In the first part of SEO 101, I provided some pointers for SEO friendly design and on-page optimization. Next, I discuss off-page optimization techniques.
1. Links : If Content is King, then Links are Queen. Search engines look at links pointing to your site as verification that you are an important authority site. It’s not just the quantity of links but the quality that counts. You can have thousands of links pointing to you, but if they are all from link farms or spammy sites, they won’t do you any good. Try to get back links from quality sites. If you have good content, a lot of links will come your way naturally, but if you want to speed things up, you’ll need to actively pursue those links. One way is to contact theme related, non-competitive authority sites and request a link. The acid test for a potential link is if there is a natural, logical reason for that site to link to you. If not, then you don’t want the link.
And, you want the links back to your site to use your keyword text in them. This is extremely important. If the keyword you are targeting is “widget” then you want the link back to your widget page to use that text and not “click here” or something like that.
Another way to use your content to get back links is by submitting articles to other sites for publication (A blog and RSS feed are great for this). Just be sure the content includes links to your site.
Submitting to trusted directories is also a good place to start. Most of the best require a fee for a listing, but they can be a great first step in your link building campaign.
There’s no simple, easy one-step way to gain links. It’s really about networking and relationships and your useful content is the key.
2. Competition : Keep track of your competition by searching for your primary keywords and study what they are doing. Don’t copy them, but you can analyze what they are doing right and you are doing wrong. See who is linking to them and investigate getting your own link. If you are a new site, you’ll be playing catch up for a while, but have faith. That guy in the #1 spot had to start from scratch at some point, too.
3. Training & Support : If you are on a shoestring budget and don’t have money to hire an SEO, you’ll have to do it all yourself. SEO changes daily and if you think all you have to do is tweak Meta Tags, you’re several years behind and have a LOT of catching up to do. You’ll be learning as you go. You’ll probably want to invest in some SEO training. I give SEO workshops and do site critiques, so check my blog for information.
You can get ideas, updates and recommendations from my blog and from SEO forums and blogs online. Don’t rely on the forums as a solution for all of your website problems, but as a place to go for advice from SEOs and others who are also asking questions.
4. Analysis & Statistics : Sounds boring, but all of your hard work is worthless if you don’t know how you are doing. Chances are your hosting company will have some sort of web statistics feature where you can check basics such as unique visitors, where your traffic is coming from (referrals), page not found errors, etc. One mistake newbies make is to consider “hits” as the number of visitors they are getting. In actuality, “hits” are useless information. Hits are simply server pulls. As an example, if you have ten images on a page each time the page is loaded each image results in a server pull or “hit.” What you really want to look at is the number of “unique visitors” to your site, not hits, as an indication of your traffic.
If you are an e-commerce site, you’ll also want a way to track conversions, which will require something more than your basic hosting stats. Google offers free web analytics that could be adequate for many site owners, but there are also commercial applications available that offer greater functionality.
Whatever you do, don’t leave the site on autopilot. Check your stats frequently. You’d be surprised at the little things you’ll see that will help you bring in more traffic.
5. History : There is evidence that the search engines actually look at your domain history in their ranking algorithms (How long the domain has been up, how many years you’ve renewed for, if you’ve changed IP addresses frequently, etc.). The more stable you are the more they consider you a trusted site.
If you’re in it for the long haul, renew your domain for several years at a time (not just annually) and get a dedicated IP address and keep it. The best situation is to have a dedicated web server, but not all of us can afford that. The next best thing is to pay for a dedicated IP address with your host so that you are no longer sharing the hosted IP block. It usually doesn’t cost that much. Not only will the search engines see you as stable, you don’t run the risk of the IP being banned if one of your shared hosting neighbors is naughty.
Don’t bounce from host to host because that screams SPAMMER to the search engines. Find a good hosting company and stay there.
Richard V. Burckhardt, also known as The Web Optimist, is an SEO trainer based in Palm Springs, CA with over 10 years experience in search engine optimization, web development and marketing.