There’s a lot of ranking factors behind Google’s organic search algorithm. Hundreds of ranking factors, as a matter of fact. With all these things to consider, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by an SEO campaign.
While there are hundreds of factors, not all are equally powerful. In fact, I’d suggest that several recent (yet popular) factors can be distractions. In the end Google’s ranking comes down to two simple things: content and links.
Content is the easy part: speak your customers’ language and answer their questions. With regular content, like this, you’ve got that covered.
Link building can be difficult. It’s time consuming. It’s scary, too- will this link get me in trouble with Google? Still, you need to do this, if you expect to be found in the SERPs.
Let me demystify link building by sharing a new process with you. I’ve been using this process for a couple months. With it I’ve found several new links for my clients. I think it will help you get new links, too.
What tool did I use? Google.
First, Google Yourself
This is where every business should start, when it comes to link building. What can you do with this information?
- If a website is talking about you, would they be willing to change that mention into a link?
- If they’re talking about you, could you offer them some more information? Offer them an exclusive interview. Write for their blog. Send them some news about your company. These are all ways to get links.
- Is there a way to “claim a profile” on a relevant and credible website? Some of these links might be “nofollow” (and not give you any Google credit) but could still bring you good traffic.
For some businesses, this can be a little difficult. A Google search for your name might bring lots of things besides your business. For this tactic to work, it is best for you to return the most relevant results. That means you might need to use a more specific search query. My own company’s name is a good example: Reliable Acorn. It’s pretty broad. Lots of irrelevant things come up for this search. To find only results for me, I modify my search by putting my name in quotes, adding “marketing”, adding my city’s name, etc.
If, even after a more specific query, you can’t find anyone talking about you you’ve learned an important link building lesson. To get links you need to do link-worthy things. Much of link building, these days, is simply PR- you need to get the word out.
- Maybe you need to highlight something new for your industry. Issue a press release and see who is interested. That might get people talking about you (even if the press release links don’t count).
- Maybe there’s a professional organization or association you could join. This can be a good way to highlight your credibility on your website, too, with a badge or logo. Just avoid those reciprocal links.
- Perhaps you could sponsor a local charity or event. Be generous. People will appreciate you.
If nobody is talking about your business, why would they want to link to you? Good links are earned.
Second, Google Your Keywords
I hesitate to recommend this. Sometimes people are consumed with ranking and forget that SEO is about getting new customers. I don’t want to encourage that. Besides, ranking doesn’t exist.
When you do a keyword search for links, think short-tailed and broad keywords. We all know that more specific, long-tailed keywords are the key to success in an SEO campaign. When it comes to searching for links, think broad terms. You might not ever rank for these phrases, but they will help you find good links such as:
- If your customers are seeing these sites, can you get listed on them? More and more Google is preferring larger websites (like Zillow, Yelp, or FindLaw). Sometimes these websites list several businesses. If you get listed on them, too, they can help bring new customers. This is true even if the links are nofollowed.
- Is there a leading organization or association in your industry that you should join? Join their web directory. Contribute to their blog. Send them a press release the next time you do something noteworthy.
- What are people talking about or asking about, in your industry? Contribute to the conversation on someone else’s blog. Contribute to the conversation in your own blog.
- Who are your competitors? Sometimes your offline competitors are not the same as your online competitors. (Hold on to those for the next step)
Third, Google Your Competitors
Just as you found links by Googling yourself, you can get links by Googling your competitors:
- Why are people talking about them? Would they be interested in talking about you, too?
- What is their link building strategy? Get links in the same way they did. Get better links than them with the Skyscraper method: update or improve on something that previously earned good links.
- Are they members of organizations and associations that you are not? Are they attending trade shows that you’re missing? These can be great sources of links, too.
When I Google a competitor to find links, I often modify my search query by negating their website. That means I add -site:theirwebsite.com to the query. This tells Google not to (hence the dash) give me results from their site (site:theirwebsite.com). This way I only get results from other sites, talking about them.
Fourth, Google Your Customers
How would your customer describe themselves? Perhaps you already have a buyer persona. Even if you don’t, you can still look for your customers with Google:
- Is there a leading blog in your industry? Is there an important magazine for your audience? Pitch yourself as a contributor. Send them news about your company. Give them exclusive access to a report, data or whitepaper. These can be great ways to get links.
- Is there a certification, fraternity or trade group dedicated to helping your customers? Sponsor their next event. Write for their website. Add your company to their directory.
- What are your customers asking? Answer their questions in someone else’s blog. Create a definitive answer on your website and use it to attract links to your site.