In my recent a4uexpo talk I covered “How to do Back Link Analysis That Really Works”. One of the subjects I touched on in the talk was second order links. As these are the links that are pointing at a page that links to you, they have a huge impact on your ability to rank and are an area which I think deserves attention. What are some of the reasons why I think second order links are worth your time?
They may be easier to attract links to.
For many of our clients building links to their site has proved a challenge. Sometimes these challenges are environmental, e.g. their industry has a bad reputation which means that people are unlikely to link to them. Often they also face internal issues around sign off or tone of voice. In either of these two circumstances, it can often be worthwhile to build links to third party websites which are already linking to the client. This type of mention might not have the stigma of the clients’ site or can circumnavigate other restrictions. Of course, building a link one step removed wouldn’t have the value of a direct link but they’ll have a lot more value than no link at all, and sometimes with SEO you have to be pragmatic.
You can make a great link better.
There are lots of things you’ll be looking for in a link: perhaps you want a trusted site, a contextual page of content and maybe good anchor text. Often you can get links with these attributes but over time their value will decrease. The website providing the link will continue to produce content which ‘buries’ the content containing your link. If it’s not seen as an important page on their site it will have limited value for your site. While you can’t contact webmasters who link to you and ask that they build internal links to the pages of their site which link to yours, you can build links externally.
Very rarely will it be worth the time or effort to build links to a site which you don’t work for, but often you will have opportunities to create links easily. Perhaps you’re writing a guest post for a site and you have the ability to link to websites—don’t just link to your site, link to other people who link to you. Perhaps you are syndicating content on article sites—consider creating one link to your site and using a second to promote the third party.
It makes for a more natural link graph.
Although we might sometimes forget it in the world of SEO, links are a natural process. And as normal pages acquire links, normal pages also link to other pages. However many of the links being built by SEOs don’t follow this pattern. They’ll only link out to one site, plus the page giving the links which might not attract any links of its own.
I’d much rather links from a mediocre site on a page with external links than a link from a slightly better site with a page that had no external links of its own. The value of links is beyond the first generation. So? Look beyond the first order and onto the second or third.