Monthly Archives: May 2010

Building Backlinks – The When and How

There’s no doubt that building links to your website is a key factor in ranking with SEO. In fact, there are few things more important and more powerful than a boatload of high quality, content relevant, high pagerank backlinks. However, if you’re not building links properly and steadily you’re not going to get the best results from the search engines. I’m going to write a little about the proper way to build backlinks, some tips on getting high quality backlinks, and also dispel some myths about link building.

The proper way to build backlinks:
Backlinks, as stated above, are an extremely important factor when it comes to SEO and getting your website to the top of the search engines for keywords. However, there are a lot of common mistakes made when it comes to building backlinks. The first most common mistake is that users get anxious to get traffic to their site and they build backlinks before their on-page SEO is finished. This doesn’t work well with Google at all because Google will get a bad impression of your site on its very first visit. It is important to make sure that all of your backlinks are done after your website is completely finished and ready to be presented to the world. I often use a robots.txt file to block all website spiders from coming to my site until my site is completely ready to be indexed by Google. This prevents Google from viewing your site until you are ready. Having a site completely finished and presentable to Google and other search engines is the best way to start off with Google.

It should be noted that Google likes backlinks to your website from websites that are related to your website. So, if you’re selling knives and you get a backlink from a car website it won’t be counted as highly as if you were to get a backlink from a cutlery or cooking website. Keep this in mind when you’re building links. Also, try to stay away from exchanging links with websites. Some link exchanges are okay, but a lot of link exchanges don’t help you much with ranking.

Another common mistake is that webmasters try to pay for backlinks or build a lot of backlinks in paid directories. There are only a few paid directories that really help you and are worth the money. Yahoo Directory and Best of the Web are a few worth mentioning. There are better ways to get backlinks than paying for them. However, some websites reach a point where paying for high quality backlinks makes sense. If you have exhausted other possibilities it might be smart to gain a competitive edge on the competition by paying for some backlinks. However, if your website is just starting you aren’t likely to have exhausted all possibilities. Usually it takes 2-3 years to exhaust the possibilities of backlinks.

1. Have your on-page SEO finished. There is no sense in building backlinks until your website is completely finished and presentable.
2. Start with a few backlinks and build backlinks slowly.
3. Work up to getting high PR backlinks by marketing your site via e-mail and contact forms.
4. Pay for backlinks with high PR Directories (only top 5 rated).
5. Pay for high PR backlinks from huge websites if you’re still not ranking where you want to be. (should be done only after years of building).

Tips on getting some high quality backlinks:
Some good ways to get high quality backlinks are to get into free directory listings. You can also e-mail websites related to your site, tell them a little about yourself and why your website is unique, and then ask them to put a link on their site back to your website. This is time consuming, but it definitely works and helps to get high quality, relevant backlinks. Doing blog comments can help a little with backlinks as long as you aren’t considered a spammer. Contact your manufacturers and try to get a backlink on their sites under their “recommended retailers” section. Most manufacturers have these pages and they can be great for picking up traffic and sales.

Myths about backlinks and link-building

Links from bad sites will hurt me in Google.
In my opinion, every link helps. Regardless if it is from a porn site or a high PR government website. All links help. No links can ever hurt you.

Only high Page Rank website links will help me
Wrong. All links help you. Page Rank is a factor that shows PAST results of Google. You might come across a page that offers you a backlink, but it has a 0 PR. Take the link. It is possible that when google updates the page could have a high PR. Remember that Page Rank shows a webpage’s past ranking. Some pages with 0 rankings could be highly ranked in the future.

I will just pay someone or use a program for automated backlinks
Horrible idea. Build each link by hand and make each one high quality and relevant to your website. Automated link building will get you results for the short-term, but they will not last and they could hurt you in the long-term. Also, Google does monitor the amount of backlinks you’re getting and how fast you’re getting them. If you get too many links too fast you could be penalized for spamming. It has happened and it is tough to get back in the good graces of Google after this happens. Don’t trust anyone that is trying to sell you quick SEO and backlinks.

On-Page SEO Vs. Off-Page SEO

New SEOs (Search Engine Optimizers) need to know the difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO. On-Page SEO is the practice of building proper title tags, writing keyword-rich content, and writing meta-tags that are perfect for each page. Though this seems like a lot of work, it is really only the very basics of on-page SEO. Other important factors of on-page SEO are linking structure, outbound links, alt tags, link title tags, page shaping, and page design.

Off-Page SEO is much easier to understand, but generally harder to do. In general off-page SEO is link building or marketing on other sites to get links or get traffic. The only real reason for off-page SEO is to generate more traffic from other sites to your site.

Duplicate Content and its effect on SEO

By request, I have been asked to talk a little about Duplicate content and why Google doesn’t like websites with duplicate content. Recently, I wrote a post on writing good content for your site and why it is important. I briefly touched on duplicate content in that post, but it is important for any new SEO to understand why duplicate content can and will hurt you in the long run with Google.

What is duplicate content? It’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s content that a webmaster has copied (stolen or plagiarized) from another website. You often see duplicate content on sites selling items. Lazy webmasters either steal a description of an item from a competitor or they simply use the manufacturer’s description. Though a simple copy / paste from another website might get your site some easy, fast content it won’t help you at all with Google.

If you’re asking, “Why can’t I just take the manufacturer’s description?” it is important to remember one of my SEO Golden Rules – Always remember to think like Google! What does Google do? It provides high-quality web page results based on keyword searches. Let’s imagine a scenario that might make it easier for you to understand the issue with duplicate content and Google. Let’s imagine you are the owner of an online store that sells Jelly Belly Candies. Jelly Belly probably makes 500 flavors of jelly beans and you’re not interested in writing 500 unique descriptions of each flavor (understandable if not condoned by G). So, you copy / paste from a competitor and the manufacturer. Let’s also imagine that your top 10 competitors did the exact same thing so now you have 10 websites with 500 descriptions that are all exactly the same. Let’s imagine ALSO that Google has those 10 websites indexed. Now, what is likely to happen when a user searches for “Watermelon Jelly Belly”? If Google didn’t penalize for duplicate content it would have 10 websites with the exact same text listed on the first page. How is that useful to the searcher? It isn’t. Google must decide who is the “authority” on the subject of Watermelon Jelly Belly and must display only a few sites. If you leave it up to Google to decide what site is the authority on Watermelon Jelly Belly then you’re taking a big chance it won’t choose you! However, if you have content with a little bit of variety, a well written paragraph of text, and some great keyword placement you are much more likely to appear on the first page!

Here’s another example. Imagine that I was super lazy and that I decided instead of writing my own SEO tips I would just copy / paste a bunch of tips from other websites and make my own conglomeration of SEO tips. Well, would that really be anything useful to you? Let’s ignore Google and think about how it would help human users. It really wouldn’t because you can go find that exact same information already (and Google already has!). Without my own opinion and unique experiences with SEO the text is useless to human readers. Oddly enough, its useless to Google as well.

There are some that claim duplicate content is not penalized by Google. This is false, but I will entertain the thought briefly. The most common example I read on the internet is the fact that Google doesn’t penalize the HUGE news websites for using an article from an independent writer. Basically, this super-popular article is splattered all over the internet and none of the websites get dinged for duplicate content. Or do they? Initially Google doesn’t penalize anyone for the article, but after a few weeks you will notice a change in Google’s results. Google will phase out the article on many of the sites and start replacing the search results with other related articles so that users see a variety of high-quality results and not just the same article over and over. Test it and you will see!

Trust me. If you want to rank in Google and continue to rank in Google you can’t go around making your site a copy of 500 other sites. Google won’t like you. Write high-quality, unique content and you will win in the end.

SEO And Content – Why Content is King

One of the most important aspects of SEO is your content. In fact, I often advise people that are new to SEO that “Content is King” and I usually reiterate this at least three times. Again, if you want to do well at SEO you need to think like a search engine. Google, as you might suspect, is incapable of seeing images or graphics. All graphics and images to Google are treated the same because it doesn’t know what they are anyway. Google does not care what a website looks like nor does it know if one site “looks” better than another. In fact, the best website in the eyes of Google is a website with no graphics at all. It can only deal with text. Since Google doesn’t do well with graphics or images you need to balance your pictures with content (text) that Google is capable of reading. A lot of webmasters fail to balance graphics or flash with Google-readable text. The trick is to find a balance that allows your readers to enjoy the look of your website while also allowing Google to have a good idea what your website is about. In this post I’ll give you a few hints on writing content that Google will find valuable as well how to work in keywords that you want to rank for in the search engines.

Writing valuable content means writing unique content. Duplicate content will only get you penalized by Google. Duplicate content will be covered in another post, but just remember that copying / pasting content from another website will not help you with SEO. In the long run it will only hurt you.

There is a ton of crap information on the internet that tries to teach you how to write content based on keyword density. Keyword density is a technique that some SEO gurus swear by. In short, it is a method of counting your keywords vs other words to come up with a percentage that Google finds attractive. There is a little validity to this method. The true method of writing content with keywords is to write your content just like you would write anything else. Do not try to stuff your keyword into your paragraphs as many times as possible and don’t worry about the keyword density. The best way to write content is to completely ignore Google and write it for humans to like and understand. Again, make sure your write content that is unique. Google likes text that is fresh and new.

The smart way to write content is to base the content around the keywords for which you want to rank. I have tested several methods over nearly four years and I’ve found one method to work the best – create a new paragraph for each keyword you want to rank for! Let’s do an example. I own an iphone accessory store and I want to rank for several keywords: iPhone Accessories, iPhone Cases, iPhone Skins, etc. Here’s how I would write my content for the page I want to rank:

“iPhone Accessories are a necessity when it comes to protecting your iPhone…. (Blab on for 100 words or so – make sure you use the keywords at least once more in a natural manner that sounds nice to HUMANS)”

(next paragraph)
“iPhone Cases are the perfect accessory to protect your iphone from scratches and dents…(keep going for 100 words or so just as you did in the first paragraph)”

(next pagraph)
“iPhone Skins make your iphone customized to you! We have the best prices on iPhone skins online. If you’re looking for a high-quality skin that will last for years then our website is the perfect place to buy!”

Notice how I put my keyword first or close to first on each paragraph. I can’t tell you why this works, but it does!

A few more tips:
1. Don’t try to rank for 15 keywords all on one page. Break it up and try to limit ranking to 2-3 keywords per page.
2. Keep your keywords similar on each page.
3. Make sure you write content that might also pick up long-tailed searches. For instance, in the iphone Accessories paragraph above it might be smart to put something like, “We have the best prices on iPhone Accessories online as well as fast shipping!” You could get lucky and somehow rank for “best Prices on IPhone Accessories” or “iPhone Accessories Online” or “iPhone accessories with fast shipping”. Believe it or not – people search for all kinds of wild stuff. Use your imagination and try to pick out as much of the possibilities as you can. Trying to rank for only the high volume keywords can hurt you. If you can pick up good rankings for the long-tailed keyword searches you can pick up a lot of high-quality traffic!