Linking and Waterways: Tributaries to Content

As I was wading into the link world, getting deeper and deeper into the vastness of the Marianas Trench of click duality, I had my a-ha moment: linking is akin to waterways. Before I dive in, I warn you that there’s quite a bit of water-based punnage coming up, so grab your snorkel gear or get your towel ready and hop out while you can.

H2Optimization Keeps Your Content Afloat

Building link relationships is like connecting waterways, as each action is reliant on sources and destinations. Rivers don’t exist in isolation, rather they serve as the bridge between two bodies of water. Without paths between water sources, these deep pools will eventually dry up. The same could be said for your content; unless you’re linking your work to other relevant material, it’s going to go through a viewership drought.

Your site is basically a small body of water. The size of your pond or lake can vary quite a bit (yes, there’s a size-based difference between the two and I had to look it up), but the end goal is the same: you want to stock your body of water with the right amount of content (fish), keep the connecting river clean (stick to white-hat SEO), and constantly be wary of outside influences that could seep into your channel — I think this counts as a dual metaphor.

You’re going to want the water fresh as possible, as you don’t want muddied or cloudy site content.

Keep that water clean!

And remember, always test the waters before filling your cup. Promoting content with sketchy links included will never work out well for your site, just like dirty water won’t sit well in your stomach.

SEOceans of Content: Master the High Seas

Before we move forward with this soul-drenching metaphor and really head into the deep end of the SEO pool, let’s dredge the confusion swamp:

  • Your content is the lake or pond
  • The links are the rivers of the SEO world
  • Your freshwater ecosystem is affected by inside and outside influences
  • Readers are the boat, or a dinghy because that’s funnier

So, to, and from, where does all of this lentic (slow-moving) and lotic (fast-moving — admit, you’re at least learning the terminology) water flow, or does it exist in isolation? Aquatic areas are all linked, so you’re going to have to keep an eye on the largest bodies of water: the oceans.

In the SEO world, the oceans are Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Medium, LinkedIn, and the large news aggregators. The majority of web traffic occurs in these salt water areas, often devoid of SEO value. The problem is trying to get this water into the tributaries without the salt. From the oceans to the tiniest of streams, therein lies the real problem for content marketers.

How do you accelerate the desalinization process without going too fast? Some people turn to PBNs, the desalinization plants of the SEO world. This is short-term thinking and really can’t provide lasting value. In fact, straying slightly from the water metaphor, PBNs are becoming increasingly risky and it may be wise to avoid this route.

Water you gonna do?

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

So what? Why does this metaphor matter? Were the last 5 minutes of your life spent wading through this swamp of an article all for naught (you’re a very slow reader by the way)? Nope. Understanding this concept is the key to understanding the efforts that will boost your SEO efforts the most. Understanding the waterways equivalent of the linking world is understanding how Google finds, evaluates, and ranks your website.

Let dirty water in your pond (bad links) and your readers will sink and your content will drop to the bottom. Focus too heavily on harvesting the ocean water and watch your freshwater pond fish die white crusty deaths. Allow the creeks and rivers feeding your pond with clean fresh water to dry up and Google will never find your site again. Why? Because, for the sake of this metaphor, Google is a group of uber-vegan consumers from the midwest on spring break. With no ocean for hundreds of miles in any direction, Google lacks the budget to spend its summer in anywhere but a midwest lake.

Because Google is uber-vegan, it won’t be caught dead in any body of water ranked less than deliciously-drinkable by the EPA. If the pond is too small, Google won’t be able to manipulate the perspective in its selfies to make it look like it actually made it to the ocean beaches of Cabo this year.

Do your selfie a favor.

If your reading comprehension skills are super-human, you’ve followed this metaphor through every waterfall and rapid along the way. Armed with this new deep, wet understanding of the link-building world of SEO, you understand exactly what you need to do to shoot to the top of Google search results like a super-heated geyser: build your site to attract as many vegan spring-breaking consumers as possible. Time for a dip!

Cowritten with James McKinny, the brains behind this idea and a water enthusiast.