Blog Optimization - Computer

Blog Optimization Checklist

Optimizing content seems like a tedious task that’s not worth taking the time to understand. We get the pain points of blog production and are more than happy to edit and optimize our client’s blogs on a month to month basis, but we all know knowledge is power. Taking the time to break down and understand the most important aspects of blog content optimization can make sure you are getting the most out of your content, and don’t need to wait on an agency to take care of these optimization tasks for you. We have broken down the most important aspects of content optimization so you can get a better grasp of the items found in the checklist found at the bottom of this article.

Blog Optimization - Computer

Audience and Keyword Targeting

Understanding the audience for whom will be reading your article is important to understand the tone and approach you have for content. Are you writing for local real estate investors? You could use some real estate jargon to connect. Are you writing for people with broken sprinkler systems? Make sure you relate to the issue(s) at hand and connect with the pain points your readers may be facing. Having a grasp of your audience lets you connect and put yourself in their shoes as to what information they would like to consume. 

Once you understand your target audience, you can look for a target keyword. There are a few free search volume tools you can utilize to gather search volume for particular keywords. These include, but are not limited to, Google Trends, Answer the Public, and Google Search Console. There is a lot of data out there, so much of these data points are best guesses unless you are in the Google system itself. If you are looking for absolute data, stick to the Search Console side of the tools above.

blog optimization - googleYou may lean toward going after the keywords with the highest search volume as they will bring the most traffic, but you should take some time to build out the keyword into high relevance for the topic. An example of this would be an SEO company located here in Denver. Maybe you have found the keyword “SEO” has 18,100 searches per month and start salivating at ALL THAT TRAFFIC you’re missing out on. When we unpack that keyword the picture becomes a little more clear. Someone searching “SEO”, even geolocated to Denver, may not be searching for any type of service at all. So while your blog may be about marketing your SEO services, many of these visitors are looking for some basic information on what SEO is. When we add Denver onto the front end, in the form of “Denver SEO” we are a little closer to understanding that user’s intent. They are looking for someone in Denver who can help them with optimizing their website. Let’s drill down one more time to the keyword we would target (potentially) for this blog: Denver SEO company. This is the ultimate intent based keyword. The searcher is exploring solutions for service providers to help rank their business on Google in the Denver area. So while this keyword may only be searched 70 times per month, the conversion rate is going to blow the keyword above (with 18,100 searches per month) out of the water.

Write Naturally

This one seems counter intuitive as you are “writing to optimize”. The tactics behind content optimization have transitioned over time to a point where all the quirky little tricks people were able to use in the past are no longer relevant. Google’s algorithm has gotten much better at trying to mimic a user’s experience when interacting with a blog versus how a crawler sees the page. As this transition has taken place, there has been more and more weight placed on readability and overall user experience than ever before. While an SEO company in the early 2000s may have told you to use your target keyword 76 times in the copy and make sure there are white versions of the keyword hidden in the margins all over the pages, this will end up getting you laughed off the internet in today’s time. This is why we implore our clients to write content naturally so the flow happens without intention. If writers focus all their time on hitting optimization points, the reader is not going to engage with the article at all, and it will turn into a dusty old document on your website.

Technical Aspects of Blog Optimization

Once you have worked through writing your article naturally, there are a few technical areas to help ranking and readability within the blog. There are a few ways to break up text on the page, and no user wants to scroll through 12 paragraphs of information without a break. Implementing subheadings and images on the blog will help keep the text from feeling canned and boring. Subheadings are also an area to include your target keyword or secondary keywords you established prior. Along with implementing an image, make sure you add what is called “alternative text” or “alt text” for short to the image(s) in the database with the target keyword included. Alt text is an alt attribute added to the html used to display images which tells Google what can be found in the image. Since Google is unable to read images, the more indications you can give it, the better favor your domain will be seen in with Google. Make sure you have a relevant and optimized meta title and meta description to fit your article. Once all of this is taken care of, be sure to link to both external sites and pages within your own site that supports and defends the points you are making in the article. If the SEO company mentioned above is writing about search engine optimization, they should certainly link to that specific service page as well as any other blogs that may support the idea.

Once you have worked through the above optimization tasks, you are ready to publish! There are a few minor items that were not specifically discussed in this article, so feel free to Download the Blog Optimization Checklist (Coming Soon) to keep for your records.

  • Understand Your Audience
  • Assign ONE target keyword
  • Create a title or headline using the target keyword
  • Consider any secondary keywords you would like to use
  • Gather facts (stats, news, information)
  • Use subheadings
  • Add an image
  • Add alt text to the image with the target keyword included
  • Make sure your images are the right size (for page speed)
  • Write a meta description using the target keyword
  • Use the primary keyword in the first paragraph
  • Use the primary keyword in the article where it is natural
  • Use the secondary keywords where natural
  • Add internal links to valuable and relevant pages on your website
  • Add links to high quality and relevant third party websites
  • Make sure the outbound links open a new tab/window
  • End with a call to action
  • Implement any social sharing functionality to the various platforms
  • Perform a final edit and publish

How Link Building Helps SEO

To understand how link building helps SEO you have to look back to how SEO has changed over the past 30 years. In the beginning, there was little regulation and it was an “anything goes” mentality. Originally, search engines indexed web pages based on content only. Keyword stuffing was the most common and effective method for ranking a website. Google, asked, “can we index and retrieve sites faster than other search engines and improve the results”. Links emerged as the primary factor in determining rankings. 

Link Building Best Practices

What is PageRank

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin came out with the pagerank prototype in 1996, and served as the core of what distinguished Google from the other search engines. PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine how authoritative a website is. Although there are frequent updates to the algorithm, the core hasn’t changed much. The more links that point back to your website the more “important/authoritative” your website will look to Google. 

Google still uses a form of the PageRank algorithm today, however, they are less transparent about it. In essence, PageRank is an exponential scale of 1-10, 1 being easier to achieve and each number you progress is incrementally more difficult to achieve. The PageRank algorithm is determined by the number and quality of links point to a page, that pages value is determined by the quantity and quality of and so forth. The flow of link value from one link to another to another was once commonly referred to as “LinkJuice”. This video does a great job of a simple explanation of how PageRank works: 

Inbound Links

The most beneficial type of link to obtain is an inbound link. Each link is a vote of confidence for your website and directly affects your search engine results placement. In April of 2012, Google launched the Penguin update which was “a new effort to reward high-quality websites and diminish the search engine results page (SERP) presence of websites that engaged in manipulative link schemes and keyword stuffing.” In other words, higher quality links became much more impactful, and the spammy links used in link hubs and other manipulative tactics lost their savor.  A lot of SEO companies that participated in “Black Hat” SEO saw a large diminishing of returns on their investment once the update was introduced. We have found the most impactful types of inbound links can be broken down into two different categories: 

  1. High-Quality Niche Directories – Posting your business into directories related to your industry.
  2. Guest Posts – Content posted on another website that links back to your website.

To further understand the rule of thumb for getting links, think about this: If you were a General Contractor, would it make more sense for you to get a link from Better Homes and Gardens, or a random blogger in a different country? Not only will Better Homes and Gardens be a more authoritative link, but there would be no question about its relevance to your business.

Internal Linking

In the majority of websites, the homepage will receive the most inbound links. This usually means the homepage has the highest PageRank or the highest authority.  The further another page gets from the homepage on your site, the more its PageRank will decrease. This causes pages that are far from the home page to be more difficult to rank well. Since in most cases not all pages will get inbound links, your internal linking should do two services for your website. 

First, they need to help your visitors/users navigate your site with ease from page to page. For instance, if someone is on your “services” page, there should be a link to your “contact us” page or a separate page that goes more into depth about any given service. We aim to make every core page accessible within 3 clicks, regardless of your starting point.  Secondly, your links should help search engines crawl your entire site with the fewest amount of jumps between pages as possible. This will help pass on your PageRank. By interlinking the pages on your site well, you will create an easy to navigate structure for your clients and the search engines.

In conclusion, when executed with the overall strategy in mind, link building is extremely important to your SEO goals. So, if you’re looking to help your online visibility, start with links.

Technical SEO

How Important is Technical SEO?

Technical SEO is one of the areas of Search Engine Optimization that can seem like smoke and mirrors to a client who is unfamiliar with these strategies. The first step in our proposal process is to audit and explore technical errors found on a website. These items are indicators to Google and other crawlers that your website is clean and efficient. Many items such as dead pages, broken links, and improper header structure can have negative impacts on rankings if not addressed properly. Here is a deeper breakdown of some of the technical aspects that can have a drastic impact on search engine rankings.

Redirecting Old or Dead Pages

Old and dead pages on your site are often unmonitored areas for technical errors to fall through the cracks. Maybe in the past, you offered a service you have since removed. If you don’t have the proper redirect in place users and robots will hit the wrong page, forcing Google to not index the proper page or leave the page out altogether. On the same hand, if you have links being sent to a page you have since removed, you will not gain the value from that link unless you create a redirect to make sure the value is passed properly. Cleaning up items like this can seem trivial, especially since there isn’t much direct impact on your users. Removing that triviality, we have seen excellent results for clients in redirecting pages to proper live pages within their domains.

Technical SEO

External and Internal Linking

Links are similar to the roads you utilize to move around your city. They connect each domain with the internal pages within the site as well as external domains separate from the client’s site. Each link can be loosely described as a vote for a certain domain. The more links from other websites pointing to your site, the better you will look in the eyes of Google from a basic perspective. In a more granular perspective, it is important for those links to go to the right place. As with the example above for old or dead pages, the same follows for links. There is not much control we have on the way other sites link to our client’s sites, but one thing we can control is where those links (and the value they possess) end up. Our tools are able to explore the incoming links and make sure they are being directed to the proper pages. This becomes a heavily impactful tactic once your domain has run through a few redesigns or structure changes. Left unchecked, you can leave a lot of SEO value on the table if these errors are not cleaned up.

HTML Structure

Semantic HTML structure is a technical aspect of web design that often goes unattended. Novice developers implement changes to header structure related to the look and feel rather than the hierarchy HTML structure should follow. The top header on your page should be an H1 tag (and be the only H1 found on the page). This is like the introductory copy found at the beginning of a paper. It should clearly describe what can be found on the page, establish the importance, and do so in a clean and elegant manner. After implementing your H1 tags, the rest of the headers should cascade down in order of importance. Here is an idea of optimal header structure for a landscaping company in Denver:

  • H1 – Denver Landscaping
  • H2 – Landscaping Services
  • H3 – Weekly Mowing Packages
  • H3 – Retaining Walls
  • H3 – Water Features
  • H2 – Other Services

As you can see, the most important aspect is the “Denver Landscaping” header, and then the overall services, with a further breakdown of individual services beneath. Then the last header is similar in value to the Landscaping Services header. Look at HTML markup like making sure your address at your home is displayed in all the typical places so your postman knows where to look to confirm your address. A postman should not have to look in a different place for each house he attempts to deliver a package. Having the address on your mailbox, the front of your house, and potentially your driveway, are all indicators to make sure your mail is delivered to the right place. This is the same way Google works. We want to make sure the right page comes up in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) when a certain keyword is searched. Optimizing the HTML structure ensures this is set up properly.

As you can see, technical aspects can have a massive impact on SEO results. Each of these items may individually seem like small beans compared to overall copy and site design, but piled together, these items can help SEO efforts considerably.

What are the Differences in Pricing for SEO?

The decision to invest in SEO can be monumental for your company and its success. You’ve researched a variety of companies, and have finally narrowed it down to the company you think will be the best fit for your SEO campaign. In their proposal, though, there are a range of options for you to choose from. The question quickly becomes, “What is the difference between the various price points for SEO?”

At Firestarter SEO, we get this question all the time. As we educate our clients on their different options, most of the time we can confidently say that they will see quality results within a good range of pricing options, but the main factors they need to consider are: their budget, their level of patience, and how aggressive they want to be. From a more tangible and specific standpoint, though, what are the real differences in a low-cost versus higher-cost package?

Time for Success

One of the biggest differences in a low-cost option versus a higher-end package is the time it will take to get results. For example, the difference between a $1000/month option versus a $2000/month option could be between 3-6 months, depending on a number of factors. Companies that are limited in their budget generally will need to wait longer for impactful results.

Quality & Quantity of Content

A staple of an SEO campaign is content creation. This can come in a variety of forms, such as blogs, white papers, infographics, and more. High-end content production – such as a comprehensive guide – is reserved for higher-budget campaigns. These digital assets are extremely rich in content, and can be used as a sales tool, informational piece, or distributed on social media platforms for higher visibility. Low-budget campaigns focus on more simple content pieces, like basic blogs. Over time, these blogs will create a network of content designed to boost main pages up in the rankings. For Firestarter’s clients, smaller budgets will provide blogs, and as budgets continue to increase the quantity of content produced each month follows suit. For premium campaigns, we begin introducing the digital assets mentioned above.

Quality and Quantity of Links

The single most crucial difference in deliverables for different budgets comes down to link building. The lowest-cost options we provide strip away everything else and simply focus on links. There is a wide variety of link types, but these lower options focus on the most basic links: local listings, directories, and guest posts. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the budget to chase after high-end links. These are inevitably more expensive and time-consuming. Think of it this way: how much does it cost Forbes to pay their writers as compared to a small, local site? Links work the same way – premium, impactful sites simply cost more (in time and money) to acquire links from than small, local websites.

For Firestarter, higher budget campaigns afford us the flexibility of acquiring high quality links, and more of them.

Ongoing vs. 1-time Optimization

At the beginning of any campaign, a website usually requires a minor overhaul and optimization. This ranges from improving the page speed to fixing titles and even revamping content on each page. One difference in the pricing options is how often this optimization is done. Since low-cost options have limited resources, the site optimization is done once upon the start of the campaign. This is geared towards shoring up the foundation for the campaign and making sure each page on the site has a set target keyword and has been optimized for it.

For premium packages, optimization is constantly monitored and adjusted, and issues are resolved as soon as they come up. Regular site crawls keep us informed of any error that can pop up on a site, and we can immediately address them.

Development Hours

An important element to SEO is ensuring websites are large, up to date, and fast. This means that ongoing development can play a role in your campaign’s performance. Higher budget campaigns include ongoing development built into the budget. These hours can go towards building new pages on your website, improving the layout and design, and much more. In the long run, this can provide solid savings for your company. Since low-cost options strip away everything but the core services needed to succeed, development hours are usually not included.

SEO services can range from $250/month up to $5,000/month and beyond, so it’s important to understand the differences in what you receive for those prices. The core differences fall into the time it takes to see results, quantity and quality of links, and the quantity and quality of content produced. Other factors are the ongoing optimization and number of development hours. Regardless of the variations, each option is designed to maximize results for our clients.

How Can I Target Multiple Cities With the Same Website?

Local SEO

Part of building the best, most useful website is making sure it reaches your entire customer base. SEO is a wonderful tool to help you do that, particularly local SEO keywords that target your customer base. If yours is a small business operating within a region that spans multiple cities, it may have occurred to you that potential customers are conducting web searches for services in their city specifically. Thus, including a city name in an SEO keyword is often a good idea.

But this raises an issue. You don’t want to alienate members of one city by focusing on another. You want all your site’s content to reach everyone. How can you optimize your site for the multiple cities within your region?

Create Individual Location Pages

When you claim a location with Google My Business, it’s essential to create a landing page for that location to link back to. You should also make sure the location landing page links to the Google My Business location page. Ensure that your landing pages are exceptional by including tags in various places throughout – this will increase their visibility to search engines.

These pages should not be carbon copies of each other, with nothing but the name of the city changed. Google catches on to that, and it might even end up harming your SEO. Instead, try to come up with ways to differentiate the pages that specifically focus on the city in question. There are a number of ways to do that:

  • Cultural touchstones. Reference something everyone in town knows about, like a local sports team or a popular museum. It doesn’t need to be relevant to the product you’re selling. It’s just a good way of letting the city’s residents know that you really did create this page with them in mind; that it’s not just a copy/paste job.
  • City history. Go back to the founding of the town. Even a casual reference to this can let page readers know you really are writing for them.
  • Common problems. What issues do residents of the city face? Is it cold there? Is it hard to grow plants? Is there something your company can do to help?
  • Find the way you relate. No matter what else there is to say about the town, there’s a reason your business serves them so successfully. Even if that reason isn’t unique to them, you can build on it and use it to explore things that are. For example, Firestarter SEO helps companies build a successful online presence. We might choose to use a city landing page to congratulate residents on the number of successful small businesses in their town before moving on to what we can offer.

Linking to Your Landing Pages

Your landing pages should not stand alone. Integrating them with the rest of your website is absolutely crucial. You can do this by mutually linking your page with other local and relevant sites, which will generate more traffic for both your site and theirs, and by ensuring that your site contains internal links that take visitors to the landing pages.

Your landing pages should also be developed with informative and concise anchor text. Anchor texts lets both search engines and users with an overview of what to expect from the page. Therefore, it’s important to include the target keyword you want to rank and the location you’re trying to target in the anchor text.

Additional Tips for Local SEO Targeting

If your business does not have a brick and mortar location, it’s worth considering registering an address in a city or town you wish to rank for so that Google and other search engines will spot your business name in association with that location. This might be a good strategy if you live adjacent to a large city. However, use caution. If you register multiple addresses, Google could decide you’re misrepresenting your business and penalize your SEO.

Another handy little trick is geotargeting every piece of content you post. When you upload a photo to your homepage, tag it with the name of the city as well as a description of what it shows. When you geotag each piece of content, your city name is suddenly layered much more densely throughout your website.

Targeting multiple cities on your website is an important and delicate part of your SEO strategy. If you’re giving local SEO a try and want the benefit of years of experience at your back, contact Firestarter SEO today.

Hitting The Links: How Link Building Transformed a Golf Client

Firestarter SEO provides monthly services to a company offering premier golf instruction to people throughout the United States.  With a focus on individual training versus group instruction, their mission is to provide personalized, first-rate training from professionals who boast over 350 years of collective golf experience.

The Starting Point

In October 2014, the client reached out to Firestarter SEO to see how they could improve their online visibility.  They had a big vision for the growing company, but didn’t know how to bridge the gap to reach that vision. At the time, our client’s rankings looked like this:

  • Rank #1-3: 4 Keywords
  • Rank #4-10: 34 Keywords
  • Page 2: 21 Keywords
  • Pages 3-5: 22 Keywords
  • Not in top 5 pages: 13 Keywords

They were getting just over 800 visits per month to the site from organic traffic.

The Strategy

In the beginning of the campaign, a relatively standard strategy was pursued.  This involved a combination of on-site optimization (implementing target keywords in titles, descriptions, alt tags, etc.), technical seo (resolving crawl errors), and off-site optimization. Within the first month of service, rankings began climbing – evidencing the power of simply getting the basics right.

Further into the campaign, most technical issues and on-site optimization had been resolved.  At this point, they had seen steady growth, though they were beginning to plateau in both their rankings and their traffic.  (See Charts below)

After reviewing the data, a determination was made to pivot the strategy going forward.  The strategy would revolve almost entirely around link building.

It is crucial to understand the parameters used for targeting quality & organic links, as they played a large role in the success of the campaign.

    • Relevance – First and foremost in determining which links to pursue was relevance.  In many cases, quality opportunities presented themselves with more generic sites, but they were overturned by sites relevant to the golf world.  
    • Type – Acquiring a wide variety of link types was also important, as it introduced a diverse portfolio of links for Bird Golf.  Some of the link types are below:
      • Press Releases – A press release served as a valuable tool for times when the client would introduce its services at a new premium golf course, or in a new state.
      • Guest Posts – Many opportunities presented themselves for guest posting.  With simple manual outreach, multiple guest posts were acquired as a result.
      • Sponsorships & Events – With a wide array of golf-related events, and an almost countless number of golf-related businesses, sponsorships were easy to come by.  These were great ways to improve awareness while still capturing the link value.
    • Authority – An ideal link would involve a highly relevant site to the golf world, which was also very authoritative in terms of Domain Authority.  Of particular note was in most cases, relevance trumped domain authority in the targeting of a link.
    • The Eye Test – The final factor in the evaluation of link opportunities was the eye test.  We would simply ask ourselves “Would our client be proud of a link to this site?”  Boiling it down further, if a site looked and felt valid, legitimate, and at least somewhat quality, we would consider it worthy. 

With all these parameters in place, outreach efforts began and the link building strategy was underway.


Upon implementation, results came slowly.  This was a test of the principle that SEO is truly a process of accumulation.  Sure enough, a few months into the process, rankings began to climb further. As we remained consistent with our efforts, the client’s rankings continued to soar.  In November of 2016 – 2 years after beginning the campaign – they ranked on the first page for 94 different keywords, nearly tripling their 1st page rankings from the start of the campaign.

It got better.  Over the next one and a half years, links remained a constant in their campaign.  The result was more of the same. Traffic improved, with organic traffic increasing by over 40% compared to the previous year.  The rankings continued shooting up. Final Rankings at the time of writing were as follows:

  • Rank #1-3: 82 Keywords – Increase of 78 from the start
  • Rank #4-10: 41 Keywords – Increase of 7 from the start
  • Page 2: 19 Keywords – Decrease of 2 from the start
  • Pages 3-5: 7 Keywords – Decrease of 15 from the start
  • Not in top 5 pages: 6 Keywords – Decrease of 7 from the start

The evidence was resounding – 123 rankings on the first page, more than 3 times as many compared to the start of the campaign.  While rankings continue to grow, link building remains the core of the campaign, as it has served as the unquestionable catalyst to our client’s success.

Link Building: Quality vs. Quantity - (UPDATED)

High Quality DirectoriesThere are countless SEO companies out there are vying for your business. Many of them offer a variety of monthly packages designed to make you feel as though you’re getting something of value. If I told you I could get you 200 links to your website for just $199 per month, you’re probably thinking that’s a great deal. It is, for the SEO company…at least until they go under for such shady business practices.

Years ago, Google learned how easy it was for people to game the system, getting links in sheer volume to rise above the rest in the results. That’s why investing in any bulk link package seemed like a good idea, and that’s why many less reputable SEO companies could get away with it.

For at least the past five years, Google and other search engines have shifted the focus away from volume to quality. They’d rather your website have 5 links from quality, reputable websites than hundreds of links from random, poor quality websites.

If you see an SEO company advertising X amount of links for $X, guaranteed, you can safely bet they’re using at least some gray hat techniques. There are some directory and bookmark links that can bring a lot of value to your website. However, for $200/month, you are probably not getting these as part of your package. Some of the top directories, such as the Yahoo! and Best of the Web cost between $69.95 to $299 per year. And since that eats up a large portion of your monthly budget, you’re not getting listed in those directories.

What are You Getting?

If you opt to participate in a scenario like this, you’re paying for one of two things. Either you’re paying for an “SEO company” to use submission software to automatically submit your site to hundreds of directories with little to no manual work required. Or, you’re paying for the company to outsource the work to other countries where they can pay pennies on the dollar to get the work done manually.

Why Is This Kind of Link Building Bad for Your Site?

Your site is most likely being submitted to directories that have little to no relevance to your site or have very low quality. This happens because no one is assigned to facilitate the submissions when software is doing it, and if people are doing it, quality is the last thing they are worried about, they just need to meet their quota. In fact, several of these directories could be some part of the 500+ penalized by Google or even worse, part of the 90+ banned by Google (see the full list here). I can tell you right now, link juice from a penalized site is never a good thing.

What Do You Do?

Instead of wasting your money on low quality mass submission links, think about increasing your digital marketing budget and investing in high-quality work. Your return on investment will be much more rewarding, and you will receive high-quality links that will not get you penalized or banned by search engines. For example, with a larger budget, you can receive high-quality links built through legitimate processes such as:

  • Writing quality content on your website that people find interesting and useful and link to on their own sites as references
  • Guest posting on blogs and websites related to your products or services
  • Manually submitting to high-quality directory links from relevant websites
  • Infographics – these are hot with audiences because they are easy to share. There are also a number of directories you can include your infographics in to make it easier for people to find and share them on their own websites.
  • Commenting on articles and posts you enjoy and have insights on
  • Manually submitting to high quality social bookmarking sitesSEO Link Building Tatics

Search Engine Journal offers an updated list of quality web directories to help you get started. Local businesses can also benefit from using other directories, such as Google My Business, Yahoo Local, and Yelp to help build a solid backlink profile.

What if I see Bad Links in My Backlink Profile?

An important part of SEO today is making sure your link profile looks good. Though not common, it’s possible for others to launch negative SEO attacks against you, by building a bunch of spammy backlinks to your website. This can also happen as a result of a hack.

If you see bad backlinks in your profile, don’t panic. You can, and should, take action as soon as possible – especially if you’ve seen a decline in your traffic and think you’ve been penalized.

Start by asking the webmasters at these web addresses to remove the link to your website, if you can find a method of contacting them. Do so politely, and make sure they know you don’t think it’s their fault. Do what you can to show them where the link is on their site, and don’t spam them with an insane number of emails.

Some of them may surprise you and honor your request. But, if there are some whom you never hear from, and there likely will be, don’t give up hope. You can use the Google Disavow Tool (inside the Google Search Console) to tell Google there are links to your website you want them to ignore when they crawl and index your website.

How Can I Find Quality Link Building Opportunities?

This is one of the main things that we help with as part of our SEO strategy for your business. Our experts take a look at your existing link profile, and the link profiles of your main competitors. One of the ways you can outrank them in the search engines is to have more quality links than they do. So yes, quantity matters, but not nearly as much as quality. Our analysis will determine where your competition’s links are coming from so that we can go out and try to earn links from those same places – plus other ones like it – that your competition hasn’t found yet. And we won’t just reach out and ask for a link. We make sure you’ve got a killer piece of content to link to that their audience will enjoy, so they get something of value in return. We handle this for you, so you can focus on other areas of your business – like nurturing your leads and converting them into paying customers.

Save yourself time, money and a huge headache by thinking twice before buying cheap SEO services. Don’t be fooled by all those SEO companies claiming to rank you #1 on Google with directory and social bookmarking links for only $199 per month. It truly can’t be done. We’d love to hear what you have to say about this idea of quality vs. quantity in link building. Leave a comment below or contact us privately.

Guest Posting Guidelines

When writing guest posts, there are many factors that attribute to whether it succeeds or fails. Below we have outlined some of the “must haves” in today’s SEO world. Following these guidelines will help each guest post written and published become more beneficial to the SEO being implemented and the likelihood of the post being shared.

Link to Authority Sites

Link out to relevant pages on authority sites once per post in addition to our own link. Linking to authority websites within the client’s industry gives the article more legitimacy. For example, if I were writing a post for a search engine optimization company, I could cite and link to Search Engine Journal.  They are a highly respected source in the SEO/PPC world, have authority with Google and are relevant to my company’s industry. I would of course also link to the client’s site. So in this example there would be a minimum of two links: one to the client’s website and one to the authority site.

Implement Citations

Use citations to make your links look more natural: citations are simply the text that surrounds your link. If search engines such as Google see a particular keyword appear next to your link time after time, it tells them that your site must be about that keyword. For example: I am going to link to Firestarter SEO.

Instead of doing something like this: “For more information on Denver SEO, go to Firestarter’s website.”

Instead I’d do something like this: “For more information on Denver SEO, head on over to”

Since the words “Denver SEO” appear next to the link, it shows search engines that your link must be related to Denver SEO. Overall, make sure you take advantage of citations when inserting links. Use generic, branded, or the URL as anchor text instead of the target keyword and instead complement the generic link with keyword-rich surrounding citations.

Include multiple subheadings

Breaking up content with subheadings is both visually appealing and easier to read. When a visitor lands on a page, they scan it quickly to find out whether it’s relevant to them and if it’s what they are looking for. The first thing they will read is the subheadings. Subheadings also have more weight in the eyes of search engines since they usually end up being h2, h2, or h3 tags instead of regular body copy. With that being said, be sure the main points are included in these subheadings.

Bullet Points & Lists

Like subheadings, bullet points and lists:

  • Make the content easy to skim
  • Are more visually appealing than long blocks of text
  • Are great for “to-dos” or “how-tos”

Engage the Readers

Encourage people to leave comments on your posts. Engaging the reader and encouraging them to do something such as comment, makes the post feel more personal.

Add multimedia

BORING Rubber StampAdding multimedia like images and videos break up the content and make it less intimating and BORING! It also gives the visitor a break from reading and allows them to either listen or look instead.

Post Long & Unique Content

Post long (600+ word) content 100% of the time, no excuses. In fact, the longer the better! However, 600 words is the minimum. Content also needs to be 100% unique, not spun or plagiarized. If you are quoting someone, then of course there is going to be “duplicate content” found. However, if that’s the case, just be sure to cite the person or source in the article. An awesome and free plagiarism tool to check your articles can be found here.

Implementing these seven simple but powerful tips and tricks will transform your guest posts. Oh and one more thing…ENJOY WRITING THEM AND HAVE FUN!!! Articles don’t need to be boring. I mean who wants to read a boring lame article, right?!

We are always open to ideas and feedback, so if you have any regarding guest posting, please feel free to drop us a line!

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What to Look for When Seeking Guest Post Opportunities

Guest posts are an excellent way to spread your knowledge and gain brand recognition and awareness. For the majority of our clients at Firestarter SEO, we produce and publish at least two high quality guest posts a month. However, not all guest posting opportunities are created equal and it takes time, resources and research to find great guest posting gigs. Today, I am here to share with you the process I follow each time I’m on the hunt for a new guest posting opportunity.


First and foremost, I research blogs and websites that are in the same niche as my client. For example, we work with several companies in the home improvement/construction industry, so I spend a lot of time contacting individuals and companies who own interior design websites, home improvement blogs and DIY blogs. This is not necessarily easy or enjoyable, but it must be done. And don’t be discouraged if a website you contact never contacts you back. It happens more often than not, but you’ll never know until you try! I don’t waste my time contacting non-relevant websites, because just like we talked about back in January in this blog post, co-citation may be the future of SEO. Google is becoming smarter each day and they are beginning to notice whether your article and the site it is published on is relevant to one another. If they are, Google will award you. If not, Google might deem the entire article as garbage, diminish the link juice, and perhaps even punish you. How do you feel about them apples? That’s what I thought, not good. So overall, stick to the client’s niche.


As my Dad always says, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can help.” Having a large monthly link-building budget is of course helpful in SEO since like any other business, there are costs incurred. When it comes to guest posts, money is allocated to mainly copywriting, managing the project and compensating the blog owner if necessary. However, a large link-building budget is not feasible for all companies, especially for smaller local companies like the ones we often help here in Denver. In this case, the next step I take is weeding through all of my media kits and emails and crossing off the ones that are out of my client’s budget. For example, I once contacted Apartment Therapy, a well known interior decorating website with a PR 7 and over 100,000 unique viewers per day. Talk about awesome, right?! Well, if you have a $10,000 link-building budget then YEAH! Let’s just say that media kit doesn’t get opened too often around here. So obviously budget is a large driving factor and an important element to consider.

Page Statistics

After I have a list of niche blogs within my client’s budget, I take all of them and run them through three SEO tools to acquire specific statistics. First, I record the page rank. I use three separate page rank tools, all stored on my browser toolbar for easy access, to make sure they all agree. If you simply do an internet search for “page rank plugin” you will find plenty of options to install for your particular browser. Second, I run them through MOZ’ Open Site Explorer. This tool is available to the public for free and gives you the URL’s domain authority, page authority, linking root domains, and total links. For each of these metrics, the higher the better.
Finally, I acquire the Alexa traffic rank and any regional data available, from In this case, the lower the better for the traffic rank score.
As I gather this data, I keep track of it in a spreadsheet. That way I don’t have to repeat the process each time I’m considering that site, saving myself time and sanity. In general it’s wise to have a diverse link portfolio, so every link you acquire doesn’t have to be a PR 5+ with an 80+ page authority and domain authority. Sometimes it’s okay to post on a PR 0 or PR 1, site. However, if this is the case, make sure the site has other things going for it like traffic and esthetics.


Posting content to any old website for a backlink in return, is not enough these days. The site you guest post on should be one that people actually read on a daily basis, comment on and share with their friends. Take a quick tour of the site to see what it’s social status appears to be. Use these questions as a guide:

  • If they use Google Friend Connect, how people are following them?
  • What’s the average amount of comments per post?
  • How many times have their posts been tweeted, liked, 1+, and pinned?
  • Do they have sponsors? Are any of them well known?
  • Check out their Facebook and Twitter accounts. How many followers and/or likes do they have?

If you have an account with MOZ, you can also check the total number of Facebook shares, Tweet, and Google 1+’s using their Open Site Explorer tool again. However, this if not offered for free to the general public, you must have an account with them. If the website or blog has legitimate traffic and followers, mark it as a keeper! If the social interaction is slim to none, put it on the back burner.


This portion is somewhat personal because everyone has different tastes and preferences. However, from a general point of view ask yourself, “Does this look like a professional built website?” I usually find that sites with several pages, a decent amount of well written content, images, and no links jammed into the footer or sidebar are decent. Beyond that, I look at the overall look and feel of it. Does it look clean, well-kept (no broken images), and updated on a regular basis? For example, this site once contacted me offering guest posting opportunities at a low price. The minute I saw the URL, it was questionable. The minute I opened the URL, it was out. Why?

  • It has no pages/navigation
  • The images are broken
  • The left sidebar is stuffed with links
  • The URL is: Need I say more?
  • The overall look and feel is outdated and ugly

Bad, right? Yeah, I know. Steer clear of sites like these. They are not worth your time, content, links or money.

Once you’ve completed those five steps, you’ve most likely narrowed your list down to the best of the best guest posting opportunities available. Remember to keep track of all your data in a spreadsheet to help you next month when you are again on the hunt. Does anyone else have suggestions or tactics they use when seeking guest posting opportunities? If so, let us know! We’d love to add them to our list.

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Good News About Penguin 2.0

Penguin 2.0 Released

Google released the long awaited Penguin update yesterday, May 22nd. The buzz about Google making a penguin update has been circling the SEO community for months since Matt Cutts, head of webspam at Google, hinted at it during SMX West search panel back in March.

The Penguin update is targeted at link spam. Link spam is essentially links that break Google’s webmaster guidelines. Common forms of link spam include renting links, comment spam, link exchanges, and site wide links. The initial Penguin release, Penguin 1.0, was built to target over optimized anchor text. The newest release, Penguin 2.0 as Google calls it, will likely be more of the same. According to Search Engine Land, it appears the biggest 2.0 losers are porn sites, game sites and a few big brands.

Good News

After the launch of Penguin 2.0, I went straight to my computer and started checking all of our client’s websites and rankings. No one had any significant drops in search rankings. In fact, many clients received bumps in search rankings.

At Firestarter, we continue to achieve solid rankings and results because of the methods we use to create links. Our primary tool for link building is guest posts. Guest posts give your website credit as an authority and expert on a particular subject and have great value in the SEO world. We also make sure each of our clients have a wide spectrum of link types and ranges, keeping their link profile natural in the eyes of individuals and search engines.