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Mind the friends you keep - an introduction to Google's reachability scores

We judge each other on the friends we keep, and the neighbours we have. For example, if you were to find out that one of your friends was best mates...

We judge each other on the friends we keep, and the neighbours we have. For example, if you were to find out that one of your friends was best mates with, say, Jessica Ennis and Ben Ainslie, you'd think "hmm, well connected, I'll just pop round for a cup of tea".

If, however, you were to find out they were friends with Jeremy Kyle, you'd probably think twice about stopping round for that cup of tea. Or you might not. Every day, we make judgements like these. 

Insurance companies make judgements about us because of our neighbourhoods. Apparently, I live in a "high-risk" area, so even though I've never had a car accident, car insurance companies like to charge me more. Everyone's judging everyone - with consequences. 

So there's nothing to stop search engines making the same judgements about our websites, and indeed, us as authors of those websites. We've always been wary, as B2B marketers, of who we link to, and indeed who links to us. After all, the recent Penguin algorithm update focused very much on the quality of the links that were pointing to our sites. If we had any "Jeremy Kyle" links (i.e. low quality, sorry Jeremy) pointing to our sites, then there was a high chance of seeing our rankings plummet.

One or two Jeremy Kyles might be slightly harmful. A large volume of them might see your website eradicated - de-indexed. Google made a judgement on you based on the people who said they were your friend.

Now Google's looking at who you say is your friend. This is a major step forwards. As we look behind us at the wreckage of Penguin, what we have is a cleaner, more relevant web (theoretically). As we look ahead of us, we're looking increasingly at the quality of our own websites, and linking OUT is going to be just as important as having quality sites that link IN to your site.

Google calls it "reachability" and will actually allocate you a score according to the quality of the links that you point to. Therefore, if you write a piece of research for your resources section, linking to an authoritative, popular piece of content could get you extra 'points' from Google, and potentially help increase your rankings. Equally, if that content is on-topic, and provides further relevant links, you could be awarded extra 'points' thanks to the quality of THEIR links.

Yes, that's right. Your 'reachability score' increases by linking to sites that link to good sites. You are being judged by the friends of your friends. This is advanced.

Essentially, what Google's looking to do is better understand how authoritative you are, and how connected you are. The two are inter-linked. If you're well connected, and if people cite you as a creditable resource, then you'll be noticed. Your work will be noticed.

But what's important here is the downgrading of inbound links. You cannot control them, just as you cannot control Jeremy Kyle saying he's your friend. But you can control those links that you place on your site. We're entering a new world of SEO that looks beyond the traditional signals and methods, and looks more to connectivity, popularity, authority and relevance.

So, what can you do today?

As B2B digital marketers, we have often been fearful of linking out. We were told that we would "leak link juice", which most ethical SEOs knew was bunkum. We now know that Google's looking at rewarding people for linking out - so do it. But find quality resources to link to, and make sure they know all about it. Network with them, just as you may have done in order to find a link FROM them, and let them know you're citing them as a resource.

There are a number of ways of going about this. Tweet them the link, for instance, thanking them for the inspiration. You'll at the very least get a tweet back. Email them thanking them for an excellent resource. You may get cited in the future, and you may get a regular reader. 

In short, be part of the connected world. Network and reach out as part of your content strategy, and you will be rewarded with better rankings. Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn't it?