Analyzing The Work of Your SEO Provider, Part Four, A:Link Building and Off-Site SEO
Today, we’re going to finish the series on analyzing the work of your SEO provider with Step 4, where you look at off-site optimization which is anything that your SEO provider could, should or maybe shouldn’t be do off of your website to help your site rank better in search engine results, particularly Google. Again, this is presented by Dan Stratford, partner in C1’s digital marketing agency which is a digital marketing agency based in Denver, Colorado. Myself and Dan Smink are 50% partners. It’s an incorporated company.
I’m the author of lawyermarketingexpert.com, which I’ve had since about 2008. I’ve been advanced certified Google AdWords since 2006, certified legal education teacher for the bar nationally and state to state and did that while I was working at LexisNexis. I travelled around teaching CLE courses on marketing as well as helped them develop their western region for search engine optimization covering Colorado to Hawaii. Then before that, I was Dex Media which is one of the bigger Yellow Page companies in the town that I think has since then gone bankrupt, been bought, sold, bought, sold and now they’re owned by some
company out of Texas, but they are Yellow Pages and struggling as usual to be an online marketing resource.
That’s my background. Let’s talk about what Step 4 is when it comes to analyzing the work of your SEO and it’s off-site optimization. We’re going to talk about why off-site optimization is so important, what backlinks are, citations, social media, how that affects your rankings, or doesn’t, recommended tools and examples that we use. Why off-site optimization? Because in a competitive market, your site is not going to rank without a really good off-site SEO strategy.
If you live in a really small town and you’re one of two attorneys that do what you do, then you could probably quite easily optimize your website for a local search and not have to do much if any off-site optimization at all. You need to do a few things just to make sure you have a presence off of your site, like with Google places and those types of things, local rankings, but you may not need it in a really small market, but in a competitive market you have to have an off-site SEO strategy and there’s got to be continuous effort put towards it.
It’s becoming harder and harder because Google is getting better and better at detecting bad links which can kill your rankings and they’ve devastated a lot of businesses over the last few years when, as Google gets better at tightening up the sites they bring to the top of their search engine results, they’ve filtered out and penalized sites for having bad links. Which is why it’s so important to have a consistent and natural looking approach to link building.
Notice I said natural looking. The truth is, very little off-site SEO people are doing it just for the heck of it; they’re doing it because they want to rank their website. They want to get business. There are ways to do that that look natural and make sense to the search engine, and there are ways to do that that don’t make sense to a search engine and will likely end up with a penalty. This is very important that you have to do it, and you have to do it right. You need to know is your SEO provider doing it and are they doing it right. That’s why we want to look at this.
When you look at link building, you look at what is it that Google wants. The reason Google became such a great search engine back in the late 90s was because you were more likely to go to Google, do a search and find what you were looking for on the first two pages rather than you might on an old search engine, like Excite or Lycos, or something like that, even on Yahoo, you might have to go back five pages deep to find a relevant answer to your question. Google got better at narrowing down search results so we started to use Google more, and therefore Google could sell advertising, right.
One of the big guides of their decisions on who comes up at the top of Google is how many backlinks, what’s happening off of your website. If you have two great websites with great content being added to it, that’s great. Now, Google has to differentiation between the two by going off the site for key differentiators. When you get backlinks to your website, that becomes a vote or a reference. Well, you can imagine a vote from a site that’s very valuable in the eyes of Google would be a much better vote than a vote from another website that is less valuable to Google, it has less fresh content, is less well optimized.
You want good references from better websites, but you’re always going to get those mediocre references. How do you do that? Well, one of the ways to get links is certainly press releases and PR. If you can get a legitimate article written in the Wall Street Journal for example, and it links to your business, I don’t care if you’re a soccer business or a law firm, that’s going to be a powerful link. It shows that you’ve got some legitimacy.
What about you want topical things, a blog post on a blog that may not all be about only legal stuff. It might also have some information on there about other consumer services, but at least the article on that blog is related to your business and it links to your website. That’s another way of getting another site to link to your website. Then, if you can get an industry website to link to your website, like this is a soccer business so that means soccer.com is a relevant and powerful link if it links to their website.
Like lawyers.com might have a similar effect. The problem is, all of your competitors have the lawyers.com link, so how do you differentiate yourself and one of the ways is by using blogs and press releases strategically to build an off-site reputation. Now again, going out a buying, spending a few hundred dollars on a bunch of cruddy links can do more harm than good in the long run so you want to be careful about that.
As you start to build links to your website, or chatter or a presence off your site, whatever you want to call it, an article that’s written about you on a blog, the Wall Street Journal for that matter, is going to have less credibility than a website, an article that also is being shared socially. That’s the reason we use social media in a couple of different ways. First of all, you’ve got to check it off your list. Google will not consider your business as legitimate if you don’t have a Google Plus account, and Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and all of your competitors do. You want to make sure you get all of those links and that’s also where you can share good content that you develop onto those websites, so it’s vital to use social media to get your content out to others.
The other way it is used is to affirm articles. If you get an article published in the Wall Street Journal, and it gets a lot of social media shares because people like it, that’s a lot more powerful than just getting an article in the Wall Street Journal that doesn’t have any attraction or popularity in social media. You use social media to promote your own content, to engage with prospects potentially, but also to reinforce content that you write. For an attorney, that might be the best use of it.
You are going to have a hard time building a huge community of people who are interested indefinitely or for a long period of time in a specific type of law, like a personal injury, or DUI or divorce, but there are ways in which you can use social media, and so when you do an off-site analysis, you want to make sure that your SEO expert is at least engaging in social media and of course, off-site link building back to your website. If he’s not doing things that are helping links be driven back to your site, like getting really good content out on the Internet that people like and link back to because they like the content, if they’re not doing at least that then there is probably something wrong with what they’re doing for you.
Obviously, if you’re in a local market, you want to think about things like Yelp as well. Not paid advertising with Yelp, but getting listed on Yelp and Yellow Pages and all those types of things. Really, when we think about off-site optimization, we’re thinking about press releases, lists that you’re on, quality directories, articles about your firm, forums that make sense where people are looking for advice and they legitimately find it on your website and blog posts. All of this stuff that happens off of your website, plus social media can affect indirectly and directly how well your site is ranked.
Part 4, B, is The Next Post, Which Will Go Live September 26th, 2014