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Step 12 to SEO: Off-Page SEO

Am I building authority to my site from external websites?

We’ve arrived at the final step. And last certainly doesn’t mean least. Building authority to your site from external websites, also called link-building, is one of the most critical steps in SEO.

But with all the work you’ve done up to now, you probably already know that. In fact, we’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to share any stories, challenges, or wins from your SEO journey in the comments below.

First of all, what is link building and why is it so important?

Link Building 101

Link building is the act of getting other websites to link to yours. Not only does having lots of high quality links pointing to your page increase your traffic, it also helps search engines crawl the web and between individual pages on your site.

Link building can involve a very basic strategy and set of techniques, or it can be the most difficult part of SEO. It just depends on how you do it.

Anatomy of a Hyperlink

There are four parts in a hyperlink. Links can point to other sites, graphics, sounds, files, email addresses, and other locations on the same page.

The first ‘a’ is the anchor tag that tells search engines a link is going to follow.

Second is the ‘href’ which stands for hyperlink referral and indicates the URL the link is pointing to. (A # indicates a local link to somewhere else on that page).

Third is the visible text, meaning what users will see on the page. It’s the front end of the hyperlink usually highlighted in some way to signal that it’s a link.

Finally, is the link tag closure.

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Link building helps search engines discover new webpages, extract and index content, and determine how well they should rank in the search results. So when we type a keyword into Google’s search bar, we’re not actually searching the web, we’re searching Google’s index of the web, that is, what it has determined good enough to store and show in the search results.

Page ranking is dependent on more than high quality, relevant content. Lots of high quality external links to your site mean a better report card with Google, which is great news for you because you’ll rank higher in the search engine results page (SERP) than without them. It’s a vote of confidence in your favour.

But there are more benefits to link building that just ranking. A well defined and executed link building strategy can:

  • Help you build relationships with key influencers in the industry
  • Send referral traffic to your site
  • Boost brand building

Whether you’re collecting natural links or manual outreach links, we’ll take a look at what types of links you want pointing to your site and how to make that happen.

How to Get A High-Quality Link (or many!)

Start a Link Building Campaign

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of link-building, it’s important to mention that link-building takes time. If you manage to acquire 10 links in the first month of your campaign, that’s a job well done, but you’re not going to notice a difference overnight. It takes time for those links to have an impact on your site’s traffic.

Determine your hook.

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You need to reach out and offer up a relevant asset. What will make people care about your site and what you offer enough to want to link to you? This varies according to your business and industry. Examples are: content, data, products, services, and people.

If you want to offer content then you need to know what people want to know about. Social media can steer us in the right direction here when we scout out and analyze the type of stuff people are sharing. Offer content that is relevant and gives a unique angle on a particular subject. (See Step 9 to SEO for more info).

Get various types of links.

  • Links to your homepage
  • Links that contain your brand
  • Links containing your target keywords
  • Links to deep pages, eg. a product or category page

Identify targets.

If you’ve been following from Step 1, then you’re getting to know a little bit about dogs, if you didn’t already. Let’s stick with that example.

You have a dog training website and you’ve just created the Ultimate Guide to House Training Your Puppy. Who might be interested in this content? Pet bloggers, e-commerce shops selling dog merchandise, dog trainer apps, pet stores, and pet sitter companies.

Go through each one (yes, it’s time intensive), and contact sites that are relevant to your pitch. To narrow down results a bit, consider only looking at pet bloggers that have a resource page, to which you could contribute with your guide. Such a search looks like this in the Google search field:

Pet bloggers inurl:resources

That command will return a list of pet bloggers’ resource pages. Boom. Those are the ones you want to start with.

But don’t just cold call them. Learn about their ethos to determine relevance to your site. Also, check on whether or not they link to other sites.

Then, prioritize them first by domain metrics, influence, and the probability of them linking to your site.

Check up on the competition.

If you can become a master in link building you’ll be way ahead of your competition

Here’s an excerpt from Step 2 to SEO on how to get insight from your competitors:

“How many referring domains do your competitors have? This points to site popularity and strong SEO.

You can use the MOZ link explorer tool (free for 30 days) to generate a list of all the backlinks to your competitors’ sites. From there you can compare those links against yours (use a spreadsheet for this) to see where the gaps are, if any.

If you’re already ahead of your competition, this is not your current focus (but, don’t lose focus of this important aspect). If you are behind, time to step-up your link-building strategy.

What sites are linking to your competitors and not to you? Reach out to them.”

Become a Master Builder

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Link building is full-on. That doesn’t mean that you have to spend all of your time trying to get links. Compared to every other SEO task on your plate (creating content, on-page SEO, keyword research, etc., etc.), we recommend devoting as much as 30% of your SEO time to link building, at the very least.

Once you have your strategy in place, you may consider hiring someone to manage this task if you want to go all in. Otherwise, MOZ gives us a free downloadable link-building guide (for beginners!)  that helps out big time. Get it here.

If this is your first visit to Logical Mix, check out our blog for a comprehensive 12-step beginner’s guide to SEO. And feel free to contact us anytime you have questions about the process.

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Logical Mix

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Step 10 to SEO: Content Marketing

Am I marketing the quality content I created?

You spent hours (or a good chunk of change) creating content that answers your customers’ questions and solves their problems.

Your customer wanted to know the best way to train their dog so you went beyond the call of duty and collected resources on how to actually make their dog smarter. Then, you put it all together in some easy-to-read, 100% accessible, problem-solving, smart, snappy blog that would make your customers so happy they’d convert on the spot and share your blog with their dog-loving friends.

Job well done.

(Well, maybe it was your copywriter but we’ll give you the credit).

But hang on, what are you doing with it? Is it just sitting there, all dressed up with no place to go, and no one to hang out with?

Why isn’t anyone reading your fantastic stuff?

You didn’t create swipe files and outlines and sweat over the perfect headers and paragraph structures and learn everything there is to know about how to avoid raising a dumb dog just to sit back and watch your awesome copy call in the crickets and collect digital dust, did you?

Of course not.

You might recall from Step 9 to SEO that writing for a person and writing for SEO are different.

On the one hand, you’re speaking directly to your potential customer in order to give her something she needs, to solve her problem, to provide her with answers. It’s a tall order but you did it.

One the other hand, you’re structuring your copy to speak directly to Google, to say, “hey G-dawg, check out my keyword-optimized headers, my high-quality backlinks, my relevant, user-friendly content rich with answers to people’s questions. Please give me a front-row seat in the SERP so everyone knows where to find me.”

The goal of marketing your content is two-fold:

First––get people to your site, reading your content and buying your product or service.

Second––gain authority in your niche, which happens when you start ranking for a target keyword in Google’s SERPs.

How do you do both?

There are several ways to get the right traffic to your site, but the best ones are here:

Email List

The obvious way to get what you want is to ask for it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but you have to try.

Ask your readers to subscribe to your site. Once you’ve got their email keep them engaged with regular, useful information to get them back to your site again and again and to build their interest and trust in your product or service.

Pay the most attention to your email subject line. Make it short, relevant, intriguing, and urgent when necessary. In the body, include a short story or anecdote, dropping in buzz words like yummy snacks. Hint at how you’re going to solve their pain point and include your simple, direct call-to-action with a link to juicy new content on your site.

Then, your clever silo structure takes them on a delicious journey through your site. (Keep reading to find out what I mean).

But don’t miss the following stuff––unless you enjoy watching your ROIs plummet like a suicidal emu from a high rise building.

Link Building

Inbound links from authority sites are one of the number one ways to get people reading your content. Link building isn’t the most fun activity you’ll ever engage in but it’s necessary for building relationships and proving to Google that you are worth a mention and a visit.

Now don’t get the idea that you can approach link building passively because it makes you want to jam toothpicks in your nose. Hire someone. There are tons of people out there who can take over the task of reaching out to different sites once your strategy is in place. We’ll get more into this in Step 12 so stay tuned.

I came across a clever strategy one of my clients was using to get links to his site. As a database for ESL teachers searching for work, he knew that universities were high authority sites so he contacted schools across the US and Canada offering their students the chance to win a scholarship. All they had to do was write an essay about why they want to be a teacher and send it to him through their newly created profile on his site. See? It attracted thousands of soon-to-be-teachers to his site, massively increasing his database

Social Media Sharing

Get on Twitter, FB, LI, Instagram, and whatever else floats your boat, and engage. Connect with as many people as you can, especially your competitors. Comments on posts. Set up staggered scheduling so you’re not posting the same thing on every platform. Consult a social media expert, or check out this guide from Buffer: How to Schedule Social Media Content for Next Week, Next Month, and Next Year.

A final and absolutely necessary step in marketing your content

One of the most clever strategies I’ve come across is interlinking. Not only does this appeal to Google, it takes your customer on a little journey through your site, providing him with resources like a trail of cinnamon-raisin bread crumbs.

Check it out:

Your home page should link to your product pages, which should link to your content where your customer can get all the information they need to build trust in your offering.

Or more likely, they come at it the other way, from a link in an email you sent to a content page, perhaps an interesting blog or something about the awesome benefits of that dog harness you’re selling. From there, they can navigate through to your product page where they can buy said dog harness.

Or, if they’re not yet sold, you’ve left some yummy snacks throughout that content that leads them to more useful content, which also leads them to your product page so when they’re ready to buy, it’s an easy hop over.

Here’s a key takeaway:

  • Parent links to child and child links to parent.
  • Child links to siblings and uncle if useful, but not to cousins.
  • If child must link to cousins for UX, make it no-follow to avoid confusing relevance.

I can’t stress enough how absolutely critical this structure is on your site. This is your marketing, nicely structured on your site, doing all the work for you.  

Don’t forget to check out our next Step––Internet Partners. Until then, get writing, emailing, building, sharing, and structuring.

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Logical Mix

STEP 2 to SEO: Competitor Research

Have I found usable insights from top organic competitors?

Why should you do competitor research?

Well, SEO strategizing is like storytelling.

One guy can tell a story so well that you feel like you’re actually there. A different guy can tell the exact same story, and you feel like you lost 10 minutes of your life you’ll never get back.

One had the power to bring the story to life. The other completely missed the boat.

Similarly, some people are really good at growing traffic, increasing their following, and converting potential customers into regular users or buyers. They’re smooth sailors. They seem to have all the answers.

Others can barely keep their heads above water.

Although it may come as a surprise, successful SEO is not about having all the answers.

It’s about asking the questions you don’t even know you should ask to get the answers you didn’t know existed.

Great storytellers and successful online marketers have tactics that don’t just help them toward success. Those tactics are the very reason they succeed.

We can tell a thousand stories or write a thousand pieces of content, but if we don’t have strategies in place for targeting or engaging our audience, we end up with a pile of literary or digital vomit. Stinky words without meaning because no one is there to receive them.

So, what questions do you need to ask to develop the right strategies?

Multiple factors are at play in search engine rank. And there are skippable steps in SEO–competitor analysis isn’t one of them.

No one should begin any SEO campaign without investigating not just who they’re up against, but why they’re up against them.

To become successful in your industry or niche, you need to find out three things:

  1. Who your competitors are,
  2. What makes them successful, and
  3. How to use those insights to develop your SEO strategy.

Let’s start with #1.

Who Are Your Competitors?

Looking to your competitors is crucial for identifying usable insights you can include in your SEO campaign.

But insight tells us more than just what we should do; it also tells us what we shouldn’t do, or what isn’t worth our time or effort.

Competitor analysis isn’t a passive step. It’s also not intuitive, meaning you can’t just think you know who your competitors are or what makes them successful (or not) without doing the research. Sure, top of the head can be a good place to start. Then you have to go digging.

Now luckily, sussing out the competition overlaps with keyword research so you can double up and make a day of it. You can use keyword research (see step one in SEO success) to identify your main competitors. Take the most important keywords you want to rank for (or all of them) and see who comes up in the SERPs. If you see one domain in most of your searches, this is one of your top competitors.

Or, you can use paid tools like SEMrush. I encourage you to use every tool available, but as I mentioned in a previous post, make your brain your #1 go-to tool.

Then, like the clever little investigative mouse you are, find out what keywords your competitors are ranking for that you aren’t and add them to your keyword list(s).

Armed with your top four or five competitors, you need to evaluate each one by determining their strengths and weaknesses through the lens of your brand.

This is where questions #2 (why are they successful) and #3 (what usable insights can you gain) come in, and while you can make this a systematic linear process, it doesn’t have to be. If you’re the creative, artsy type, your research may be more dynamic.

Competitor ≠ Enemy

Now, many SEOs audit their competitors with the idea that competitors=enemies.

I totally and completely, to the power of infinity, 100% disagree.

Enemies work in opposition to us. Our competitors want the same thing we do.

Competitors are essential for helping you grow and succeed in your industry because they provide a vital point of reference. They show you what’s working and what’s not.

Why Are They Successful?

Now that you know who your competitors are, you want to find out why they’re rocking your industry and then use their insights to guide your SEO campaign.

But remember–everyone has flaws, so pay close attention to where your competitors are failing. Those gaps will be your most usable insights.

UEO: The New SEO

In addition to some cut and dry strategies, one of the first things you want to note as you visit each competitors’ site is its usability. Note when you feel frustrated, confused, or impatient and why, and then compare those irritating features to your site. If your site shares any of those attributes, change them.

Even the best SEO won’t help if your site is a pain in the ass to navigate.

Keep this in mind: SEO is more about user experience optimization (UEO) than optimizing the search engine.

As you navigate through your competitors’ sites, ask yourself these questions:

  • How quality are the images and videos used on their pages?
  • Are there links to organic content/informative pages that naturally extend the user’s journey?
  • Are their CTAs logically placed and do they lead the user to the place they said they would?

Now, let’s go digging.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of some of the more important aspects of your competitors’ sites that you’ll want to examine and analyze to determine what is worth extracting for your site – and what’s not.

Investigate link opportunities.

Link building is a major contributor to ranking. The more links that point to your site show Google that your site is trustworthy.

How many referring domains do your competitors have? This points to site popularity and strong SEO.

You can use the MOZ link explorer tool (free for 30 days) to generate a list of all the backlinks to your competitors’ sites. From there you can compare those links against yours (use a spreadsheet for this) to see where the gaps are, if any.

If you’re already ahead of your competition, this is not your current focus (but, don’t lose focus of this important aspect). If you are behind, time to step-up your link-building strategy.

What sites are linking to your competitors and not to you? Reach out to them.

Perform a keyword gap analysis.

Follow the same steps as you did to discover the gaps in competitors’ links but now focus on keywords using SEMrush or Ahrefs (both are paid tools). Although we can guess where the gaps are, this process helps us know with certainty.

Determining what keywords your competitors are ranking for that you aren’t is a starting point for creating unique content. Notice what works well for your competitors then take that a step further and make their best ideas even better.

One way to do this to type your main keywords into Quora or Answer the Public (both free) to discover what people are asking about it.

Content

Is their content well-written and does it provide valuable information that the user can’t find on a hundred other websites?

We live in a time of consumption. Anybody can claim to be an expert in anything by scouring the web for quick-digesting info and posting those regurgitated tidbits to their site. It’s the new-age style of digital research. But we end up with copycat versions of the very same thing, which ultimately, lowers the quality of the information.

Ask yourself: What content can you create that is going to set you apart from your competition?

H1s

Notice if your competitors have unique H1 tags that represent the content. H1s are a major ranking factor. While other features trend hard for a while in SEO, the significance of H1 hasn’t changed and it likely won’t.

H1s are the most obvious text on the page. Follow these quick tips for determining the quality of your competitors’ H1:

  • Is there only one on each page?
  • Is their H1 the title or does it accurately reflect what the page is about?
  • Does it include a target long-tail keyword? (this helps Google index the page appropriately)
  • Does it respond to the user’s intent?
  • Is it 20-70 characters?
  • Does it stand out on the page?

Social Media Presence

Buzzsumo is a good paid tool to find out how many people are talking about your competitors’ brand, your niche, or a specific topic identified by a target long-tail keyword. Type in your general topic and refine your search by adding or removing words. This tool will also help you determine your competitors’ social media presence, which is growing in importance in SEO.

And, spend a few minutes each day with a double-chai-matcha-ball-latte smoothie swiping through Insta to check up on your competitors from a user’s perspective.

How can I use those insights?

Hopefully you’ve gained some major insights by analyzing your competition. With these insights, you can develop tactics for improving or enhancing your SEO strategy.

Now, ask yourself:

What should I prioritize? (Where are you falling short of your competition? Or, where can you outshine your competition?)

And,

What is not worth focusing my efforts on?

Consider this last question carefully. We may think something is irrelevant (or important), but the metrics can surprise us. Unless you’re beating the pants off your competitors, you want to be as comprehensive and inclusive as possible in your SEO strategy, but you also don’t want to be barking up the wrong tree. It is an exhausting waste of energy and effort.

Keep in mind that no one recipe is going to work. The strategies offered here are dynamic, flexible, and relative to your brand and business approach. Read far and wide, talk to people in the industry, and follow your nose to broaden your SEO arsenal.

Last words of advice…

Don’t rush the process.

Use the available tools–anything of value is worth the investment.

Know that competitor analysis is an ongoing process so keep it up.

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Logical Mix

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