Archive for the ‘Search Engine Optimization (SEO)’ Category
Panda, Penguin, Phantom, Hummingbird. Disappearing keyword data. Personal / universal / local / mobile search. These are indeed “interesting times” for SEO professionals, with rapid and wide-ranging changes to the search landscape being announced at an accelerating pace.
Given all of this change, what are the best practices for SEO as we head into 2014? Which SEO strategies, tactics, and ranking factors still apply? How have SEO techniques changed in the post-Penguin world? How do you recover rankings if your site is hit by a penalty?
Find the answers to these questions and more here in more than two dozen of the best SEO guides of 2013 so far.
SEO Guide, Tips and Best Practices
The Latest and Greatest SEO Strategies by Bad Rhino Rumblings
Amanda DiSilvestro and Nick LaRosa outline new SEO strategies, tools and resources. Among the strategies recommended are taking advantage of local search (e.g., by completely filling out profiles on Yelp, Bing Places, Yahoo Local, and Google+ Local) and posting frequently (“The more you post, the better chance you have for link building, sharing, and engagement opportunities—all important when it comes to SEO”).
Brian Rauschenbach outlines three broad areas important to focus on post-Panda, and three types of activities to avoid, such as complicated sitemaps and navigation: “With Panda, Google has pretty consistently made it clear that simple navigation is best; websites that require too much digging to find desired content could be negatively affected.”
Matt Peters breaks down the latest study into high-correlation factors for website rank. While there is a great deal of data here, at a high level: backlinks remain the most important part of the algorithm (though quality matters more than quantity; on-page keyword usage is still fundamental; and social factors may be more correlational than causational with high rankings.
Following up on the post above, Rand Fishkin presents the weighting of categories of ranking factors in Google, based on a survey of 128 SEO professionals. More than half of all the factors that determine a page’s rank are based on backlinks (e.g., quality of sites linking to the domain, anchor text distribution) or page-level keyword usage (content quality, relevance, meta tags, etc.).
The 10 New Rules for SEO by Business2Community
Rekha Mohan outlines a process for SEO in the post-Panda and Penguin world. The English is a bit rough but the information is useful. Most of what’s covered is well-trod ground, but the detail behind developing searcher personas and considering buyer intent are interesting.
SEO Reporting & Metrics: How to Prove Progress by Search Engine Watch
Krista LaRiviere steps through a process for reporting on SEO efforts to a client, starting wih five key questions such reporting should answer for clients (among them: “What impact did these efforts have on the web presence for organic search?”), and proceeding through setting expectations, goals, and benchmarks, and driving action items.
SEO Best Practices – 5 Tips to Get You Noticed by Masterful Marketing
The always engaging Debra Murphy details five tactics for optimizing rankings on Google, such as using responsive design to optimize cross-device user experiences: “This saves resources for your website and for Google’s crawlers. A responsive design makes it easier for your users to interact with, share, and link to your content while also helping Google’s algorithms assign the most relevant indexing properties for the content.”
How to Think Like Google by QuickSprout
Once you get past the annoying pop-ups on this site, you’ll find a detailed and valuable post from Neil Patel highlighting attributes that Google frowns upon in determining search rank (e.g., spam (comment and otherwise), malware, duplicate content, low quality inbound links) as well as things Google likes: authoritative content, social signals, and adapting your website to user needs.
7 Awesome Competitive Niche SEO Strategies by Search Engine People
Writing that “(in) SEO strategy for competitive niches…you need to win each of the small battles before you even think about declaring yourself the winner of the war,” Dennis Miedema recommends content marketing, local SEO, and industry networking among other strategies in industries with a high degree of SEO competition.
3 SEO Tactics We’re Easing Up On in 2013 by The WordStream Blog
Elisa Gabbert suggests that over-optimized anchor text, anchor text through infographic links, and guest posting are SEO tactics to ease up on. The first is obvious; the second two are more controversial, as exhibited in the large number of comments generated by this post.
SEO Audit Tips and Techniques
Rebecca Churt details a process for performing a competitive SEO analysis, beginning with identifying key competitors (in both search and the real world) and proceeding through taking action on your findings: “Think about how you will use this information — whether it be for your content strategy, product or service positioning, social engagement tactics, etc. — all of which help with your SEO in the long run.”
How to Do an SEO Audit of Your Website by Entrepreneur
AJ Kumar outlines a five-step process for performing an SEO audit on an existing website, from checking on-page optimization title tag content and length to comparing the site’s backlink profile to that of competitive sites in order to “uncover link-building patterns in your industry that you should be paying attention to.”
10 Insights from a Lite SEO Audit That Any Small Business Can Benefit From by Search Engine Watch
Glenn Gabe explains how even on a small website, a “lite” SEO audit can expose issues such as missing 301 redirects, broken links, site speed issues, and backlink problems (or simply a lack of relevant backlinks).
Infographic: How up-to-date are your SEO practices? by leaderswest Digital Marketing Journal
Jim Dougherty shares an infographic comparing “old” to “new” SEO practices, for example, the shift in importance from technical knowledge to marketing knowledge (unquestionable), from optimizing for search engines to optimizing for users, and from link building to link earning.
Infographic: 2013 SEO Ranking Factors, From SearchMetrics by Search Engine Land
This beautifully crafted infographic covers social, backlinking, technical and content-related factors in SEO. Among the key takeaways are that keyword domains and links have lost relevance, and that brands are the exception to many rules. Be cautious about placing too much faith in the accuracy of every factor, however, as advised in the (copius) comments generated by this post.
How Google Ranks Your Website – 200 Google Ranking Factors by Digital Information World
***** 5 STARS
This phenomenal infographic aggregates “the best information (available) about how Google ranks pages and websites,” with ranking elements divided in groups like domain factors, page-level factors, backlink factors, and user interaction among others.
Another excellent infographic illustrating the diference between “old” SEO (e.g., targeting a specific, narrow set of keywords based on search volume) and new SEO tactics for the post-Panda world (e.g., targeting a wider range of keywords based on intent and conversion data).
Post-Penguin SEO Guides
Google Penguin 2.0 vs. Black Hat SEO by SteamFeed
Brien Shanahan reports on high-traffic websites hit with Penguin penalties, including among several truly spammy sites unfortunately SalvationArmy.com, one of the most reputable and highly-rated charitable organzations, noting that “While Salvationarmy.com has many valuable links, it also appears to have thousands of links from low-quality websites.” He goes on to explain why these sites are penalized and how to recover from a Penguin penalty.
Winning with White Hat SEO in the Post-Penguin Era by SteamFeed
Brien Shanahan (again) contrasts black-hat SEO tactics (e.g., content spinning, link building, doorway pages) with whitehat tactics (creating useful content, social sharing) and details 10 white-hat techniques for achieving SEO success.
The Myth of Content Marketing, the New SEO & Penguin 2.0 by Search Engine Watch
Contending that “Content marketing isn’t new. It’s just a new buzzword picked up by other industries that suddenly found out they could to ‘do SEO,’, but they didn’t want to ‘do SEO,’ so they tried to make it more special. It isn’t,” Kristine Schachinger positions content marketing as just another SEO tactics, albeit one that’s always been very important, along with on-page optimization, legitimate link building, optimizing site load speed, and avoiding or fixing crawl errors.
Penguin 2.0: PANIIIIIIIIC!!!…(or not) by Search Engine Journal
Matt Burns explains seven changes to link-building tactics and their effects in the post-Panda environment: tiered linking and excessive keyword-match links are out, high authority and social links are, and guest blogging is in…for now.
It’s Time to Change the SEO Mindset by Search Engine Watch
***** 5 STARS
The brilliant David Harry argues that SEO today is not about link building but rather about “Content + Outreach + Social + Promotion + Brand reach,” which incorporates content development, PR, social media, and online advertising. Sounds just like web presence optimization (WPO), though he doesn’t use that term.
How to Recover from a Search Engine Penalty
How to Recover from Panda Dance by Kaiser the Sage
Jason Acidre supplies seven tips for recovering from “Panda dance” penalties in search rankings, including improving low-performing landing pages (“Start with the pages that you believe are important and optimize these landing pages to mainly increase user dwell time”) and making updates to evergreen landing pages, such as lists of industry resources.
Phanteguin: A Phantom & Penguin One-Two Punch From Google by Search Engine Watch
Glenn Gabe (again) explains how to recover from penalties resulting from “Phanteguin,” the “one-two punch from Google” on sites hit by both Phantom and Penguin. He explains not just the differences between the two algorithmic changes, but also between Penguin 1.0 and Penguin 2.0, how to identify a Phanteguin penalty, and steps to take to recover lost rankings and traffic.
Google Panda, Penguin & Phantom: 3 Recovery Examples by Search Engine Watch
Glann Gabe (once more) presents three real-world case studies highlighting recovery from tanking rankings due to each of Google’s three most recent major algorithmic changes.
David Mercer provides a detailed, step-by-step account of a real-world recovery from a Panda penalty, from improving site speed and fixing broken links to redesigning the page template and disavowing low0-quality backlinks. Some of his advice will be hard to swallow, however, such as “stop syndicating content.” And anyway, isn’t Google Authorship supposed to take care of that issue?
Speeding Up Your WordPress Blog’s Load Times by Find My Blog Way
Matthew Barby demonstrates how to measure page load time and then minimize it (focused on WordPress sites) using a variety of techniques, from compressing images and caching “everything” to setting up a content delivery network.
Reclaim Lost Link Juice by Capturing 404 URLs by Search Engine Journal
Noting that changing URLs to a more search-friendly structure can cause 404 errors, traffic loss and even reduced site authority, James Parsons details two methods for identifying 404 errors and correcting them, in this helpful technical post.
If your website traffic from organic search has fallen over the past year, take some small solace in knowing you’re not alone—in fact, you’re in good (if not happy) company.
According to research from BuzzFeed, “Search traffic to publishers has taken a dive in the last eight months, with traffic from Google dropping more than 30%…While Google makes up the bulk of search traffic to publishers, traffic from all search engines has dropped by 20% in the same period.” Organic search visits have fallen significantly to A-list publishers like Time, Sports Illustrated, Us Weekly and Rolling Stone.
It’s not quite clear why this is happening. BuzzFeed mentions changes in behavior, greater use of social networks for content discovery, and a 52% increase in traffic from “‘Dark social,’ that netherland of direct traffic” (i.e., unknown sources), and concludes “We can draw a lot of assumptions but few conclusions from the drop in search traffic.”
The Tutorspree blog offers another possible answer: Google is intentionally de-emphasizing organic results (free clicks) in favor of search advertising results (for which it gets paid). While there’s no before and after (which would have been very helpful) and results will vary, obviously, based on the nature of the search, this example shows how organic results can comprise only a quarter or less of total screen real estate on a commercial search, with paid results accounting 60% of the visible display, and other results like maps or images taking up the remaining screen area.
And it’s not only Google. Both Google and Bing are now displaying fewer than ten organic search results on certain queries: eight, seven, even as few as four in some cases. That means organic results which used to appear in the middle or lower half of page one in search results are now banished to page two, significantly reducing the likelihood of attracting the click.
Finally, algorithmic changes implemented by Google (and subsequently mimicked by other search engines) over the past 18 months have impacted traffic to b2c and b2b websites. Much has been written about how Panda and Penguin may negatively impact rankings of commercial websites in search results.
Given that b2b websites attract, on average, more than 40% of all traffic from organic search (and close to 90% of that from Google), the results above are clearly of great concern. But what does it mean?
Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” What’s happening today, however, is that many b2b vendors, news publishers and other commercial website owners are doing the same things in the same way and actually getting different (worse) results—because the environment has changed.
So in order to maintain and grow website traffic, online marketing practices have to change as well. Companies need to take a broader view of their overall online visibility and embrace a web presence optimization (WPO) approach.
Why the WPO Model is Important
With potentially less future traffic available from search, given changes in both technology and user behavior, the WPO model is valuable because:
- • WPO is about total online visibility—not just search. Yes, SEO (which increases website visibility) is a key component of WPO, but it’s only one component. WPO is about creating valuable, highly relevant content and then leveraging across multiple channels. So if your prospective buyers are relying less on search but more on social media, or established industry news sources, or on expert “influencers,” or even on advertising, WPO is about making sure your brand is visible in all of those places.
- • WPO is about helping, not manipulating. Google wants (or at least claims to want) to provide searchers with the most relevant results for their queries. Searchers want to find the most relevant results. The WPO model is about creating the most relevant results for buyers looking for what you are offering, but also about being linked from, quoted in, recommended by, or sponsoring other relevant results.
- • WPO is Google-proof. Because it’s designed to help and not manipulate, the concepts of WPO should (theoretically at least) never run counter to Google algorithm changes. And if your prospective buyers are using Google less, WPO maximizes your brand’s visibility in whatever channels, media or sources they are using in its place.
How to Get Your Traffic Back
Here are a few concrete steps for using WPO principles to adapt to and counteract declining search traffic.
- • Figure out where your prospective buys are looking, and be there. Use social media and news monitoring tools to identify the online venues where your prospective buyers are hanging out, discussing your company, your industry, and your competitors.For many b2b companies, LinkedIn Groups are a rich environment for discovering and participating in these conversations. If your buyers are highly technical however, they may be more likely to hang at sites like Stack Overflow, CodeGuru or Spiceworks.
- • Experiment. Go beyond the “big three” social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) and check out avenues for sharing like exploreB2B, Quora, Scoop.It, and for blogs specifically, Triberr.
- • In terms of generating “social shares,” either correlation doesn’t equal causation or Matt Cutts is being…at best misleading, at worst duplicitous. While social signals are a factor in search rankings, it’s much less clear how important they are.But in the end, it doesn’t matter—garnering social shares is valuable for web traffic and credibility-building regardless. What matters is knowing how to drive more traffic to your content from social networks and how to drive direct and search visits through social media optimization.
- • Use news releases for exposure, not backlinks. Until fairly recently, common SEO guidance was to “Create backlinks from (press releases) to…supporting pages on your website. Make sure the anchor text of the hyperlink is the keyword phrase you are optimizing for.” But Google now frowns on anchor text links in news releases.That doesn’t mean that news releases now have no value in driving site traffic, but it does change the strategy.First, make sure your news releases are truly newswortthy, and worth sharing. Second, optimize news releases themselves for search. Third, use news releases as part of an overall strategy to build and develop relationships with journalists, which over time can lead to citations and even backlinks which actually are valuable for driving direct and search visits to your website.
- • Use directories based on their relevance and value, but as with news releases—not just for backlinks. In early 2013, Google devalued general directory links for search rankings. That is, the old SEO strategy of improving search ranking simply by building or buying lots of links from broad-topic web directories is no longer effective. That does not mean, however, that all directories are worthless.
- • It’s still worthwhile to seek out backlinks from quality, human-edited, industry-specific online directories, such as vendor directories published by trade publications and industry associations. The two key questions to ask are 1) would your prospective buyers actually be likely to find my site and visit it from this directory? And 2), do you feel good about your company being listed in this directory (or does it feel a bit sleazy to be listed alongside online casinos, web pharmacies, miracle weight loss, make-big-money-now schemes and the like)?
- • Use guest blog posts for exposure (and if you get a backlink–that’s a bonus). Guest-posting is still a viable SEO practice, for the moment at least. But it is commonly abused through poor approaches. Best practice is to develop a relationship with the blogger before asking for the guest post opportunity; asking for the opportunity with a personal note; understanding their audience and proposing a topic that is suitable; and not requesting (or worse, requiring) any specific quid pro quo.
- • Finally, don’t over-rely on paid advertising but do make it part of your online marketing mix. Experiment with AdWords, social network advertising, Bizo, and other ad networks. Many offer pay-per-click or even pay-per-conversion options, so costs and results are controllable. While paid advertising has no effect on SEO, it does increase your brand’s online exposure and drives traffic to specific landing pages and offers.
In the end, no one knows whether the broad drop in search traffic is a temporary aberration or a long-term trend. But utilizing WPO tactics to broaden your brand’s online exposure and potential sources of web traffic is a winning strategy either way.
Local search rankings are vital to businesses that rely on drawing customers from within a radius of a few miles. Although there is some dispute over the exact figures, at least a quarter and possibly closer to half of all searches have local intent.
But even if your business is b2b-oriented or global, optimizing for local search makes sense. It’s low-hanging fruit, and even if many of your customers aren’t local, prospective partners, journalists and bloggers (who may write about your company), prospective employees, investors and others are. And expanding your overall online presence through local press or blog coverage, social media, or listings in reputable business directories is never a bad idea.
Of course, the best tactics for ranking in local search, as with search in general, continue to evolve. Which local search tactics are most effective today? How can you use events to drive local search? What are the best ways to build local links?
Find the answers to those questions and more here in nine expert guides to local search optimization.
Marketing Research Chart: Which local SEO tactics are organizations using? by MarketingSherpa
Daniel Burstein reports on research revealing which tactics marketers view as most effective for local search optimization. At the top of the list: including local keywords in content, blog posts, meta tags, and internal links; and including a local business address on website pages. On the other hand, customer reviews and local citations were viewed as least important.
Local SEO in 5 Easy Steps by Search Engine Journal
Zain Shah lays out a five-step process for optimizing your site in local search, beginning with checking to see if your target keywords trigger Google’s “local algorithm” and ending with assuring that your company name, address and phone number are consistent across all local directories.
Noting that “43% of Google search queries are local (and) 74% of these local searches are conducted on mobile devices,” Ray Hiltz explains how Google’s treatment of local search has evolved, why businesses that rely on local traffic need to be take advantage of Google+ Local, and how to capitalize on these capabilities.
How to Optimize Your Business For Local Search and Social Marketing by Quick Sprout
***** 5 STARS
Once you get past the annoying pop-ups here, Neil Patel provides an outstanding guide to local search marketing. He steps through the process for local keyword research, on-site optimization, taking advantage of local business directories, obtaining local reviews, local marketing through Facebook and Twitter, and more.
Kane Jamison cites five reasons why local events are valuable for link building (e.g., “Links On Otherwise Difficult Domains: It can be pretty hard to get a link from a major newspaper, TV station, or other prominent local website. Getting an event into their events section is like the secret entrance into getting a link from that domain’), then offers seven practical steps for capitalizing on this strategy.
The Local Search Ecosystem by Mihnorandum
Local search guru David Mihm illustrates which local influences are increasing in importance, which are declining, which are emerging, and more in this helpful local search infographic. Though U.S.-centric, he also links to a similar local search influence post and infographic focused on Canada.
Link Building for Local Search by Search Engine Watch
After explaining why local links are important even for companies that don’t primarily sell locally, Julie Joyce lists a dozen different types of local links, then provides ideas on how to get started with local link building, and how to maintain and expand the effort over time.
Writing that four of the eight most important factors for local search ranking (see below) relate to the quantity and quality of local backlinks to a site, Matt Green outlines five tactics for building from local links, from the relatively simple (commenting on local blogs) to the considerably more involved (sponsoring student clubs at local universities).
Local Search Ranking Factors by David Mihm
Based on an extensive survey of local SEO experts, David Mihm (again) presents his annual summary of the most important ranking factors in local search, from on-site and social/mobile to (a large number of) Google-specific factors, such as number of +1′s on a website. Interestingly, of the top 10 overall ranking factors, just two (the domain authority of the site and name-address-phone number) are on-site factors.
When evaluating search engine optimization (SEO) management tools, it’s vital to understand what such tools can—and can’t—actually do. Just as a nail gun can turn a skilled carpenter into a more efficient skilled carpenter, so SEO management tools can help experienced, knowledgeable SEO professionals perform certain tasks more efficiently.
But just as a nail gun won’t guarantee the soundness of a house built on a shifting foundation, so SEO tools themselves can’t produce miraculous organic traffic results in a rapidly changing search environment. What SEO tools can do, used properly, is help SEO practitioners to help companies minimize the damage done to search rankings and traffic from Google’s menagerie of monochromatic algorithmic predators.
In SEO Management Buyer’s Guide: How Top-Performing Firms Search for Solutions, Aberdeen Group analyst Trip Kucera quantifies the differences in average results achieved by “leaders” in the use of SEO management tools (the “top 35% of aggregate performers” in Aberdeen’s study) from the followers (the bottom 65%). The study thereby provides some helpful benchmarks for evaluating high-level search performance.
Among the report’s findings:
- • ”SEO management solution users are significantly more likely to adopt a number of search-oriented best practices. For example they’re more than twice as likely as non-users to measure how specific keywords generate site traffic (80% vs. 35%) or to track the search page rank for specific keywords (84% vs. 33%).”
- • ”Leaders are 41% more likely than followers to rank as important (as a factor in choosing an SEO tool) the ability to deliver information about the SEO strategies of competitors (72% vs. 51%). This might include information about search terms specific competitors use, competition for specific keyword phrases, as well as data about referral sources, such as partners, social channels, or online media mentions.”(No doubt true, but most “SEO management” tools do a superficial job of this at best; thorough competitive strategic analysis requires more robust multi-channel marketing metrics.)
- • ”Surprisingly, followers…were more likely than leaders to indicate mobile and local SEO management factors as important…This may reflect the fact the large majority of survey respondents (77%) sell in a business-to-business environment, so local and even mobile SEO is likely to have a rather small impact.” In other words, “SoLoMo” optimization isn’t a big deal in b2b.
And among specific benchmarks cited, Aberdeen reports that “leading” users of SEO management tools achieve, on average:
- • 50% more website traffic from search (24% vs. 16%)
- • 10% year-over-year growth in unique website traffic, vs. 6.7%
- • 80% higher website conversion rate (3.6% vs. 2.0%)
Although those numbers seem a tad low from our client experience, they’re not out of the ballpark. The last metric is interesting; website conversion rate isn’t specifically a function of SEO, but rather of conversion rate optimization. SEO practices have an effect, but it shouldn’t be overstated.
And among the report’s recommendations for improving SEO results:
- • “There are still plenty of completely legitimate, ‘white-hat’ SEO tactics, from using frequently-searched terms and ensuring the proper placement of metadata page tags, to building credible, legitimate, and useful external links with partners, influencers, and the media.”
- • “Our primary objective and my recommendation to other companies is to think beyond rankings and focus your SEO efforts on delivering the best customer experience possible.” (quote from Vicqui Chan, senior manager of global SEO/SEM at HP)
- • “Leaders are 65% more likely than followers to share target keywords with content creators across the organization.”
The only false note hit in the report regards predictability; it states “SEO can now be predictably managed” and that majorities of both leaders and followers rate “the ability to accurately forecast site traffic and conversions from keywords as an important evaluation criteria” in selecting SEO tools. Wonderful as that capability would be, it’s not a realistic expectation; constant changes in keyword rankings, keyword search volumes, competitor moves and search engine algorithms render such functionality impossible.
Still, the report provides valuable reading for organizations wishing to benchmark their results or evaluate new or existing SEO management tools. What’s most important to remember in the final analysis however is that the single most valuable SEO tool remains the human mind.
Editor’s note: a version of this post originally appeared on ChamberofCommerce.com
Given that more than 90% of both business-to-business and local consumer purchases now begin with online search, search engine optimization (SEO) has become essential for business success. Little wonder then that two-thirds of small to midsized-business owners plan to increase SEO efforts this year.
While specific best practices for SEO have evolved over time, the two core attributes for high rankings have remained constant: relevance and authority. Relevance is determined by the subject matter of a website and on-page optimization techniques (e.g., using keywords in headlines, meta titles and image names), while authority is primarily based on the quantity and quality of incoming links to a website.
So, once you’ve developed useful and compelling content, incorporating the words and phrases your customers are likely to use when searching, how can you attract links to your site? Here are four helpful sources to go after, and three others to stay away from.
Four Worthwhile Link Sources
- Local directories and high-quality industry directories. Virtually all businesses can benefit from providing their company and contact details to the local versions of Google, Bing and Yahoo!, as well as online yellow pages and other similar directories. GetListed.org, a site that evaluates your business presence and directly connects to more than a dozen such directories, is a great place to start.
Industry-specific directories, often published by trade associations and publishers, are another important link source. You can often find the most authoritative (in the eyes of the search engines) directories specific to your type of business simply by searching for them. For example, if you own a restaurant in Minneapolis, a Google search for “lists of restaurants in Minneapolis” returns more than two dozen lists just in the first three pages of results—some general and some specific to certain neighborhoods, categories and price ranges.
- Business partners. While linking to irrelevant sites purely for SEO purposes is not advised (see “Reciprocal link schemes” below), trading links with business partners and complementary firms is helpful both to visitors and your rankings.For example, a manufacturer may trade links with retailers that sell its products, service providers that install or fix those products, and even suppliers of key components. As long as the links are topically relevant and connect high-quality sites, those links have SEO value.
- News and media coverage. Links from industry news sources are among the most valuable for building authority. You don’t have to get links from the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal (though if you can, obviously, that would be very cool) in order to improve your search rankings; links from relevant trade journals and local media can also have significant value.One method for obtaining links is to create search-optimized news releases and distribute them through an online service like PRWeb. Another is to work with journalists directly, or hire an agency to help you. Announce a new product, get your executives or other subject matter experts quoted, help out a local charity, speak at an industry event—all are great sources of potential media coverage and links.
- Social media. Create business accounts and actively participate on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. If you’ve got a highly visual product, use Flickr and Pinterest; if you can make video part of the mix, set up a company channel on YouTube and Vimeo.
As the search engines make social signals an increasingly important element in rankings, the links that you create—and that your customers, followers and industry influencers share on your behalf—take on greater importance for SEO.
Three Links Sources to Avoid
- Reciprocal link schemes. Unlike legitimate link-trading (see above), link schemes are manipulative practices designed to “trick” search engines into giving your site a higher ranking. Such links have little or no value to your site visitors.These links are generally to sites that are completely unrelated to your business and often to somewhat sketchy destinations (e.g., online casinos, “miracle” weight loss products, get-rich-quick schemes or questionable web pharmacies).Such schemes are still around because, as with other manipulative practices, they actually worked at one time. But with recent changes made by the search engines, particularly Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, such tactics are now far more likely to hurt rather than help—and may even get your site banned from search results.
- Purchased links. If you come across online advertisements touting “1,000 Backlinks for $14.00” or some similar offering, run—don’t walk—away. Buying links is not only no longer an effective strategy, it is highly likely to get your site penalized. These links are very often low-quality, containing hundreds or thousands of unrelated and often low-quality outbound links, making them easy for search engines to spot.
- Low-quality general directories and “bad neighborhoods.” As noted above, directory links can be helpful for SEO. But not all directories are created equal. Search engines will confer authority on your site for links from high-quality directories, but frown on links from low-quality sources.Since “quality” is a subjective term, before pursuing a link from any site, ask yourself: how likely is it that your actual customers or sales prospects would ever visit this site and find you there? What other types of businesses are listed? Would you be proud to be listed there or a bit ambivalent about it? Does the site offer value to visitors, or is it essentially just a large collection of unrelated links?
In short, search engines want to direct searchers to the most relevant and useful results for any search query. Seeking out legitimate link sources to help guide search engines to your site is perfectly acceptable, and helpful to your search rankings. But avoid any sort of manipulative linking practices designed to deceive. The old Chiffon margarine commercial said “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” It isn’t nice to try to fool Google, Yahoo!, Ask, AOL or Bing either.