Building links to your website is, by far, the most effective way to enhance your SEO. Each link represents an “endorsement” and the number of links partially influences how much of your website will be indexed by the search engines, and where you appear in search results.
A lot of people ask me how they should go about building links to their website, and there is a pretty simple way to do that through photography trade group/community websites. For example, the popular site SportsShooter.com gives its members a profile page which allows the photographer to create a backlink (a link back to his/her website). (Disclosure: PhotoShelter co-founder Grover Sanschagrin is the executive producer of SportsShooter)
But not all links are created equal. Each website has varying SEO “juice” based on the number and quality of links coming to it. Having a backlink from a strong website can be worth much more than 10 links from a weak site.
Which sites have strong SEO? It’s impossible to say for sure, but I decided to do a survey of various trade organizations and community sites using the “domain authority” ranking from SEOMoz.org.
Domain Authority is SEOMoz’s ranking for the entire domain — you can consider this as being a ranking for SEO influence. The # of links and Unique Domains gives you an idea of how sheer # of links isn’t the only influencing factor.
Some of the listed websites allow you to build a member profile, while others do not. Sites like Think Tank Photo profile some of their customers with a backlink, so it’s effectively the same thing.
I should point out that Domain Authority is an informed, but arbitrary ranking created by SEOMoz. Also, these scores represent ranking for the entire domain. SportShooter.com might have a DA of 90, but your individual profile page might have a much lower page ranking. This should be intuitive — not all pages on a website are equal. But generally having a link from a high DA site is better than one from a low DA site.
The point is that there are a lot of organizations that you can join that will immediately have a strong influencing effect on your SEO.
A discussion has recently emerged in our forums about trading links via a blog roll. A blog roll is simply a list of blogs that a user follows that’s usually placed adjacent to the blog entries. Any link is better than no link, so in this respect, the blog roll is positive. But there are two major reasons to consider this an adjunct strategy rather than your main link building strategy.
Vision-based Page Segmentation is a concept whereby the page is split into logical sections (e.g. header, footer, main content, right column, left column, etc). Search engines presumably employ VIPS as a way to weight content. For example, text and links in the footer are probably less influential than stuff in the main content area. It follows that a blog roll can be readily identified as a non-main content area, and therefore carries less weight.
2. Link Depth
When photographer A links to photographer B’s homepage, and vice versa, Google can readily assume that the parties are engaging in a link exchange. This type of linking is a weak endorsement. It would be much better if photographer A wrote a blog entry about a cool gallery that photographer B shot, and linked directly to that gallery with good anchor text.
It is highly unlikely that a blog roll is detrimental. But similarly, it’s unlikely that the blog roll is highly influential. We should also point out the Domain Authority again. Photographers who are embarking on their SEO strategies start with low authority.
Chuck Goodenough — a commercial photographer specializing in apparel and stock in Los Angeles — uses Blogspot which has a DA of 99. But his individual blog has a page authority of 34 with 30 links from 4 unique domains. So trading links to his blog homepage won’t be nearly as influential as building a link from the ASMP, or the PhotoShelter blog for that matter…
SEO is a huge topic, much bigger than we could tackle in a single blog post. Good thing we tackled it in a free downloadable e-book! For more link building strategies, information and tools, get your copy of our SEO Cookbook for Photographers.