Search engine optimization can be confusing and, frankly, can seem like a bit of a black hole. I’ve done some research on the implementation of on-page optimization tactics, but the off-page SEO process is still a bit of a mystery to me. I believe it’s a worthwhile effort to get prospects to be able to find you online, but I’d like to understand it a bit more, especially in how the off-page linking efforts fit in with the latest Google algorithm changes and the anticipated future of optimization.
I sat down this week with Chad DeBolt, VP of Search Acquisition at Synergyma to learn more:
Amy: Chad, can you describe what off-page SEO is and a bit about the techniques you use?
Chad: It’s actually a bit like a high school popularity contest, but the way you get popular is by getting “votes” from other web sites. A vote would be getting a link on another site that points to your Web site. This says to Google that another site thinks your Web site is valuable. You need more and better votes (meaning votes from what Google views as “valuable” sites) than those you compete against. It’s very important that you don’t link back to them. This devalues the vote.
Amy: What sort of sites should be linking to your site that are considered “valuable”?
Chad: There are 4 tiers (as far as value) of referring sites as far as quality of a link. You want to get in the first 2 tiers. Here’s some more detail:
- Tier 1. This is a Web site that is in your niche — for instance a highly rated blog in your industry. It has to be categorized as “high value” or high page rank. It involves guest blogging, guest article writing, etc. These involve some work to get, but are very powerful.
- Tier 2. The sites may or may not be in your niche but they are reputable and do have high page rank. There are thousands of Web sites that have high page rank whose sole purpose is to let users put content on their site (for example Squidoo). Content is shared in various forms on these sites (blog posts or articles for example). On these sites, your content has to be broadly specific. For example our article might be about “running,” but your keyword is “cross training shoes”; you would mention the specific key word as part of the article. You just need to get more of these than your competitor. The challenge is to get more articles and more tier 2 sites than your competitor.
- Tiers 3 and 4 are considered “content farms,” and are not viewed as desirable or valuable by Google.
Amy: So it seems it’s a lot easier to get ranked if you have a blog page.
Chad: Yes, but the next best thing is if you had a page on your site related to your keywords. The catchall if you don’t have this either is to send all links to your home page.
Amy: Is off-page SEO or link-building actually an organic way to build traffic, or is it somewhat forced? How does Google distinguish it as legitimate?
Chad: Link building itself is not considered bad, Google actually encourages helping your site be found, within moderation (see video below). If you can imagine the internet is outer space, the chances of your site being found without link-building. They want to be able to find your site as long as it’s of value to your target market, as long as you don’t take advantage of it. What Google discourages a is a huge number of backlinks for the same keyword submitted all at the same time (for example 20,000 links generated all at once is a red flag to Google).
Also, don’t put out bad content. For example you don’t want to have an article about the top 10 marketing tips, then link to a site that sells gardening supplies. Some “black hat” SEO companies will put articles and links that have nothing to do with each other, just was a way to load as many links as possible.
Amy: Is it ever okay to put the same article out in various directories?
Chad: Yes, but it’s a delicate balance of variation of articles with good directories and relevant content.
Amy: So where do keywords come in?
Chad: To start getting ranked for specific keywords — the link has to cite these keywords in surrounding text.
Amy: From what I’ve learned about SEO in general, keyword choice is so important. Do you have any tips on choosing keywords?
Chad: It’s actually part marketing and part technical. If you are a business owner, or marketer the best thing to do is brainstorm a short list of attributes that your ideal client might search for. Then you need to go to the Google Keyword Tool and try out different keywords to see how many people are actually searching for these words. You want to be broad enough to attract traffic, but specific enough to get the most relevant traffic.
Amy: Once you identify keywords, how long do you suggest keeping those “active” and after how long should you change them up?
Chad: It really depends upon how competitive a word is. You can find this out also using Google’s Keyword Tool. Generally, anything localized has a longer staying power than a more general keyword. Meaning it’s easier to keep your ranking for a longer period of time. The more competitive the word, the longer you need to keep actively using it to link back to your site.
Stay tuned for Part II of the interview! Let us know any questions you have regarding SEO.