Last week I explained the 3 most common on-page SEO mistakes I discovered during my recent SEO audits. Today, I want to focus on off-page SEO and how to lay the foundation to kickstart your SEO efforts.
Before I dive in I want to make sure we’re all on the same page with on-page versus off-page SEO. On-page SEO is everything you need to do on your website. For example, if you want to rank in Google for the keyword “wedding photographer,” then you obviously need a webpage that is relevant to that keyword. That means using the keyword (and different variations of the phrase) in your webpage Title, Meta description, and within the body of the page. This is SEO 101 and if you don’t get this right, then you don’t have a shot at ranking in Google.
Next, once you have your on-page SEO set up correctly, it’s time to move on to off-page SEO. Off-page SEO is everything you need to do off of your website. Just because you have a webpage that is 100% relevant for the keyword “wedding photographer” does not mean you’re going to automatically rank on the first page of Google. When I search for “wedding photographer” I see there are over 83 MILLION webpages that Google has determined are relevant for this search phrase.
So creating a webpage that is relevant for your target keyword will get you into the running, but it’s usually not enough to outrank all of your competitors.
That brings us to the next logical question…
How Does Google Rank All The Relevant Pages?
Ah, the million dollar question! The short answer is NOBODY knows (except of course Google).
That’s the problem with all this SEO stuff. Even the so called “experts” don’t truly know all the factors that go into Google’s ranking algorithm. All we can do is read Google’s vague recommendations, hypothesize, test, compare results with other webmasters, and try to reverse engineer the extremely complex ranking algorithm.
With that said, we’ve known since the earliest days of Google that external links (hyperlinks from other websites to your website) are one of the biggest factors in how Google will rank your webpage in the search results. The more links you have from other reputable websites, the better. And more recently, the reverse has become true… the more links you have from spammy websites, the more likely you’ll be penalized or even kicked out of Google’s results.
That brings us to the final question I want to answer here…
How Do You Get Links From Other Websites?
There are many tactics to get other websites to link to your website. In this post I am going to focus on the easiest links because this is where most businesses should start. I recommend you first lay the foundation for your off-page SEO, and then move on to the more advanced link building strategies. In many less-competitive markets, the link foundation is enough to get some good results.
1. Business Directories
The easiest links to get are from online business directories. For example, I searched for “wedding photography directory” and found Snapknot.com, which lists photographers with a link to their websites. That happens to be a paid directory, but with a little more research you’ll likely find a lot of free directories in just about every industry.
2. Press Releases
Online press releases are another fast and easy way to get links to your website. When we launched MainStreetROI.com, we issued a press release and quickly got a link on SFGate.com, as well as many other reputable websites. If you don’t already, then start issuing regular online press releases to build links to your site.
3. Competitor Link Research
The third “low-hanging fruit” opportunity is to find where your competitors are getting links. Use a tool like OpenSiteExplorer.org which lists all the external links to any domain you type in. Simply copy/paste your competitor’s domain into the tool and review all the external links. Yup, it’s that easy! The harder part is to then go out and replicate what your competitors did to get their links.
Again, once you have your on-page SEO taken care of, then use these 3 tactics to lay your link foundation. If you complete these steps, you’ll be well on your way to ranking in Google for your target keywords.