Search Engine Optimization

Links Are About Relationship Building

Colonnade in Parma, Italy
Michelangelo Buonarroti shares links with Vittoria Colonna during their lifetimes.
The famed artist of the Renaissance, Michelangelo Buonarroti.

Peering back into the mists of time to learn how s relationship between a man and a woman played out has its challenges, particularly when the era limited contact between the opposite sex of a certain rank. I’m not sure a person exists who hasn’t heard of Michelangelo but I’m guessing the sixteenth-century poet Vittoria Colonna’s name is not as recognizable to many of you. We’ll explain a bit more about the friendship that developed between these two creatives of the Renaissance in a bit. First, we want to look at healthy SEO strategy where links are involved.


Links Are About Relationship Building

Google would prefer your focus be about relationships when building a link structure, a process called natural link attraction. One of the reasons linking has been so abused is because it is one of the strongest “trust marks” for a site or a blog, but only if the inbound and outbound links are free from deceit. An inbound link is a hyperlink from another site into yours. Top SEO experts believe that incoming external links are the most important sources of relevancy because they pass “link juice” (ranking power) differently than internal links. This is so because search engines consider these trust marks as third-party votes and fall in line with the age-old belief we’ve heard all our lives: what is said about you is more important than what you say about yourself.


Colonnades in Parma link building to building
Just as a colonnade links all the buildings it connects, White Hat link has a beautiful architecture to it.


These are also more trustworthy because search engines know that external links are one of the hardest metrics to manipulate—you can’t force someone legitimate to link back to you so spiders crawling your site see incoming links as proof of unexploited popularity unless both sites are owned by the same entity, which dilutes the influence. Let’s put this in the context of the relationship we mentioned earlier. If Vittoria Colonna was setting up her site to present her poetry to the world and she knew that Michelangelo had the powerful reputation he did, she could ask him if he would produce a blog post about her poetry that reviewed her writing and linked back to her site, or at the very least add her to his blog-roll.


Drawing of Pieta by Michelangelo
Michelangelo created this presentation drawing of the Pietà for Vittoria in 1540; image courtesy of WikiMedia and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.


She could then do the same for him, writing about the drawing of the Pietà that he gave her in 1540 or adding him to the widget that displays all of her favorite sites. What you need to know about this scenario is that even highly relevant links are not created equal—let’s say Michelangelo’s site has been active for several years and he has amassed a wonderful following for his content that makes it a powerhouse. The trust mark he will give to Colonna will be more powerful than the one she will give to him because her site is new. This doesn’t matter in the spirit of friendship, and both links are positive moves so it’s good SEO strategy. It’s just important to understand the hierarchy all the same.


Impatience Doesn’t Pay in Building Links

A portrait of Vittoria Colonna by Michelangelo
“Figure of a woman standing,” a pen and black chalk drawing by Michelangelo, which has been identified as a portrait of Vittoria Colonna. Image courtesy The British Museum.


Where creators of a site or a blog get into trouble is they grow impatient to come up higher in a SERP (search engine results page) too quickly so they buy links or start becoming dependent on social media to bring links in, which doesn’t always reward a site with high-quality traffic (we have a free tutorial that explains this in more detail). Be the Michelangelo of link-building by taking the time to figure out good strategy—remember, it took him four years to complete the Sistine Chapel and the fresco is considered a masterpiece for a reason. If you build relationships with others who are creating sites with healthy SEO and do so in the spirit of lasting relationships and excellent organic optimization, your SEO will be just as masterful as Michelangelo’s art!

We have a list of metrics that Google uses to determine the value of external links in our Strategic Linking tutorial on our Adroyt LABS site if you’d like to learn more. We also cover internal links in the tutorial, which are not quite as powerful but still count. If you are not linking between existing content on your own site, you are missing out on gaining link juice. Lastly, we recommend that you know where your referrals are in your analytics and that you study who is giving you good traffic and who is not. This “strategy hacking” will serve you well as you plan future content.


Michelangelo and Vittoria Colonna:
a Passionate Platonic Friendship

Vittoria Colonna 16th-century poet
A portrait of the 16th-century poet Vittoria Colonna.


So…from smart link attraction we move to the bond that unfolded between two movers-and-shakers of the Renaissance. If we look back at Michelangelo and Colonna as they were in real life, we find a reversal of their power than the dynamic they would have had online. That’s because Colonna, who carried the title the Marchesa di Pescara, outranked him by birth and in stature. Despite his relatively lowly beginnings, he was a rock star of a fine artist before they became friends and was so well known the most powerful individuals of his generation would seek him out.


Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra
A portrait of Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra.


Colonna herself was also enjoying some celebrity before they met, though there were limitations due to her sex and the religious views of the day. We must consider her success through the frequency and popularity of printed editions of her works during her lifetime, the opportunity for women to publish far lower than for men so her respect must be measured through her publishing track record considering the era. She and Michelangelo met in Rome, Italy, sometime between 1536 and 1538 while he was working on the Tomb of Julius II and The Last Judgment. In The Letters of Michelangelo, editor E.F. Ramsden notes that three meetings took place at the church of San Silvestro di Monte Cavallo at Capite. Attending each of these was Michelangelo, Vittoria and Francisco de Holanda—a Portuguese artist. They met to discuss cultural topics relevant to artists in their day.


Vittoria Colonna had links to Michelangelo
A portrait of Vittoria Colonna, who had a platonic bond with Michelangelo.


The latter left a written account of how Michelangelo and Colonna engaged in serious conversations about the status of art and the role of the artist in society. “Her close relations with Michelangelo can only have increased her celebrity, as well as the respect due to her as an artist of the first order able to commune with another such great mind,” Dr. Abigail Brundin notes in her book Vittoria Colonna and the Spiritual Poetics of the Italian Reformation. But she also believes it could have hurt Colonna in the end, as critics have had the habit of painting her as merely a muse to a great man rather than the visionary she was in her own right.


Portrait of Vittoria Colonna by Michelangelo.
“Figure of a woman seated slightly” in pen and brown ink over black and red chalk” (Circa 1525) has been identified as a portrait of Vittoria Colonna by Michelangelo. Image courtesy The British Museum.


A very real bond developed between them despite the difference in their rank and the fact that they were both unmarried individuals. One piece of proof is their gift-giving to each other. This included poems they addressed to one another, a gift manuscript of sonnets that Colonna prepared for her friend around 1540, and three presentation drawings that Michelangelo made for her.


Michelangelo mourns his friend Vittoria Colonna.
Michelangelo mourns his friend Vittoria Colonna.


We can’t stress enough that this is how you should view high-quality inbound links. They are gifts in the SEO world, and any bestowal worth receiving demands a certain amount of work to maintain the connection as well as a bit of gratitude. Just as Michelangelo’s and Colonna’s relationship was dictated by the rigors of the social demands of their time and, more often than not, religious undertones; the associations you build that grant you attention online should be dictated by the rigors of the search engines’ demands for non-trickery. In a healthy SEO world, link attraction must be akin to the most authentic chemistry.


Michelangelo on National Arts Club NYC
The bust of Michelangelo on the exterior of the National Arts Club in New York City.


Text of Links Are About Relationship Building © adroyt, all rights reserved. Unless otherwise stated, the adroyt blog is written by adroyt’s CEO Saxon Henry. Our downloadable knowledgebase can be found at adroytLABS.

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