Using banners to build links

I’m going to giveaway a small SEO secret this week. I know it sounds odd, but you can use banners as a very effective link building technique for SEO.

Before I start, let me be clear, you need to be careful and you need to be ethical. Please ensure you adhere to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines if you decide to try this.

To explain how this can work for you, it’s probably best told as a story.

We had a client a couple of years ago who feature all sorts of franchises on their website. Basically they send a survey to franchisees who then rate the franchisors they partner with. It’s a great way for a prospective franchisee to quickly see the best franchisors as rated by franchisees!

Their website was quite new but didn’t rank very well organically and, as a result, was burning through cash using AdWords to drive traffic.

It’s a story I hear about once a week!

When we partnered with the company in question the brief was pretty simple; get high organic rankings on high traffic search terms to do with franchising.

As you probably know, link building (if done properly) is a highly effective way to improve search engine rankings. Strategically, the low hanging fruit in terms of link acquisition to the client site was its featured franchisors.

We got on the phone and called quite a few suppliers to negotiate some text links to be built to our client’s website. Sometimes this wasn’t possible, but some were open to placing a small logo banner on their website which linked back to the client.

The results were pretty dramatic, from outside the top 100 for the keywords we were optimising for the top three positions inside five months.

What a lot of people don’t realise is that when images are turned off on a website and an image is linked to another web page, the image ‘alt’ text becomes anchor text.

Read that last sentence again carefully.

I don’t care what anybody says, anchor text (or link text) is still an incredibly important signal to search engines in terms of where a web page ranks.

By influencing the keywords in the image ‘alt’ text on a clickable image or logo, you can improve the anchor text relevance of links back to your site without being too obtrusive.

But this is where the ethical bit comes in. You need to match the textual content of the banner closely to the image ‘alt’ tag content to stay compliant with search engine policies. It’s also important from an accessibility perspective. Image alt text should accurately reflect what the image actually is and not be stuffed with keywords!

Just to give you a visual example of the concept I’m trying to get across, check these logos on the Reseo blog. They’re all clickable and link to Twitter, Google, SEMPO and WAA, but only 3 of them have image alt text:

twit-ct1-1-606.jpg

In the next screenshot I’ve turned off images through Firefox (you can do this by going to Tools, Options, Content and unchecking “load images automatically” then refresh the page you’re looking at).

twit-ct1-2-606.jpg

You can see the text links pointing back to Google, SEMPO and Twitter. Poor old Web Analytics Association misses out on some optimised anchor text.

Might just have to fix that.

Chris Thomas heads up Reseo, a search engine optimisation  company which specialises in creating and maintaining Google AdWords campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a range of corporate clients.

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