Monday, February 18, 2013

5 SEO Rules for Startups

If you have recently launched a new company, let me go ahead and introduce you to your new best friend … It’s SEO! The goal of search engine optimization is to get your website to appear in the search engine results listings whenever users enter certain phrases into their search boxes.
For example, if you run a pet training tips website, you want your site to appear at the top of the results whenever a search user enters “pet training tips” into the search bar. Achieving these top rankings puts your site in front of as many eyeballs as possible, leading to an influx of new traffic—and potential new customers—to your website.

Unfortunately, simply writing good website content isn’t enough to secure these top spots alone. Not only are you competing against hundreds of thousands of websites online, you’ve also got to navigate the maze of ranking signals that the search engines use in their algorithms to determine where sites should appear in the search listings.

The following five rules represent only the briefest of introductions to the field of SEO. Start by applying these techniques to your site and then, once you feel comfortable understanding the theory behind these strategies, continue to seek out new opportunities to learn SEO and leverage the practice on your site to increase its search results visibility.

Rule #1: Make Sure Your Site Can Be Indexed

If you implement only one SEO rule on your site, make it this one!
To see why this is so important, you must first understand that search engines rely on automated programs known as “bots” or “spiders” to move between internal and external website links, storing copies of the information they find in the engine’s “index.”  Given the size of the Web, these indexes are massively huge databases from which the search engines’ algorithms pull pages to appear whenever users submit search queries.

Because these programs are automated and travel through website links (referred to as “crawling”), it’s up to you to make sure their path is clear. If the search engines can’t fully explore the pages on your site (whether due to broken links, hidden content, or any other crawl issues), your content won’t be captured in the index and won’t be displayed in the natural search results.

The easiest way to identify issues that prevent the search engines’ bots from crawling your site is to set up an account with Google’s Webmaster Tools program. Once your site is enrolled, logging in to the program’s dashboard will show you a list of any “Crawl Errors” that should be addressed.

Rule #2: Focus on Both Industry and Branded Keywords

Next up, you need to be aware that the practice of SEO relies heavily on the identification of individual “keywords.” That is, the specific search queries for which you’d like your site to appear in the natural search results.
Again, keep in mind that the search engines’ indexing programs are automated, which means that they must rely on arbitrary signals to determine what your content is about and whether or not it’s any good. One of these signals is the presence of keywords in certain key areas.

Continuing with our earlier example, if you want your website to appear in the search results for the keyword phrase “pet training tips,” you can increase your chances by including this search query in several different places on your website (as in, in your title tag, in your headline tag, and in your body content).
But since you can’t possibly optimize your site for every single keyword phrase out there, webmasters must take a number of different factors into consideration when deciding how to allocate their targeting efforts.
As a startup, you’ll want to split your time between two types of keyword phrases: industry and branded keywords. Imagine, for a second, that you’re a startup accounting software firm to see how this principle plays out in real life…

·         “Industry” phrases include broad, generic search queries, like “accounting software” and “bookkeeping program.” Getting your site to appear in the search results for one of these phrases will put your new brand in front of people who are already looking for the type of product you offer, even if they don’t yet know your company’s name.

·         “Branded” keywords include phrases based around your company’s name, tagline and URL. As a startup, people might not be entering these queries into the search engines yet, but by optimizing your website for these terms, you’ll be well-positioned to receive additional traffic as soon as your startup gains brand recognition.

Rule #3: Choose Keywords Based on Search Intent and Other Metrics

In addition to choosing a mix of industry and branded keyword phrases, you’ll want to keep the following keyword characteristics in mind when determining which search queries to optimize your websites for:

·         Search volume: - Keyword research programs can give you an estimate of the number of times every potential keyword phrase is searched for each month. The higher this number is, the more potential traffic you stand to gain by ranking well in the natural search results.

·         Competition: - These same research programs will tell you how “competitive” potential keyword phrases are (that is, how many other sites have optimized their pages for these search queries). Unless your startup is particularly well-funded, avoid high-competition phrases and focus on keywords that are likely to lead to quick wins in the search listings.

·         Search intent: - Obviously, the keywords you choose to focus on should be related to your site’s mission. Don’t target the phrase “Las Vegas travel” on your pet training tips website, no matter how attractive its combination of search volume and competitiveness may be.

Once you have taken all of these different factors into account, you should have a short list of at least five to 10 keywords to target on your startup’s website. Then, add these keywords to your website in accordance with on-site SEO best practices described above and with those found on other SEO training sites.

Rule #4: Make Link Building a Priority from the Start

Another key priority for startups should be to start building inbound backlinks to their sites as quickly as possible, as both the number and quality of the links pointing back at a site plays a big role in its overall natural search performance.

A few of the different ways you can go about building these critical connections include:
·         Providing guest posts for other websites that include a link back to your pages.
·         Contacting sites that review products in your industry and asking them to include your startup’s offerings on their pages.
·         Sending press releases to major news services whenever your startup has an achievement to celebrate.
·         Disseminating viral-style content on social media networks (with the intention that it will be shared on your followers’ websites).
·         Adding your website to any relevant business directories within your industry.
Of course, these are just a few ideas for building links back to your startup’s website. For others, take a look at my complete list, “101 Ways to Link Build in 2012” (don’t worry, all the techniques described in this article still hold up in 2013!).

Rule #5: Publish Awesome Content

Finally, one of the best things you can do to optimize your startup’s website is to publish awesome content to your company’s pages.  This offers several key advantages:

·         When you publish awesome content, others in your industry will link back to it naturally, minimizing the amount of manual link building you need to do.

·         The more content you have on your website, the more opportunities you’ll have to get ranked for different keywords in the natural search results. This can lead to substantially more traffic than your original target keyword list can account for.

·         If your content is good enough, readers will share it amongst one another in a viral fashion, quickly improving your young company’s brand recognition.

To ensure that any content you publish meets this “awesome” criterion, set aside enough time to produce great content and review every piece you intend to publish carefully before adding it to your site. If you are not confident that your potential content pieces will pass muster with your target audience, scrap them and replace them with higher-quality articles.

Clearly, as anyone who’s been engaged in the process of SEO for any length of time will tell you, these strategies represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to website optimization. If you’re new to the field, start with these five rules, but then make it a priority to learn and apply more in-depth techniques in order to skyrocket your startup’s natural search performance.

Source: -

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Inorganic vs. Organic Backlinking Strategies

The backlink within the practice of SEO is an ongoing topic of conversation for marketing, sales, delivery and reporting of SEO services. Even in a post Penguin world, SEO professionals are still asking questions such as:

What’s the best way to build backlinks that will have a positive long-term impact on a web presence?
Is quantity better than quality?
Should I buy backlinks?
How do I protect a web presence from future Google algorithm changes?
How do I know how many organic backlinks versus inorganic backlinks my web presence has?
In our post Penguin world, the right and wrong approaches to backlinking strategies should be clear, yet I continue to hear SEOs talk about how backlinking is dead, where the best place is to buy backlinks, and whether backlinking even matters anymore.

The fact is, the backlink is and will continue to be a fundamental variable in organic search algorithms and organic search strategies. Backlinks matter. Period. The only question you need to ask yourself is: Is this an organic backlink or an inorganic backlink?

SEO and backlinks on the web can't exist without each other. It is worth getting back to the backlink basics and considering the origins of SEO and backlinking to understand the importance and reliance they have on each other.

SEO Strategies & Backlinking Strategies

An SEO strategy is about one thing: being found organically by your customers and prospects for highly converting keywords; keywords that are relevant to your audience. Relevance of content is earned when diversified, relevant content sources with authority and influence reference your content. Or, in other words, link to it.

A backlinking strategy is simply about these three concepts:

Relevance: Is this link coming from a relevant source that further supports the relevance of my content?
Authority and Influence: Was the source of this link written by an authoritative, influential person or business?
Diversity: By adding this link to my web presence am I diversifying and adding value to my digital footprint?
Every backlink you build should pass the RAID test.

If you're able to answer yes to these three questions, then you likely have an organic backlink that is going to positively impact your organic search visibility.

If you can't answer yes to these three questions, then you have an inorganic backlink that will have no impact on organic search results and may even penalize your web presence at some point in the future.

The Origins of the Backlink Pre-Search Engines

In the academic world, when content is published in the form of a thesis there are citations within the content that point to other relevant content from authoritative sources that support the content, thus making it more relevant to the reader. Sounds like a backlink.

Google's origins are academic in nature, having started as a research project at Stanford University. Larry Page was focused on, “the problem of finding out which web pages link to a given page, considering the number and nature of such backlinks to be valuable information about that page (with the role of citations in academic publishing in mind).”

The research project then went on, “to convert the backlink data that it gathered into a measure of importance for a given web page.” The output was, “for a given URL … a list of backlinks ranked by importance” or relevance.

That was 1996. Seventeen years later, relevancy is still at the core of Google's organic search algorithm, especially when it comes down to backlinks.

How Do You Get Relevant, Authoritative, Influential & Diversified Backlinks?

Roll up your sleeves and get to work. The really great organic backlinks that are going to add long-term value to your web presence, digital footprint and organic search positions and conversions won't happen overnight by buying or trading them, or submitting to directories. Remember, inorganic backlinks don't pass the RAID test.

Building organic backlinks takes a lot of heavy lifting in an approach called Optimized Content Marketing. Publishing fresh, relevant, optimized content on a continuous basis through industry blog sites, press releases, white papers and case studies that demonstrate knowledge and thought leadership, plus socializing the content through your social networks will create a strong inventory of organic backlinks over time.

This long-term approach to SEO will also protect you from any future Google algorithm changes and will make it extremely difficult for your competitors to outrank you.

Reporting Data for Organic vs. Inorganic Backlinks

Great SEO services and results start with great SEO data. Accurate, timely SEO data is required in order to make great decisions about what to do next to a web presence in order to make improvements for organic search.

Be wary of SEO backlink data sources that include inorganic backlink data in their data sets. It is irrelevant to report on backlinks that are inorganic and have no impact on organic search. Reporting on a growing backlink count over time when those backlinks are inorganic is useless and will create unrealistic expectations with your clients.


Backlinking strategies within an SEO strategy are often overcomplicated. It doesn't have to be this way. Practice an optimized content marketing strategy and test each backlink with the RAID test and your web presence will excel over the long term in Google.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

4 Things New Site Owners Need to Understand about SEO

There are four key points that I really try to hammer home and keep coming back to throughout the day. These four things aren’t technically action items but more of a mentality a new site owner needs to have when they are ready to start their own SEO campaign.

1. SEO is Long Term

If you need to drive 1,000 visitors to your site right now, then you are going to be sorely disappointed in SEO. SEO is a long term process that builds on itself and gains momentum with time—and time isn’t something you can force along, no matter how much on or offsite SEO work you do.

What you do today might not have a real tangible impact on your website for a few months, but chances are if you did it right you’ll be benefiting from that SEO action item for years down the road.

For instance, part of any good SEO campaign is content marketing and blogging. I’ve been writing in my company blog for over a year, along with a variety of other SEO sites including Search Engine Journal. My company blog publishes at least two posts a day Monday to Friday—that’s a lot of content!

Plenty of these posts get some social love, while others barely make a blip, but each one of those posts contributes to the overall impact of my SEO campaign. Just recently, I noticed that one of those blogs had been cited in a New York Times article; talk about a great link! I know that a year ago I never would have been found by a New York Times blogger, but because I embraced the fact that SEO is long term and that it requires patience, consistency, and dedication, my efforts paid off!

I know that most new site owners don’t want to wait six months or a year to see the value of their SEO campaign, but if you want to do SEO right, it’s going to take time.

2. Always Put Your Visitors before the Search Engines

I feel like a lot fewer sites would get in trouble with search engine algorithm updates if they stopped worrying so much about the search engine algorithm. I realize that sounds kind of backwards, but in my experience, as long as you put your human visitors first in everything that you do for SEO, chances are it’s the kind of things the search engines are looking for.

Is that piece of content designed to actually inform and educate your readers or are you just looking to rank? Will this link send a few targeted visitors your way or just add one more link to your backlink portfolio? Stop chasing the algorithm and focus on doing things that will help you connect with your target audience!

When you put the search engines before your visitors that’s usually when sites start investing in techniques that are more likely to get them in trouble down the road.

3. There is No Secret to SEO Success

You want to know what the secret to SEO success is? Just doing it and making sure you do it right. There is no “trick” to catapult your website to the top (and actually stay there long term), and any SEO firm or consultant that tries to sell you otherwise is not the kind of SEO firm you want to trust your website to.

A few months ago several of my SEO clients got the same email from another SEO consultant named “Bob” that looked something like this:

“Did you know your website isn’t ranking in the top ten for any of your keywords? And you only have 72 back links? With my help I can get your website to the front page of Google in only 2 months time! I’ve worked out the secret to SEO success and want to help your site.”

First off, how does “Bob” know what keywords my clients are targeting as part of their SEO? (And plenty of them were in the top 10 for the record!) And secondly, where is Bob pulling is data about my client’s link profile? I’m fairly sure he doesn’t have access to their Google Webmaster Tools Account which tells me my clients actually have closer to 7,000 backlinks … but many new site owners that doesn’t understand or don’t know this information about their own site might fall for such a line simply because they don’t know.

4. Link Building is forever

New site owners often ask me question like “Well, how long should I do link building?” or “How many links will I take to get where I want my SEO to be?”. There is no definite answer to either of those questions. Link building is forever. You might hit a certain benchmark that you set to measure your own SEO success but that doesn’t mean you get to ride off into the sunset on the back of your previous activities.

Every day you don’t bother with link building is another day your competition does and they get one step closer to unseating you. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of websites competing for the top spot in the SERPs—just because you reach it that doesn’t mean it’s yours forever. I’ve seen too many sites pull way back on their link building when they thought they had a ranking on lock down and their site just dropped through the SERPs over time.

Like I mentioned before, these aren’t really action items that you can take and implement today—but they are four critical ways of looking at and thinking about SEO that I feel more new site owners need to understand. If you can better wrap your head around what SEO really is, what it really

Source: SEJ