One of the most important factors search engines use to determine ranking for a website is the number and quality of other sites that link to them, so-called backlinks. Their rationale is that well established and respected information sources will be linked to by others and because they contain more relevant content. Search engines are smart, they don’t allow sites to gain from gaming the system, but there are many creative ways to get more backlinks. Here we describe ten examples which are relevant to improve life science inbound marketing.
First, let’s review some of the basics. A backlink is the same as an incoming link, and it is simply a web page hyperlink on text or an image to another site. For a text link, the anchor text is the string of words that are linked, and for a link on an image, alt tags in the html are used to describe the destination. For more details see this review of hyperlinks, and you can inspect the html for them on most internet browsers (for Firefox, use top menu Tools->Web Developer->Page Source). Search engines don’t treat all links equally, and this helps prevent gaming of the system. Links tagged with “nofollow” are not used for ranking. Each website differs in the quality of their outbound hyperlinks, so experiment with or inspect the html on different sites to see which give good quality links. To see the power of incoming links for SEO, check out the Google Bomb entry on Wikipedia, and also note that Google’s on top of these so-called black hat backlinking schemes, so be careful to not get blacklisted by them.
You can track your website’s progress by counting the number of inbound links using Link Diagnosis (free), Google Webmaster Tools (free, left menu, Traffic->Links to your site), or SEOMoz (free trial, thenk $99/month). Which is best? Try all three and see–SEOMoz helped us to realize we weren’t looking at the right URL for one of our searches, so it may be more full featured. I suggest also augmenting these tactics with a Google alert for your brand because we found that none of the backlink tools give a complete listing. You can also gauge your progress by monitoring your PageRank, which is a number from 1-10 indicating the authority of your website according to search engines, with higher numbers indicating better performing sites. I’ve seen that Google’s use of this factor has been deprecated, but it appears to still be a relevant indicator of SEO performance. Google’s algorithm changes rapidly due to those who are constantly trying to game the system, and our recommendations match the message found in the image for this post–getting legitimate backlinks is work, but well worth it.
- Social Media. Search engines love social media in all forms. The content is updated more frequently, and when we share web links, we are validating them. Take for example the Comprendia website, which is built using the WordPress blogging platform. You can see that Comprendia has more backlinks than Life Technologies, a company with thousands of employees! Now, there are other factors besides inbound links which contribute to a site’s popularity, since we do see that LIFE’s PageRank is higher than ours, but they should be leveraging inbound links more using social media. Quite interestingly, in the zeal to own the social media part of the web, Google Plus has given lots of SEO juice to those who are using it. Try different social media applications, and note that sometimes you can leverage their authority by creating resources such as LinkedIn groups or Slideshare presentations which can drive traffic to your website.
- Shareable Content. A corollary to #1 is creating content which people will want to share, easily. At Comprendia we provide resources such as this post which we hope will be shared by others. Be sure to make it easy to share by providing buttons and an informative post or page title and an image. We’ve created some resources for ScienceOnline which they’ve shared on their site and while we do this mostly because we are passionate about their mission, we’ll admit we can’t help but think about the juicy backlinks we get from their website! I made sure a recent talk I did at the Scripps Research Institute got archived, leading to a backlink from their ‘PageRank of 7’ site, not too shabby! Couple uploading of your shareable content to sites such as Slideshare with embedding on your website for maximum .
- Bartering. We live in an age in which favors are often asked for which asking for payment is not always feasible. For example, many people want to advertise on our LinkedIn groups but it is against their terms of service for us to charge for it. The solution? When asked for a favor such as this, request a backlink on the requester’s site. As above, if you want to get technical, make sure that the link is of good quality and is not tagged with “nofollow.” Blogroll links are particularly valuable because they sometimes appear on every page and post of a blog, resulting in many backlinks.
- Guest Post. You likely have publications, white papers, and other in house resources which could be repurposed as a blog post or online article. Do your homework and pitch articles to publications with good traffic, PageRank, and the ability to add links in the post. Of course, building a relationship with others who will be willing to share your content is a cornerstone of this approach. Keep an eye out for new blogs in your area with an RSS feed–you may be able to get in on the ground floor as an author. As an example, check out Genetic Engineering News’ blog, we heard they’re open for submissions. Many publications are hungry for content, try suggesting high value articles to them, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised at the results.
- Comments. Part of building the relationships mentioned in the last item is leaving comments on other blog posts or articles which show that you’re interested in their content and contributing to it. An added bonus is that you can put a link to your site, and depending on the software they’re using, it could be a good quality link that is not tagged ‘nofollow.’ Beware, however, that abusing this tactic is something Google specifically punishes. Unscrupulous companies who underwent massive backlink building campaigns are now being punished with ‘negative SEO.’ I’ve heard that some of these companies are asking websites to remove the spamming comments they left on the site!
- Sponsorship. Supporting a website or an event can be a good way to get a link to your site. Just be sure that if your logo is linked that the text needs an ‘alt’ tag which indicates the name of your business or (even better) keywords you’re optimizing. There are TONS of science blogs that would love your sponsorship, check out ScienceSeeker, Researchblogging, and/or contact us to learn more.
- Press Releases. Some may consider this an expensive option for getting inbound links, but considering how much time and resources are spent on SEO, it may be a small price to pay. You can go with free services, but you get what you pay for–surely Google doesn’t give much SEO juice to these services. I suggest Marketwire, Businesswire, or PR Newswire. Most have options for SEO, be sure to take advantage of this option and check out our biotech press release guide.
- Add RSS. Adding a Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed to your website helps others to share, syndicate, or receive your content more flexibly through RSS feeds or email. Most social media savvy platforms such as WordPress have this feature standard. We reach ~500 subscribers a week through Comprendia and SDBN email feeds.
- Directories. There are global and regional directories of life science companies to which you can add your company. They range from simple regional lists such as the San Diego Biotechnology Company Directory we manage (like that backlink?) and more sophisticated indexes such as Biocompare and Assay Depot. Which are best for your company? Do some research with Google searches and you can even check out their traffic at Compete.com. Also, by now you should be a link expert, so check out the html code behind the links–if they don’t have a ‘nofollow’ tag, they might even be worth paying for.
- Link Love. If you’ve done the ‘homework’ in this post, hopefully you’ve found some backlinks to your site that you didn’t know about (I know I did!). Why not send those who have linked to you a short note thanking them and asking whether there’s anything you can do to help them out? Some blogging platforms such as WordPress allow you to reward those who link to you via ‘pingbacks’ but unfortunately these are abused by spammers. To leverage these tools, you’d need to look through the pingbacks by hand. Alternatively, you can add links to your blogroll if you deem them appropriate. Some ‘hard core’ SEO experts may tell you to not provide many outbound links on your site, because this can be harmful to your ranking. However, we believe strongly that if you write for the benefit of humans by providing resources and good karma, you will never regret it as you will be rewarded.
The path that you will take to improve your life science inbound marketing will not only result in better SEO, but it will help you to understand the digital landscape surrounding your company and products. As always, let us know if you have any questions, and sign up for a Free Consultation if you’d like us to review your backlink strategy.
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