IBM and T-Mobile tied for first place overall in a study that analyzes search engine optimization practices, but brands still have much to learn when it comes to link building, according to a Covario study released Wednesday.
The Covario study taps into the company's SEO Audit Score technology to measure high-tech advertisers, from zero to 100, on how well their Web sites were optimized between April and May 2011, for the keywords that define their product categories.
Perfect scores for both content quality and technical optimization with search engines drove IBM's high score. Sharing top honors, T-Mobile demonstrated "outstanding" link-building performance, coming in 30 points higher than the link average. It's not clear how much clout that distinction holds -- considering that Arnel Leyva, Covario director of product marketing, said most companies earned a letter grade audit score no better than a C.
"Linking is still very difficult," Leyva said. "You can automate just so much, and the rest is based on relationship building."
Dell's SEO Audit Score came in one point lower than the score shared by IBM and T-Mobile. Although Dell just barely missed being part of a three-way tie for the top SEO Audit Score across all categories, it achieves "link-royalty" status with the highest Link Audit Score, doubling all the other advertisers except for T-Mobile.
Although not a big surprise, it's important to note that Dell built its business by instilling Internet-driven efficiencies across its organization.
Marketers can buy relationships and links, but Google will eventually identify that practice and ding the brand. The older, more established companies can lean on their brand recognition for support and links, whereas the Internet-age companies need to work harder and smarter.
The report breaks into segments ranging from software to computers, HDTV to smartphones, printers to video game software and more. The majority of Web sites assessed in the study had between tens of thousands to more than 1 million external inbound links. The volume of links did not necessarily translate into higher search rankings.
Scores were determined by content quality, technical optimization, and linking techniques.
Linking strategies between "old-guard" and "new-guard" technology companies proved the most interesting. The linking strength for the old-guard software companies, such as IBM and Microsoft, resides in content and technical factors. Companies that came up through the "Internet age," such as T-Mobile and Dell, are more social and do well with linking techniques.
The Covario SEO Audit Score Industry Rankings relies on the company's SEO Audit Score to provide a measurement of how bellwether companies in various industries achieve brand awareness through organic search, how they fare against competitors, and the ones making an effort to do well. Of note: 25% of the 35 well-known companies selected to participate in this survey are Covario clients.
The technology behind the SEO audit and Covario SEO Audit Score analyzes the top 100 links linked to the top 10 URLs for any keyword in all languages across the major search engines. It cross-references the URLs to determine the ones shared most. These become link hubs and the ones determined to hold the most clout.