Effective off-page search engine optimization is just as important as your on-page optimization. There are many factors that the search engines use to determine rankings, but most SEO practitioners agree that the most important factor is getting quality links to your website – the concept that Google first engineered to return better search results than its competitors. The following tips apply to websites built on any platform.
Off-Page Optimization Tips
- Don’t bother getting links from low-quality sites. It’s a waste of time to get links from no-name directories and websites. There are some directories that are worth getting, but the vast majority will not count for anything. Posting your link on forums or in comments on other sites will almost never count; only post there if you’re actually contributing to the conversation.
- Stay away from paid links. Google is always cracking down on paid link directories. If your website is discovered to be getting paid links, you could lose rankings or even get blacklisted from the search engines – which often means a massive loss of traffic. Don’t think this could happen to you? Even big companies, like JC Penney and Overstock.com, have paid the price as a result of buying links.
- Use social media like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to get quality links. The more your links are shared, the better. If you build up your network and continually provide them with quality information, the effect could snowball.
- Ask people in your network to link to your website. If you have used a business’s products or services, check to see if they post testimonials on their website. If they do, ask if you could write one and have them post it along with a link to your website.
- Customize the anchor text of links to your website. The anchor text of a link is the clickable text; the URL is the address where you are taken if you click the link. These do not have to be identical. If you can control the anchor text, such as on social media profiles, try to use your company name along with some of your important keywords, but don’t make it look like a spam link.
- If you have a storefront or location-based business, use local optimization to your advantage. Make sure you fill out the full profile information in Google Places and other similar services. Pay attention to the reviews people post about your business. If you have negative reviews, ask some of your loyal customers to write their own reviews. They will (hopefully) write enough positive reviews to outweigh any negative reviews. Don’t write artificial reviews or ask anyone to make up reviews. It’s unethical, and you will probably be caught and get your listing penalized.
- Do a competitive analysis. See what links and anchor text your competitors have, and you may discover new sources for links. Look at what keywords your competitors are targeting, and what rankings they are getting. First, of course, you should analyze your own website. If you Google “link:example.com” (without the quotes, and using your own domain), you will get a partial list of websites linking to yours. This list is considered by some to be the “quality” websites whose links Google gives value to. To get a more complete list, use tools like Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Webmaster Tools, and Open Site Explorer.
- Make sure your website is being indexed and crawled in the major search engines. Odds are that your website is indexed (listed), but there could be other issues. Are all of your pages in the index? When you edit or create a new page, how long does it take for Google to recognize the change? If you Google “site:example.com” (without the quotes, and using your own domain), you will see a list and a count of the pages Google is indexing on your website. If that number is significantly less than the number of pages you have on your website, and you did not add a large number of pages recently, then you have a problem. You may need to evaluate your website from a technical perspective. Start with Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools to try and determine the root of the problem.
The Importance of Local SEO
If you have a storefront or location-based business, you must consider local SEO. Use geographical keywords, such as your city and state, on your website as well as in the anchor text of your incoming links. By targeting your local area, you are narrowing your target audience, but the improved ranking should get you much more traffic. For example, you could rank 1,000th for a general term that gets 1,000,000 searches per month, and get 1 visit per month on that keyword – or you could rank 1st for a specific term that gets 1,000 searches per month – and get 100 visits per month on that keyword.
There are too many local directories to count, but you should start with the popular ones. Here are some to consider:
- Google Places
- Google Maps
- Bing Places for Business
- Yahoo! Local
You should also use your official business name in the title tag of your home, contact, and location pages. This can help the local directories to verify your business website and location. You may find that your business is already listed in some local directories. If so, make sure the information is accurate and complete.