The Role of Link Building in SEO

Links from authoritative sites can boost your ranking.

By Simon Cornelius, OD

If you are paying for a search engine optimization (SEO) service, do you have an idea of what you are getting for your money? When SEO is done well, it makes your practice’s website more visible in the search engine results. Higher visibility in search engine results translates into increased office visits.

There are many pieces to a successful SEO campaign. Your SEO agency should be providing you with a list of activities it is doing each month, one of which should be “link-building.” This article aims to help you understand the basics of link-building: what it can do for your website and how it can affect your practice.

FUNDAMENTAL SKILL

Link-building is one of the most fundamental and vital of SEO skills. It is also challenging because it is a culmination of several different skills, all coming together to deliver performance.

Search engines such as Bing and Google use “links” to measure the authority of web pages. What is a link? Simply put, a link is a mention of your website on a third-party website. Let us say, for example, that WebMD publishes an article about keratoconus. Within this article, the WebMD author refers to some research or an opinion that you have published on your website. The author may add a note to the effect of “for further information, please refer to [your website],” which is then turned into a link to your site. When a mention is made into a link, a reader of the WebMD article can click on that link and be sent to your website.

When search engines such as Google scan pages on WebMD.com, they discover these links and assign a level of authority to each one. WebMD is a particularly well-known and authoritative website, so it is assigned a high score. A website that has been around for a short time and/or has poor quality content will have a low score assigned for each link.

Thus, high-value link-building boosts the importance of a page or a set of pages on your website. In most cases, a link destination offers a great amount of information that the search engine interprets as being of quality for its users.

When another website that has content relevant to the subject matter also has significant validity and good reputation for readers, the link-discovery process adds credibility to your website. This is analogous to being published in a prestigious print publication or receiving a referral from a well-respected colleague: You get an immediate boost to your brand and your trust factor.

Websites that consistently show up at the top of search engine results usually have a lot of powerful links (or “referrals”) from trusted and authoritative third-party websites.

VALUE OF A STRONG SEARCH ENGINE PRESENCE

Approximately 80% of all clicks are made on websites listed on page 1 of search engine results. Furthermore, half of those clicks are performed on websites that occupy the top three positions on page 1. When your website shows up high in the search results, more potential patients will visit your website, which in turn should result in additional visits.

THE BEST LINKS

The best links to your website would be from authoritative sites that are relevant to your practice, either from an eye health or a geographic perspective. For example, you have the Brand X excimer laser, and that company’s site is visited millions of times a day worldwide. Having your webpage linked from the Brand X manufacturer site would boost your regional reputation on search engines when someone is looking to have surgery with the Brand X laser.

If a local news outlet publishes an article about the city in which you practice, and the article mentions your practice along with a link to your website, this provides a geographically relevant reference.

Many of the most successful sites develop their channels of distribution of content and information by focusing on providing useful content that viewers see as educational and share with others. Following are four basic link-building strategies for your website.

Build a blog.

Make your blog a valuable, informative, and entertaining resource for visitors to your website. This content- and link-building strategy is popular and profitable. In fact, it is the most commonly used strategy for link building and is recommended by the engineers at Google. Blogs and their content have the ability to provide new material that is relevant to your patients on a consistent basis. Note that this content should be written from the perspective of your patients, not a doctor’s perspective. When you write in “patient-speak,” people are more likely to read your material.

Get related providers to link to you.

If you work frequently with providers of goods such as contact lenses or surgical products, make sure you appear on their websites in the database of providers. Many large companies provide the ability to establish links to their customers’ websites.

Create content that inspires sharing and linking.

In the SEO world, this is frequently called “link bait.” Good examples might include a comparison of cataract surgical procedures available or an interesting new product that just received regulatory approval. Eye safety topics, such as “How Not to Clean your Eyes,” can be of great value as link bait, as are optical illusions and cartoons.

Sharing these features on social media leverages aspects of their usefulness and data dispersal to create a viral effect. Users who see something on your site or social media page once may want to share it with friends.

Be newsworthy.

Earning the attention of the press, bloggers, and news media is a successful and time-tested approach to earning links. The “news” can be as basic as giving away promotional items, offering a hot new product, or succinctly describing something educational for your patients.

CONCLUSION

Building links is a helpful activity for boosting website visibility and SEO ranking. However, be mindful that some links are more meaningful than others. The more they relate to your website and your practice directly, and the greater the authority the linking site has, the better. On the other hand, having a link from a local boy scout troop or a referring family doctor can also be helpful for boosting local search ranking results.

Simon Cornelius, OD
• Director, Physician Online Strategy at Page1Doctors.com
• Consultant for ourtimes52.com and thesocialod.com
simon@page1Doctors.com