Whenever I create a new website for a client, I always tell them the website is only the core foundation of strong SEO. Strong SEO requires a solid, well planned, and long-term link building campaign. Interestingly enough, as I prepare for a live Q&A sessions for my friends over at JuJuQ on the subject, I found myself an email to a client nagging him about building inbound links for a brand new website we launched last Wednesday. Inbound links are a huge part of SEO and since I’m an organic SEO girl, I cannot help but talk about creating inbound links.
As your web designer, I will do everything in my power to design an SEO friendly website that is built around your target keywords. I identify the keywords, prioritize the keywords, and try my best to guide your content to help support those keywords. But that process, as long as it may sometimes feel, is only the beginning to a solid SEO campaign. The real work comes after the website is launched and if you do not hire me or another SEO consultant to help in these efforts, the due diligence of this effort falls back on you.
So now what? You’ve got your cool new website (if done by me this would be based on the WordPress website design platform) and you wonder what’s next. I’ll tell you the same thing I tell the students over at JuJuQ and the same thing I tell me website clients. You get building. Not house building like my friend Rick does, but link building, like all the WordPress geeks I know do.
Ten Steps to Quality Link Building and Strong Organic SEO
1. Plan Out and Separate Your Content into Keyword-Rich Pages
Any good project needs a plan. SEO and linking building do too, so this means start your plan with the right keywords. You want to target keywords that will result in a positive experience for website visitors and this means you want keywords that are relevant to what your website will offer in content, the products you sell, or your service offering. Remember I’m an organic girl, so we need to focus on quality. Organic SEO begets quality content; or really, the other way around.
Offer misleading keywords or irrelevant keywords (aka black hat SEO) and your visitors will simply bounce on arrival. This will not only defeat the effort to gain quality traffic and it will ultimately produce negative results with Google because it will inflate your bounce rate per keyword.
To avoid this I suggest starting with a sitemap that matches up individual keywords to individual pages. Once you’ve defined it, stay on task and stay focused in both writing quality content and building inbound links.
2. Limit Your Targeted Keywords to One or Two Per Page
One page cannot gain you oodles of traffic for ten different high volume keywords. It can do so for one or two, so stay focused. If you are not targeting a long-tail (longer keyword terms that are offer lower volume) keyword, then pick only one, or at most, two terms to target per page. This will make your sitemap to keyword relationship manageable and it will be the most effective in generating traffic.
3. Check Out Your Competition
Before you stop planning, visit your top competitors. Look at their website structure, page URLs, on page content, etc. You can also utilize resources like Google’s Keyword Tool, SpyFu, Keyword Spy, Complete.com, or Alexa to gain insight on their target words and their traffic. You will find new keywords and new inspiration for your website.
4. Make Each and Every Link Count
Having a link isn’t enough. It needs to be keyword rich. In step one I said to make a plan, now that you have this plan and page to keyword reference sheet, just use it for link building. For example, if you have a Linkedin account and you are adding a link to your website on your profile, don’t just use the standard “My Company”. Use your keywords and link to a specific page. That takes an average inbound link and makes it a great inbound link.
5. Never Engage in Link Farming and Avoid Paid Links
You may have received emails or read ads promising the world with inbound link farming or paid link promotions. They sound to good to be true and they are, so ignore them at all costs. When I say ignore, I mean run and run fast. Google will not reward you for paying for inbound links, so don’t waste your time or money working to obtain them.
6. Promote Your Inbound Links Through a Press Release, Blog Entry, White Paper, Article, Event or Social Media Site
Not all people read press releases and white papers, but search engines certainly can and will. If you have something meaningful to announce, then consider a press release. Remember to embed your press releases with quality links that are keyword rich and point to specific pages within your website. I, particularly, pay for few press release services. I tend to rely on free services, although I do admit I regularly pay $12 for one service that allows three keyword rich links. Some of my favorite press release websites are PR Inside, PRLog, OnlinePRNews, OpenPR, 1888PressRelease, PitchEngine, and MyPRGenie.
Blogs are another great way to increase your inbound links. As a matter of fact, blogs are the best way to get links. If you are a good blogger, you will quickly gain regular readers and people who ”follow” your postings through RSS feeds and other publishing methods. These readers will also encourage other people to read your entries. Google looks positively on blog entries and their associated links. If you’re lucky, you’ll realize you love blogging and it will be both a benefit to your website and an enjoyable task and outlet for you at the same time.
Once your blog post is released, you can promote it or post it on other websites such as industry forums, blog directories, or social media websites like Facebook and Twitter.
7. Always Include the “http://” in Your Link
If your link isn’t embedded in keyword rich text, always include the http:// in the inbound link’s URL. If you forget, the link you provide might get picked up as an inbound link or it may not. Therefore, it’s always a good practice to include the full address of your URL, and this also means the http://. This is a simple point, but an important one. As a rule, I believe in both keyword rich links and URL based links. A little variety is good for the Google soul.
8. List your Website in a Directory
Another way to increase your inbound link efforts is to merely to promote it as much as you can. A great way to do that is to utilize a directory. While you typically can’t submit individual pages, you can list your main site. Think of a directory as online yellow pages.
First and foremost, focus on DMOZ. This is a free service, however each submission is reviewed by a human, so proceed with caution. Take the time to make sure you are applying you link to the correct directory location. If you do not, you will be rejected. And do not give up if you are not quickly listed. It takes time and it may take a few requests before you are officially in DMOZ.
9. Establish an RSS Feed, Sitemap.XML File and a Strong Ping List
Make sure you have an active RSS feed for your blog posts. The RSS feed will automatically be updated each time you release a new blog post. This feed can be connected to Facebook and other social media sites to automatically update your page or profile with each new post. That equates to new inbound links each time and you do not have to touch anything beside your blog post.
You also need to make sure you have a sitemap.xml file that includes content for your entire website. Once set up, this sitemap will automatically update each time a post is added or a page updated. This will literally “reach out a touch” the search engines and nudge them in a way to inform them that you have new content available. This is critical for keeping the search engines up to date on your fresh content. It will also help get your blog posts into Google’s blog listing, which provides current content to other bloggers to read, review, and comment upon. Just make sure you use your keywords within your blog titles so the effort is not wasted.
Finally consider a ping list. By utilizing a ping service, it allows you to automatically notify blog directories that your blog has been updated. Once you establish your ping list, whenever you write a new blog post, the blog directories on your ping list will automatically be notified of the change. The bigger your ping list, the higher the chances of receiving traffic from those sources. If you use WordPress, for example, you can modify your ping list in your Dashboard settings. This is a great timesaver as it will help spread the word about your new posts effortlessly. All you have to do is maintain a healthy ping list.
10. Stay White Hat, Organic, and Don’t Give Up on Your Effort for Quality Inbound Links and SEO Driven Traffic
To maintain your credibility with the search engines and to obtain page one ranking, stay on top of the SERP (search engine results page) and continue building your inbound links. It is an ongoing process, so remember that you’ll need to continue your link-building efforts or you’ll fall off page one. Just because you land on page one, it doesn’t mean you’ll stay there. Good organic SEO takes work and it does not happen overnight.
One reason I like organic SEO is because I believe in the concept of a strong work ethic that is driven by good intentions. That, in itself, is the basis for organic SEO. It takes commitment and steady work, but as many website owners already know, the reasons for engaging in SEO are compelling. Cultivating inbound links is a proven methodology for attracting free, long-term traffic.