You've created an awesome website. You've optimized it with the right keywords in the right places. And yet, you're still showing up on page eight of Google search results for your keywords. What are you missing? Links.
Links from other websites pointing to yours, called backlinks, are a vital component of any small business SEO (search engine optimization) effort. To the search engines, a backlink from a trustworthy site to a page on your site is seen as a vote of confidence for your page. The more trusted and authoritative the site linking to yours is, and the more relevant the context of that backlink is to your page's content, the more that backlink will help your page rise in search engine results.
Here are 10 SEO link-building strategies that every small business with a website should know to improve search engine rankings and Web marketing.
10 Tips to Build Backlinks and Improve SEO Ranking
1. Quality trumps quantity
Backlink quality counts more than quantity. "I'd rather have five good-quality links than 5,000 crappy ones," said Rhea Drysdale, chief operations officer of Outspoken Media, during a recent link-building clinic at the Search Marketing Expo (SMX) conference in San Jose.
In general, a quality backlink is an endorsement in some way of your Web content from a trustworthy and/or authoritative site.
"A high-quality link is often a link in an article pointing to a Web page on your site that's relevant to the article topic," said Thomas W. Petty, an Internet marketing consultant who offers San Francisco Bay Area SEO services.
"When the content of the article, the anchor text, and the page being linked to are all on the same topic, Google will view that as a quality link, and that kind of link is what helps in your search engine results position."
2. Relevance and legitimacy matter
Eric Ward, chief link evangelist for search intelligence firm AdGooroo.com and the founder of EricWard.com, firmly believes in obtaining quality links from relevant sites. Ward said the links he pursues for clients are "from non-spam, legitimate sites within the same subject matter as my client's sites."
3. Quality content attracts quality links
When you write a blog post that's interesting, useful, controversial, topical, or funny, you've created "linkbait." Linkbait is content that others want to link to and share on their blogs, in their Twitter streams, on their Facebook pages, or in some other online forum. Search engines, which are beginning to experiment with using Twitter and public Facebook data as ranking factors, see such links as endorsements of your content.
4. To get a Quality Link, offer something valuable in return
One way to get a backlink to your small business website is to create original, worthwhile content that contains an anchor text or other link to your site, and to offer that content to another site. For example, Drysdale suggested, offer to write a guest post on a blog relevant to your industry and add a backlink to your site in the post.
Do your research first, she advised, to ensure that you know the site's target audience.To sweeten your offer, propose guest posts on topics you know people are actively searching for at the moment. Free keyword tools such as Google's AdWords Keyword Tool and Google Insights for Search can help you determine search volume for specific keywords and identify search phrases that are rising in popularity.
5. Link exchanges aren't worth the effort
Reciprocal links -- in which a friend links to your site and you link to his -- are widespread across the Internet. In general, though, most SEO strategists advise against pursuing link exchanges."If you have a website, and I have one and we just point at each other, Google thinks you're trying to manipulate the system, and that link won't count as a quality link," Petty said.
6. Get listed in online directories, especially those that are relevant to your industry
There are countless Web directories, such as Best of the Web and Business.com, which will list your business by one or more categories and include a backlink to your site. Generally speaking, look for directories that are human-edited, as the search engines tend to give links from those listings a bit more weight than directories that allow you to add a listing yourself.
The most valuable listings are from directories particular to your vertical industry, Ward said. For instance, if you sell products of interest to human resource professionals, a directory listing on a site such as Workforce Management -- even though it requires a fee -- is more valuable than one on a general business directory. In this scenario, you're not just getting a potential SEO lift from the link. You're also posting your listing in a place where your target customers are likely to see it.