business owners you're probably not a search engine optimization jedi and might be wasting some valuable time, or money building useless website links.
What is a backlink?
Backlinks are simply links to your website, from another website. For example, if you want to know the technical reason why backlinks are important you might want to explore the link to the wiki page here (that's a backlink to wikipedia). Think of a link to your website as a "vote" from the Internet that your content is valuable. Search engines pay attention to those "votes" to help index websites, generally the more links the more relevant your website is...right?. Not always... sometimes it can have the opposite effect if abused. The importance of backlinks has somewhat been reduced over time as search engines have altered their algorithm... unfortunately spammers learned early on ways to manipulate the rankings of their website by building junk links from spam websites or link farms. This article is intended to give those new, or fairly new to Search Engine Optimization a high level overview of linking. BEWARE: A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, overuse of backlinking can get your website penalized or blacklisted. This article is one page in an encyclopedia of knowledge about search engine optimization.
To begin you should know that some links are more valuable based on the website that is linking to you... this can be determined by examining the Domain & Page Authority.
Determining Website Authority
Google launched their Penguin algorithm update in 2012, and made it clear that websites that have low content and numerous low quality backlinks will be penalized in the form of lower rankings. So how do you know which websites to try to get a link from? First you need a tool that can help determine the link value that a given website would provide to you. I personally use and prefer Open Site Explorer by Moz, which you can use 3 times a day for free. Just type in a website address and take a look at the report, (pictured below). I'd recommend that you start by researching the website URLs that appear on page 1 for the search term or phrase you are targeting. For instance, if you want to appear for "Upland family therapist", examine the competitor websites that are already on page 1 for that search. It stands to reason that you can start by trying to duplicate their ranking by acquiring links from the websites that they've received links from. Generally, as my personal preference, you'll want to target link acquisition from websites that have a domain authority of 70 or higher. If most of your links you acquire are from websites with a domain authority of 20 or less, you may be a target of the Penguin update because your website may be perceived as low authority, or worse... a website that is trying to manipulate rankings by acquiring links unnaturally.
This report gives you a road map of where to try to acquire links from. Furthermore, if you click on the + symbol under "Linking Root Domains" in the report, it will reveal the page that you can click to which actually shows the established link. This gives you some context as to how the link was established, (business profile, content, paid ad Etc). So the next time you see an ad proclaiming "500 PR9 backlinks for $59.99!", understand that you are playing with fire and the days of buying your way to page 1 of Google are over. Good quality content and high authority, natural links are the only safe solution to high rankings.
The "anchor text" of a backlink is the actual text that links to your website. Search engines read anchor text so that they can learn & associate relevant keywords with your website. Here's a quick test to illustrate the importance of anchor text: Google the word "here". You should see that Adobe Reader is the #1 organic result, yet the word "here" is not in the website's title tags, meta description or even in the website content! How can a website be indexed #1 for a word that doesn't appear anywhere on the page? The reason is anchor text. Adobe and other websites have published content on so many webpages that link to the Adobe website with the actual link residing on the word "here". It looks something like this: "You need the latest version of Adobe reader to view this content, click here to download". If you can establish a link on a high authority website that is good, if you can get relevant keyword rich anchor text it's even better. BUT WAIT!!! Spammers helped screw this up too. If Google sees an unnatural amount of links to your website with the same key word or phrase in the anchor text, your website may be punished because you've over optimized.
Follow vs. NoFollow Links
In the world of backlinks there are 2 main types, Follow and NoFollow links. Follow links are the most prized and carry "SEO juice" because they instruct search engine spiders to follow the link on the page to the destination website. As you'd guess, NoFollow links instruct spiders not to follow the backlink to the destination website. They still hold value to provide your website with some referral traffic, but generally don't pass pagerank as a Follow link would. How can you determine if a website has Follow or NoFollow links? Unfortunately it's not as easy as looking at the website, hyperlinks look the same on a page whether they are Follow or NoFollow. You could right click on the page, click "view page source" and examine the html, or you can take the easy way out and use FireFox as your browser and install a free plugin called NoDoFollow. As shown below NoDoFollow highlights the links on a page according to Follow (blue), or NoFollow (red).
So why do NoFollow links even exist, shouldn't all websites just put Follow links on every page of their website? Well there are many reasons a webmaster would want to avoid putting Follow links on their website.
Also, purely as a business decision, many directory websites won't issue a Follow link on your profile until you become a paying advertiser.
I hope that this was good information presented in an easy to digest manner. If anything it should help guide you on the types and styles of backlinks. The strategy of obtaining backlinks, however, is a whole different topic. I should also remind you that this article is a high level overview, doing too much of any activity in SEO can result in a negative impact on your rankings as algorithm changes occur everyday.
Please add comments or questions below, (NoFollow of course), and feel free to contact me if you need assistance.
Free websites attract small business owners like a moth to a flame, but just how expensive will they end up being?
There are two categories of "free" websites:
Free domain specific website Pros & Cons:
The next category of "free" website comes from marketing companies that claim some variation of creating a website for the business owner at no cost unless they want to keep it. This seems like a great business idea, but the devil is in the details... the many, many details. While I've outlined the pros and cons below, I should stress that these types of companies do provide a legitimate service so long as you understand the potential consequences. Remember, if you've seen their commercials on T.V. they're paying for those ads somehow.
Free future charge / "30 day trial" website Pros & Cons:
To my knowledge there is no truly "free" website service that doesn't have at least some downside. In other words, you get what you pay for. If you are at all suspicious of a company, do a Google search with the company name + the words "scam", "rip off" or "complaints" and do your due diligence before signing up for a potentially very expensive free trial.
If you're looking to streamline your social media strategy, HootSuite can save you time, effort and money by helping you post to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, WordPress & Mixi simultaneously. If you're like me, you want to make sure you've got your bases covered when posting to your social media channels, but let's be honest... it can be a pain in the butt. Even if you're efficient, it can be very time consuming. HootSuite has assembled a fairly easy to understand user interface that allows you to do many of the "daily grind" quickly, easily and free. Gone are the days of writing a blog and opening all of your social media channels and manually posting to each.Here are some great advantages to this service:
Although this is a great tool you can use to streamline your social media, there are a few drawbacks to this service:
If you're looking to get the most out of your SEO strategy, a good place to start is to find out how people search and what words they use. Google Trends is a great free tool that allows you to type in words and compare the search volume. For instance, if you were a florist, would you want to know if people search most using the words "florist" or "flowers"? If you knew that, your website content could be properly positioned for visibility using the best possible search terms. You can repeat the process shown in the screenshot below: 1) Go to Google Trends 2) Type "lawyer" into the trends search bar, 3) After seeing the results click "add term" and type "attorney" then "law firm". (Scroll down for interpretation notes).
Given the trend, if you were a law firm you might think it would be a good idea to pay most attention to integrating "attorney" into your website titles & content because you'd probably garner the most visibility for that term, and in-turn traffic. However, you can see the gap narrowing over time so you'd have to make sure your site was relevant for both terms in this scenario. Although Google understands synonyms, (like attorney and lawyer), it's always best practice to integrate both words into your copy writing with the right density. Too much and it looks & reads "spammy", too little and search engines will deliver "more relevant"results to users. Google Trends is only 1 tool of many available to help strategize and diagnose for proper search engine optimization.
If you're looking to gain some visibility on Google and your website isn't ranking yet, there is a great way to optimize a YouTube video for Google search results.
First you have to have some decent quality video. I'll use mine as an example from a video I shot while at a car racing event. If you Google "Mustang vs BMW M3 Dinan" This is simply the target search term I used as the title of this video as I thought it might be a popular search that people who owned Mustangs or BMW M3's would do. You should see something similar to the following screenshot:
The screenshot below illustrates how you should design the Title & Description. In general Google recognizes & indexes the first 66 characters of the video title, (just like a website). The description should support the video title by containing the targeted terms of the title within the content in natural descriptive language. This helps YouTube and Google "tie the knot" on what your video is relevant for.
I hope this shows how easy it can be to get some visibility on Google by leveraging YouTube, and just for fun I've included the video below.
Experienced SEO professional and business consultant.