Google has it’s own opinion of solicited links.  I have mine.  Personally, when given a choice between a solicited link that brings in traffic and doesn’t do anything for SEO or a solicited link that doesn’t bring in market traffic but may do something for SEO, I will choose the link that brings traffic every single time.

SEO is not hard.  At least as long as you aren’t dealing with a website with 1,000′s of pages.  And that is the majority of websites.  It’s goal oriented and, tactically speaking, should be used in tandem with other ad mediums.  

This guide is for small businesses, local businesses and individual brands that are looking for a simpler way to view SEO.  Because really, the concepts shouldn’t be that hard to understand, especially when you view them in practical terms.

If you are employing an SEO only mindset in terms of online visibility, you are going to lose in the long run.  The Google Webmaster forums are littered with stories of businesses that suddenly disappeared because the businesses weren’t insightly enough to think about life without ranking in search.  SEO (and the rankings that come from practicing it) should be complimentary to your online marketing strategy.

Here are 7 Important Things for On Page Optimization

  1. Understand head terms don’t matter in the grand scheme of things-  Most non-SEO folks don’t understand this.  They think if they can rank for “shoes” then the sheer volume of traffic will carry them over.  It doesn’t work that way.  Most of the time, your best converting keywords are also going to carry very little traffic volume. Which means, the focus should be on how to extract as much “value” from these visits as you can.
  2. Keyword Research (Conquer your data)-  Most businesses understand what keyword phrases are synonymous with their market.  If it is your business, you should too.  The best practices for keyword research is to start with your key terms, and then expound on them with analytical data.  Keyword research used to matter more than it does today.  Given the fact that much of the data we could use a year ago is now obfuscated, keyword research in markets that you already know, shouldn’t play a huge part in the initial start up process.  Just my opinion though.
  3. Think about the “title” tag-  The title tag is still (and will always be) one of the most important factors to ranking.  Just as important, the title tag is the first notion for the potential visitor as well.  Don’t overthink the room.  Make it short.  Make it be the abbreviated definition of the page.
  4. Content-  A lot of SEO’s like to add things like word count as if it matters. It doesn’t.  The content should mirror the promise of the headline and deliver the promise.   A 5 word article can have as much impact as a 1,000 word one.  And when given the choice of impact versus page views, impact will win 9 times out of 10.
  5. Navigation-  Simple and to the point.  If you are siloing, your navigation should represent your silos.  Create navigation for the visitor, not the search engines.  Don’t forget that if you want, you can use the footer as well for low impact navigational links.
  6. Internal links- A good rule of thumb is to use them whenever you can and often if the page you are linking to offers value to the page it is on.  This includes side bar links.  The best way to see what links work and what don’t is to watch your analytics for links that don’t matter to the user and then deleting them.
  7. External Links-  A good rule of thumb is to link out and cite other websites when credit is due or when you think that the visitor may profit from the link.  External links are important because they connect you to a “link graph”, which gives you opportunities for building relationships.
  8. Page Authority and Site Authority-  There is a difference.  Work on Site Authority and first and let your internal links build your page authority.

Promotion (So Called Off Page Optimization)

Ranking requires links from other websites.  Which means that your content should be good enough to warrant links.  There are 2 types of links-

  1. Solicited
  2. Unsolicited

Solicited links are where most webmasters get into trouble.  Google has it’s own opinion of solicited links.  I have mine.  Personally, when given a choice between a solicited link that brings in traffic and doesn’t do anything for SEO or a solicited link that doesn’t bring in market traffic but may do something for SEO, I will choose the link that brings traffic every single time.

The reason for this is that the more traffic you can get, even if it is in a social context, the more it helps with branding and the greater the chance of more links.

An example of this would be a link from a website that is already ranking well for market term.

For instance, Yelp.  People search for restaurants, and leave reviews.  And it ranks well for the restaurant market.  So, a listing and good reviews will ultimately help the bring new customers to the business;  whether it helps with personal rankings does not matter.

In some cases, a link is purely informational and doesn’t drive traffic.  For instance, if that same restaurant is also listed with the chamber of commerce in their city.  These types of links offer credibility to your establishment.

Note-  It only makes sense that links that point to your home page would have your brand name as the anchor text.  Not “best name-of-your-market”.  No modifiers or long tail phrases recommended here.

Reciprocal Linking-  Everyone is freaked out about reciprocal links.  As long as it makes sense for both parties to link, then it is fine.  Where most webmasters get into trouble is when they start to think in terms of 3 way link building.

Example- You link to your product dealers and they link to you.

Another example-  You link to other people in your blog roll that you really like and that offer value to your visitor.

Link Building is Relationship Building

I’ve talked about this in this post here but getting links is about fostering existing relationships first and then building more relationships as you move forward.  This works for businesses and personal brands alike.

Relationships scale.  Not quickly.  But they are more effective than the other various link schemes out there and last longer.

To do list- Make a list of those in your existing network (friends, acquaintances, business rivals, etc. ) that you can leverage for more traffic.

Building Links through Proximity…

Ruud Hein has an awesome article on this concept that actually summarizes my views succinctly.  The reason why social media can be a good driver for links is the fact that the more often a brand or business is seen, the more likely it is to be trusted and the more likely it will be linked to.

There IS a relationship between social and search rankings

I’m not talking about whether social media directly affects search rankings through links.  It is more about visibility and branding emphasis.  Search visitors are looking to solve an immediate problem.  Social visitors are searching for information and usually have the ability to share that information.  Sharing strengthens the brand and makes the brand or business become a synonymous part of the market, which in turn helps solidify the brand.  It’s indirect but in this day and age, equally important.

There are some markets where there is literally no social presence.  The good news is that if that is the case, your competitors are dealing with the same environment.  That said, there are vertical markets that can be explored as well as broadening the market pool.  Creativity can help build links as well.  Example- Laundry detergents aren’t exactly social.  But companies such as Borax can illustrate the other more creative uses of their product (such as they are a safer remedy for killing ants or can be used to clean tile and grout).  A link building campaign  can emphasize the unconventional uses and spread them across the social channels for their prospective markets.

 Image Attribution-http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilker/2493908947/