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Links versus Citations - Considering How Google Handles Links Now

Creating Content that Solves Problems

     
11:17 am on Sep 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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Three years ago I wrote a blog post about cultivating links. This was a reaction to the direction Google was beginning to take at that time toward content and links. A direction that's become more pronounced.

I discussed how most links are just chaff, the stuff that surrounds the grain and what Google is really after is the grain, the signal. Guest articles created for links, sponsored links, scholarship links, student discount links; those are not true citations and that's not what a search engine is looking for these days.

Search engines aren't looking for links. Search engines are looking for citations. A citation is when a web page cites (and links to) another web page because the content on that other page is useful to the topic at hand. Period.

Topic Research
So instead of starting and stopping on keyword research, I do a fair bit of Topic Research. This is a process of finding out what problems people are having with a product, with a kind of tool, common problems associated with a popular activity; then I go about crafting solutions to those problems. Solving problems not repeating keywords is what makes a site rank better.

This is a long term approach, not something that fits into client links building. Basically, it's about focusing on what makes a web page worthy of a link.

To do this you have to take stock of what people are linking to and why.

Here are three aspects of a citation-worthy web page:
•Uniqueness
•Usefulness
•What’s in it for them


When creating this kind of content I try to understand what problem a site visitor might have and how that content can solve it.
3:58 am on Sept 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Great write-up. Thanks martinibuster
5:04 am on Sept 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Nice post MB.
6:27 am on Sept 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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There are 3 or 4 citation programs used by schools and social platforms. I see their activity in my logs.

I once blocked them thinking they were just a bunch of companies making their income off of my content.

I finally reconsidered and allow them all access now. As noted, these are the types of backlinks I want: from rich content, citing my pages as source or authority.
1:31 pm on Sept 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Google New Way of Counting Links & Competitor Research
Aside from manual penalties, Google is discounting links and (aside from personalized & rankbrained results) is ranking sites where they belong according to what links are left that counts. They're silently disallowing links links from passing PageRank, rendering them ineffective in a way that makes it difficult to determine which links are of value and which links are not useful.

Because less links are counting, the entire link economy has changed.

This affects competitor research. The links you think are working may not be the ones that are powering the rankings. Following what your competitors are doing isn't always the best approach, under these conditions today.