Link Building: Where We Are?

At SEO Liverpool we’re always stressing the importance of link building as a key strategy for high search engine placement.

Like all Web marketing, the greatest aspect of link building is the trackability. This helps you quantify your progress and prove your worth to your superiors and clients.

However, there hasn’t really been a standardised tool that the industry accepted as “the” link monitoring tool. In fact, there are more tools that will tell you wrong information than there are tools that will tell you right information.

Most of the major search engines have link identifying queries that you can do. The standard search query is: link:www.example.com.

If you do that search, you’ll get a list of pages linking to that page. Because I can get you the complete set of data, I’ll do this for a current client.

Doing this query on Google returns about 14 pages linking to that URL. Doing this query on Yahoo returns 1,103 pages linking to that URL.

That’s a major difference! This is because Google intentionally doesn’t want to disclose all of the links it knows about a domain, which explains 14 links versus 1,103 inlinks. Google only gives a small sampling.

The more realistic number is 1,103. Yahoo is more open when it comes to link disclosure. Virtually every link analysis tool you use (such as SEOQuake) relies quite heavily on Yahoo’s link data.

Incidentally, you can do those searches for specific pages to see how many links point to that particular page on your site. That information can be telling of how a particular story or link bait tactic is fairing in gathering links.

However, the link reporting trail doesn’t end there. There’s one final way of getting a much more comprehensive tally of the links pointing to you. The most comprehensive, detailed list of links pointing into your site is found at Google’s Webmaster Tools.

If you haven’t setup your site in the Webmaster Tools section, I strongly encourage you to do so. All you need is a Google login. Then they ask you to either upload a page with a strange custom URL they give you or add some meta code to the of your site. Doing that verifies you own the site.

This gives you complete access to a ton of great information about your site. Not the least of which is your link information. If you recall, the total number of links Google showed on their front-end search query for my client was about 14 links pointing into that URL. Yahoo had 1,103. Google Webmaster Central has 1,471.

I have seen client data that is shockingly different.

Additionally, Webmaster tools nicely lays out how many links are pointing to each page of your site.

This information is interesting because I can instantly see that my clients blog gets nearly three times the number of links than the home page. This tells me that people are more interested in linking to the blog than the home page. So, as I move forward in asking for links I probably would want to suggest people link to our blog.

I also see that one particular page has 24 links. This is new for us in 2011. We’ve done no link building campaigns for this service. So, I’m encouraged to see that people are already linking to it with no suggestion on our part.

Finally, I would be able to take this data to a client or superior every month and track the progress of any link initiatives taking place. I would easily be able to chart link growth on a page-by-page level.

However.

Google discusses their link reporting at the bottom of that page, they write, “Note: While the External links page provides a larger sampling of links to your site, not all links to your site may be listed. This is normal.”

So, even in the Webmaster Tools section, we still may not know everything Google knows…. but it’s a decent start.

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Keep visitors engaged with Site-Search

Some websites do tend to be more difficult for visitors to find what they’re looking for!

Perhaps it’s because things don’t always fit neatly into more intuitive consumer categories. Perhaps it’s because B2B sites are often filled with so much diverse information. While site owners can engineer enhanced usability, better optimise and structure content, or create better organic landing pages, none of these options is a quick fix.

I’ve worked with a large knowledge management company, who’s product involved extracting information from vast online content and bringing the desired relevant information to the forefront. This technology was extremely expensive but created massive efficiencies for clients.

Google’s Site Search offers a quick, inexpensive way to keep visitors engaged and (hopefully) get them quickly to their destination on your site.

With SEO PPC, we’ve all clicked on promising organic search results and been quickly disappointed that the landing page doesn’t contain what we’re looking for. In many cases I’ll often land at a site I’m fairly certain contains what I want, so I’ll take a few clicks through the site’s navigation. But if I don’t find what I want in a few clicks, I don’t have the patience to keep searching. I’ll go to another site. All of us see these visits in our analytics, too. A four-page, 20-second visit. Then, they’re gone.

Site search functionality offers a way to keep visitors engaged a while longer. If visitors don’t quickly find what they want through navigation, they may try the site’s search tool. Many B2B visitors will go to the site’s search tool right away as an alternative to navigating to find an answer.

While many larger sites have already have site search functions, more often than not I’ve been disappointed with their search results. When I’m looking for a specific product or service, I’ll get hundreds of search results, but the first 30 results will be investor news releases or obscure technical articles. The results aren’t relevant to my quest. Not only do I leave without my desired answer, I’ve also formed some negative perceptions of the company and its website.

But then I tested Google Site Search. I think it’s a good answer for many B2B sites. It doesn’t cost much. Pricing depends on the number of pages indexed and the number of annual queries. For a site with less than 5,000 pages and less than 250,000 annual search queries, the cost is $100 per year. Pretty reasonable.

Getting all of your content indexed by Google can be a challenge, especially with large B2B sites. Google Site Search offers the opportunity of deeper site indexing for site-specific search. While this deeper site indexing won’t get more pages indexed by Google or help you in your Google rankings for web searches at Google.com, it will help you ensure all of your pages are reflected in the index of your site’s Google Site Search. This means searchers will get different (and likely better) results using Google’s Site Search on your site than if they used Google.com to search for information on your site (e.g., incorporating site:www.yoursite.com into the Google query).

Google’s site search also gives site owners the opportunity to “bias” the search results in a couple ways. For sites in which new content is typically more important, site owners can ensure search results are more heavily weighted to newer site content. Site owners can also bias search results to reflect certain sections of the site more than others, e.g., product-related pages more than company-information pages. This can help drive searchers more quickly to revenue-generating pages. This has been so impressive, under our search engine optimization training, we recommend this for our e-commerce customers.

If you don’t have search capabilities on your B2B site, it makes sense to spend £100 to try it. There’s not much you can do for $100 these days. So try it out. Then watch your analytics. Notice what visitors search for. That alone is great information. Also, see if your bounce rates decline, or if the average time on your site goes up materially. And watch your conversion rates.

If you already have search functionality on your site, you still may want to test out Google Site Search. Set it up and do some comparative searches. See if you think the search results are more relevant or if the user experience is better. I’m not sure if Google’s Site Search will be better than what you already have (and I’m not trying to sell Google’s Site Search), but again, for $100, it’s worth a test.

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Let’s get your website ranking quickly

At Summit, our online marketing company we’re always asked to speed up the process.

If your site is brand new and you want to compete against established sites directly on their most important keywords then you need to be good at public relations, have a better brand strategy, or have some remarkable feature that makes people want to talk about you. Without conversation and links it is hard to pass up sites that have been accumulating links for years.

But what if you could roll back the clock, and quickly grab those top search engine placements. You can.

The easiest way is to buy an old site that is not well maintained, and then build it up. But if that is outside the scope of your budget or marketing strategy and you are trying to rank a new site the key is not to attack directly, but to attack indirectly.

Of course many of your product pages will contain keywords that are the same or similar to that which the competition is targeting, but the more obscure long tail words are going to be easier to rank for. Here are 6 strategies to help you get lucky with your ranking quickly:

Tip 1

Use the less popular version of a keyword. If most your competitors are targeting Knowledge Management but nobody is targeting Knowledgemanagement then it is going to be easier to rank for that alternative version. And even if the alternate version only gets 5% or 10% the search volume of the related keyword, you are still going to pull in more traffic by ranking #1 for it than you would ranking #30 for the more popular version of the keyword.

Tip 2

Use many keyword modifiers. If you can’t rank for the core keywords then try to add some related keyword modifiers to the page title. Is credit cards too hard of a keyword? Then consider targeting a phrase like best credit cards. Cheap search engine optimization contracts will usually concentrate on this particular tactic.

Tip3

Mix up your on page optimisation. Rather than placing your keyword phrase all over the page consider mixing up how you use it. If the page title contains best credit cards consider using something like compare top credit card offers in the on page H1 header. Notice the change between plural and singular versions of the keywords. Popular CMS programs like WordPress have plug ins like the SEO Title tag plug in that make it quite easy to vary your page title and on page heading.

Tip4

Go deeper than the competition is going. In some fields I have been lucky enough to find niche low volume keyword topics that bring in a couple searchers each day. The ongoing maintenance cost of this content has been negligible, but as an added bonus for ranking for these long long tail keywords is that some of the people who search for them are people who really care about those topics, and many of them link to our websites. And so my new sites start benefiting from the self reinforcing effects that older sites benefit from, even though it is still new.

Tip5

Move away from the commercial keywords. If you stay within a small basket of well known commercial keywords it is hard to compete with strong competitors that have been targeting them for years. Niche how to content that solves a searcher’s problems is likely to build inbound links. These inbound links boost your domain authority and pass PageRank internally to other pages on your site, which is much of the general goal of many SEO linkbait projects…some pages are good at building inbound citations while other pages leverage that link authority and generate revenue.

Tip6

Buy traffic. If you build high quality niche content and it does not rank as well as you would like it to then you need to actively market it. Mention it to a couple popular bloggers in your space and ask them what they think of it. Another option for instantly getting relevant traffic to featured content is to buy targeted ads. StumbleUpon (you’ll end up paying for SEO services in dollars) sells category based traffic for 5 cents a visitor, but this traffic is nowhere near as potent as search traffic – many of these visitors come and go quickly. You can also buy pay per click traffic for your quality content. If you are buying it for commercial keywords the cost per click can be significant, but if you are trying to promote a quality non-commercial topic that is linkworthy you can often get visitors from search and AdSense ads for less than 10 pence each. With the buying traffic to build links strategy, it can take hundreds of clicks to generate an inbound link, but when you consider how time consuming and expensive link building is, then $50 or $100 for a good link can be an outright bargain.

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Can long URLs hurt you?

At SEO Liverpool we’ve been having a discussion about long URLs, in the past they have been spammy. I’m sure I’ve read a thread that actually commented on some URLs being a bit too long for comfort (SEO SEM agencies take note!)

Look at my example URL:

www.thisoldsite.co.uk/some-item-like-this-and-another-keyword-like-this-and-sometimes-even-more.42html

I’m all for having descriptive URLs, but …. but on occasion this seems to be taking it a bit too far and most of the time you’ll have trouble identifying anything that matches in the content of the page. Too far? Does that mean a search engine will penalise really long URLs? Or in this case, it does it just looks spammy to a manual review?

Sometimes if you dig deeper, you’ll noticed that you can find the same page as long as you include 42 at the end of the URL. Now, this is a common CMS issue with many sites. We’d deal with this with a 301 redirect from the broken URL to the true URL.

In this illustration, the CMS identifies the page by having the ID (i.e. 42) in the URL and then returns the dynamic content. The CMS should contain a real URL and then 301 redirect any other URLs that have id 42 in them to the real URL.

So, when building a CMS or SEO training staff, you might want to do a couple things in terms of URLs:

(1) Restrict the length of the URL to something normal

(2) 301 Redirect any duplicate URLs to the real URL

Thoughts?

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6 common website mistakes that could be costing you money

As an SEO Company we’re always dealing with clients who seem to have a little bit of SEO PPC or online marketing knowledge. Here we’ve put together 6 really common website mistakes and get they could be costing you money.

1. JavaScript or other crawler-unfriendly navigation that may impede indexing. Most newer sites don’t have this problem, but there’s almost always at least 1 site we review in every class that has its main navigation pretty much invisible to the search engines. If your navigation basically doesn’t exist as far as Google is concerned, then it’s very difficult to get all of the pages of your website indexed.

2. Navigation that buries important pages within the site architecture. The deeper that pages are buried within the website, the less importance they are given. For SEO, as well as usability purposes, it’s often helpful to showcase important sections of the website up an additional level in the site’s hierarchy. This can usually be achieved via a search-friendly CSS mouse-over menu.

3. Duplicate “pages” getting indexed under multiple URLs. While Google has, for the most part, worked out many of their canonical issues of the past and now generally realize that www.example.com/index.php is the same as www.example.com, many content management systems (CMS) take things a step further and provide a whole array of URLs for any one particular page of content. Sometimes this is done purposely for tracking reasons, as with session ids or tracking links appended to the end of URLs; but other times, it’s simply done because the CMS was never designed with search engines in mind. This is not a good thing, as it can cause the spiders to be so busy indexing the same content that they miss the more important stuff.

4. No keyword phrase focus in the content or conversely, keyword phrase stuffing. It never ceases to amaze me when people claim to have optimised a page, but there are no keyword phrases anywhere to be seen within the content. I suppose this might happen because they’ve put them in the keyword meta tag and assume they’ve optimised. (It’s a good thing they’ve come to our class when this is the case!) On the other side of the coin, there are those who seem to think that 4 instances of a keyword phrase in one sentence must certainly be better than just one! The fix, of course, is to provide a balanced focus on the optimised keyword phrases so that a trained SEO would know what the page is optimised for, but the average reader wouldn’t find the copy repetitive.

5. An optimised home page, but that’s it. While optimizing just the home page is better than not optimizing anything, it’s not going to increase the website’s search engine traffic by that much. Without fixing all the issues on inner pages and optimizing a number of them for their own set of keyword phrases, the site will basically be leaving money on the table.

6. Additional domains owned by the company are not properly redirected. In the old days, it was fine to park any additional domains that the company owned as an alias of the main website; however, today it’s much better practice to 301-redirect all additional domains to the main website. This enables the company to control which domain is the one that the search engines index, and avoids any splitting of link popularity between the different domains.

These 6 are by no means the only website mistakes we see. I’m going back through the sites we reviewed, I found tons of additional mistakes which I’ll save for a future article. My hope is that at least one of these may ring a bell to you as something that needs to be fixed on your own website. Once you take the time to correct the issue, you should find that your website will start gaining a lot more targeted search engine traffic, and ideally start making you more money!

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SEO Basics: What Is Link Popularity?

A recent SEO Manchester discussion on what is link popularity?

Link popularity measures the quality and quantity of links pointing to a web page. All the major engines use it, it’s considered an off-page factor and is also called “link juice” (most popular), “link pop”, “link reputation” or “link love”. Link Popularity Components

There are four main components that agencies involved offering web marketing services will openly discuss:

Link quantity: The number of links pointing to a web page.

Link quality: Quality is determined by the authority of the host sites and the sites linking to them. Quality flows from one site to the next through links. The most well known quality factor is PageRank. Page Rank is a link analysis algorithm used by Google to determine the quality factor of a page based on its inbound links.

Anchor Text: Query ranking indicator, it’s an endorsement of what’s to come. Anchor text is the clickable part of the link you see; hyperlinked keyword phrases provide additional “weight” and carry semantic value.

In a rare moment of algorithm clarity, Google states: anchor text influences the queries your site ranks for in the search results. And from Bing, an equally clear comment about anchor text: …”anchor text helps define the theme of a linked page…”. Anchor text continues to be one of, if not the strongest component of link popularity.

And last but not least the most important as stated by the top seo agencies…

Relevance: This establishes your topical/geographic neighborhood within the link graph. It is commonly accepted that links to and from topically related sites convey more authority.

For maximum algorithm influence, your linking goals should be to secure large numbers of links (quantity) from quality (PageRank) pages using keyword rich anchors (anchor text) on thematically related (relevance) authority sites/pages. I know, easier said than done right?

Yes, but definitely not impossible if you focus on using tactics that hit on each component. Right now, the best linking strategy to implement revolves around the use and promotion of content because the content influences each component of link popularity.

To rank well, build brand and drive targeted traffic, it all starts with understanding how link popularity works.

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Domain Strategies for Search Engine Optimisation

You’re optimising your Web site. You’re working on building links to your Web site. The best SEO will ask you ‘are you paying attention to your domain name strategy?’ Yes, your domain name strategy.

Although you have one main domain name, every small business SEO knows it’s important to take a look at your domain strategy as a whole and check for things that may help — or hurt — your search engine rankings.

Redirect Domains to Main Web Site

If your main Web site is www.maindomain.com, then you’ll want to 301 permanent redirect all the domain names you own that aren’t in use to www.maindomain.com. There are several reasons for this, such as stopping mirror sites from appearing, making sure your main domain name gets credit for links to other domains you own, and making sure your main domain name gets the PageRank credit for links to other domain names you own.

This brings up another issue: the links pointing to other domain names. By doing some domain name research, you can find domain names that were previously on the same topic that might have traffic, backlinks, and PageRank. You can benefit by finding the right domains, buying the right domains, and redirecting them to your Web site with a 301 permanent redirect.

Choose the right domain name and you may benefit from better search engine rankings. If you were to find a domain name that was formerly on the same topic of your main Web site and you’re able to buy that domain name and redirect it, it could mean additional traffic and additional sales.

Depending on how the search engines deal with that domain name, it could mean getting credit for additional backlinks and more Google PageRank to your site. And, if your domain is new to the Internet, there could be benefits to gaining some quick “authority” through domain purchasing/redirecting.

No Guarantees

Buying domain names and redirecting them won’t necessarily bring more traffic, backlink credit, or Google PageRank to your main Web site. There are many factors that might prevent this.

Whenever you buy a domain name, you don’t know if traffic is already going to that domain name until you take ownership of it and point it to some place where you can look at the traffic (you could point it to your Web site, set up separate Web hosting for it, or use a domain parking service).

There are many factors that can influence whether you get backlink and PageRank credit, including whether the search engines give you that credit. Some search engines, such as Google, have been rumored to “zero out” PageRank and backlink credit when a domain name changes owner; they’ve also been rumored to “zero out” PageRank and backlink credit for other reasons, as well.

There are many checks you can perform before you buy a domain name, and that’s probably best covered in a separate Google SEO discussion. Those include going to the search engine and typing the domain name to see what comes up — and searching for it in quotes to research it. You can also look at the domain name in the Wayback Machine to see its history.

Domain Auctions

There are several ways to find domain names, including searching at the expired domain name auctions such as Go Daddy’s TDNAM.com auctions, Sedo auctions, and eBay. There are other domain auctions at NameJet, SnapNames, Pool.com, and TUCOWS Auctions. Most of these are covered all at FreshDrop.net, a domain research service that allows you to search those auctions for domain names. You can also sort the results using several helpful factors, including sorting by domain age, PageRank, and number of backlinks.

By doing some domain name research, you may be able to find domains you can buy that were on your site’s topic that might bring some additional traffic to your site. And backlinks and PageRank might just come along with that on the side, as well.

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Does Google Conduct Minor Toolbar PageRank Updates Between Major Updates?

Summit Online Marketing are asking the question most people who participate in search forums ask themselves. Does Google, on occasion, update the toolbar PageRank score of a particular web site between the major and mass toolbar PageRank updates that are reported?

As an SEO company, why do we ask this question? Well, if you visit enough blogs and forums, you are bound to see a thread or five with the title, “PageRank Update.” These threads are fairly noticeable and we find spot them on a fairly recent basis.

Real Webmasters involved in SEO outsourcing are noticing updates to their PageRank scores in the Google Toolbar. This happens all the time, and then they jump to the forums to be the first to announce the next PageRank update. But then you see a mass response of replies saying, “no PR update here.”

So is it possible that what that SEO Webmasters have noticed was a true toolbar PageRank update for his site? Maybe. There are a few possibilities, the most likely is that he or she is hitting a different data center with different PageRank scores. But I would not rule it out that Google does push minor PageRank scores to the toolbar between major updates.

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Tips for finding Niche Keywords Part 3

The final part in our post from Summit online marketing looking… the top seo guide to finding niche keywords

4. Did you know that there are differences between the written word and spoken dialogue? Try exploring natural sounding “dialogue” and words based on dialogue. Your friends and customers often will say things, that give you a starting place to explore new data.

5. Open up your research and explore the world of colour. For example, what happens if you enter a single term representing a colour like “red,” or “aqua” or “green” or any other colour?

6. Explore any type of data at all in terms of a root word. Don’t forget to explore everything and anything that comes to mind. From a topic you notice on the news, to something that may not even be a word at all. What happens if you try to explore a number, or a price like £9.95 instead of a word?

7. Instead of just thinking of your research as “keywords” try thinking in terms of your audience’s “topics of interest.”

Wordtracker will give you absolutely AMAZING detail if you take time to think about it laterally, and outside of the context of just a “keyword hunt.” Don’t let the natural tendency to “guess at keywords” stop you from uncovering all the hidden evidence, that just needs a little digging to find.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, if you want more ideas you can visit Wordtracker and have a go for free!

Michael Campbell Notes: Anybody involved with online marketing consulting would think about your audience’s trade lingo, industry jargon, and words that are specific to a certain holiday, sport, hobby or service. For example, RIP, stripper, loupe, masking, pantone, dot gain and super black are all related to the printing industry. Spend some time in the industry association sites or read industry specific magazines to learn their lingo, for more potential niches.

Another tip is to use verbs and action words like “stop” or “improve” as your root word. Then let the keyword service (my favourite is NicheBot) tell you what people want “stopped” or “improved” in their lives.

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Tips for finding Niche Keywords Part 2

More on keyword research

With my first tip, I’m going to use an American example (It’s still more than relevant for the UK and European search marketer)… it was a quick sample page I’ve taken from a previous client.

1. If you are a Realtor, instead of using an obvious “logical phrase” like “real estate” (with 323 million competing pages on Google), or using a keyword acronym such as MLS (over 40 million competing pages on Google.) Try a researching a single “root word” term like “listing” just all by itself, leaving Wordtracker to do the hard part. Here are a few examples – each with under 1000 competing pages – which I grabbed in under 3 minutes of Wordtracker research:

* “house listings parry sound” – 90 competing pages for this exact phrase.
* “Wyoming MN home listings” – 197 competing pages for this exact phrase.
* “michigan real estate listing” – 197 competing pages for this exact phrase.
* “Wisconsin Home listings” – 697 competing pages for this exact phrase.
* “Central Virginia land listings” – 95 competing pages for this exact phrase.
* “north oaks minnesota home listings” – 233 competing pages for this exact phrase.

2. If you are an affiliate marketer, avoid researching the exact product that you want to promote. For example “candlestick holders.” Try using a single word like “holder” to determine exactly what type of “holders” are in highest demand with lowest competition. You may discover many other products – that you hadn’t thought of – with better windows of opportunity. Here are a few examples using the root word “holder.” Each phrase has under 10 competing pages. My research time, a mere 90 seconds -

* “motorcycle wheel holders” – KEI 676.0 – Competing pages on Google – 1
* ” southwest pot holders” – KEI 768.0 – Competing pages on Google – 3
* “hanging vine holder” – KEI 924.5 – Competing pages on Google – 2
* ” folbe fishing rod holder” – KEI 1156.0 – Competing pages on Google – 9
* “.30 Remington shell holder” – KEI 1444.0 – Competing pages on Google – 1

3. Try working with descriptive verbs, instead of researching a specific product. Using comprehensive search, try researching words like “new” or “old” or “rare” or “limited” or “reconditioned” or “polished” or “bronzed” or whatever. Use any type of descriptive terms to explore all kinds of interesting data.

Tune in for the final post

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