While developing a great website is half of the SEO equation, the other half is
promotion. Search engines are very particular about growing their ability to
detect artificial manipulation and link spam, so effective SEOs who want to
promote sites to the fullest extent must use natural, organic link building
processes in order to have success.
The techniques and approaches described
below are all ultimately designed to improve search engine rankings by growing
the number and quality of links that point to a website.
However, each also offers natural growth of your user base
and provides visitors that come through systems other than search engines.
Strangely, although the goal of SEO is better search rankings, the best sites in
each industry often receive 50% or fewer of their total visitors from search
engines. Why? Because if thousands of visitors are anxiously visiting your site
via bookmarks, links, and direct type-ins at the address bar, you've achieved
the content and status necessary to not only be ranked exceptionally well, but
have visitors that know your site and want to visit, no matter what the search
engines say. This methodology is particularly valuable because a site that
doesn't rely entirely on search engines for traffic, ironically, has a far
better chance of getting visitors through them.
Creating a user base that develops into a full-scale community is no easy
task, but it's one of the holy grails of online marketing and promotion. The
idea is to develop frequently updated content in the form of a blog, forum,
wiki, or other muti-user input system that can become a central reference and
gathering point for a significant number of individuals in an industry.
Once a community is established, the input of individual members and coverage
of events in these systems are natural sources for incoming links from bloggers
and writers in the field, be they members or simply browsers. In addition, many
members who run sites of their own will point to the community as their
gathering place, creating even greater link value. Community building requires
finesse and good online relationship skills, but the rewards are tremendous.
Press Releases and Public Relations
Influencing mainstream or niche press outlets to cover your company or its
actions can be a highly effective way to drive attention to your site, which, if
link worthy, can earn a fantastic number of links in short order. Press release
good starting places for driving traffic and links, and as both feed the major
online news search engines (Yahoo!
News), they can provide high visibility as well. Optimizing press releases is a
unique practice in and of itself - placement of text in the title and in visible
headlines, compelling story writing, and proper content structure are all
important elements. One of the most touted experts in this field (Greg Jarboe)
runs a site with specific advice (SEO-PR.com)
on the subject of optimizing press releases in particular.
Beyond releases, however, is influencing journalists to write editorial news
stories about your subject and including a link or mention of your site. Some of
the most highly touted PR (public relations) firms in the world charge a fortune
for this service, but on a small scale it can be performed in-house. The trick
is to have content and information so compelling and interesting that
journalists would love to cover it. If you have the makings of a great story
with a near-perfect fit for your site, email a few journalists whose work you've
found to be on similar topics. Don't start with the New York Times, though. Go
local, independent, and friendly to increase your chances of success.
Link Building Based on Competitive Analysis
Looking at the links obtained by your top competitors and pursuing methods of
your own to get listed on those sites/pages is an excellent way to stay
competitive in the link building race. It's also a good way to get natural
traffic; as these are the links and sites that send your competitors their
traffic, they will also bring visitors to your site. The methodology for
investigating a competitor's links is fairly straightforward, although more
complex methods can be used by the advanced researcher.
The best source of linkage data is Yahoo!. Google purposely does not report
accurate link data with their link: command, and MSN's rankings of links can
often show less valuable and effective links at the top. Yahoo!, however,
currently shows the greatest accuracy in numbers of links, and also sorts well,
typically placing more valuable links near the top of the results.
At Yahoo!, the following searches can be used to find pages that link to
This command will show you all the pages that link to any page hosted at the
This command will show only those pages which link directly to the specified
- Linkdomain:url.com word
This search will show all pages with the term "word" that link to pages
hosted at the URL. You can use this to find topical linking pages that may
be providing benefit for specific areas.
- Linkdomain:url.com -term
Use the - sign to indicate that pages which include a particular term should
be excluded from the search; for example, searching for all links that point
to a site that don't contain your company name on the page (i.e.
linkdomain:seobook.com -seomoz). Note that searches can contain multiple -
signs and terms if you require very specific information (or wish to exclude
lots of noisy data).
- Linkdomain:url.com -site:url.com
In addition to the - sign as a term remover, you can remove sites
from the results as well. This can be especially valuable if one large site
links to the target site on every page, and you wish to see the links that
don't include that site. It can also be valuable to remove the site itself,
(i.e. linkdomain:seomoz.org -site:seomoz.org), so as not to see results from
Competitive analysis also includes using the top search results themselves as
sources for links. If a site or page ranks particularly well for many related
searches, a link from that site can send a healthy number of interested surfers
to you. Rankings in the SERPs is also an excellent way to determine the value of
a link, so if a page ranks highly for the term or phrase you're targeting, a
link from that page is sure to provide great assistance in your goal to achieve
Building Personality & Reputation
The cult of personality on the Internet provides excellent opportunities for
charismatic, well-written individuals to make headlines, friends, and links
through online networking. A variety of social interaction sites operate across
industries on the web, delivering ready-made sources for building a reputation
and earning links. The keys to this methodology are to provide honest,
intelligent contributions to existing discussions while maintaining a connection
between yourself and the communities.
Online forums are great places to start, and can frequently lead to
additional venues for the engagement of your colleagues. In building a
successful reputation in an online forum, honesty, integrity, and openness
provide the best chances to be taken seriously and seen by others as an expert
on your subject matter. Forums typically offer a built-in system for referring
folks to your site - the signature link. Although debate exists on whether
search engines count these links for ranking purposes, there can be little doubt
about their effectiveness in driving forum visitors to your site. One last tip
for forums is to use a single link to your site in your signature - ensuring
that people identify you with one unique online property, rather than several.
Combining these effective techniques of forum posting and signature links with
blogging can also be very valuable.
In addition to forums, outlets like blog comments (which frequently use the
"nofollow" attribute, and are thus valuable for live visitors but not search
engines), ICQ Channels, chatrooms, Google groups, and privately hosted boards or
chatrooms can all serve a similar purpose. Stay consistent in each format -
using the same voice, avatar (the accompanying photo on many forums), and
username in order to build reputation and recognition.
Highly Competitive Terms & Phrases
For some terms and phrases, even the best websites with the most diligent
promotional efforts will have a very difficult time penetrating the top 10-20
results. In these instances, it can be tempting to rely on efforts outside of
the search engines' guidelines. However strong this temptation may be, be
advised that search engines do not tolerate spam or manipulation via automated
links, nor do they allow such results to flourish for long. Although these
methods, commonly referred to as "black hat SEO", may have some effectiveness in
the short term, they have little chance of long-term success in the SERPs and
may become permanently banned from search results.
For highly competitive results (from "mortgage" to "car insurance" to
"university degree"), targeting the above described "long tail" (the more
niche-related search terms for which a smaller degree of heavy competition
exists) can be the best method. Search engines are also careful to consider the
age of a site and its links and give heavy weight to those sites with long-held,
highly trusted links. Thus, while rankings may be sparse at first, over time an
enterprising site owner can achieve some measure of notice, even in the most
competitive of searches.