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.


The SEO Buying Guide: What You Need to Know

You know your website needs SEO. Your competitors, friends and telemarketers tell you about its importance. So, you head to Google and type in SEO Denver Colorado.

It brings up far more results than you expected. And each seem to have its own pricing and services structure. Now you’re even more confused than when you started.

It’s okay. Trust me, you’re not the only one that feels this way.

That’s why I’m creating this guide.

I believe that you should feel informed when making your buying decision. We try to explain things pretty well throughout the site. And this is just one more branch of that educational tree. And, as always, feel free to reach out directly if you have any questions.

Let’s learn about these SEO services and what they mean for your company.

Keyword Research

Keyword research serves as the foundation of a solid SEO strategy. It requires tons of research, deep insight into your company’s goals, and an intuitive understanding of the customer’s experience.

You’ll find Google’s Keyword Planner at the core of the keyword research. But there’s several paid tools that give an even deeper analysis. SEO companies often pay a monthly fee to access these professional tools.

As a small business owner, it’s not feasible for you to pay for these tools. And that’s one reason why you hire people like us.

Monthly Strategy Meetings

Unfortunately, there’s plenty of “SEO professionals” that don’t act like professional at all. They try to scam unassuming business owners. And it’s a shame.

A good SEO company will put you first. That’s certainly what we’re trying to do here at FirestarterSEO. It’s why we write guides like these.

We also show our appreciation through monthly strategy meetings. A monthly service should show monthly progress. And we want you to hold us accountable for that.

In these meetings, we discuss current positions and your overall account. If we have time, we’ll also go into creative brainstorming for ways to improve your rankings and website in the months to come.

Content

Haven’t you heard? Content is king.

Google loves content, because it shows a freshly updated site (an important factor in their ranking algorithm). We give you fresh content in a couple of ways:

  • Rewriting portions of your website pages
  • Creating industry related blog posts
  • Developing keyword-focused landing pages

When it comes to content, you can’t do too much. The bigger your investment, the better.

Content Optimization

It’s not just enough to create content, though. You’ve got to make sure that the high-quality content gets optimized.

A good SEO company will make sure that happens. So, as you compare different services, don’t forget to ask about content development and optimization.

Optimized content on web pages, blog posts and landing pages include:

  • Carefully crafted title tags
  • Keyword-rich meta descriptions
  • Strategic H1, H2 and H3 headings
  • Optimized alt text on image
  • URLs featuring keywords
  • Keywords included 3-5 times in the body

Each piece of content requires this level of optimization. It gets tedious, I’m not gonna lie. But we’re happy to do it for you, because of the impact it makes on your rankings.

Additional On-Site SEO

The SEO doesn’t stop at that. There’s even more that you’ve got to consider. Things like:

  • Internal links to help search engines and humans navigate your site.
  • 301 redirects for any and all URL adjustments.
  • Submitting a sitemap so Google can crawl your site.

In the midst of everything else, it’s easy to neglect these aspects. But a good SEO company won’t. When you’re looking around, keep an eye out for these additional services.

Off-Site SEO: Link Building

You also need to invest in off-site SEO. These things strengthen the foundation you’ve built on your website. It includes doing things like:

  • Anchor-text research
  • Posting content to social media
  • Getting listed in directories
  • Creating press releases
  • Content marketing

Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on link-building. It’s the secret key that helps your rankings soar. Don’t settle for a company that doesn’t provide these services too.

Reporting

And finally, reporting.

An ethical company will want you to hold them accountable for their results. And because of that, they’ll provide you with ample reports to do analysis. Make sure that you SEO company offers reports about:

  • Keyword Ranking
  • Link Analysis
  • Traffic Analysis
  • Crawl Diagnosis

If they don’t, they’re not the company you want.

If you’re tired of feeling overwhelmed when you search Google for things like SEO Denver Colorado, then stop the search. Contact us today to get started with a monthly SEO package.

 


Social Media and SEO: Content Distribution

Often I am asked questions like “Does posting on my Facebook page build me links?” Or “Does social media help with SEO?”. These are great questions and the general answer is, yes. However, it is important to understand which social media platforms help the most and how each one assists with search engine optimization. Each social media platform has it’s own benefits and treats content differently. Here are some of the most utilized social media services and a breakdown of their SEO value.

Facebook

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 4.25.33 AMFacebook is an interesting breed. Does Facebook have a direct impact on SEO? The answer would be, maybe. Part of Facebook is currently blocked from Google’s crawlers, which means a lot of the content on Facebook is not read or indexed by search engines. So it can’t be stored in Google’s virtual filing cabinet. If users have adjusted their privacy setting within their account, Google is completely banned from crawling their personal profiles and information. However, according to Search Engine Journal other Facebook posts seem to be finding their way into the Google index including limited view profiles, Fan Pages and their associated comments and posts, and comments left on third party websites using a Facebook widget or plugin. Also, when an article on your blog is liked or shared on Facebook using a social media add-on, it is highly likely that Google can read this, sending out a social signal. And as it’s been said, higher shares and likes correlate with higher rankings.

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Twitter

Twitter’s links are tagged with a no-follow, meaning they do not pass any link value. The key with Twitter is having the right people follow you. If an influential person is following you and retweets your content, the likelihood of getting links built to the content within is high. Often when an article we write is tweeted and retweeted by highly influential people, other writers will write blog posts in response to ours and cite our original post as a reference. Overall, the relationships built through Twitter are much more powerful than Twitter itself.
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Google+

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 4.39.21 AMSharing content on your Google+ page has the largest direct impact on search engine rankings. There are some obvious reasons for this. First, Google is a little biased (aren’t we all) and they are pushing users to utilize this platform. However, there are other reasons Google+ can be valuable from an SEO perspective. Posting on G+ allows your content to be indexed immediately. This was one of the promises given with the Google Buzz product, which has essentially been gobbled up and incorporated into Google+. And as we all know by know, getting your content indexed is key.

Pinterest

Pinterest has the potential to spread content like wildfire. When we pinned a image incorporated into a guest post for one of our clients, it was repinned over 40 times in 30 minutes. Again, like many other social media platforms, Pinterest’s links are nofollow. So the value of the link comes from its ability to be cited in someone elses blog or website, not in the link from Pinterest.com itself.
Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 4.44.28 AM

LinkedIn

I love LinkedIn. I believe LinkedIn is a golden nugget for business’. I don’t care if Google does or does not crawl it, every business should utilize it. With that said, it is reported that Google loves to crawl LinkedIn Profiles, which makes it a double whammy! Having a LinkedIn profile for your business is a big win. It adds legitimacy to your website and company, it creates another method of entry for your site, and it gives you a link. In fact, I have seen ranking changes simply because a LinkedIn profile was created and linked to the business’ website. The link itself is again a no-follow. However, this may be a good example of co-occurrence, where a legit authoritative site is citing a company or person so Google gives it weight.
Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 4.45.51 AM

In the end, social media is best used as a tool to distribute content, not build direct links from. In SEO, two things are certain. One, Google loves great content and two, Google likes links. Turns out these two things go hand in hand! Distributing award winning content provides opportunities for earning links. And the more a webpage is shared, liked, tweeted, pinned etc. the more visibility is has, which means the chances of people reading it and building natural, relevant authoritative links to it increases ten fold. I find it no coincidence that shares and links have the highest correlation to website rankings, and neither should you!


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.

Niche

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.

Budget

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 Alexa.com. 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.

Traffic

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.

Esthetics

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: www.poruntrabajodigno.com. 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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Relevancy: The Core of SEO

Relevancy is at the core of SEO. It has been at the center of SEO for a long time and will continue to evolve as search engines become smarter. In the early days of SEO, all a person had to do to rank a website was repeat the target keyword or phrase an excessive amount of times within a page. AKA: “keyword stuffing”.  Webmasters would abuse meta tags, titles and other on-site elements to the extent that, today, Google and other search engines attach little to no significance to certain HTML elements.

There is no doubt that relevancy will always remain an integral part of SEO. If relevancy was removed as a factor to ranking a website, search engines would cease to exist. However, the rules and use of relevancy has changed from the keyword stuffing days. Two types of relevancy are particularly important when trying to rank your website: content relevancy and link relevancy.

Content Relevancy

Creating relevant content  can be daunting task, but in all actuality, it’s pretty basic. Simply write content around a pre-selected topic. Use your target keywords in the appropriate places and an appropriate amount of times and the page has an opportunity to rank. The question then arises: Where are the appropriate places? And how many times is enough?

      • Title tags are first and foremost. The title tag tells search engines and users what the page is all about. It often appears in the search engine results page (SERP), creating a connection between the search performed and the search results displayed. We recently wrote about the anatomy of a perfectly optimized title tag, which goes into more depth about titles, how to write them, where to place the keywords, etc. You can read that post here.
      • Next, heading elements. H1, H2, H3, and so on. In my experience, try to use the exact match phrase in at least one H1 or H2 tag, but not both and definitely not all heading elements (do that and your site begins to look spammy). Instead, use other related terms or longtail keywords where additional headings call for it. Of course there are exceptions to this rule like page length and necessity, but those are the general guidelines.

      • Finally, the body of the document. As a general rule, use the target keyword(s) 3-4 times within the text. Proximity and close occurrences of the keywords are important factors to look at when creating content. Using keywords too close together or too many times can have an adverse effect, as Google and other search engines can see right through it. Rather, try spreading out the keywords and phrases, and using synonyms instead of the exact match. The frequency of the keyword may depend on the length of the page.

Most importantly, write for the user first. Then go back and insert keywords if necessary in places where it sounds natural. Don’t force anything, and honestly, you may find that writing for the user the first time was sufficient and no keywords need to be inserted.

Using these quick rules will have you on your way to creating user and search engine relevant content.

Link Relevancy

Prior to Penguin, exact match anchor text allowed a website to rank rather easily. All that was needed was exact match anchor text with high frequency. Many link profiles that ranked well had 75% or more exact match anchor text. Link building tactics such as link wheels and blog networks were super effective because they made it easy to create hubs and lots of links with exact match anchor text. However, times have changed and so have link building tactics. Because link building strategies gave changed, here are some essential questions to ask yourself, along with guidelines to answer those questions, that will help you get the most out of your link building efforts.

Finding Relevant Links Post-Penguin

What is the site about? And What can authors write on?

The answer to this question should be “its about my topic, keywords and/or industry.” If I am writing about speakers, I probably don’t want a link from a food restaurant site.

Are the keywords I want to rank for used on the site?

If the website does not contain your keyword it may be ok, but it should be related in one way or another. Take a hard look at the content on the site. David McBee says “I think that having the keywords on the site helps, but I can also think of lots of cases where the site is relevant without having keywords. Example: A site about home improvement can link to a page that sells patio furniture without the keywords patio furniture previously being on the site.”

Is the keyword I want to rank for in the site title or description?

If your target keyword is in the title this adds extra value to your link. Search engines give prominence to titles. Therefore having a link from a site with your keyword in the title can provide a great boost to your relevancy for a given search.

If it is a guest post, how does the author allow me to link to my site?

Having an in-content link is ideal Be careful and cautious with selecting your anchor text- select a relevant link in the middle of the first paragraph or somewhere in the second paragraph when/if possible. Search engines give prominence to elements towards the top of the page. One key to selecting anchor text is making it look natural. The majority of links you obtain naturally will be branded. If the website won’t allow you to have an in-content link but will allow an author link, make sure you have a killer bio with your keywords all around your link.

Do I have to identify myself as a guest writer?

Currently, I have not seen any importance to this. However, in the future it could be a signal to the search engines on how the link was acquired. In recent months “Author Rank” is being used more and more and may have an increasingly significant role in SEO in the future. If the website does allow you to post without being a “Guest Author” this can be a bonus.

Will my post be tagged with a topic in the archives?

This is a given. If the site doesn’t have an archive system or tagging system, how will people identify your article in the future? How archive systems work can have value because they are surrounded by similar content and keywords.

These questions are prerequisite to asking the question: To link or not to link?”

To follow up on some of these questions I would highly recommend researching and understanding what a hub is and how powerful they can be.

Combining Relevant Content & Relevant Links

In today’s post-Penguin and Panda apocalypse, matching relevant content with relevant links can have a significant impact on your SEO efforts. Matching the content where the link is coming from to the content on the page you want to rank will most likely have higher value than what your anchor text is.

Keep in mind that just as these concepts can help you in your marketing efforts, they can also be abused or overused. Fundamentals of SEO will exist as long as search engines do. Understanding how search engines use relevancy today is essential to today’s SEO.

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