At the end of March, Google held a live Q&A session, in which its Search Quality Senior Strategist confirmed that the top two factors for Google’s search rankings are: content and links pointing to the site (also called link building and backlinks).
This didn’t evoke much surprise – professional marketers around the globe know that those are two key SEO strategies to best optimize a website for search rankings. But it’s nice to know without a doubt what websites MUST have in order to fare well with Google.
To the untrained eye, both of these strategies might seem very vague or confusing. You might be asking yourself: “How exactly can content improve rankings?” or “I already use keywords, what else can I do?” or “How do I get other websites to link to my site?” Lucky for you, I’m going to explain different tactics you can take to best optimize your content and link building for SEO.
Keyword research must be performed to find which keywords should be used in the content. A combination of Google’s Keyword Planner Google’s Keyword Planner (a free tool), knowing what the most common keywords website visitors use to get to your site (using Google Analytics or other inbound traffic tools) and looking at keywords your competition focuses on can help you discover which keywords to use. Create content based on those keywords and make sure the keyword density is around 3% to 5% (aka: no keyword stuffing).
Duplicate content is a big SEO no-no. Make sure every piece of content that is somehow linked to your website, written on your website or distributed on the web by your company is purely unique. Otherwise, your website’s SEO will be punished for it and some of the duplicate content pages will not show up in search results at all.
Desired content: It is important to create content that your target audience will find useful and valuable. Doing so will increase the likelihood that the web pages will be clicked on, engaged with and shared with other people, ultimately increasing your SEO.
Make sure that your website or digital content is fully optimized with keyword-rich phrases. This includes the meta description or caption, keywords, title tags and web page headings. Search engine spiders (bots) notice keywords in properly coded websites and give them more SEO juice.
Types of content:
The types of content that can be produced to improve your SEO includes, but is not limited to: web page content, articles, blog posts, guest blog posts, case studies, white papers, guides, user-generated content, contests, podcasts, videos and infographics.
Whether you’re writing content on your website, your blog, marketing email blasts or informational text that will appear on another site, hyperlink to pages on your website whenever applicable. In addition, be sure to be hyperlinking keywords. This type of text is called anchor text. Don’t over-do it, though – it is best to only have a few embedded links in the text on a web page.
Social media sites:
Give your business an online presence on any social media sites that your target audience uses or those of which your competitors are on. On these sites, you will provide bios which include your company name and link(s) back to your website. You will also make social media posts with links back to your website, blog and other web pages that have content for your business. All of these tactics will produce SEO juice.
Just like with social media sites, the more websites that have your business’s name and links to your website, the better. Some directory examples include: Yelp, FourSquare, Angie’s List, Google+, Yellow Pages, Bing, SlideShare and Merchant Circle. If possible, include links to your products pages, contact page, etc.
Seek out influential blogs in your industry (and/or blogs your target audience frequents) and ask to write a guest blog. A surprising number of blogs will accept guest blog posts. Show off your expertise in your field and include embedded links back to your website or other business pages for some SEO juice.
Similar to guest blogging, find legitimate publications that your audience reads and reach out to editors and request the opportunity to write an article for them. The editor might ask you for a topic idea or the editor might give you a topic idea – either way, this is a great strategy to increase your reach and SEO. It is important to hyperlink to your website in the article, if the editor allows it, and you will definitely want to link back to your site in your byline. Similarly, creating press releases and distributing them among PR websites brings traffic to your website and helps boost SEO.
Ask for links:
A traditional link building method is to reach out to other websites and ask them for backlinks (probably on an Additional Resources page or something like that). This is not supposed to be a spammy strategy, because you will only be reaching out to select websites that have the same audience as you. (For example, if you own a plumbing company, you can reach out to drywall contractors, bathroom remodelers or hardware stores for backlinks). You can also ask your customers for backlinks, if your business is a B2B (business-to-business).
Don’t link to spammy websites, low-quality or extremely out-of-date websites, because it will hurt the SEO for your site. Do not utilize cross-domain linking. Do not use non-SEO friendly redirectors or cloaking strategies. Do not pay for backlinks. There are plenty of dangerous and destructive SEO faux pas that you must avoid in order to obtain good SEO – learn more about them here.
**Please note that any SEO optimization strategy can take up to 12 months before you see results. It is very unrealistic to expect immediate jumps in traffic after you implement any of these tactics. On average it takes between 1-6 months to notice improved SEO.