We shut down our company blog almost a year ago because we could not properly maintain it.
6. Atrocious Writing
I’m not referring to minor grammatical issues, like an inability to distinguish when to use “effect” vs. “affect.” I mean maybe you really can’t write and probably shouldn’t be writing, because you have no clue how to structure sentences, state your positions, or move the reader in any way. You may have a great checklist for something, but that’s not enough to make me link.
7. Untended Comments Section
Do you let spam comments fill up your site? Do you fail to respond to legitimate comments? Do you get any comments at all?
If you can’t take the time to moderate your comments, you’re sending a message that you don’t truly care what your site looks like. If someone asks a question and you can’t be bothered to answer… again, that’s a sign that you don’t really care. If no one is commenting, well why aren’t they? Maybe your content isn’t interesting enough?
8. Too Many Ads
It’s awesome that you are making money, of course, but it’s distracting for people who actually want information. If I’m linking to information, it’s going to be something no one has to get a seizure viewing.
9. Unoriginal Content
Ask yourself honestly: “Do I have anything unique to offer?”
If all you do is rehash other people’s content, scrape their sites, publish roundups, and basically repeat everything that you can already find elsewhere… well, you may rank highly (because sadly that is the way things work at times), but you aren’t going to get great links.
We’re going to find the real source that has unique info. Have you ever looked at the number of sites that have posts on how to make salsa? I have (because I am addicted to salsa), and it’s currently 76,400 results if you search for it in quotes in Google.
How can you possibly decide which one to link to? You may check 10 of them out before you make salsa, but if you had to link to one recipe? Something would have to jump out at you.
10. There’s Better Content Elsewhere
Have you ever seen a food blog with no photos? I know I’m harping on food here, but the cookbooks that I love the most have photos in them. Food is very visual to me, and I’ve definitely tried recipes simply because the photos of the finished product looked amazing.
Let’s say you need to repair your washer and dryer, and you’re not mechanically inclined. Wouldn’t you be more likely to look at a site that had a video of someone doing it, with step-by-step instructions for you?
If I were looking to see the latest news on how Google may never update Toolbar Page Rank again, I’d rather find an article with some quotes to back this up — along with some predictions for what it could mean for some of us.
In my planning for a trip to Prague, I found tons of sites listing great restaurants to try — but only a few listed vegetarian restaurants, and I’m a vegetarian. Out of those vegetarian listings? There was one site that listed typical vegetarian dishes that you could eat in non-veg restaurants. If I was linking to something, it would be that one, no question.
11. 2001 Called And They Want Their Site Back
I’ll admit it: I was once someone who didn’t take the time to have a professionally designed site.
After making that investment and immediately seeing the benefits of it, however, I have much less patience with sites that look like antiques.
Attention spans seem to get shorter and shorter, and I’ll freely admit that I’d much rather read a blog post that has great, high-quality images, highlighted information, and formatting that lets me skim but still encourages me to read every word.
Check out Copyblogger.com to see what I mean. I read all of their posts because, well, they’re just so darned good-looking to ignore! They look fresh and modern, aren’t too long but aren’t too short either, and are very cleanly laid out and organized. They’re like a nicely organized workspace…you just want to dive right in.
Who’s To Blame?
So, before you blame your link builder, or start screaming about Google wrecking your link campaign, take a step back and look at your site.
Look at what you’re doing in comparison with what others are doing. Just as in my last post on learning from lost link opportunities, maybe the problem is actually you.