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Seo Mindset

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Seo Mindset Powered By Docstoc
					Longterm Strategies For Getting And Keeping A Top Search Engine Ranking...

By Brad Callen

Table of Contents
Table of Contents..................................................................................................................................................... 3 0 – Introduction ........................................................................................................................................................ 7 1 – The SEO Mindset ............................................................................................................................................. 9 What is SEO? ...................................................................................................................................................... 9 What is NOT SEO? .............................................................................................................................................. 9 Understand How Search Engines Work ............................................................................................................ 10 Customize Your SEO Strategy ........................................................................................................................... 10 Think Long Term .................................................................................................................................................11 Think For Yourself .............................................................................................................................................. 12 Create A System ................................................................................................................................................ 12 Prioritize Your Work ........................................................................................................................................... 13 Rankings Are NOT Everything! .......................................................................................................................... 13 Review ............................................................................................................................................................... 14 2 – Understanding Search Engines ................................................................................................................... 16 The Search Engine ‘Index’ ................................................................................................................................. 17 The Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) ..................................................................................................... 19 What Google Wants ........................................................................................................................................... 21 Yahoo, MSN, etc. ............................................................................................................................................... 23 Google vs Yahoo vs MSN .................................................................................................................................. 24 Tracking Search Engine News ........................................................................................................................... 26 3 – Search Engine Ranking Factors .................................................................................................................. 27 Ask – The Forgotten Search Engine .................................................................................................................. 27 Google Sandbox – Time-Based Quality Indicators ............................................................................................ 28 Google PageRank – Still Important.................................................................................................................... 29 On-Page Ranking Factors ................................................................................................................................. 29 Site-based Ranking Factors............................................................................................................................... 31 Link-Based Ranking Factors .............................................................................................................................. 33 4 – Your SEO Master Plan ................................................................................................................................... 37 Part 1: Doing Research...................................................................................................................................... 37 Part 2: Building / Optimizing Your Site ............................................................................................................... 38 Part 3: Site Launch ............................................................................................................................................ 38 Part 4: Long Term SEO ...................................................................................................................................... 38 5 – Setting Goals ................................................................................................................................................. 40 What Is Your Website’s Purpose? ...................................................................................................................... 40 Who is your target audience? ............................................................................................................................ 41 What Does Your Site Do? .................................................................................................................................. 42

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Existing Site Analysis ......................................................................................................................................... 43 Building a New Site ............................................................................................................................................ 44 Success Objectives and Tracking Progress....................................................................................................... 44 6 – Keyword Research ........................................................................................................................................ 45 Build Your Keyword List ..................................................................................................................................... 45 Using Keyword Research Tools ......................................................................................................................... 47 Evaluate Keywords ............................................................................................................................................ 56 Shortlist Keywords ............................................................................................................................................. 61 7 – Competitive Analysis .................................................................................................................................... 62 Competitive Analysis Overview .......................................................................................................................... 62 Your Top Competitors......................................................................................................................................... 65 Competitor SEO Checklist ................................................................................................................................. 66 On-Page Factors................................................................................................................................................ 68 Site Factors ........................................................................................................................................................ 68 Backlinks Research ........................................................................................................................................... 69 Summary............................................................................................................................................................ 71 8 – Keywords and Site Content .......................................................................................................................... 72 The Search Engine View ................................................................................................................................... 72 Matching Keywords to Site Pages ..................................................................................................................... 72 SEO Copywriting................................................................................................................................................ 74 Optimizing Site Content on Existing Sites.......................................................................................................... 74 9 – On-Page SEO ................................................................................................................................................. 75 Title Tags ............................................................................................................................................................ 76 Meta Tags .......................................................................................................................................................... 79 Keyword Usage.................................................................................................................................................. 80 Avoid Duplicate Content .................................................................................................................................... 81 Other On-Page SEO Factors ............................................................................................................................. 82

10 – Site Architecture .......................................................................................................................................... 83 URL Structure .................................................................................................................................................... 83 Sitemaps ............................................................................................................................................................ 84 Internal Linking................................................................................................................................................... 85 11 – Link Building Basics ................................................................................................................................... 88 “Trust” and Links ................................................................................................................................................ 88 Authority and Links ............................................................................................................................................ 89 Link Popularity ................................................................................................................................................... 89 Link Evaluation................................................................................................................................................... 90

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12 – Site Launch Links ........................................................................................................................................ 94 Trusted Directories ............................................................................................................................................. 95 Highly Trusted Websites .................................................................................................................................... 97 13 – Link Sources ................................................................................................................................................ 98 Directories .......................................................................................................................................................... 98 Paid Links / Reviews ........................................................................................................................................ 100 Article Submissions / Guest Blogging .............................................................................................................. 102 Link Requests .................................................................................................................................................. 103 Link-Worthy Content ........................................................................................................................................ 103 Community-based Sites (Profiles / Content) .................................................................................................... 104 Industry News Blogs ........................................................................................................................................ 105 Press Releases ................................................................................................................................................ 106 Contests / Free stuff......................................................................................................................................... 107 Quality Web Design ......................................................................................................................................... 107 Blogging Conversations ................................................................................................................................... 108 Social Media Marketing.................................................................................................................................... 108 14 – Finding Potential Link Partners ................................................................................................................111 Directories .........................................................................................................................................................111 Search Engines.................................................................................................................................................112 Backlinks Analysis.............................................................................................................................................113 Topical Research ..............................................................................................................................................114 Local Search .....................................................................................................................................................114 15 – Link Valuation .............................................................................................................................................116 Quality Content / Providing Value .....................................................................................................................116 Backlinks Analysis.............................................................................................................................................116 Outbound links ..................................................................................................................................................117 Site Topic ..........................................................................................................................................................117 Site Authority .....................................................................................................................................................118 Link Format & Destination.................................................................................................................................118 Value / Competition in niche .............................................................................................................................118 Traffic Value ......................................................................................................................................................119 Link Popularity / PageRank...............................................................................................................................119 Site Age.............................................................................................................................................................119 16 – Link Worthy Content ................................................................................................................................. 120 What is Link-Worthy Content? ......................................................................................................................... 120 Quality .............................................................................................................................................................. 121 Originality ......................................................................................................................................................... 122 Usefulness ....................................................................................................................................................... 123 Timelessness ................................................................................................................................................... 123

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17 – Campaign Tracking ................................................................................................................................... 124 Site Analytics and Search Marketing ............................................................................................................... 124 Tracking Search Engine Rankings ................................................................................................................... 125 Tuning Your Search Marketing Campaign ....................................................................................................... 125 18 – In Closing... ................................................................................................................................................ 127

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0 – Introduction
People often ask: “What can this product / e-book / service do for me?” The SEO Mindset is a book on how to bring targeted traffic in from search engines on a long-term, consistent basis. Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important component of any online business strategy, and this book will show you the most effective methods to dominate search engine rankings for any niche or set of keywords. It is also a book on how to think about search engine optimization (SEO) – partially to combat the vast loads of misinformation floating about in forums and blogs and other e-books, and partially because as an industry, SEO is constantly evolving and the only way to stay ahead of the curve is to know its final destination. What this book does not teach you: •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 Web design PHP scripting How to upload files to your webhost Product creation (or any other Internet Marketing techniques) Anything unrelated to search engine marketing

Unfortunately, I don’t have the space here to tell you everything about how to design and setup websites. That’s enough material for a whole new book, and it would not be fair on you if I was to hand you a 1,000+ page book which had everything you needed to know in order to operate computers, build websites, do SEO, create products, write sales copy, build e-mail lists, manage blogs, etc. Such an approach will only serve to overwhelm you and will not help you actually learn anything. The smarter strategy is to use dedicated guides for each separate topic. This book concentrates on teaching you SEO, and in case you need help in areas other than SEO, I’ve created a comprehensive ‘Resources’ section at the end of the book with links to reference books and websites that you can use to learn about other subjects. Now, on to what you’ll learn in this book. What this book DOES teach you: •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 How to develop an SEO mindset How search engines ‘think’, and what they want from websites How to do keyword research How to evaluate your competition How to setup your websites to be SEO friendly from the start How to do on-page optimization (and what to really focus on) How to get links – free and paid A step-by-step method for dominating page 1 rankings in Google for your target keywords

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I made these two lists so that you would have a clear idea of what it is that this book will do for you. Ideally, I would suggest that you print it out (or even print out just the first few chapters), grab a pen/pencil and a notepad, and start reading it right now. Because if you are interested in making money online, you need to know this formula: Targeted Traffic + Conversion = Money This book will show you how to drive hordes of targeted traffic to your websites (mostly free traffic, I might add). Conversion after that is a simple process of getting them to click on your ads, sign up to your e-mail list, subscribe to your blog or simply read your sales pitch and buy your product / service. The first few chapters will help you develop a SEO mindset – this will allow you to build websites along the same principles that search engines use to evaluate their search engine results. The end result will be that as search engines continue to improve their algorithms and try to make them ‘perfect’, your websites will also keep improving their rankings because you are ALREADY doing what the search engines ultimately want the top websites to be like. This SEO mindset will be the foundation of everything else you learn in this book, so I would ask you to make sure that you read it first, although if you need specific help on a topic you can always jump ahead and take a look. Alright then, let’s get started.

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1 – The SEO Mindset
What is ‘the SEO Mindset’? •	 It is a specific way of thinking about online marketing and search engine optimization in order to achieve long-term, consistent, page 1 search rankings. •	 It is a set of guidelines that you will constantly refer to during the SEO process and use as filters for what to do and what not to do. But before we start with the Mindset, let’s answer a fundamental question – what is SEO?

What is SEO?
Most people – ok, almost everyone outside the SEO industry – equate SEO with getting the #1 ranking for your website in Google. But SEO is much more than that. There are 3 main steps in the SEO process: First, like any business, you need to identify your audience (your target market). Not only are you setting your website’s goals and profiling your audience, at this stage you are also scouting your competition and evaluating what you need to do in order to ‘dominate’ this particular sector. Second, you take steps to get your website rank as high as possible in the search engines for those keywords that this audience is most likely to use. This involves things you do to the site itself (if you are setting up a new website then you should ensure that it is search engine friendly from the ground up). It also includes off-site activities which are all geared towards the process of having other websites link to yours. Third, you constantly track your website’s progress in the search engines and make adjustments to your SEO strategy as necessary. While we define SEO, it is important to also clarify that SEO does not encompass other online activities that are designed to bring traffic to (or promote) your website.

What SEO is NOT…
•	 Online advertising (buy advertising for traffic from other websites) is not SEO (it is site promotion, although the advertising links can help your search rankings). •	 Public relations (press releases, media mentions, blogging coverage) is not SEO (although once again, it is site promotion, which may lead into your site getting links). •	 Building a website that exploits a loophole in search engine algorithms to rank #1 for select keywords for a short period of time is not SEO (that’s search engine spamming, which we’re not going to discuss here). •	 SEO is not a gimmick designed to drive X thousand visitors to your website in 24 hours.

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•	 SEO is not always free traffic – several very effective SEO techniques will cost you money. •	 Writing a book and giving it away for free to your site’s visitors is not SEO The thing about most of these activities is that they CAN be part of your SEO strategy IF you chose to use them that way. However, as SEO is usually part of an overall strategy designed to promote your site, separating other promotional activities from SEO work is important.

Understand How Search Engines Work
It goes without saying that if you want to rank #1 for your target keywords, you need to understand how search engines work. This means that you must not only know what factors search engines use in ranking websites, but also how they ‘read’ web pages and ‘index’ them (This topic is discussed in detail in the next chapter). Search engines have evolved considerably in the last few years, and continue to update their ranking algorithms periodically. So apart from learning how search engines work right now, it will also pay if you: •	 Understand what each search engine is trying to achieve when ranking websites •	 How you can track changes in search engine algorithms •	 How you can keep a ‘pulse’ on the latest developments in the search engine world The next chapter discusses search engine behavior in more detail – for now, just keep in mind that a key component of your SEO strategy will be to stay on top of developments in the SEO world, especially when it comes to how the search engines are evolving.

Customize Your SEO Strategy
The most important thing about SEO is that an ‘out-of-the-box’ formula for achieving top rankings will not work as well as a customized, one-on-one strategy for each project. Yes, a cookie-cutter approach will work – but it won’t be as effective as a custom-made battle plan for your website. The general principles will always apply to your website, but there’s a significant component of analysis, drawing conclusions and then determining what to do in light of those conclusions. At the end of the day, it is YOUR SEO plan. You will decide what to focus on, you will be the one doing competitive analysis and evaluating how difficult or easy it will be for your website to rank for particular keywords. Every website has different goals – these goals will in turn determine what type of keywords you will be targeting, what the composition of your audience will be, the competitiveness of your target market and your willingness to spend money / put in the time and effort. Here’s an example of how you would customize the SEO process based on your project: Site A is focused on a very niche topic and is an informational site (as opposed to a product-oriented site). This has an influence on the keywords targeted for the site. Those keywords (as well as the target niche itself) have weak competition, so it will take less effort and time (and money) to get Site A to rank #1 for its target terms. Also, Site A will depend exclusively on search engines for traffic.

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Based on this information, you would have two choices – you can save money by doing ‘free’ SEO and not paying for directory submissions and links. Or, you could save time and pay for inclusion in highly trusted directories to give your website’s rankings a kick up the search engine results. Here’s another example: Site B is a corporate website of a rapidly-growing company in a fairly competitive industry. This sector is not as competitive online, however – some terms have little competition while others have moderate competition (later on we’ll also define what ‘competition’ really is and how you can determine your top competing websites). Search engines will only be one aspect of their online marketing strategy. Primarily this site is being set up to highlight their services, which means targeting some top level keywords (which have plenty of competition). Based on this information, you know that to be #1, you will need to invest both time and money in the project. Paying for directory submissions is a must and so is spending money on purchasing links. Some of these keywords will also take a long and concerted spell of link building to allow for page 1 rankings. In this case, your SEO strategy will also depend on how much freedom you have to spend money and make changes to the website – you may be asked to show results before paying for links (although in my experience paying for directory submissions is usually accepted without hesitation) and making changes to a corporate website is usually a painful experience in dealing with red tape and people afraid of change. All in all, you’ll have to think for yourself here – I can give you the tools and show you how to do each task, but I cannot be there with you at every step of the way or make decisions for you. The good thing is – if you stick to the guidelines mentioned below, you will do just fine.

Think Long Term
Search Engine Optimization (or, if you want to be technically correct, Search Marketing) is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme nor is it about getting short-term, temporary results at the risk of getting your website banned by the search engines. Just to make things clear, this is not an ethical concern for me – as far as I am concerned (you might think differently), search engines provide a service, and their guidelines are not ‘the law’, they are just generalized statements on what works best. Those statements are a bit misleading and do not give a complete picture of what it takes to rank for keywords in the search engine result pages (SERPs). However, putting your website at risk by actively pursuing optimization policies that openly violate search engine policies and are detectable by search engines is foolishness. Personally (once again, you are entitled to your opinion) I think there are far better ways to dominate the SERPs without resorting to tricks or anything that will get your website banned from Google or MSN or Yahoo. So that is one aspect of thinking long term – if you are doing SEO for short term gains, in most cases it is not SEO but tricks to take advantages of a search engine’s limitations. Another aspect of long term SEO is your SEO strategy itself. SEO is a process that invariably takes time –

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certain factors used to determine rankings in Google, for example, use time as an element in their calculations. Concepts such as link-aging, the sandbox (or the trustbox, depending on your perspective), quality filters and domain-aging (do not worry, I will explain these concepts in full detail later on in this book) mean that you cannot be #1 overnight – at least not in Google. For the two examples I listed above (Site A and Site B): •	 Site A would take anywhere between a month and 6 months to get to #1, depending on what you do and how strong the #1 ranked site really is. •	 For Site B, it would take you 6 to 12 months to get to the top, once again depending on how fast you move and which keywords you are targeting. Bottom line – SEO takes time to be effective, so whatever you are planning, make sure you plan for the long run and consider long term consequences of your actions.

Think For Yourself
Quite often I meet people in the SEO industry who blindly follow what a certain ‘guru’ says, or believe everything that Google says to be gospel. But as I told you earlier – there is no one way of doing SEO, and there definitely is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. It is all about what tactic is most effective in taking you to the top of the SERPs, and that is all that you should be really focused on. Blind faith in Google’s idea of SEO, or some guru’s idea of SEO, is usually a bad idea. Listen to all sides of the argument, see the results for yourself and if possible, carry out your own experiments if you have to. One such example involves paid links. Google has explicitly said that paid links for ranking purposes are not acceptable and will be penalized, where as paid links for traffic purposes are fine. This has caused a lot of debates in the SEO industry on whether paid links are right or wrong vis-à-vis Don’t be a slave to Google or what other people tell you about SEO – there is no set pattern on doing SEO and there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ either The most successful SEOs I know of publicly question some of Google’s policies and ‘preaching’ when it comes to Search Marketing. That’s not to say that you should go against Google, but that you should keep an open mind and focus on what works and what is guaranteed to be successful in the long run. Everything else, whether told to you by Google or the SEO gods or me, is irrelevant. Stay on top of the ball as far as developments in the SEO world are concerned; focus on what works, and what your experience tells you works.

Create A System
Having a ‘system’ to accomplish goals is a natural progression for anyone that has to do one type of project more than once. Web designers who put together 10-20 sites every year have a system, programmers working on large projects swear by their ‘system’ of doing things, and so on.

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If you do not already, it is time to think of SEO in terms of developing an effective system of activities and processes that will help you bring in targeted traffic to your website from the search engines. A system is only effective if it can help you achieve your targets each time you do a similar project. And as I said earlier, makes sure that continue doing that which is most effective in the long run, not what is easy or cheap to do, or what saves time, or what the search engines tell you to do. Do what works now, and what will work in the future.

Prioritize Your Work
Once you have a basic system to do your SEO activities, you will find it much easier to prioritize which task gets done first. In SEO, as in real life, there are some key activities that take less time and effort but have a large impact on search engine rankings. Remember the 80-20 rule (the Pareto principle) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_ principle) ? It works quite well in SEO, thank you very much, and it certainly makes life easier for us SEOs. The most important SEO tasks will take roughly 15-25% of your time, and will yield 70-85% of the benefits associated with search marketing. For example: •	 Optimizing your blog’s Title tags takes less than 2 minutes, but it has a major impact on how your web pages are ranked in SEs. •	 Paying for (and submitting) a directory listing in Yahoo takes 5 minutes, but that link is more valuable than submitting to 100 free directories that have been spammed to death. Make it a habit to ask yourself the importance of any SEO task before you do it – it will help you save time as well as refocus you on the more important things in SEO.

Rankings Are NOT Everything!
The hard truth about search engine marketing is that sheer traffic (achieved from page 1 or #1 rankings) does little good to you if you have no way to use it. If you have set specific goals for your website, you will also have a clear idea of what audience you are targeting and what exactly they are supposed to do when they arrive at your website. This could be asking for signups, selling them a product or service, getting them to click on ads, getting RSS subscriptions, etc. And if your website is not doing this part of its job properly, those rankings and all that traffic will be wasted. Bottom line – Search Engine Optimization is great when it works well, but you also need to know how to make best use of that traffic.

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Review
We have covered a lot of basic ideas here, so it is time for a short recap: What is SEO? •	 Identify audience and set targets (research) •	 Do on-page and off-page tasks to increase search engine rankings •	 Track progress and adjust as necessary SEO is NOT: •	 A short-term solution •	 Online advertising or public relations •	 Free Understand How Search Engines Work To be successful as an SEO, we need to know how search engines work, how they have evolved in the last few years and in which direction they are moving. Customize your SEO Strategy Each project and website is different in scale and targets. A non-profit website has different goals than a site that is geared to earn money from ad clicks. Do your research, and adapt accordingly. Think Long Term Long term planning where SEO is concerned allows you to do things once and then not worry about periodic changes to the search engine algorithms. Search engines are using time as a variable in evaluating several ranking factors, so expect to be in it for the long haul. Think For Yourself Do not blindly follow what other people tell you – there is a LOT of misinformation spread about SEO, and the funny thing is that no one knows for sure what they are talking about. SEO is an art, but more importantly, the only thing you can trust is what WORKS (in the long run). Create a System Having a system to do your SEO will save you a lot of time as well as help you be more effective. Prioritize Your Work Follow the Pareto principle (80-20 rule) and make sure that you do the most important things first.

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Rankings Are NOT Everything Rankings and traffic are not worth much if you cannot convert them to meet your site’s initial targets. I hope that the ideas presented in the last few pages have helped you understand better what SEO is about and why it helps to approach it with a specific mindset. This chapter was just the first part in building that SEO mindset. In the next chapter, I will discuss how search engines work and how you can use that information to streamline your SEO strategies and build a search engine-friendly plan to dominate search engine rankings. And once that is done, we will move on to the actual process of doing SEO on a project, from start to end. Everything we have talked about here – customized approaches, SEO systems, prioritization, long term planning – will show in the processes and strategies that are discussed in this book. But I am getting ahead of myself – first, we must understand how search engines work.

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2 – Understanding Search Engines
Search Engine Optimization is the process of driving targeted traffic from search engines to a website. Learning this process is not possible without understanding how search engines work. And when I talk about understanding search engines, I am specifically talking about: •	 •	 •	 •	 How search engines index (read) websites How search engines rank websites Why search engines change their ranking algorithms How (and when) search engines update their algorithms

Points 1 and 2 are relatively easy to grasp (even if #2 is the main reason SEO is such a thriving industry). There is plenty of misinformation, but if you have the right sources, practice SEO yourself and learn to separate the wheat from the chaff, you will have a pretty good idea of how search engines rank websites (the next chapter gets stuck into ranking factors in detail). Points 3 and 4 give SEOs a lot of grief, mainly because: •	 Changes in the ranking algorithms can cause site rankings to change, and there is the possibility of your website losing its high rankings. •	 Not knowing when search engines update their algorithms (at least until you start seeing significant changes or someone in the forums notices it) means webmasters never know when their rankings could be negatively impacted by a search engine. The unpredictability of search engines (SE) means that if traffic from search engines is your only source of traffic, and your websites are your only source of income, your livelihood hinges on the whims of Google. That is a very scary thought, and is the primary cause for much of the ‘panicking’ you see (or will see) in SEO forums whenever SE updates are discussed. Do not place all your bets on one mode of income. If your traffic is primarily from search engines, diversify and get traffic from forums and other websites, as well as building a regular readership. If your income is primarily from running AdSense ads on your websites, diversify into affiliate marketing, creating your own products, etc. And if all your bets are hinged on your online income, diversify further and think about making money offline as well. Smart money-making principles transcend industries and the offline / online divide. Once again: Do NOT place all your bets on one website, one mode of traffic, one mode of income, or one source of income. Diversify. The second important thing to note is this: If you know what the search engines want, it is easy to plan ahead and shape your SEO campaign as such that each ‘update’ actually benefits your site rankings.

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Think about that for a second – usually, search engine algorithms are a time when webmasters scramble to find out whether their sites have lost their #1 rankings or not. What if you could set up a system that allowed your sites’ search engine rankings to improve every time Google or Yahoo did an algorithm update? That is going to be a recurring theme throughout this book, and that is one of the main targets that I have set out to achieve here. So how do search engines work really?

The Search Engine ‘Index’
While it is important to know how a search engine ‘reads’ websites and stores them in its ‘index’, it is even more important (or more relevant) to know how to get included in it. There is only one ‘serious’ way to get included into search engines, and it is this: Get links from other websites to point to your website. Submitting to search engine inclusion forms, using software that ‘guarantees’ to get your website included in search engines, paying spammers who offer to get your website indexed in 100+ search engines… All of that is a waste of time. Avoid any such schemes like the plague, and steer clear of ‘search engine submission forms’. Why? Because getting indexed by search engines is a piece of cake IF you know how to do it. But how do I get links? There are several ways to easily get links for free pointing to your website (and if you are willing to pay, more power to you) and you can usually have your website (or at least your site’s front page) indexed in Google in 2-4 days of launch. Note: Later on in the book you will find a whole chapter on building links for the site launch phase, so do not worry too much now (or skip ahead to that chapter if you wish). Crawling Frequency Crawling is a term used to describe the behavior of search engine spiders (also known as ‘bots’ (short for robots) which are computer programs written to ‘read’ websites. These spiders use links to go from one website to the other (hence the need to get links to your website). Crawling frequency is a measure of how often a website gets ‘read’ by a search engine. This frequency depends on a number of factors but the two main factors you want to worry about are: •	 Freshness (how often is the site content updated) •	 Site importance (measured by the number of links pointing to that website)

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If you get links from a website that is updated daily and has a lot of links pointing to it, you are bound to have the link to your site found quickly and get your website indexed. Example: Performancing.com is a very popular online resource for professional bloggers – it is updated daily and has tens of thousands of links pointing to it. A link from such a website would have the search engine spiders knocking on your website’s proverbial door very soon. Another example: Article directories such as EzineArticles.com are usually updated several times a day (with new articles uploaded every day) and have thousands of links pointing to them as well. Submitting an article to such article directories (if done the right way) will also help you get your website indexed quickly. Recommended Resource: Article Submitter (http://articlesubmitter.imwishlist.com) We’ve created a free program that will submit your articles to hundreds of popular article directories across the internet. Note only will this get you a quality link pointing to your website from the article directory, but many other websites will likely pick up your article and syndicate it on their website, which will lead to many more links pointing to your website! A paid example: The Yahoo Directory (http://dir.yahoo.com/) is the biggest and most popular online directory. Inclusion costs $299/year, and as such it is not a cheap proposition. The benefits, however, are often worth the costs. Inclusion in the Yahoo Directory (a process that takes a week’s time as they review your site) will not only guarantee that your website gets indexed in all search engines, your site rankings should also receive a boost (especially in the Yahoo Search index, which mixes directory results in its search results AND gives more importance to sites included in its directory). These are just a few examples of how you can use high-powered links to get your website indexed quickly. There is one caveat though – the examples I gave above, and other such sources of ‘power links’ are easy to get, but only if you know HOW to get them. I will explain how later, so for now let us look at the next part of the puzzle – search engine results. Recommended Resource: Directory Submitter (http://directorysubmitter.imwishlist.com) We’ve created another free program that will submit your website to literally thousands of other website directories across the internet. While the Yahoo directory is an excellent, “paid” directory to submit your website to, there are also thousands of completely FREE website directories you can submit to. Doing this submission manually will take you days and days of time, but using out free Directory Submitter software, you can do this much faster. Directory Submission is something that I highly recommend doing at the time I am writing this book. The more directories you can submit your website to, the more one-way links you’ll get pointing to your website, and the higher you will rank.

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The Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
Note: Search engines rank web pages, not websites. This is a basic but crucial distinction, because it says that you can optimize individual pages for different search terms, thus giving your website more points of entry and a greater chance to gain traffic. Each search engine (by the way, we are only considering the top 3 search engines, and even then we will focus mainly on Google – more on this later) ranks and displays search results differently. Knowing how each search engine (Google, Yahoo And MSN) displays search results is important because they give you clues to various entry points to the first page of search results for any of your target terms. Also, understanding the components of the information displayed for each individual search listing will better help you optimize your websites. Most searchers do not go beyond the first page of results. Reason? Searchers either find something they need (from the first 10 results or one of the sites they click through to) or they go back to the search box and change their search query to be more specific. To verify this, think about your own searching patterns – do you delve way deep into the 20th page of search results to find something, or do you click on the first few results, browse a few sites then return to refine your search query? Search habits have evolved into a somewhat iterative process (search, browse, refine your query, repeat – until you find what you are looking for). Because of this, the first page of search engine results is prime real estate (just like the home page of a website is prime real estate when you are considering what goes on it). The more you know about what goes on it (and how it gets there), the better your sites’ chances are for being on that first page. Note: The best way to understand the following paragraphs of this section is to run a few search queries across all three search engines. Here are the links: Google, Yahoo and MSN.

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The SERPs Each search engine shows some common information in their SERPs: •	 Sponsored ads (above search results or in the right sidebar) •	 Related searches (to help refine the search query). •	 Links to internal search / content properties such as: o Google News, Google Finance, Google Groups, Google Images, Google Maps, Google Video o Yahoo Shopping, Yahoo News, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Answers, Yahoo Maps, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Video, Yahoo Directory o Live QnA •	 At the time of writing, MSN lags some way behind Google and Yahoo in promoting its own content verticals in search results – Yahoo does it heavily, while Google has increased this practice as well Each of these options are excellent ways to enter the top 10 results for your target terms and offer alternative entry points to the first page of search engine rankings. Image Search, for example, can drive plenty of traffic to your websites, so can the News sites. Individual Search Results Each search engine displays a search result pretty much the same way – page title + a brief snippet of description for that page either picked up from the page itself or from that page’s DMOZ listing. (Note: dmoz. org is the largest human edited website directory on the internet) Sometimes, Google and Yahoo also offer additional links to internal sections of a site. Yahoo also lists the directory page where the site is listed (if that site is in the Yahoo directory) as well as referencing sections of the page itself (named anchors). MSN offers the least amount of information, but this should change as the search engine matures. Having links to specific sections of your website will help searchers narrow down their search on your site, making it more likely for them to find the information they are looking for (and if you have done your work right, earning you new site readers / users more easily). Not every website gets such treatment. Having a popular site (lots of backlinks) helps, but what helps even more is having a clear navigational structure on your website / web page, one that is accessible to search engines as well as users. In other words, how you organize your website and where you place your site navigation links is important. Yahoo also offers an option to get more results from a site, while Google offers a ‘similar pages’ search (which displays pages similar to the one you have selected (based mainly on backlinks analysis and site topic). Note: Expect search engines to also offer the ability to ‘bookmark’ search results for future review – Google already does something like this with their ‘Note this’ option.

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How is all this relevant? If you have a popular website, getting site categories included as site links in search results helps. But if that is not the case, then the main thing you are looking at is the page title and description that comes up as a search result.

As you can see in the image above, there are four main parts of the individual search result. •	 The page title is taken from the Title tag of that page (or website, in this case). •	 The site / page description is usually taken from the meta description tag if present (as it is in this case). If not, search engines usually pick up snippets of text containing the search term, or use the Dmoz directory listing description. •	 Keep the page URL descriptive to make it easier for searchers to quickly assess where they will land. •	 Site links are ‘rewards’ for good navigation as I mentioned above – not to mention that good navigation in itself is very helpful in getting good rankings to begin with. The ‘big deal’ here is that your page title, your page description and your page url are the first impression a searcher will get of your website in the search engine results. What the searcher will read will determine whether they want to click through to your web page or move on to the next search result. Search marketing is not just about getting the technical aspects right – you also need to know how to write well in order to maximize clicks and fully benefit from your site rankings.

What Google Wants
In February 2007, Google was used by 48.1 percent of the US search market – almost double than that of Yahoo (28.1 percent) and more than four times of MSN (10.5 percent) (comScore, February 2007). (http://www. comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=1255)

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Those numbers are powerful, but what is more telling is that while Google’s market share is on a consistent rise, MSN seems to be falling and Yahoo has not made up any ground on Google either. Note: There is no big secret behind Google’s popularity. Google positioned itself as a ‘pure’ search engine; Yahoo has always been a portal and MSN joined the race too late. The ‘purity’ and focus of Google’s search, combined with their head start (Google provided search results for Yahoo early on) means that Google are simply way ahead, and too hard to catch. What this means for us search marketers is that we have to pay close attention to what Google says, and more importantly, to what Google wants to achieve with its search engine rankings. Ranking for Google is a matter of finding that web page that is considered the most relevant to the search query and is from a website that is considered an authority on the subject and is trusted. Relevance Relevance is measured by the information the search engine can read from a web page. As I mentioned earlier, each web page is a point of entry for your website, and you can (and should) optimize your website so that each web page is targeting a different keyword. There are several factors on a web page that are used to measure relevance, with the Title tag and keyword usage on the page being the two most important factors being used to measure relevance. If a page is about ‘how to lose weight’ and the searcher has entered ‘how to build a boat’, this page is not going to be considered relevant and thus will not be part of results. On the other hand, a page on ‘building your own boat on a budget’ may be considered moderately relevant to the search query and therefore would stand a much better chance of appearing in the SERPs. On-page SEO – changes made to your web pages to improve search engine rankings – is mainly concerned with increasing the relevance of your web pages to their target keywords (you will read more about this in later chapters). Authority Authority is a ‘social’ indicator of how much a particular website or a particular web page is considered THE source on a particular topic. Authority measures expertise, and more importantly, the acknowledgement of that expertise within your industry and outside as well. If you run a golf accessories website and you have many other golfing sites linking to yours, it implies (to Google) that your website is considered a somewhat authoritative source on ‘golf accessories’. And if you have non-golfing sites linking to you as well, this will further enhance your ‘authority’ status, although this is tempered by the fact that the opinion of sites within your niche holds a greater value (because they themselves are considered authorities on the subject). Here is a quick list of the types of links that will convey authority to your website – from least useful to the most: •	 Site with few backlinks and unrelated to your site’s niche. •	 Site with many backlinks (some authority) and unrelated to your site’s topic. •	 Site with few backlinks and closely related to your site’s niche.

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•	 Site with many backlinks (some authority) and closely related to your site’s niche. Authority links are a key part of the link building process – hunting such links is an art as much as a science, and I will be showing you how in later chapters when we discuss link building. Individual web pages can also have authority on the same lines as websites do - which is why getting links to individual pages of your website (also known as deep linking) is a very important part of the link building process. Trust Trust is a measure of how reliable a website is in providing accurate information. Google uses several factors to measure trust – authority and relevance are two of them and so are links from other ‘trusted’ sites. Another trust-measuring factor is time, and it is this bit that has had SEOs and webmasters going crazy over what is now commonly called as the ‘sandbox’. The ‘sandbox’ refers to a number of filters in Google’s ranking algorithm that prevent a website or web page from ranking highly until it has reached a certain threshold. Does the sandbox really exist? Google says that a set of quality-measuring filters could be mistaken for a sandbox because sometimes their effect can be the same as that of the suggested sandbox effect. SEOs disagree, but here I tend to side with Google – there is no need for Google to intentionally hold back websites, but they do have a clear need to establish a website’s quality, and time-based filters that measure a site’s age, rate of updates, age of authority links, etc are a useful means of measuring that quality. Trust takes time to develop, but there are several strategies (all within Google’s guidelines) that you can just to boost your site’s trust and authority. However, ranking in Google is still a long term game, so expect to have to wait. Depending on your chosen niche and your SEO strategy, it could be anywhere from 6 months to 18 months. All three factors have some measure of overlapping amongst them. Anchor text can be used both to measure relevance and to measure authority, while links from a high ranking, popular website can convey both authority and trust to your website. In the next chapter I will put together a ‘cheat sheet’ of the main ranking factors that apply specifically to Google and also to other search engines. Before we do that though, let’s take a look at the other search engines.

Yahoo, MSN, etc.
Google’s dominance has meant that Yahoo and MSN come a distant second and third in importance for SEOs (and Ask doesn’t even feature, getting only 5% of total market share). Here’s an interesting thought for you – many SEOs report that it is easier to get high rankings in Yahoo and MSN than it is in Google. Personally, I think it all depends on your SEO strategy. I have websites that receive traffic exclusively from Google and almost none from Yahoo or MSN. I have other websites that have very high rankings in Yahoo but

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not so good rankings in Google. The only difference I see there is the way I promoted those sites and the link building methods I used. Which is more valuable? Google controls almost 50% (I expect this number to keep climbing and may be much higher when you read this) of all search traffic, so yes, Google definitely more valuable. Note: Which is easier to optimize for? Common consensus in the SEO community is that Google is the toughest search engine to optimize for. I think that’s an unfair statement, mainly because most SEOs are (or have been in the past) pursuing outdating strategies and have paid attention to factors that Google has progressively downgraded over the last 3 or 4 years. The old way of doing things can still get you good rankings in Google, but with those methods you are far more likely to rank highly in Yahoo and MSN than in Google. But the big question is – what ranking factors do these top 3 search engines use, and how can we use them on our sites? Most (if not all) discussions on ranking algorithms in online forums and on blogs are speculation – the SEOs do not share their best secrets that they have gleaned through experience and only the search engines know which algorithms they use and they don’t publish that information. is

The second part is answered in the rest of this book. The first part, I have answered below.

Google vs Yahoo vs MSN
Ever wanted to know how Yahoo and MSN rank websites as opposed to Google? Here is a quick look: Google Note: Based on the model of academic citation, uses relevance, trust and authority to rank websites and is biased towards informational sites that serve as resources (based on backlinks analysis) within their specific industries. •	 Is the best search engine at determining whether a link is a true editorial citation or an artificial link •	 Prefers natural link growth over time – a site getting many links quickly that are not editorially earned will most likely get the site penalized •	 Biased towards informational resources (as opposed to commercial results) •	 Much more biased towards link-based data than either Yahoo or MSN •	 Site age matters a lot in establishing trust •	 Keyword variation is important; heavy keyword densities will trip quality filters and will work against the web page

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•	 Anchor text variation is important, for the same reason as above •	 Reciprocal links and site wide links (and especially those link lists in the sidebar (or blogroll) and the site footer) have very little benefits – Google prefers in-text links as they are more likely to indicate editorial citations. •	 Effective at eliminating duplicate content •	 Site crawling (and indexing) is determined by a certain threshold of PageRank and link quality •	 Uses a series of quality filters that simulate a ‘sandbox’ effect for websites – it will normally take your website several months to achieve good rankings in Google, more if it is a competitive niche •	 Uses a site’s history in search engines as part of its ranking algorithm Google takes time to get top rankings in and its ranking algorithm forces SEOs to adopt new practices that take more than just old-fashioned link building and link-exchange networks (even though those still work). Yahoo Note: Based on the model of academic citation, uses relevance, trust and authority to rank websites and is biased towards informational sites that serve as resources (based on backlinks analysis) within their specific industries. •	 A Yahoo directory listing can do wonders for your site’s rankings in Yahoo search results •	 Responds much better to sheer link popularity as compared to Google – thus links from non-related sites and reciprocal links (as well as those blogroll links) still work well in Yahoo •	 Less biased towards links than Google •	 Gives much more weight to site metadata (such as page titles and descriptions) than Google (even though Title tags are fairly important in Google as well) •	 Better than MSN but far away from Google in determining link quality – as a result uses site authority more than link type (editorial, paid, reciprocal, link list, etc) itself •	 Pushes Yahoo Answers heavily in its search results and is constantly looking at ways to include the social side of ranking into its algorithm •	 Search results in many competitive industries (or those prone to spam) may be manually edited to minimize spam MSN Note: New to the search engine race, and not very good at it. •	 Relatively new to the search engine races •	 Relies heavily on Microsoft’s dominance of the OS market to push MSN

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•	 Poor at link analysis •	 To compensate, they place more weight on on-page factors than either Yahoo or Google •	 ‘Fresh’ links matter a lot – if your site’s backlinks grow consistently, this could help you in MSN •	 Is quick to index and rank websites •	 Poor at determining relevance •	 Favors frequently updated sites

Tracking Search Engine News
There are a handful of websites that track search engine news comprehensively, so that the rest of us don’t have to. Here are my 3 main picks for keeping track of search engine news: Search Engine Land (http://searchengineland.com/) – The mega powerhouse of search reporting. Danny Sullivan and Barry Schwartz lead the show with regular contributions by Eric Ward, Gord Hotchkiss, Greg Sterling and Bill Slawski, amongst others. Search Engine Roundtable (http://www.seroundtable.com/) – Barry Schwartz brings you the best topics and discussions from the search world (and especially from forums). Search Engine Journal (http://www.searchenginejournal.com/) – Loren Baker mixes up search reporting with SEO tutorials, including the excellent SEO Clinic, where contributing columnists combine to provide free consulting twice a month. These three should keep you busy and in the loop, as far as SEO is concerned. If you are looking for heavier reading though, I would recommend Bill Slawski’s SEO by the Sea (http://www. seobythesea.com/) for his analysis of different algorithm and rankings patents filed by Google, Yahoo and MSN. It makes for fascinating reading, but I should warn you that this might not be your cup of tea if you’re not interested in being involved professionally in SEO. Up next, we look at the key search engine ranking factors and why they matter (and more importantly, why they will continue to matter in the long run).

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3 – Search Engine Ranking Factors
Not all ranking factors are important – some, like PageRank, become important in limited circumstances. Others, like META tags, are there for usability and getting the small details right instead of having a massive impact on your search engine rankings. The goal here is to establish what ranking factors we need to look at in order to dominate all 3 search engines effectively. In this chapter I have included the most important search ranking factors and discussed how each is treated differently by the search engines. In specific chapters later, we will look at more factors and examples on how to optimize for them. It is quite difficult for a website to obtain top rankings on one search engine, let alone 2 or more at the same time. Webmasters often complain that their sites rank well in Yahoo but are no where to be seen in Google, or that they rank well in Google but have no presence in MSN. Developing a strategy that can take on Google, Yahoo and MSN all at once (let’s throw in Ask as well for good measure) is difficult, but not impossible. In the previous chapter you saw how each search engine behaved and ranked websites. In this chapter, I am going to start off by giving you a brief overview on Ask (the 4th most popular search engine) and then we will talk about the key searching engine ranking factors that will help you rank high on all search engines. I will also be talking about the Google Sandbox and PageRank, and why these two are important to understand and how you can benefit from them – yes, once you think about it, there is a definite way to benefit from the ‘Sandbox effect’. Will you automatically top Google, Yahoo and MSN after following this advice to the letter T? No, you will not. However, I can assure you that there are different keys to ranking in all three search engines and based on the principles described in this book, you can do very well in them. Top? Cannot say for sure. Page 1? Very, very possible.

Ask – The Forgotten Search Engine
Ask.com has often been praised for its accuracy of results, but a lack of exposure and the market dominance enjoyed by Google and Yahoo means that there just isn’t any space for alternative search engines. However, even if Ask commands 5 percent of the search engine market share, that’s a 5 percent that you CAN capture using good search marketing principles, so why hold back? The main things to remember about Ask are: •	 Heavily biased towards topical authority and link relevance •	 Slow to rank and index websites •	 Closer to Google in its preferences for links over on-page optimization

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Ask gives a lot of weight to on-topic links, so ranking on Ask.com is a good test to determine if your website is getting the right type of links (relevant and authoritative). Their emphasis on clustering topical communities also means that unless your site has several links pointing to it from within your niche, it will not be ranked well (and may not even be properly indexed). You do not have to worry about Ask.com and I probably will not even mention them in the rest of this book. However, keep in mind that checking your site’s rankings on Ask.com is a useful way of judging your site’s topical rank and if that is an area your site needs further strengthening in.

Google Sandbox – Time-Based Quality Indicators
Regardless of whether you believe that there actually is a ‘Google Sandbox’ or not, you should keep in mind the fact that Google establishes quality (of your site or web page) using time-based indicators. Now these indicators could be related to the site’s link profile (link age), the site itself (domain age) or maybe some other factors as well. The reality is that no one can pretend to know exactly what factors Google uses or how it uses them. What we do know for sure is that Google uses time-based indicators to establish trust in a website. The best way to take advantage of these is to continue your regular link building practices but get the ‘best’ links as early as possible, and to factor time into your ranking expectations. Whereas you can rank for your target terms in a month or two in MSN and in 2 to 4 months in Yahoo, Google can make you wait for as long as an year and in really competitive niches, more than that. Of course, in very competitive niches you also have aggressive competitors to contend with who probably already have a head start on you. You will hear many theories related to the topic of ‘getting out of the Sandbox’ and they all tend to say the same thing – get lots of relevant, authoritative, trustworthy links, and then wait. If you want to take advantage of these time-based indicators, here are a few simple rules: •	 Go for quality 4-in-1 links (links that are relevant, authoritative, are from trusted sources and from high PageRank web pages / sites). •	 Start your website today, and start building those links today too. Every day you spend not working on your link building is another day you are wasting in getting top rankings in Google. •	 Get your best links – the ones that will deliver the most ‘trust’ – first. How can you benefit from the Google Sandbox? Site age and link age delivers plenty of trust, so old websites with a good link profile tend to have good rankings in Google in face of young websites with more links. If you have an already-established website and have done some link building in the past, chances are that it will already have passed the ‘trust’ test and will be ‘out’ of the Sandbox. Established sites have a clear advantage over new websites and Google’s quality factors perpetuate that advantage.

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The downside is that if your website does not have great link profile and has not passed Google’s quality indicators, you will have to follow the same path as other new websites (although you will still manage to ‘get out’ of the Sandbox quicker).

Google PageRank – Still Important
Note: To see your website’s Page Rank, you need to download and install Google’s free Page Rank toolbar. You can do that here: http://toolbar.google.com Today SEOs make a point of saying that PageRank (PR) is irrelevant, but that’s a limited worldview and the reality is that not only a lot of link buying and selling is based on PR and ignores the fact that Google still uses PR in its crawling, indexing and ranking processes. How does PR help you? •	 A web page needs a certain threshold of PR before it can be crawled – so for your website to be deepcrawled (with Google hitting all your site pages), you need to get some high PR links to your site. *Keep in mind that the Page Rank we see in the toolbar is an outdated Page Rank, but it’s the best indication we have. •	 Although not always true, PR is usually associated with authority websites. High PR links (relevant and in-context, of course) are a good way to build authority links. •	 With all other factors being the same, a high PR link is more valuable than a low PR link. •	 PR is a measure of link popularity as well, and considering how Yahoo and MSN give more weight to sheer link popularity, it is a good indicator of how your website can perform in other search engines. PageRank by itself does not automatically convey high search engine rankings. PR + proper keyword usage does not help either (as it used to once). But PageRank is still an important metric in calculating value of links and plays a (limited) role in ranking search engine results.

On-Page Ranking Factors
The following factors are on-page items – different parts of a web page – that affect its rankings. Title Tags Denoted by the <title> tags in HTML, this tag always shows at the top of a browser window and appears in the SERPs as the title of the web page. A Title tag will tell the search engines and users what the current web page is about, so it is important to: •	 Keep each page’s main keywords in the Title tag •	 Make sure the page title is written to attract click-throughs •	 Keep Title tags unique (for each page) and specific to the content of the page

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It is, effort-wise and time-wise, the single most effective SEO technique that will get you maximum benefits for the little time spent fixing them. Title tags are important across all three search engines, and the general advice on this subjects works well for all of them. Keyword Usage The use of queried terms (keywords searched by users) on the page. While unrelated pages can still rank for search queries, in most cases keyword usage throughout a page gives search engines establish topical relevance. Keyword frequency (amount of usage) is important, but there are a few things to keep in mind: •	 All 3 search engines use different thresholds to determine what is ‘too less’ (not relevant enough) and what is ‘too much’ (spam) when it comes to keyword frequency, so you have to find middle ground. •	 Keyword variance (varying the usage of the target keyword) based on keyword clusters (groups of keywords related to one term) is more important for Google than for other search engines. •	 Related terms (loosely related to the main term but not as similar as clusters) are important as well as they help establish strong topical relevance and can be used to establish the depth of the writer’s knowledge of the subject (and thus serve as a possible on-page metric for topical authority). The best strategy is to have very focused pages on specific keywords – this forces the writer (whether you or your content writer) to 1) naturally repeat the main keyword and 2) use multiple keyword variations and related terms as he writes about the topic. Using a natural approach you will a) not worry so much about it and b) still do enough to rank well (on keyword usage, at least) across all 3 search engines. URL Structure Like Title tags, URL structures are those simple SEO things that take a few minutes to set up, have long term benefits (in branding and in search engine rankings) and still most webmasters end up ignoring them / messing them up. Here are some tips for maintaining search-engine-friendly URLs: •	 Use static URLs instead of dynamic, database-driven URLs where possible. If it becomes necessary, use as few parameters as possible •	 Keep them short (instead of long folder sequences and sentences) and descriptive (instead of numbers) •	 Use keywords •	 Use hyphens for term separation •	 Remove extra data (instead of site.com/category/category1/page1.htm, try site.com/category1/page1. htm)

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You can miss one or two of these and still rank well. However, when you’re building a new site you need to get as many things right out of the box as possible, and URL structures are fairly easy to get right. Meta Description Tag The meta description tag has little to do with search engine rankings, put is extremely useful in controlling the SERPS description of your web pages. Just as the title tag should be written with branding in mind and should encourage search engine users to click, the meta description should perform the same function. Keyword usage in this tag (and the use of the meta keywords tag as well) does not have enough of an impact to search rankings to be considered a worthwhile time investment - although if you are building a new website, make sure you are setting up each page with unique (and targeted) title tags, meta description tags and meta keywords tags. If you have the chance to build a website that does as much as possible to tell the search engine what your web pages are about, why wouldn’t you? Main use is for controlling the description of your site in search results, and even that is important enough to get this tag listed here. Duplicate Content Search engines have different ways of dealing with duplicate content and it is difficult to conduct experiments in isolation or account for all potentially-influencing factors. Two things to keep in mind: •	 While search engines usually do a good job of filtering out duplicate content, some (many) pages survive, and with good reason. Those websites (and sometimes those pages) in general provide a lot of unique content of their own. If you are worried about falling foul of dupe content penalties, think of what your web pages / web site offers to its users. If you can add something that is significant enough to make the web page unique, you’ll do fine. •	 Duplicate content is more of a negative-only filter – you get penalized if your web pages are copies of other pages, but if you get the all-clear from these filters it will not give you any boost in search rankings.

Site-based Ranking Factors
Apart from on-page and link-based ranking factors, there are some factors that are calculated for the whole domain (and not just the ranking page). These have a considerable impact on what sort of rankings your web pages can achieve individually. Link Popularity Link popularity measures the number of all links pointing to a website. Search engines use link quality to measure the value and importance of these links, and then give each link a different weight depending on its quality (more on link quality in the link building chapters).

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Why is this important? Because as much as link quality is important, having more links – more web pages ‘voting’ for your website – will always help. And as you will find out later, if you can avoid those links that are disregarded completely, every link that you acquire will help your search engine rankings. Topical Authority A topical community is measured by the search engines as a group of websites who interlink to and with one another frequently and carry a similar topic or theme. Links from websites within your topical community carry more weight because they offer a better chance of critically evaluating the information your site offers than an outside website unfamiliar with the topic. Editorial citations from within your topical community are thus considered more valuable. Usually you will find that for each niche a core community or hub exists with the most links from websites also those with the most links from within the topical community at the centre of focus and discussion. These sites are considered topical authority sites, and for each sector your goal should be to position your website as the authority in that niche. Site Topic A website’s primary topic (which the search engines will determine through analyzing its hosted web pages) influences how well those pages are able to rank for on-topic (similar) and off-topic (different niche) search queries. Thus, websites on specific subtopics may be able to rank higher than websites that cover the general topic. This also works in reverse, as large websites (like BBC or Wikipedia) cover a myriad of subjects and thus may be able to rank well for many or all of them. Site Architecture How your website is structured internally – how pages link to each other, how different categories are divided and how content is segmented across those categories. Just as external links pointing to your website are considered ‘votes’, a link from one site page to the other counts as a ‘vote’ as well. Proper internal linking (accounting for navigation as well. The way you setup your site determines – along with the number, PR and quality of links pointing to your website – how quickly it is crawled by search engines, whether all internal pages are found or not, and also how well your pages rank in the search engine results. •	 Have clear, distinct sections on your website and chunk content in them. If necessary, cross-link (a page that is relevant to two or more categories) but make sure that you are creating clear subtopics on your site and not a mishmash of random information. •	 Highlight the key sections – via navigational menus – across the whole site. •	 Build a reusable ‘system’ of internal linking – standard navigation + internal linking strategies to maximize exposure for key pages.

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•	 Use sitemaps to help search engines find all pages of your website (no, the absence of sitemaps will not harm your search engine rankings, nor will the presence of one necessarily improve them – it just makes it easier for search engines to find and index new pages). Trust How do search engines measure ‘trust’? It is a difficult question, and no one knows the exact answer to it (except Google themselves). How do we define ‘trust’? There are three different ways to look at it: •	 A website is trusted to provide accurate, reliable and timely information •	 A website is trusted to ‘vote’ only for other websites that fill the above criteria •	 A website is ‘voted’ for by authority sites from other sectors as being a topical authority In other words, trust is established by authority (points #1 and #3) and linking out habits (point #2). If a site is considered a topical authority and links out only to authority sites, then that website is ‘trusted’ by the search engines. But what does trust mean in this case? Trust is used here to evaluate links to a website – a link from a website that is ‘trusted’ will count for more than a website that is ‘not trusted’. In other words – if Site A consistently links out to high-quality websites (as established by search engines) and also sends a link your way, that is a valuable link in the eyes of the SEs. On the other hand a link from site B – that links out to everyone without regard for quality or review – will not be as valuable. Trust is an increasingly important factor as search engine algorithms evolve and start using site histories (rankings, link building patterns, linking out patterns, content addition patterns, etc) more heavily to evaluate links and web pages.

Link-Based Ranking Factors
Links-based analysis forms the core of search engine algorithms – even the site-based factors mentioned in the previous section are based one way or the other on links. Now while I do not want you to start obsessing about links – worrying about SEO will not help when you already know what to do and how to do it (through this book) – it is very important to have a clear idea of what linkbased factors are important for your site’s search engine rankings. Looking to build links? Make sure you read the following, as well as the chapter on evaluating links, first.

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Link Age As search engines evolve and try to filter spam out of their search results, one measure of authority and quality in links as been link age – the time since that search engine first discovered that link. This ties into our earlier Sandbox discussions closely – older, established websites generally have a mixture of aged links, well-linked internal pages and some measure of topical authority assigned to them. If search engines are to use that generic profile as a minimum threshold of trust then quality links from topically-related sites must also age before they can deliver their full benefits. Another aspect of link age has to do with trusting the permanence of a link (editorial citation) itself. For better or worse, older links are given more importance because they imply a long-term citation – whether this is because the website owner has forgotten about that page or it is a manual decision to keep that link is a different story. Link Growth Does a website continue to accrue links over a period of time? Does a web page continue to do the same? A web page / web site that keeps acquiring links (editorial citations) is a strong indicator that the information is still relevant and useful – keys to establishing authority. Search engines are very effective at measuring rates of link growth and in analyzing whether those patterns are natural or artificial. One drawback of this approach is that the popular sites continue to accrue links (as more and more people find them and link to them) while equally valuable (or even more valuable), less popular websites fail because few people find / link to them. Anchor text of link The anchor text is used to describe the destination of a link – so a link to a web page that has reviews on Bluetooth headsets would ideally have ‘Bluetooth headset reviews’ in its anchor text. Search engines use anchor text to determine how linking websites describe topics of certain links. Since this is a factor that can easily be gamed, I think that search engines combine their trust of a link with how much weight they give to the anchor text. Not only is the anchor text important but also the content surrounding the link – as those are often used to describe the link much more effectively than the anchor text itself. Topical authority of linking page As discussed earlier, topical authority is determined by aggregating the value of editorial citations to that page, both from within the topical community and outside it. This is a tighter method of establish authority than simply using PR or the topical authority of the website hosting the page (although those two impact link value as well).

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Topical authority of site of linking page Same as above, except that this is applied to the website instead of the individual page. Topical relevance of linking page Established by: •	 Analyzing the content of the linking page •	 Analyzing the link profile of that page to determine the key subject matter of that page All other factors being equal, links from closely-related pages are more valuable than off-topic pages. Topical relevance of site of linking page Same as above, except that this is applied to the website instead of the individual page. PR of linking page The link popularity of the linking page has a direct impact on the value of the links that page creates. PR of site of linking page Same as above, except that this is applied to the website instead of the individual page. Degree of editorial citation To simplify – the degree of trust the search engine can accord a particular link based on how it is used on the page. The navigation menu of a page has obvious importance, so links in that menu (usually internal pages) are trusted implicitly, even if they are not necessarily what you’d call ‘in-context’. A list of links in the sidebar might have little importance if there is no editorial content surrounding them – mainly because these are not links that are considered important to the site’s functions. In-context links are important but two things have to be taken care off – topical relevance and the history of the site itself. Sites with a good linking history can even have their link-lists categorized as trusted links, while sites with poor a linking history will have their in-context links discounted as well. Co-Citation Co-Citation is a method used to establish a topical similarity between two items (in our case, two web pages or two websites). For example, if A and B are both cited (linked to) by C, they may be said to be related to one another even if they do not link to each other directly. If A and B are both cited by many other pages, they have a ‘stronger’ relationship – i.e. they are considered very similar. This similarity can be used to determine the quality / trustworthiness of a page / website / source.

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How does this affect your link building practices? In-context links are important, but it’s equally important to target websites that regularly reference the top authorities in your topical niche and avoid the non-topical, non-authoritative sites. In other terms, get links from websites that link to the top sites in your niche. Now that we have a basic understanding of how search engines work and what the main search ranking factors are, we can move on to the nitty-gritty of running an SEO campaign. The next chapter will tell you more about what’s in store.

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4 – Your SEO Master Plan
Information without the knowledge and will to use it effectively is useless – if you cannot put it to use, you might as well not have it in the first place. You are reading this book, so the ‘will’ is not an issue. However, you still need a plan – and the best plan is one that is flexible yet detailed enough to guide you and allow you to customize it to your own needs. This chapter introduces / previews the rest of the book. There are 4 main phases of this plan Why 4 phases, and not 5 or 3? Maybe I like the number 4. Maybe it is because this is the system that works best for me – and has continued to work for me as a basic template for my SEO campaigns over the last few years. I am always tweaking it, and so should you. If you find it easier to split the ‘site launch’ phase into two parts, do so. If you want to combine phases 2 and 3 (site optimization and site launch), do that too. Customize, but make sure you do the necessary steps. The rest of the chapter summarizes what you will be reading and doing in the rest of the book. Skim through, and then get started with the next chapter.

Part 1: Doing Research
A necessary (and not as boring as you might think) part of SEO. I’ll admit, I’m not the sort of person who likes to over-elaborate or over-do the planning and research phase. I follow the ‘ready-fire-aim’ school of thought, so my goal with every website is to just get started and fix things later. However, there still is that ‘ready’ bit of the whole ready-fire-aim process, and there is some research that you will have to do in order to be ready to conquer your target niche. But what is your target, really? •	 Setting Goals Understand your targets for the website and profile the ideal audience. •	 Keyword Research Once you know your topic (and have a feel for your audience), find out what keywords they are using. •	 Competitive Analysis Find out who your top competition is, and what they are doing in terms of SEO / online marketing.

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Part 2: Building / Optimizing Your Site
This section will vary from project to project depending on whether you are working on a new website or an already established one. •	 Keywords & Site Content How to use your keywords, how to split them between pages and how to organize your website based on them. Using keywords, competitive analysis and site goals to write your site content. •	 On-Page SEO Optimizing your pages – title tags, meta tags, keyword usage and avoiding duplicate content. •	 Site Architecture How you organize your website’s pages (internal linking), search engine friendly site URLs and sitemaps usage.

Part 3: Site Launch
•	 Link Building Basics Basic principles behind effective link building, the types of links you will need and how to approach link building on a long-term, day-to-day basis. •	 Site Launch Links A comprehensive look at the type of links you need to procure during site launch to get your site crawled, your internal pages indexed and your site according the trust and authority necessary to help your pages get rankings in search engines..

Part 4: Long Term SEO
Search marketing is a long-term, persistent commitment. It involves consistent content building, link building and monitoring the success of the search campaign (site traffic and site rankings) to fine tune your activities. •	 Link Sources Where do you get links from? This chapter discusses more than 10 different major sources of links and gives you strategies for finding more. •	 Finding Link Partners How you can use search engines to find potential link partners. •	 Link Valuation How to place a value on links, and how this can help your link building campaign.

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•	 Link Worthy Content What is link-worthy or quality content and how you can build a habit of creating link worthy content for your sites. •	 Campaign Tracking Using web analytics and search ranking data to refocus and target your link building / SEO campaign. Let’s get started – you can read through the book in one go, or you can use the table of contents to directly jump to any specific chapter in the book at any time.

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5 – Setting Goals
Your SEO efforts will be wasted if you do not have a clear picture of: •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 what you want to achieve through your website who you are targeting what you want them to do what your long-term destination is what your progress is (from time to time)

In addition, you also need to know what the best method is to reach your audience (what are your best keywords) and how much work you will have to do to be to meet your goals (competition analysis). The next two chapters will look at keyword research and competition analysis – the rest, I am going to discuss below. Let us start by making two lists.

What Is Your Website’s Purpose?
The first list will be a collection of points that answer the question posed above – what purpose does your website serve? For some people, a website is an extension of their lives / interests / business – it is a means to bring attention to what they are doing offline. For others, their website IS their interest / business – and that brings with it a whole new set of priorities. What are the overall goals for your website? Is it to sell something? Is it to generate leads for your consulting business? Is it simply to maintain an online presence and use it to provide basic information to your customers? For some companies, branding will be an important part of their site’s purpose. For others, it could be community building around their products and / or services. Your goals (or your company’s goals) and business strategy will have a strong impact on how you will setup your website and how you will define its purpose. To help you out, I am going to give you two examples to help explain how you can pinpoint your site’s purpose– a real-life analysis of an online company, and a fictional situation of an offline business that wants to use their website to generate clients. Example #1: For example, consider the situation of popular traffic tracking online service, StatCounter (SC). SC provides an easy-to-use, non-intrusive hit counter for free to its users, but that is the ‘sweetener’ they use to make people test their service before pitching them the paid version of this service (which removes certain restrictions that come with the free version).

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So how would we define StatCounter’s primary goal? Primary Goal: To provide the best paid hit tracking services. Your site’s primary goal will help you keep grounded and on the right track when you are deciding what to do on the site. Sometimes, your website may have more than one purpose – in that case you would split them into one primary goal and one (or more) secondary goals. For StatCounter, their secondary goal is (I’m guessing) something like this: Secondary Goal: To sell ad space to capitalize on the site’s traffic and popularity and earn a steady second income. Example #2: Consider the hypothetical case of a freelance web designer, Brian, who wants to use his website to get design gigs. He also has a passion for teaching and wants to channel that into sharing his knowledge through his website. In addition, Brian wants the website to earn him a secondary income (apart from the design gigs) so he wants to sell website templates and custom site scripts on his website as well. Let’s see how that reflects in his website goals: Primary Goal: To generate leads Secondary Goal #1: To write about web design techniques and share what he knows Secondary Goal #2: Make money by selling templates and scripts What is really good here is that the two secondary goals tie-in and overlap with Brian’s primary goal –his site templates and his articles are just two more ways for Brian to generate more leads. Ideally, you would want to limit your secondary goals to a maximum of 3 (the fewer, the better). Having a singular focus for your website can help you get laser-focused in your search marketing efforts. However, sometimes your aims might be grander and there could be more than one thing that you want to make happen through your website. Just make sure that you do not lose focus of the overall picture or muddle up your goals by having too many of them.

Who is your target audience?
Whether you are selling shoes or asking for donations, you need to pin down who your target audience is. Usually people define their target audience in broad terms: •	 someone selling resume writing software could define his audience as people who need new / better resumes •	 A company selling high-end stereo equipment would be targeting for audiophile enthusiasts.

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If you want to be successful, it is far easier and simpler to find a specific type of audience, build your ‘ideal client’ image and then work your socks off in serving that client. Once you are dominating your niche of the market you can afford to spread out and broaden your focus, but till then, it is niche, niche, niche. Brian (a freelance web developer) talks about his audience: “I’m targeting serious entrepreneurs and small businesses that need an impressive and quality web presence that helps them achieve their online business goals. I want to target people who place a high value on quality and results. However, I also know how hard it is for people to pay for quality web design, so I want to provide a low-cost way for people to get started and to teach them the same techniques I use to build websites for my clients. I want to target web-savvy people with a basic understanding of how websites work. Age is no barrier to entrepreneurship, and thanks to the Internet I have a worldwide audience. However, I will be targeting an English-speaking audience because web design and getting clear requirements from the client is hard enough without getting tangled in language problems.” In an effort to allow for different (and possibly overlapping) audiences, Brian is using his skills to provide website templates and web design tips on his website. These will in turn get his design skills more exposure so they benefit him in several different ways. You need to use your website goals to paint a detailed picture of your audience – web-savvy, English-speaking and an understanding for web design. Unfortunately, we realize that Brian’s goals are detailed but not specific enough, and as a result he will have trouble competing in this already-tough niche. So what does Brian do? He rethinks his goals and his audience, and decides to narrow down his area of expertise to WordPress (a popular blogging software). http://wordpress.org/ That’s a smart move, because more and more people are moving towards WordPress and blogging, and as big companies start to embrace blogging as part of their marketing and branding strategy quality designers like Brian will always be in demand. Brian also decides to target local businesses first, so that he can build a local, community-based profile and use that as a launching pad for the future. You don’t have to ‘go local’, but it’s a good idea to give more attention to your own community / pick a narrow niche to start in. Dominating them is easier, and it gives you the momentum to move up to bigger niches.

What Does Your Site Do?
•	 How does your website solve the core problem your target audience has? •	 What information does it provide to its users? •	 What are the steps you want your readers to take on each page, and how do they tie in with your primary goal?

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You might read the above and think – that’s not SEO! And you would be right. That’s not traditional SEO. But in the last couple of years, SEO has radically changed as more and more people realize that it is just one part of the process in building websites that make you money. It is still a separate skill set from web designing or copywriting, but you need to know elements from both of those sectors in order to have a website that brings in search engine traffic AND converts them properly. After all – what good is free traffic if you have no way to put that to work into making you money? We will do a more detailed conversion analysis later on, but for now I want you to make a list of: •	 What information / pages / functionality your site will provide to its users? •	 How does each item in the above list work towards fulfilling your website’s primary and secondary goals? •	 What steps do you want your readers to take on these pages? Once you have all that, it is time to review your website and see where you stand now as opposed to where you should be. If you do not have a site (and are building one), skip to the next section that talks about incorporating this advice into new sites.

Existing Site Analysis
Evaluate your website using the following checklist: •	 Does it focus on your audience’s core problem? If not, why not, and what can you do to fix this? •	 Does it provide users will all the necessary information? If not, why not, and what can you do to fix this? •	 Does each page tie in with your primary / secondary goals? If not, then why is it there? Can you remove it and place the information on a more relevant page? •	 Does each internal page have one clear objective? The main page and category pages usually have to ‘share’ attention, but internal pages can focus on and should have one main objective only. Put yourself in the shoes of a random user, who has just landed on an internal page of your website from a search engine query. What will you want them to do? This will depend on the context and purpose of your website, but if you can adopt this mindset for every page, you can have a laser-focused website that not only brings in traffic but converts it as well.

Building a New Site
It is easier to build a new site from scratch focusing on conversion and good on-site SEO than it is to optimize and improve an already existing website.

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On the other hand, existing websites already have a set of backlinks pointing to them, so the link building efforts are definitely easier (plus you already have some search engine visibility). Incidentally, a site redesign is an excellent time to focus on SEO – you can treat the project as a new website and do SEO, content writing and conversions right from the start.

Success Objectives and Tracking Progress
The flip side of setting goals is that you also need to set success markers and then track their progress. For example, for a recent site I setup, my success objectives were (for 1 year): •	 To reach 5,000 hits / day. The niche I’m working in has room for lots more, but that’s my bare minimum target. •	 To reach $1,000 per month. I am using a combination of affiliate programs, direct ad sales and AdSense here. •	 To hit page #1 for my main keywords, and top 5 for all second and third tier keywords. •	 To build a community (forum) of at least 300-500 active members. These are very achievable goals, and definitely on the low end of what I would expect to achieve in terms of traffic and revenue if I worked on the website fulltime. How will you measure your success? For some items – such as AdSense revenue or keyword rankings, your goals could differ drastically based on how competitive your target niche is and how much traffic your keywords get every day. A #1 ranked site for a popular term could easily garner 10,000 hits a day – but then the competition would be equally tough. You will probably need to do some keyword research and competition analysis before you can have a complete picture of your success objectives, but for now simply focus on completing a picture of what it would mean to accomplish your primary goal. Once you have set your objectives, monitor them monthly (for traffic and search ranking numbers I will show you a few tools that you can use). Keep working hard at your website and if you see that you’re not making month-to-month progress (i.e. your traffic / rankings go stagnant), it would be time to do a review and figure out what you are doing wrong.

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6 – Keyword Research
Despite the changing landscape of SEO (from on-page optimization to links to social marketing) and evolving strategies, keyword analysis and research are still important. You could also say that in essence we are only talking about ‘topical analyses’ and how to optimize for specific subtopics. Search engine users, however, do not always think in terms of broad topics – they are concerned with what information they want to find at that instant, and they will either type in a natural language question or a bunch of key terms (or keywords) related to the problem facing them at the moment. If establishing your site objectives and identifying your audience is part of focusing and narrowing your niche, keyword research is used to learn what ‘language’ and ‘terminology’ your target audience is most likely to type in when using search engines. We are going to use a number of processes to: •	 Create a master list of possible search terms that your audience can use (and uses) •	 Calculate the approximate number of actual searches carried out on major search engines for each term •	 Evaluate the competition for each search term – websites that you will be competing with for ranking for that term. •	 Use this list to pick those keywords that have high search volume (many people searching for that term every day) but less competition (not too many websites promoting themselves for that term).

Build Your Keyword List
There is no one special formula to build a keyword list – in this chapter I have listed several strategies that you can use, and ideally you would be using all of them in conjunction. For smaller projects, however, it could be easier to skip a few steps and then come back later as the site expands. Step 1: Brainstorm •	 Who are you? Your company name (abbreviations and full name), as well as individual names in case you are a small business and are identified by your owner(s) as well. •	 What products /services you offer? Write down generic terms used in your industry but also specific product names that you offer. •	 Where are you situated? Optimizing for your geographical location is very important if you are a brick and mortar organization. •	 What specific needs does your website fulfill? You will get more ideas from looking at the research you did in the previous section.

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•	 Put yourself in the searcher’s place – use your target audience details, and for the next few minutes, imagine yourself as the person who you will actually be serving. What will you type in the search box? •	 Use variations for all the keywords you have listed so far. For example, ‘search engine marketing’ and ‘search engine optimization’ refer to the same thing, but are variations of each other (and so is the term ‘search marketing’). Use singular and plural forms in your list as well. •	 Pay attention to various themes used in your business (seasonal or niche) and list them as well. The idea is to put together as large a list as possible when you start out. You will not be doing this alone so there is no need to worry about having a ‘complete’ list – just make sure that you list everything you can think of at that moment. Next Step? Get help. Step 2: Expand Your List There are plenty of sources you can use to help you add more keywords to this list. In several cases these sources will probably know more than you about the subject, and it is always valuable to include industryspecific ‘expert’ terms. In other cases the source will be using laymen terms; this gives you a different perspective and is quite useful as well. The idea is the same – to compile a list of terms and phrases that people use in your niche / audience. •	 Your team – If you are working in an SEO firm (or working on a SEO campaign with another person), it pays to brainstorm together. If you are an in-house marketing / web person, consult your web team and co-workers in your organization. •	 Industry media – Go through online forums, news sites, reference sites as well as offline journals and magazines to see what terminology they are using to describe your product or service. •	 Customers – Experienced customers will be familiar with the terminology you use, but most people will have no clue what specific terms and abbreviations mean. And even if they recognize the terms, they may not know what they mean and they may not use them while performing their searches. Poll your ‘target audience’ to get a handle on what variations and phrases they use. •	 Competition – A quick and easy way to get a head start in keyword research is to find your top 5 competitors (pick the broadest term in your list, search for it in Google and take the first 5 websites) and see what terms they are using on their websites. In the next chapter I’ll show you how to study your competition to your maximum advantage, but for now just go through the major sites in your niche and note down any keywords that you might have missed. And if you already have a website: •	 Your website – Go through your website and see if there are any terms that you might have missed. •	 Website Statistics – if you have a stats monitoring program that tracks traffic on your website, review it to see what search terms your audience are currently using to come to your website. Add them to your list as well (more on website stats later).

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Using Keyword Research Tools
There are several free (and paid) keyword research tools available online that can help you build keyword lists as well as gather search data about those keywords. You can use these keyword tools to supplement (or replace) the keyword research process I have detailed above. Ideally, you would want to combine the two approaches – use keyword research tools to get a general idea of the niche and then the manual approach described above to customize the list to your target audience. Each of these tools will use your base keyword to generate a list of relevant phrases for that niche based on the tool’s internal keyword database. All tools rank keywords based on estimated search popularity (number of searches the keyword gets in a certain time period) – each tool uses different methods to get to this estimate. How to use these tools? Load the tool up, enter your base keyword, press a button or two and you should have a list of keywords generated pretty quickly. In most applications there will also be a way to export that information to a text file or an Excel (.CSV) file. If not, you can always copy-paste. To get a detailed, comprehensive look at your keyword options, you should also search for the top ‘categorical’ keywords in your list – subtopics that you can identify immediately just by looking at your list. For example, your base search term could be “home theater systems” and your subtopics in that case would be “home theater audio”, “home theater speakers”, “home theater design” and so on. Digging into these terms and creating a list of focused keywords around these subtopics is important if you want to cover every possible angle for your audience’s preference.

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Keyword Elite Link: http://www.keywordelite.com

Keyword Elite is the software we use for our business and had custom developed to do everything we would ever need for our own keyword research. In 2005, we decided to release the tool to the public and since then it’s become the leading desktop keyword research in the world. The pro is that Keyword Elite does much more than any other keyword research tool on the market, but the con is that it is not free. I highly recommend this tool over the others.

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Google AdWords Keyword Tool Link: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal Cost: Free

Google AdWords Keyword Tool is offered by Google to help potential Google AdWords users to estimate keyword search volume and advertiser competition for their target search terms. The Google Keywords Tool uses a relative scale to represent which search terms are more popular than others – what you get is a general idea of which terms get plenty of searches and which terms don’t. The Google Keywords Tool also gives us a picture of advertiser competition on a similar, relative scale. So if you are also interested in driving Pay per Click traffic to your website, the Google AdWords Keyword Tool can be a very useful starting step to help you select keywords for your campaign. Because you are not seeing any actual numbers, you cannot use the Google tool to predict search volume accurately. However, it is an excellent resource for generating keyword lists as it is based on what terms people use to search on Google. And since it has the largest user base compared to all the other keyword research tools, you get a lot of depth when research keywords and building lists.

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Google Suggest Link: http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=1 Cost: Free

Google Suggest works by showing you specific and targeted keyword alternatives for your search query while you are typing in your search. As you can see from the image above, it also gives you the ‘competition’ – the number of pages ranking for that keyword in Google’s index – for those terms as well. Google Suggest is another tool that you can use to quickly gauge the general ‘search demand’ of a niche and you should ideally use it at the beginning of your keyword research process to help you add high level keywords to your list. As you add letters and terms to your keywords the displayed alternatives narrow down, which can give you a quick visual picture of the terms that are popular in that niche and subtopic.

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WordTracker Link: http://www.wordtracker.com Cost: Free trial / Paid - multiple subscription options

WordTracker offers search popularity numbers and a diverse set of tools in generating keyword lists and in comparing keyword popularity with search engine competition (the number of pages deemed relevant to rank for that keyword). WordTracker’s search popularity numbers are of little use on an absolute scale – it only uses data from a couple of meta search engines and its data set is severely limited. However, you can use WordTracker to discover ‘relative’ popularity, although with such a small data set there’s a chance of errors creeping in. The great thing about WordTracker is that it can help you find related terms thanks to its built-in thesaurus and lateral search facilities. That makes it an excellent tool to go ‘broad’ in your keyword research and to find related subtopics to target. In short, WordTracker gives you more tools than any other “web based” keyword research service online, but is limited because of its search popularity numbers and it is “web-based”.

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Yahoo Search Marketing (Overture) Keyword Selector Tool Link: http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/ Cost: Free

Note: At the time of writing the Overture search term suggestion tool is defunt. The YSM tool (popularly known as Overture, after their parent company that was acquired by Yahoo) is one of the first keyword research tools you will turn to when you need hard data on search popularity. Overture is easy to use and is based on the Yahoo PPC network, so it offers a larger user base than that of WordTracker. It shows search popularity data for the last month, and it also allows you to target your research by geographical location. However, because every keyword tool and bid management tool query the Yahoo network, data on Overture for search traffic can be skewed toward popular terms. It also combines plural and singular versions of keywords (there’s a serious difference in sites ranking for “keyword services” and “keyword service” in most niches – try it yourself).

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The YSM Keyword Tool does not give you ‘related terms’, but because it offers 100 terms per keyword (more than the free trial of WordTracker offers) it is a useful way to build a deep keyword list around a specific topic. Overall, it’s a good tool to use to get a quick idea of the search popularity of a term and the demand in a particular niche. Keyword Discovery Link: http://www.keyworddiscovery.com Cost: Paid / Subscription options

Keyword Discovery is a direct competitor for WordTracker and claims to do everything that WT does (but only better). People often wonder how Keyword Discovery works and where they get their data from, so here’s what KD have to say for it: (http://keyworddiscovery.com/engines.html) “Keyword Discovery currently collects search term data from just over 180 search engines world wide. Our database contains approximately 32 billion searches from the last 12 months. We do not use other keyword research sources like Google or the Overture search term suggestion tools in our data. These may be provided as part of the Keyword Discovery service, but are separate from our core database. How we collect the data The search engines listed below either provide their complete search logs and these are imported in full into our database, or samples are collected by scraping search statistics from ISP logs and other sources.

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Data is collected on daily basis however due to the index size, the online database is updated monthly. Premium Database If you are looking for a pure search results without skew caused by automated web agents, we also have the Premium Database (http://keyworddiscovery.com/premium-keyword-database.html). It contains over 600 million keyword searches based purely on user panel data.” You can see the full list of search engines Keyword Discovery states that it tracks here. (http:// keyworddiscovery.com/engines.html) Keyword Discovery claims that it tracks 32 billion queries from the last year – this number has probably gone up since KD last updated that page. In comparison, this comScore metrics report (http://www.comscore.com/ press/release.asp?press=1167) shows that in December 2006, Americans conducted 6.7 billion searches. At that rate, Keyword Discovery apparently manages to track the equivalent of half of the search queries conducted in the US (worldwide figures will inevitably be higher). That’s not a bad number when you consider how far behind other keyword databases are. Keyword Discovery offers spelling mistake research, related terms, seasonal search trends, industry-specific keywords and several other tools (including keyword reports on specific industries). WordTracker is the ‘traditional’ choice, and my personal favorite of the two, but KeywordDiscovery may be worth a look as well.

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Digital Point Keyword Suggestion Tool Link: http://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/suggestion/ Cost: Free

The DP Keyword Suggestion Tool is a ‘quick n dirty’ solution to comparing data side by side from the Overture and WordTracker databases. It uses WordTracker’s free service, which is limited, so you don’t get the full benefits of WordTracker’s database. The DP tool is a good choice if you want to quickly compare search popularity data across both tools – and if you are not inclined to pay for WordTracker (even for their 1-day service), then this tool combines Overture and WordTracker for you and is the one you should use.

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Evaluate Keywords
Once you have a list of keywords closely related to your niche and your audience’s search habits, it’s time to find out which of these keywords will be most valuable to you. There is no ‘set’ way to evaluate the value of a keyword –the method / criteria I have used below works well for any niche or audience, but also leaves room for customization in case you have some mitigating factors that are not discussed here. There are three main levels you can judge keywords on: •	 Competition The number of web pages you will be competing with for a particular keyword, as well as the ranking ‘strength’ of the top websites in this niche •	 Demand The number of estimated searches carried out for this term •	 Relevance How relevant is this keyword to your site goals as set in the previous chapter? Estimating Demand There are several ways to estimate demand, but the core problem is that you cannot get an accurate number of searches conducted from any search engine. So we rely on keyword research tool such as Keyword Elite in getting a clear picture. One big problem when dealing with search popularity data is that because the data is taken from a smaller data set than what you would usually get when you took the same data from Google, you will get lower numbers. The easy method to deal with this is to use Keyword Elite and simply multiply the number of monthly searches shown in Keyword Elite by 8, which will give you a rough estimate of the total Google searches for that keyword, for the specific month. However, keep in mind that these are just predictions and not hard numbers. It’s not a perfect system, but it is good enough for our purposes. Estimating Competition Note: For this section, we will be using search results from Google exclusively. There are several metrics that you can use to measure the competition for a particular keyword. Basically, you are looking at the number of web pages that your website will compete with for that keyword. You can get this number by searching for that term in Google – so, for example, let’s take “wordpress theme designer” as our target keyword.

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If we search for this term in Google, we see that there are x million results for this phrase – that’s a LOT of competing web pages.

However, here is one thing about search engines – quite often, web pages that are ‘not’ optimized for a certain term may get included in the search results because the page may ‘qualify’ because of some ranking criteria. The way to really narrow down your search and to find your actual competition, you can use the following commands in Google: allintitle: – this search modifier shows only those pages which have all of your target keywords in their title tags. This produces a focused set of competing pages, but it may exclude some high ranking pages if your search term is drilled down to 3-4 word terms. intitle: – this search modifier shows only those pages which have one ore more of your target keywords in their title tags. This will give you a broader look, and is usually a good indication of general competition. inanchor: – this search modifier shows only those pages which have inbound links with anchor text that includes one or more of your target keywords. There are other search modifiers you can use (such as allinanchor: or enclosing search phrases in “” quotes for more specific targeting) but using the above 3 modifiers is enough to give you a good overall picture of one keyword’s competition. Here’s how our term’s competition would look like if we used these search modifiers:

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1) Search results for allintitle:wordpress theme designer

2) Search results for intitle:wordpress theme designer

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3) Search results for inanchor:wordpress theme designer

For estimating keyword competition, you would ideally need search results from all 4 searches – basic search, intitle, allintitle and inanchor. For search terms that are not highly optimized for, you will find that the search results for a basic search could be very high but for intitle results, that number would be low. Because links are such an important factor in search engine rankings, the inanchor modifier is necessary to determine the level of competition as well. In the above search for ‘wordpress theme designer’, you will see that there are 10 million web pages that have one or more of the keywords in our search term in the anchor text of their links. The comparative search for allinanchor turns up 1.2 million web pages – this tells us that while there are few well-ranking web pages that are directly optimized for “wordpress theme designer”, there are many other websites that also appear in the general search results because of their backlinks and on-page optimization for the wordpress / wordpress themes topics. After listing (and reviewing) competition figures for basic search (without quotes), intitle, allintitle and inanchor, you can rank competition using the following 5-point scale: 1 – Very Low 2 – Low 3 – Moderate 4 – High 5 – Very High

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Essentially you should compare competition figures for different types of searches and use them to estimate how tough the actual competition is. I would rate ‘wordpress theme designer’ as having ‘moderate competition’ – on the other hand, a term as popular as ‘wordpress themes’ would be rated as ‘high competition’, and something as generic as ‘wordpress’ would be ‘very high’ – not to mention that it would also be too broad to effectively target. Generally, targeting very competitive terms is not a good idea because then you are usually working on a much ‘broader’ scope than before. The only exception to this is when you already have a well established website with a strong history of backlinks and rankings in the search engines. Estimating Relevance In the previous chapter we talked about setting specific goals and objectives for your website. In keyword analysis, you will want to take each keyword and compare it to your website’s goals and objectives, and determine whether it is relevant or not. Why would you measure relevance? To establish a direct connection between what a user is searching for and what your website is providing. If you target the wrong keywords and a searcher looking for “home theater systems” comes to your website which talks about “contemporary theater”, you’ve got a problem. Not only have you spent time and energy (and probably money) in ranking for a term your website is not built for, but you’ve got traffic and they’re not converting into customers because of the lack of relevance of your website’s content to their keywords. Relevance is as important as knowing the level of search popularity and competition for a keyword. Using the same 5-point scale that we used just now, you can rate keywords on their relevance to your website’s goals. To continue with our WordPress example, the term “wordpress theme designer” would be rank a 5 – very high – on the relevance scale. In contrast, the term “wordpress forums” would be rank as 1 - irrelevant to what your website offers and as a result would not bring in the right audience. Incidentally, your name (or your website / company name) would also be a ‘5’ – as your website becomes more popular, more and more people will start typing in your name in the search engines to look for you. The same goes for any products that you are promoting.

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Shortlist Keywords
Once you have search data showing you search popularity and competition for each keyword, you can now start sifting through them to pick the most important keywords for your website. There will be 3 types of keywords you will be looking for: Brand terms Keywords that are related to your name, your website / company’s name and your products. These are terms that will be less important in the beginning but as your business grows they will become good funnels of traffic for your website as people start searching for you directly by name. High Relevance + High Search Popularity terms Terms that are highly relevant (4 or 5 on the relevance scale) are no-brainers for your targeting. However, there’s no point in targeting terms that don’t get any traffic, is there? Ideally you want keywords that are both highly relevant AND get decent search traffic. High Relevance + Low Competition terms If search popularity is low but you still have ‘highly relevant’ terms in your list, check their competition – if there is little competition for them you might want to target these keywords (as second or third tier keywords) and use them to dominate search results for very relevant terms. In general, low competition means less difficulty in reaching the top 5 search results for a keyword. Your ‘brand terms’ will be highly relevant but will probably have low competition (unless you are working as an affiliate, in which case competition could be high for popular products). You will probably find other search terms as well related your business but not used by users searching for it. Two handy rules for short-listing your keywords: •	 If a search term is NOT relevant, do not include it in your ‘shortlist’. •	 If a search term has low search popularity, do NOT include it in your shortlist UNLESS it is also highly relevant. Your final shortlist can include anywhere between 10 to 50 keywords (or more) depending on the size of your website and the scope of your business. A large, established website with plenty of products could even have 100s of keywords. Congratulations – by now you know everything you need to in order to build a focused, traffic-pulling keyword list. The next step would be to ‘match’ your keywords to internal pages – but we will do that in Phase 2 when we build / optimize your website. Now that we have a better understanding of doing keyword research, let’s move to the next (and final) phase of the research process: competition analysis.

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7 – Competitive Analysis
Competitive analysis is a process of doing background research on the top search results in your niche (and for specific target terms) to find out: •	 Who your main competition is •	 What they are doing to rank at the top of search engine rankings for your target terms •	 How you can beat them One way of looking at SEO is to consider that in order to rank #1 for your target search terms, you have to show search engines that your website is more relevant and accurate in its information for a particular search term than the current #1 search result. To do this, you need to find out what your top competitors are doing and devise a strategy to beat them. The rest of this chapter will discuss competitive analysis in detail and show you the tools and strategies you can use to scope out your competition.

Competitive Analysis Overview
When researching your competition, you will be making several lists of competitors and analyzing them one by one. How? You do this by separating your keywords into sub topics – depending on the size of your keyword list you will have anywhere between 3-6 or more sub topics in your keyword list. Once you have separated your keywords into subtopics, you will take each ‘sublist’, and find the top 5 websites in your niche for that sublist. You can find them by comparing search results for all the keywords in your keyword list across the 3 main search engines (Google, Yahoo and MSN) and using a points system (explained later) to rank the competitors. Once you have the top 5 competitors for your first sublist, you just repeat the process for the rest of the sublists. Why are we doing this? Creating competitor lists for your niche will give you an overview of which sites are the strongest for a particular set of keywords (sublist) in your niche. Because these websites enjoy high rankings over for several keywords and across different search engines, you will want to study their sites and learn as much as possible about how they are ranking this high in the SERPs. This analysis will include looking at each site’s backlinks as well as their on-site optimization efforts. Which sites are linking to them? What anchor text are they using? Are those links in context or on link pages? What keywords are they using on their site?

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Overall, you are looking for two things – how difficult it will be to beat your competition, and what steps you need to take (where to get links from, what to optimize on your website) in order to get to #1 in your niche. We are also looking for possible link sources and optimization clues for specific internal pages; as you learned in the keyword research chapter, your main keywords should be mapped to internal pages. And if you are optimizing for specific keywords, it makes sense to go after those strategies that are helping other websites do well for them. Example: Medical Billing Here’s a quick example on how to segment a keyword list. This a partial keyword list generated for a fictional New Jersey-based firm offering medical billing and medical transcription services to doctors and healthcare providers in the US. •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 Electronic medical billing EMR software Free EMR software Free Medicaid eligibility Medicaid eligibility Medical billing Medical billing companies Medical billing company Medical billing service Medical billing services Medical billing software Medical claims billing Medical insurance billing Medical transcription Medical transcription companies Medical transcription company Medical transcription service Medical transcription services Online medical billing

There are 19 keywords on that list, but they can be divided into sub topics. First you pick the primary keywords (using search popularity and relevance data from your keyword research): •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 Medical transcription Medical billing Medical billing software Medicaid eligibility Medical billing company / service

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And then you set up sublists around these keywords: Medical transcription •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 Medical transcription Medical transcription companies Medical transcription company Medical transcription service Medical transcription services

Medical billing •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 Electronic medical billing Medical billing Medical claims billing Medical insurance billing Online medical billing

Medical billing software •	 EMR software •	 Free EMR software •	 Medical billing software Medical billing company •	 •	 •	 •	 Medical billing companies Medical billing company Medical billing service Medical billing services

Medicaid eligibility •	 Free Medicaid eligibility •	 Medicaid eligibility Now once you have your sublists, you can create a list of top 5 competitors for each sublist. The next section will show you how to.

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Your Top Competitors
As I said earlier, to get a complete picture of your competition you want to track the top 10 rankings across all 3 search engines and then rank them according to their overall niche rankings. For that to work, you need to have a ranking system. Ranking System This sounds more complicated than it is… 1. Each website is listed once for a particular sublist (even though that website may have more than one page showing up in search results for the same set of terms). 2. Assign 10 points for #1 spot, 9 for #2, and so on, with 1 point for the #10 spot. 3. All 3 search engines are assigned a multiplier to signify their market share. MSN has around 10%, Yahoo 28% and Google 48%. Keeping this in mind, Live gets a multiplier of 1, Yahoo a multiplier of 3 and Google a multiplier of 5. This multiplier is then used on the points assigned to each top 10 ranking achieved by a website for a particular keyword. This means that, for example, if Site A ranks #3 (8 points) in Google for keyword X, #1 (10 points) in Yahoo and #10 (1 point) in MSN, it’s cumulative score for that keyword would be: (8 x 5) + (10 x 3) + (1 x 1) = 40 + 30 + 1 = 71. 4. You calculate the cumulative score for each keyword for each website that appears in the top 10 results, and then you add the keyword scores for the competitors. Sort them by their ranking, and voila – you have your top 5 competitors. This will give you an approximate overview of the strongest sites in your niche. It will also help you focus subtopics within your niche and – using the advice in the rest of the chapter – help you dominate them as well. I would recommend that you do this exercise once manually to get an idea of this works. However, this is just tedious number crunching and your time is valuable – there are several ‘automated’ options available to you.

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There are other tools that will allow you to do a bit of analysis on your competition, if you do not own SEO Elite. One such automated option is We Build Pages’ (http://www.webuildpages.com/ ) “Top Competitors Tool” (http://www.webuildpages.com/seo-tools/top-competitor-tool.php). While this doesn’t use the same formula as I’ve described above, it’s an effective method of finding the top sides across the 3 main search engines for your keywords. The ‘downside’ is that it only measures the top competitors per keyword. You can compensate for this by search for the primary keywords only to build your competition list.

Competitor SEO Checklist
What we are now looking for is to establish the ‘difficulty’ for each subtopic in our niche. We do this by examining the top sites in each subtopic competitors list for key search ranking factors. This part of competitive analysis relies on approximation and experience rather than hard numbers. Because search engine ranking algorithms are so complex, it is difficult to place an exact value on how difficult it will be to beat a website that’s top dog in your niche.

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The best you can do is to understand what they are doing, and then ensure that you’re doing it better than them. One simple way of establishing ‘difficulty’ would be to rank a subtopic on a scale of 1 to 3: 1 – Competition has done little optimization / easy to beat 2 – Moderate optimization / Competition will take time (and money) to overcome 3 – Heavy optimization / Have to work hard for an year or more to beat this competition This will simplify and probably generalize things, but we are not looking for specific indicators, just general guidelines. Key Search Ranking Factors The main search engine ranking factors you will be looking at are: •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 Title and Meta tags optimization Keyword usage URL structure Backlinks Analysis Site Age Internal linking Directory listing – check Yahoo, Dmoz, BOTW, Business.com, bCentral.

Let’s look at these factors one by one and see what we can learn about our competition.

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On-Page Factors
When you review on-page factors on your competitor websites, you are looking at three main things – title and meta tags, keyword usage (and linkage with specific pages) and URL structure. It should take you a maximum of 5 minutes to review the on-page factors of a competitor – here’s what you do: •	 For each page (main page and top product pages), check title and meta tags. Pay close attention to keyword usage, unique titles and descriptions and tying in keywords with specific pages. •	 Establish what the URL structure is – keyword rich, dynamic pages, etc. •	 For each page, find primary keyword (or subtopic) and see page for optimal keyword usage (H1 tags, title tags, keyword occurrence in every paragraph, keyword variance, etc). This may seem a little difficult, so if you are not sure about what good on-page SEO is, please jump forward and read Chapter 9 (“On-Page SEO”) for a quick primer.

Site Factors
In Site factors you are looking at sitemaps usage, site age (used to predict link age) and internal linking (anchor text and link destinations). Sitemap usage Usually you can find links to a site’s sitemap in the footer (near the ‘privacy policy’ and ‘contact’ type of links). A sitemap is used to assist search engines in finding all site pages thus getting them crawled and indexed. The presence of a sitemap in itself does not give ranking benefits; however the usage of sitemaps at the very least indicates a basic understanding of net usability and search engines. Do your competitors use sitemaps? Are they linking to all internal pages or just a handful? Internal linking Internal linking (part of site architecture) is one of the key principles of good on-page / site SEO. What you’re looking for: •	 Your most important (top product / category) pages linked to from the main page •	 Keyword-rich and varied anchor text being used in all links •	 Top-level category pages acting as doorways to all pages that fall under that section. •	 Cross-linking between pages pointing to related information •	 Evidence of internal linking being used to specifically raise search engine rankings for specific pages (site-wide links to a set of pages (apart from the menu area) with optimized anchor text)

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Site Age By itself the site / domain age does not matter for ranking purposes, but usually it indicates other positive ranking signs such as domain authority, trust and aged links. You will want to use site age in conjunction with your backlinks research to determine the authority and trust levels you are dealing with, although in most cases (or after a bit of experience) you can estimate in a couple of minutes whether you are dealing with a well-established, heavily-entrenched (and optimized) site or not.

Backlinks Research
What we are looking for •	 •	 •	 •	 Link authority Link popularity Link quality Directory listings

Yahoo Site Explorer Using the Yahoo Site Explorer (http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/) to view a website’s backlinks is a quick way of approximating the authority status and trust accorded to it. In this example we’re looking the backlinks of www.adsc.com, a medical software firm. How do we do this? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Go to http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/ Enter site URL in search bar (e.g. www.adsc.com) and click on ‘Explore URL ’ The page that will load shows all pages indexed in Yahoo for that domain. On the left, below the ‘Results’ heading, find and click on ‘Inlinks’ Change options (below ‘Inlinks’) to ‘Except this domain’ and ‘Entire Site’ – you’ll have to wait after selecting the first option because the page reloads when you select it.

This process gives you a list of ALL the backlinks detected by Yahoo pointing to the target URL, listed in order of approximate importance. With 50 links per page, it usually takes 5 minutes to skim through the first 2-3 pages and find out if: •	 The links are from on-topic sites (keywords in domain name / semantic relationship between domain name and niche) •	 The links are from authority sites (directories, big content sites like wikipedia and about, top industry sites) •	 The links are in-context / in-content or as part of a link list / links page •	 The links are pointing to internal pages or to the main site (you can do this by randomly selecting backlinks and seeing what their links looks like – anchor text, in-context, and all that).

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Do you need to check each link manually? No. Pick 1 in every 5 links and check it out – with experience, it takes less than 10 seconds to determine the quality of that link. Check Directory Listings Another way to check directory links (a good indicator of whether the webmaster is aware of SEO concerns or not) is to search the top directories directly for your target URL. Yahoo Directory: http://dir.yahoo.com/ Dmoz: http://dmoz.org Best Of The Web (BOTW): http://botw.org Microsoft bCentral: http://sbd.bcentral.com/ Business.com Directory: http://www.business.com/directory/index.asp For Business.com, you will need to search for the company name instead of the URL. In other directories, a simple URL search will do.

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Summary
•	 Find out who your top competitors are for your subtopics across the major 3 search engines – ideally you are looking at the top 10 results on Google, Yahoo and MSN. •	 Use a points system to rank competitor websites based on their search engine rankings on the three search engines, assigning ‘weights’ according to SE market share. •	 Manually analyze the top 5 websites for each subtopic and find out what they are doing to ranking in the top 10 for those keywords. •	 Analyze backlinks for each competitor, using Yahoo Site Explorer.

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8 – Keywords and Site Content
In the “Keyword Research” chapter we talked about tying in your keywords with specific site pages. This chapter will discuss how to do that as well as talk about ‘SEO copywriting’ and why writing for search engines is the exact same thing as writing for your target audience.

The Search Engine View
Tying in one page with one or two keywords allows you to develop optimized landing pages / entry points for your website. In the long run, you want search engine users to go directly to the page that is most relevant to their query – if you are able to answer their question quickly and directly, your website is immediately more valuable than another site that requires users to hop around the site search functions. Internal pages, that have focused content and are more relevant to specific keywords, will result in better rankings AND will attract relevant deep links themselves. And when you go onto the long tail of search and target hundreds of low-traffic keywords, it pays to have individual pages optimized for them instead of lumping everything to one page. The best proponent of this approach (match keywords to individual content pages) is Wikipedia (http:// en.wikipedia.org/) – their vast reservoirs of content means that they are dominating Google SERPs for hundreds of thousands of low-traffic queries. How do you decide to match keywords with site pages?

Matching Keywords to Site Pages
Here’s a simple step-by-step strategy to doing this: •	 Match main site keywords (1-3) to the main page – these are major keywords in the niche and are usually the most ‘general’ terms in your keyword list. •	 Match top level subtopic keywords to top category pages – these are the big keywords that correspond directly to the categories on your site. •	 Match second-tier keywords to internal pages – try to stick to 2-3 keywords per page (maximum) to keep content focused. Here’s a live example of how to carry out this process: Keyword List •	 Electronic medical billing •	 EMR software •	 Free EMR software

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•	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	

Free Medicaid eligibility Medicaid eligibility Medical billing Medical billing companies Medical billing company Medical billing service Medical billing services Medical billing software Medical claims billing Medical insurance billing Medical transcription Medical transcription companies Medical transcription company Medical transcription service Medical transcription services Online medical billing

Site Pages Here I’ve listed the site page with the keywords (taken from the above list) enclosed in brackets. Not all site pages have been listed, only the ones that can directly be tied together with keywords: •	 Main page (medical billing, medical billing company, medical billing companies, medical transcription company, medical transcription companies) •	 Medicaid eligibility (free Medicaid eligibility, Medicaid eligibility) •	 EMR software (EMR software, free EMR software) •	 Medical billing services (medical billing service, medical billing services •	 Medical transcription services (medical transcription, medical transcription service, medical transcription services) •	 Medical billing basics (online medical billing, electronic medical billing) •	 Medical claims processing How-to (medical claims billing) •	 Medical insurance FAQ (medical insurance billing) •	 Medical billing software (medical billing software) You’ll notice that in some cases, we’re targeting more than 2 keywords – these are usually simple plural variations (company, companies) and because of that there isn’t any loss of focus in using them.

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SEO Copywriting
Most people when they think of SEO copywriting have the wrong idea in mind. SEO copywriting is not about keyword density or using X number of keyword variations. SEO copywriting is about writing tightly-focused, high quality content for your site users. The SEO benefits? •	 Keeping content focused on 1 / 2 keywords allows you to naturally include keyword variations, use related terms and automatically cater for all the other fancy stuff that search engines use to evaluate content relevance to certain keywords. •	 High quality content is link worthy – providing information that genuinely helps your readers will earn you organic links and make your link building campaigns easier when other site owners can immediately see the value your site provides. The best part about keeping things ‘focused’ and writing naturally is that you do not need to learn anything new about site copywriting – decent writing skills and the ability to write about one topic at a time will do. Depending on your site goals and your own priorities, you might want to outsource your copywriting work. That’s fine as long as you can ensure that the following instructions are followed: •	 One topic / keyword per page, going as general or as specific as the keyword itself •	 Write naturally and focus on informing the user about the page topic (and how your company can help them, if you are selling products / services) •	 Insist on high quality writing skills And once you have your site content taken care of, it’s time to put your site together and work on On-Page SEO. But before we move to the next chapter, I want to discuss the scenario if you already have a website and need to optimize your site content.

Optimizing Site Content on Existing Sites
If you already have a website, you will hopefully have followed and completed the process of doing keyword research on your site. Use your keyword list and match it with your site pages. Notice discrepancies and note all pages that have unrelated / unfocused content. Depending on how focused your existing site pages are, you will either have to rewrite your pages and rearrange your site structure completely, or make minor adjustments in removing chunks of unrelated information and doing minor rewrites of your pages. In any case, make sure that you are matching keywords to specific site pages and are following the advice given above in the SEO Copywriting section.

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9 – On-Page SEO
On-page SEO can seem to be very easy and ‘basic’ once you know how to do it, but the reality is that most people don’t know how to do on-page SEO the right way, don’t know which factors to focus on and sometimes don’t realize the value that on-page optimization brings to the table. On-page SEO is not as critical as it was a few years ago – Google has lead the line on increasing the importance of links (and in the last two years, the type of links) and other search engines have followed suit. However, on-page SEO is still important – from controlling how your site is described in search engine results to how your site pages are indexed and ranked according to on-page factors. On-page factors matter less for very competitive keywords, but for most terms a combination of good on-page SEO and basic link building (which we learn in the next few chapters) is good to get your site indexed and getting traffic from search engines for your target terms. There are 4 main things that you need to consider when doing On-Page SEO: •	 •	 •	 •	 Title Tags Meta Tags Keyword Usage Avoid Duplicate Content

Things like internal linking, proper url structure and sitemaps come under site architecture and are discussed in the next chapter. Let’s look at each item individually so you know how to optimize your web pages for each of them.

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Title Tags

Denoted by the <title> tags in HTML, this tag always shows at the top of a browser window and appears in the SERPs as the title of the web page (this has other implications as well for your site, as I’ll discuss below). A Title tag will tell the search engines and users what the current web page is about, so you have to cater for both ‘audiences’ when setting up Title tags. Note: I would strongly recommend that you use a ‘template’ for your Title tags so that you can simply ‘plug in’ the relevant details – I’ve given a sample template later on in this section. To improve your search engine rankings, use that page’s target keywords in the Title tag – as we discussed in the previous chapter, it is important to match keywords with specific pages. To cater for regular readers, keep your Title tag short and readable, and if you wish, you can also brand each page with your main domain URL. Since your Title tag will appear in search results as the title / name of the web page, you also would want to write clear, attractive web page titles that attract attention and invite clickthroughs.

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Writing Title tags is a balancing act between optimizing for search engines and users – but there some guidelines you can use to make it simple: •	 Match keywords to pages – to keep page content focused and leave you with one or two keywords per page. •	 Your domain name is an identifier (on what site is this page?) and a branding tool. Use it accordingly. •	 Vary page title according to page function (e.g. home page, category page, inner page, etc). •	 Title tags should be unique to each page. •	 Use natural English to make the meaning of Title tags clearer. •	 Keep Title tags short. Note: Your Title tag is also a branding tool for you, so do not stuff unrelated keywords to boost your rankings – search engines react negatively to keyword stuffing and it can backfire on you. Template Title Tags I use the following structure for my pages: Home Page title tag: Site name + site tagline / main keywords. Sometimes you can skip the tag line and just put in the site name along with the main keyword for the site.

Article / individual page title tag: Article title first, site name second. Some sites use the site name first while other sites use the site URL instead. I put the article title / page title / page keywords first as a usability concern – you put the article title first because that is most relevant to the reader. Site name and URL and secondary concerns.

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Site section / Category title: Category / Section name / keywords first, site name second. Same as above.

Title tags are, in terms of time investment, one of the most effective SEO techniques you can implement.

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Meta Tags
Meta tags are used to describe the contents of a page. In the early days of search engines, they were used to determine rankings, but thanks to excessive SEO abuse they are totally discounted for SEO purposes. However, the two main Meta tags (meta description and meta keywords) are still useful for telling the search engine what the page is about. This information is used in different ways (but not for ranking) – for example, the Meta description tag of a page is used to describe that page in SERPs (see screenshot below for an example).

Meta Description Tag The Meta description tag is extremely useful in controlling the SERPS description of your web pages. Just as the title tag should be written with branding in mind and should encourage search engine users to click, the Meta description should perform the same function. Keyword usage in this tag (and the use of the meta keywords tag as well) does not have any impact to search rankings – although if you are building a new website, make sure you are setting up each page with unique (and targeted) title tags, meta description tags and meta keywords tags. If you have the chance to build a website that does as much as possible to tell the search engine what your web pages are about, why wouldn’t you?

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Tips for writing the meta description tag: •	 Use one or two sentences to describe the page – keep it short but not too short (as a rough guide, stay between 50 and 150 characters). •	 Use that page’s main keywords and keyword variations in the meta description. •	 Remember that this description will most probably be seen by searchers when they see this page as a search result – make sure you can convey what this page is about quickly. Meta Keywords Tag The meta keywords tag is often ridiculed, but while it may not help in search rankings it’s accuracy and proper usage causes no harm. Tips for writing the meta keywords tag: •	 Use only those keywords that are directly related to the page. •	 Make sure you do not spam this tag by entering 30 keywords. 5-10 keyword variations (maximum) will suffice.

Keyword Usage
This refers to how a page’s keywords are used throughout the text on the page. Although pages on unrelated topics can still rank for search queries, keyword usage is the main indicator for search engines in determining topical relevance of a web page. As we discussed in the previous chapter, the first step in page optimization is to match keywords with specific pages. Once you have each page limited to 1 or 2 keywords, you are able to write more effectively (and naturally) about that topic and thus create content that is ‘laser-focused- on your keywords and will give you no problems in terms of topical relevance. SEO Copywriting 101 You may have heard this advice: “write naturally” – it is excellent advice, and if you can follow it (as well as a few other simple guidelines), it will take care of everything else (that is, all the technical stuff). •	 Write to inform your users. •	 Write about one topic per page – using your page keyword as the starting point, and going as detailed or as ‘general’ as the keyword itself is. •	 Instead of repeating just one form of the keyword, use different forms of the keyword as well as related terms. •	 Use your main keyword in the Title tag and in the H1 tag of your page. •	 Once you have written your page, review it and confirm that your keyword is used evenly throughout the page, and ensure that variations and related terms are used as well.

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The 3 search engines use different criteria to judge the topic of a page and its topical relevance. The best strategy to use is to adopt a middle ground when it comes to using keywords – not too much, not too little, and throw in related terms and keyword variations.

Avoid Duplicate Content
The duplicate content penalty comes into effect when a search engine finds an exact copy of a certain amount of content on two or more web pages. In order to avoid listing duplicate results, the search engine selects one of those web pages as the ‘original’ page, and penalizes the other web pages. This penalty can be a reduction in ranking for those pages or banishment to the supplemental index (for Google). Search engines do a pretty good job of filtering out duplicate content, and because of this you need to be careful about pages on your website and if there are two or more pages that are identical in content, you will want to change things around and add original content to them (or remove those pages). Common elements across a website such as the menu links and information in the sidebar are usually not something to worry about – duplicate content filters are more concerned with the actual content rather than these side elements. To avoid duplicate content penalties, you should: •	 Keep content unique on each page. •	 Add significant content to each page (250-350 words minimum). Supplemental Results Google uses two indexes to display search engine results from – a main index and a ‘supplemental index’. Here is what Google itself has to say about the supplemental index on its webmaster support section (http://www. google.com/support/webmasters/) : Supplemental sites are part of Google’s auxiliary index. We’re able to place fewer restraints on sites that we crawl for this supplemental index than we do on sites that are crawled for our main index. For example, the number of parameters in a URL might exclude a site from being crawled for inclusion in our main index; however, it could still be crawled and added to our supplemental index. The index in which a site is included is completely automated; there’s no way for you to select or change the index in which your site appears. Please be assured that the index in which a site is included does not affect its PageRank. What this means is this – for Google to throw a page into the supplemental index, there are 3 main reasons: Duplicate content – if you are copying content from some other web page (from your site or another site). No content on the website – empty pages with only navigational menus and sidebar content have “similar content” and are kept in the supplemental index.

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Orphaned web pages – pages that have no links pointing to them, including from your own website. In such a case, you need to add new / unique content to those pages (and follow the internal linking guidelines explained later on in this book). Note: Remember that duplicate content filters are negative-only filters – you get penalized if your web pages are copies of other pages, but if you get the all-clear from these filters it will not give you any boost in search rankings.

Other On-Page SEO Factors
A handful of other on-site SEO factors (url structure, internal linking and sitemaps) are discussed in the next chapter. But are there any other on-page SEO factors to work with? The fact is that while search engines may be using over a 100 different ranking factors, there are a handful of these factors matter the most and are indirectly responsible for determining the rest. For example, proper keyword usage throughout the page takes care of all possible ranking factors such as the presence of the right keywords in the Title tag, in H1 tags, etc. The point is that you don’t need to know every single SEO factor to succeed – in fact, if you know the end goal (what search engines want), and the means to get there (what I’ve told you in this book), you’ll do just fine. Plus you’ll have a lot less to worry about.

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10 – Site Architecture
The term ‘site architecture’ refers to how a website is organized – how the pages link to each other, how you can access the web pages, etc. In this chapter, we will talk about three main site-related SEO factors: •	 Optimal URL structure •	 Sitemaps •	 Internal linking

URL Structure
Like Title tags, optimizing URL structures is a simple and time-effective (but important in terms of SE rankings and site branding). However, many webmasters ignore them, especially those that use database driven websites to generate dynamic pages. The technical aspects of optimizing your URLs will depend on how you build your website. If it is a simple collection of HMTL pages, it depends on how you name your files. On the other hand if it is a database driven website (using a content management system such as a blog), then you will have to look into the package’s own help files on how to change the URL structure. Whatever the technical specifics, there are a few generic rules that you can apply to your site pages to make them search engine friendly: •	 Use keywords (specific to that page) in the URL. You can also use the page title (not the full Title tag but just the page name), or use variations of your keyword phrase. •	 If you are using more than one word in the URL, use hyphens to separate them. •	 Keep URLs short. •	 Use static URLS instead of dynamic, database-driven URLs where possible. If it becomes necessary, use as few parameters as possible. Note: Dynamic URLS are the type of URLS that contain database query parameters – for example, http:// www.yoursite.com/products.php?id=12&cat=45&page=2 has three query parameters: ‘id’, ‘cat’ and ‘page’. This could easily be rewritten as a keyword-rich, SE and user-friendly URL such as: http://www.yoursite.com/ pink-widgets.html •	 Remove extra data (instead of http://www.site.com/category/category1/page1.htm, try http://www. site.com/category1/page1.htm) You can miss one or two of these and still rank well. However, when you’re building a new site you need to get as many things right out of the box as possible, and URL structures are fairly easy to get right.

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Redirecting Old URLs to New URLs If you are ‘fixing’ your website, you will run into a familiar problem for webmasters – your pages already rank in search engines, but if you change the URLs, you risk losing your search engine rankings. The solution that search engines provide is to use a ‘code’ that indicates to search engines and users that the old page (where the links are pointed, and is already ranking well in search engines). The right way to do this is to use the ‘permanent redirect’ code, also known as a ‘301 redirect’ (301 is the ‘code’). How do you do this? It depends on your web host and whether you are using Unix-based hosting or Windowsbased hosting. Your web host should be able to guide you in this matter – while there are plenty of online tutorials that offer help in redirecting your site URLs, it is easier (and safer, if you are not a technical person) to ask your web host support staff. Just make sure that whether you do it yourself or ask someone to do it, that you: •	 Use 301 redirects – that is, permanent redirects •	 Ensure that the redirects work by visiting the old URLs – if everything is correctly configured, the URL will change in the browser window to the new URL Here’s an excellent resource for implementing 301 redirects. (http://www.isitebuild.com/301-redirect.htm)

Sitemaps
While sitemaps do not provide any ranking benefits, they help search engine robots in finding all your web pages – and in the case of the Sitemaps protocol (http://www.sitemaps.org/) agreed to by Google, Yahoo and MSN, they present the foundation to build a relationship between site owner and search engines. Why should you use sitemaps? When starting a new website, a sitemap is a handy index for search engines to know more about your site – if you have a website with more than a handful of pages, normal crawling may not get to all your internal pages. A sitemap, linked to off your main site, will be able to give the search engine a full list of all pages on your website and as a result will aid in rapid indexing of your site’s pages. Note: There are more techniques you can use to aid crawling and indexing of your website, but the two main ideas are to a) build high-PR links and b) use sitemaps to inform search engines of all your site pages. To learn how to build an SEO-friendly sitemap, read this article. (http://www.toprankresults.com/articles/ sitemap.htm) Google Sitemaps Google Sitemaps (http://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/ ) now under the Google Webmaster Central (http://www.google.com/webmasters/) are an effective way to monitor how your website’s status in Google.

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Submitting your sitemap to Google will not necessarily help Google crawl/index your site quicker, but it will be able to tell you certain important things, such as: •	 •	 •	 •	 The last time your site was crawled The pages indexed Pages included in your sitemap that were not indexed More index stats

Additionally, Google Webmaster Central will also: •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 Tell you the common words Googlebot sees on your site Give handy shortcuts to see your site’s status in the Google index Pages on your site that have external links pointing to them (not a full list) Internal linking analysis Popular search queries driving traffic to your site Average search rankings of your site’s pages for terms you get traffic from

All in all, it’s a useful tool and a good way to point out any problems your site is having in Google. And as Google improves the functionality of Google Webmaster Central and adds more tools, this will become an even more integral part of your search marketing campaign. To create a Google Sitemap: •	 Use XML Sitemaps. (http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/) •	 If you are using a WordPress blog, use Arne Brachhold’s Google Sitemap Generator WP Plugin. (http:// www.arnebrachhold.de/2005/06/05/google-sitemaps-generator-v2-final) •	 And if you want to build your own sitemap generator or want to understand more about how the Google Sitemap works, see Google’s own script. (https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/docs/en/ sitemap-generator.html)

Internal Linking
Depending on the ‘size’ of your website (i.e. the number of pages on your site), internal linking can have a minimal impact (on small sites) or a very large effect (on big websites) on your site’s search engine rankings. There are three main aspects of internal linking – site navigation, in-context linking and anchor text. Site Navigation Proper site navigation is a basic and integral part of on-site optimization. You want to link to your top pages from the navigation menu – whether those are main categories (big site) or just key internal pages (small site). You will probably have more than one navigation menu – a main menu for site navigation, and a secondary menu for informational pages (about, contact, sitemap, FAQ, etc). The site navigation has just one purpose – to highlight the main sections of your website. Think of which toplevel pages are the most important, and add them to your main navigation.

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Informational pages that need to be included (for usability reasons) can go in the secondary menu). Note: If you have a blog and your website has several dozen categories, you can list them in a ‘third’ menu in the sidebar of your website. In-Context Linking Search engines give more weight to in-context links than link lists (on a links page or in the sidebar). This makes in-context linking important for off-site links as well as internal links. Ideally, you want to make it so that all related pages and terms are interlinked amongst each other through incontext links (using the right keywords as anchor text). For an ‘extreme’ but effective example of in-context linking, see Wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/) Many terms used on the site are linked to internal pages or internal searches – for example, all mentions of the term ‘carbon footprint’ in Wikipedia articles are linked to the article on carbon footprint on Wikipedia. End result – a combination of site authority and heavy internal linking means that the Wikipedia article is the #3 result in Google for ‘carbon footprint’. Wikipedia is an excellent example of how authoritative domains with smart internal linking practices and proper on-page optimization can dominate search engine rankings for all types of keywords. However, instead of linking every word (which would be over the top and counter-productive) try to link to relevant pages once in each page. For internal linking to have a noticeable impact on your search rankings, you need to be working with more than a handful of pages. Inter-linking on a site with hundreds of pages will have a bigger effect than just a handful of pages. Anchor Text Links are important but without using the right keywords they will not deliver the required benefits. Links without related keywords are like shooting arrows blind – you are sending link juice to those pages, but you’re not telling the search engines what topic those pages are relevant to. The best way to explain this is to show you some examples. Let’s say you are linking to a page on ‘wireless modems’. There are several ways to link to it. #1 – This is a page on learning spanish. (note: the link goes to this URL: http://www.yoursite.com/wirelessmodem.html) #2 – To learn more about wireless modems, click here. (note: the link goes to this URL: http://www.yoursite. com/wireless-modem.html) #3 – Learn more about wireless modems. (note: the link goes to this URL: http://www.yoursite.com/wirelessmodem.html)

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#1 uses the right format (keywords in the anchor text), but has the wrong keywords. The topic is unrelated and this will not help that page rank well for its main keyword, ‘wireless modems’. #2 is a sentence on the right subject but is not using the right keywords. This is better than #1 (it’s on topic), but it could be better. #3 is done right – on topic, and with the right keywords in the anchor text of the link. Not all links will be as well done as #3 – quite often the people linking to your pages from their own sites do not use the right anchor text. Search engines realize this and as a result the text surrounding the link as well as the page topic is also considered important and taken into consideration when judging the value of links. This is why getting links from related pages and related web sites is so important. Site Architecture How your website is structured internally – how pages link to each other, how different categories are divided and how content is segmented across those categories. Just as external links pointing to your website are considered ‘votes’, a link from one site page to the other counts as a ‘vote’ as well. Proper internal linking account for navigation as well. The way you setup your site determines – along with the number, PR and quality of links pointing to your website – how quickly it is crawled by search engines, whether all internal pages are found or not, and also how well your pages rank in the search engine results. •	 Have clear, distinct sections on your website and chunk content in them. If necessary, cross-link (a page that is relevant to two or more categories) but make sure that you are creating clear subtopics on your site and not a mishmash of random information. •	 Highlight the key sections – via navigational menus – across the whole site. •	 Build a reusable ‘system’ of internal linking – standard navigation + internal linking strategies to maximize exposure for key pages. •	 Use sitemaps to help search engines find all pages of your website (no, the absence of sitemaps will not harm your search engine rankings, nor will the presence of one necessarily improve them – it just makes it easier for search engines to find and index new pages).

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11 – Link Building Basics
In all major search engines, links are the direct route to top search engine rankings. There are tons of ways to acquire links, but before you do that there are a few things to discuss such as: •	 Trust, Authority and Relevance in links •	 How search engines evaluate a link •	 The value of link popularity •	 The different types of links Let’s start with the 3 key factors in evaluating links – trust, authority and link popularity.

“Trust” and Links
‘Trust’ is a measure of how well a search engine ‘trusts’ a website to provide accurate and reliable information (whether it is content on the site, or links to other websites). How do search engines measure ‘trust’? It is a difficult question, and to be fair there’s no one ‘trust’ metric that search engines use – rather, it’s a name given to a set of metrics that appear to influence search engine rankings in a similar way that one would if evaluating trustworthy and non-trustworthy resources. Looking at these metrics (not all of them are known) can help us actively go after optimizing our sites to be trusted by the search engines. Trust and Authority overlap (and are similar in that they are names given to sets of ranking factors), so you might see some information repeated here and in the next section. Let’s look at some of the key factors coming under Trust: •	 Links from high authority and high popularity websites •	 A website’s linking out policies •	 Link ageing and link popularity growth patterns •	 Power links from outside the niche with relevant link text - denoting the site as a topical authority •	 Status as a topical authority – links from within the niche •	 Link popularity (but only in combination with other factors) Trust is an increasingly important factor as search engine algorithms evolve and start using site histories (rankings, link building patterns, linking out patterns, content addition patterns, etc) more heavily to evaluate links and web pages.

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The reality is that no one can pretend to know exactly what factors search engines use or how they use them. What we do know for sure is that search engines use time-based indicators and link quality to establish trust in a website. This trust in turn helps boost your search engine rankings. The best way to take advantage of this approach by the search engines is to: •	 Get your ‘best’ links as early as possible (remember that link age is a factor) •	 Adopt a natural link building pattern (rate of link growth is also a factor) •	 Balance your link building practices by actively seeking out these ‘power’ links

Authority and Links
Like Trust, Authority is a term that refers to a set of ranking factors (that overlap with the Trust factors). Search engines use ‘authority’ to measure a site’s reputation within a niche – a site may be considered an authority on one topic but not rank at all for another, unrelated topic. Key factors: •	 Quality links from within the topical niche •	 Links from outside the niche but using relevant link text •	 Link popularity When you combine Trust and Authority you get a situation where a domain can not only easily rank for search terms within their own niche, but they can also start ranking for low-competition terms from other niches without any problems. Community-based websites such as Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/) , About.com and HowStuffWorks.com are perfect examples of domains that have built sufficient trust and authority that a new page on them can rank quite well in the search engines thanks to the domain being so powerful. This factor is more prevalent in Google than Yahoo or MSN, but it’s an important factor to keep in mind – link building is a balancing act between deep links to your key pages and getting power links to your domain to increase its trust and authority. Having an authority domain can make it much easier for your inner pages to rank well in search engines.

Link Popularity
Link popularity measures the number of all links pointing to a website. Search engines use link quality to measure the value and importance of these links, and then give each link a different weight depending on its quality (more on link quality in the link building chapters). Why is this important? Because as much as link quality is important, having more links – more web pages ‘voting’ for your website – will always help. And as you will find out later, if you can avoid those links that are

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disregarded completely, every link that you acquire will help your search engine rankings. We have already seen in the “Search Ranking Factors” chapter that PageRank helps websites in getting crawled and indexed. Despite protests by some SEOs to the contrary, PageRank is still a relevant ranking factor and link popularity still plays a significant role in search rankings, whether in Google or in Yahoo and MSN. So how does link popularity help search rankings? •	 Links from high PR pages (relevant and in-context, of course) are a good way to build authority. •	 Link popularity (sheer link power) will help less relevant domains rank over more relevant but weaker domains. If you have a website that wants to dominate a related niche, high PageRank and link popularity can help you get there quicker. •	 With all other factors being the same, a high PR link (site with higher link popularity) is more valuable than a low PR link. •	 On the flip side, lots of relevant links (increasing your site’s link popularity) is a better approach than going after a handful of links from high PageRank pages. •	 PR is a measure of link popularity as well, and considering how Yahoo and MSN give more weight to sheer link popularity, it is a good indicator of how your website can perform in other search engines.

Link Evaluation
These are the primary factors that search engines can consider when evaluating link value: •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 Anchor text Topical relevance of linking site / page Authority of linking site / page Co-Citation Link popularity / PageRank of linking page Different types of links Link / Site Age

Note: In chapter 15, we will be using this material to discuss how you can value potential links during the link building process. Anchor Text The anchor text is used to describe the destination of a link – so a link to a web page that has reviews on Bluetooth headsets would ideally have ‘Bluetooth headset reviews’ in its anchor text. Note: The HTML code for a link goes something like this: <a href=”http://www.yoursite.com/bluetoothheadset-reviews.html/”>Bluetooth headset reviews</a> - the bit in quotation marks is the page link and the text between the <a> and </a> tags is the anchor text.

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Not only is the anchor text important but also the content surrounding the link – as those are often used to describe the link much more effectively than the anchor text itself. Because of this, citation factors (discussed later on) and the different type of links (next section) are also important considerations. Topical Relevance A topical community is measured by the search engines as a group of websites who interlink to and with one another frequently and carry a similar topic or theme. Links from websites within your topical community carry more weight because they offer a better chance of critically evaluating the information your site offers than an outside website unfamiliar with the topic. Editorial citations from within your topical community are thus considered more valuable. Topical relevance is established by: •	 •	 •	 •	 Analyzing the content of the linking page Analyzing (and determining) general subject matter of the site Analyzing the link profile of that page to determine the key subject matter of that page Doing the above for the site as well.

All other factors being equal, links from closely-related pages and sites are more valuable than off-topic pages (and sites). Authority As discussed earlier, topical authority is determined by aggregating the value of editorial citations to that page, both from within the topical community and outside it. This is a tighter method of establish authority than simply using PR or the topical authority of the website hosting the page (although those two impact link value as well). To judge a page’s authority status, we generally look at the links pointing to that page. However, considering that ‘authority’ and ‘trust’ are usually associated with sites, it is perhaps more relevant to state that the authority (on-topic) of a linking site is determined by looking at its link profile and data already at the search engine’s disposal regarding that site. Usually you will find that for each niche a core community or hub exists with the most links from websites also those with the most links from within the topical community at the centre of focus and discussion. These sites are considered topical authority sites, and for each sector your goal should be to position your website as the authority in that niche. A website’s primary topic (which the search engines will determine through analyzing its hosted web pages) influences how well those pages are able to rank for on-topic (similar) and off-topic (different niche) search queries. Thus, websites on specific subtopics may be able to rank higher than websites that cover the general topic. This also works in reverse, as large websites (like BBC or Wikipedia) cover a myriad of subjects and thus may be able to rank well for many or all of them.

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Link Popularity / PageRank The link popularity of the linking page has a direct impact on the value of the links that page creates. For Google, it is the PageRank of the linking page that has an impact. Link popularity (global) of the linking site and that of the target site matter more than the link pop (or PageRank) of the individual pages. Co-Citation Co-Citation is a method used to establish a topical similarity between two items (in our case, two web pages or two websites). For example, if A and B are both cited (linked to) by C, they may be said to be related to one another even if they do not link to each other directly. If A and B are both cited by many other pages, they have a ‘stronger’ relationship – i.e. they are considered very similar. This similarity can be used to determine the quality / trustworthiness of a page / website / source. Acquiring links from websites and web pages that regularly reference the top authority sites in your topical niche (and conversely, avoid off-topic links or links to “bad neighborhood” sites) will show your website as being part of the same high-authority topical community as the top sites in your niche. Co-citation plays a distinct role in establishing trust for a domain. Co-citation works both for on-page links (getting a link from a page that links to other top sites) and for on-site links (getting a link from a site that regularly references other top sites in that niche). Different Types of Links The degree of value the search engine can accord a particular link is based on how it is used on the page. The navigation menu of a page has obvious importance, so links in that menu (usually internal pages) are trusted implicitly, even if they are not necessarily what you’d call ‘in-context’. A list of links in the sidebar might have little importance if there is no editorial content surrounding them – mainly because these are not links that are considered important to the site’s functions. In-context links are important but two things have to be taken care off – topical relevance and the history of the site itself. Sites with a good linking history can even have their link-lists categorized as trusted links, while sites with poor a linking history will have their in-context links discounted as well. Site / Link Age The age of a domain is usually thought to be a relevant factor in ranking websites in Google. The proponents of this view point to the number of websites that seem to rank well in search engine simply because they are old domains.

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However, there is a second school of thought that points to “link age” as opposed to “site age – pointing to cases where old domains do not rank well because those domains do not have many links pointing to them from the ‘early days’ of a domain. Personally, I think that the later is more accurate – link age is one of the key ‘trust’-based ranking factors for search engines, and the persistence of a link as well as its age means far more than the age of a domain. Note: Old, established domains with a good backlinks history are often bought by webmasters in an effort to jump ahead of the ranking race. If you chose to do this, please research the topic more extensively and take care to research the backlinks profile of the site in detail.

What’s Next
When you’re starting a new site, you want to pick up the best links that you can not only to get crawled and indexed but also to gain some trust and authority from the search engines so you can rank high for your target terms. The next chapter will show you exactly which links to get for a site’s launch. And if you already own a website and are looking to improve its rankings, skim through the next chapter and see which links you might have missed out on – these links are crucial for a site’s rankings and can be easily attained.

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12 – Site Launch Links
There are certain types of links that are known as “site launch links”. These links are: •	 Easy to acquire (paid and free) •	 Powerful, with plenty of ‘trust’ & ‘authority’ •	 High PageRank (for quick crawling and indexing) I usually divide a site’s link building into two distinct phases – the site launch phase where links are acquired to maximize the trust and authority conferred to the site’s reputation, and the “everything else” phase where you go after links with a long-term view for dominating search engine rankings. The separation is more semantic than real, however the divide helps you in going after certain types of links in the beginning and forces you to get those links that will benefit you the most during a site’s early stages the most. There are two types of links that you need around a website’s launch period: •	 To get your websites crawled and indexed, you need several links to your website as well as a couple of high-PR links. •	 Links to build trust, such as sites that enjoy top rankings in Google / Yahoo. These also include a few top directories such as Dmoz, Business.com and Yahoo Directory. The right links will check all the boxes that make up an “ideal link”- they will be from authoritative sources and pass PR and trust to your website. However, some elements of trust and authority can only be earned over time. Your links will need to age as well. Do not let this deter you in acquiring quality links. Rather, use this as an incentive - the earlier you get those bighitting links, the quicker they will mature and help you get those top rankings. Where to find such links? Here’s a quick list: •	 T&A Directories These are the top 10-20 web directories online. Plenty of trust, authority and PageRank, and with your site listed in relevant sections, there’s an element of relevance and co-citation that comes in as well. However, these links are not your ideal ‘in-context’ text links from relevant pages so you also need the next two types of links. •	 T&A Community-based Sites Find the top 10-20 community sites where you can either post your own content (with links) or create profile pages (an excellent strategy for online reputation management as well). Let’s look at both types of sites individually.

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Trusted Directories
You should get links from all of them if possible, but if not, try to get them from Yahoo and Dmoz at least. 1. Yahoo Directory ($299 per year) (http://dir.yahoo.com/) 2. Best of the Web ($69.95 per year or $199.95 lifetime) (http://www.botw.org/) 3. Business.com ($199 first year, $149 to renew) (http://business.com/) 4. Dmoz (Free) (http://www.dmoz.org/) 5. JoeAnt ($39.99 review fee) (http://joeant.com/) 6. GoGuides.org ($69.95 review fee) (http://goguides.org/) 7. Microsoft bCentral (if they ever open for submissions again) ($49 per year) (http://sbd.bcentral.com/) 8. Gimpsy ($40 review fee) (http://www.gimpsy.com/) 9. Starting Point ($99 per year) (http://www.stpt.com/) 10. V7N Directory ($49.95 review fee) (http://directory.v7n.com/) Note: The Dmoz directory is now open again and is accepting submissions – since many people are not aware of this (the reboot was done without much fanfare), this is an excellent time to get included in the Dmoz directory really fast. There are plenty more (Umdum (http://www.umdum.com/), RubberStamped (http://www.rubberstamped. org/), Aviva Directory (http://www.avivadirectory.com/), Webotopia (http://www.webotopia.org/), Webxperience (http://www.webxperience.org/), Uncover the Net (http://www.uncoverthenet.com/) and Jayde (http://www.jayde.com/) to name just a few), but these links will be part of the second phase of your site’s link building. For now, you need the biggest bang in the shortest period of time and smallest number of links. These links will get you there. However, these web directories can be expensive if you are running a one-man operation or if you are just starting out and cannot afford to spend around $1k on directory submissions. If you have this issue, here’s a shortcut for you to ‘get the ball rolling’ so you can come back to the directory submissions later on. Remember that this means that you’ll have to use other creative methods to bring in traffic and links instead of relying on the early push these directory links will provide.

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The Low-Budget Option •	 Submit to the Dmoz directory. •	 Start a blog on your website, fill it with 10-15 posts, then submit a link to the Best of the Web Blogs (http://blogs.botw.org/) site – it’s free (so far), and you get all the benefits of a link from the directory. •	 If you can afford it, put down $299 for a Yahoo Directory link. •	 If you cannot, put down $150 for JoeAnt (http://joeant.com/) ($40), GoGuides.org ($70) and Gimpsy ($40). •	 If you cannot even afford that, then you have to take the long route – sign up as an ‘editor’ for JoeAnt in the same category that your site belongs to and add at least 10-15 sites in the category (along with your own site). This approach works best if you have a long-term interest in that niche, because going through that much effort just to get a $40 link is often not worth your time. It all depends on how much you can spend at the start – stay flexible and squeeze as much as you can out of your budget for these early links. However, equally, don’t fret if you can’t get these links. There are plenty of other ways to get links to your site, but they will take more time. Recommended Resource: Directory Submitter (http://directorysubmitter.imwishlist.com) We’ve created another free program that will submit your website to literally thousands of other website directories across the internet. While the Yahoo directory is an excellent, “paid” directory to submit your website to, there are also thousands of completely FREE website directories you can submit to. Doing this submission manually will take you days and days of time, but using out free Directory Submitter software, you can do this much faster. Directory Submission is something that I highly recommend doing at the time I am writing this book. The more directories you can submit your website to, the more one-way links you’ll get pointing to your website, and the higher you will rank. Blog Directories If you have a blog on your website (or as your site), you can get links from the following top blog directories (all are free): 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. BlogFlux (http://dir.blogflux.com/) Best of the Web Blogs (http://blogs.botw.org/) Eaton Web (http://portal.eatonweb.com/) Blog Catalog (http://www.blogcatalog.com/) Blog Hub (http://www.bloghub.com/) Blogorama (http://www.blogarama.com/) We Blog a Lot (http://www.weblogalot.com/)

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As you might have noticed, blog directories are free, and that makes them both easy to spam and easy to get links from. But if you are targeting the top blog directories (where sites are always editorially reviewed), you have a good chance of getting the requisite link love without worrying about that directory being filled with spam.

Highly Trusted Websites
Sites like Wikipedia are excellent targets for acquiring links during site launch and beyond as well. I’ll let you find alternatives yourself - think popular, community-based websites with extremely good search engine rankings in Google. These websites may not allow their members / pages to pass link value through use of the no-follow tag. However, these sites are an excellent way to dominate the search engines for your site’s brand, and along the line, to build your search engine rankings for specific terms. A few examples to get you started: •	 Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/) – despite the no-follow links, a good source for traffic considering that Wikipedia now has page 1 rankings for a vast array of long tail keywords. •	 Squidoo (http://www.squidoo.com/browse/homepage) – good for some domain-level love, and if your page is informative and gets links, that will only help your site’s rankings. Squidoo is also a good idea if you want to ‘own’ the top 10 rankings for your site’s name in the search engines. •	 LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/) – a social network for business contacts. •	 MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/) – social network, good for setting up an information page about your site (or yourself). •	 Live Spaces (http://spaces.msn.com/) – same as above. •	 Yahoo 360 (http://360.yahoo.com/) – same as above. •	 My Blog Log (http://mybloglog.com/) – same as above, but targeting blogs. Sites such as eHow, (http://www.ehow.com/) wikiHow (http://www.wikihow.com/Main-Page), Work.com (http://www.work.com/), Newsvine (http://www.newsvine.com/), WordPress (http://www.wordpress.com/) and About.com are top-notch community-based sites that can give your site plenty of link juice and rankings, but getting links from these sites takes time (although not so much from About.com if you have direct access to an editor and have a quality site). What we’re looking for are popular sites that allow for profile pages, and high profile community-based knowledge sites. In the next phase, we’ll look in more detail at open-source knowledge sites and how you can earn links off them.

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13 – Link Sources
There are many, many ways to build links to your website. If you just have directory submissions and link requests in mind, you’re in trouble – your competition is probably using 5 or more different link sources for their link building campaigns, and to be competitive in your market you need to know as much as possible about link building. This chapter discusses the various ways you can build links. It is part of the next series of chapters in which we will discuss: 1. Link sources – the different ways you can get links 2. Finding potential link partners – how to find link partners using competitive analysis and search engines 3. Evaluating links – how to place a ‘value’ on a link and how to evaluate a linking site’s value 4. Quality Content – how to create link worthy content on your site Let’s get started with the different sources you can build links from.

Directories
The easiest and most basic type of link that you can acquire. You can target ‘general’ or on-topic directories. Directories are usually paid for – so this may not be your best bet if you are looking to cut costs, but the best directories are worth the investment. Here’s a list of trusted ‘general-topic’ directories (including the top-10 listed in the previous chapter) that you can / should submit your site’s links to. You’ll notice that I haven’t listed more than 20 directories here – there are two reasons for that. You should be looking at in-context links instead of directory links as a bulk of your inbound links. Keeping this in mind, I’d suggest that you only focus on these 20 ‘general’ directories (depending on your budget, of course) in the very beginning. During this time, you should also build links from sources other than directories. After you have links coming in from sources other than directories, you can start to submit your website to far more directories with a program such as Directory Submitter as mentioned in a previous chapter. General Directories 11. Yahoo Directory ($299 per year) 12. Best of the Web ($69.95 per year or $199.95 lifetime) 13. Business.com ($199 first year, $149 to renew)

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14. Dmoz (Free) 15. JoeAnt ($39.99 review fee) 16. GoGuides.org ($69.95 review fee) 17. Microsoft bCentral (if they ever open for submissions again) ($49 per year) 18. Gimpsy ($40 review fee) 19. Starting Point ($99 per year) 20. V7N Directory ($49.95 review fee) 21. Umdum ($40 / $100) 22. RubberStamped ($29.95) 23. Aviva Directory ($49.95 / $74.95 per year) 24. Webotopia ($10 / $30) 25. Webxperience ($10 / $30) 26. Uncover the Net ($59 / $199 per year) 27. Jayde (Free) 28. Elib (50 Euro / 150 Euro) 29. Skaffe ($44.99) 30. Web World ($25) Submitting to thousands of Website Directories the EASY way… Recommended Resource: Directory Submitter (http://directorysubmitter.imwishlist.com) We’ve created another free program that will submit your website to literally thousands of other website directories across the internet. While the Yahoo directory is an excellent, “paid” directory to submit your website to, there are also thousands of completely FREE website directories you can submit to. Doing this submission manually will take you days and days of time, but using out free Directory Submitter software, you can do this much faster. Directory Submission is something that I highly recommend doing at the time I am writing this book. The more directories you can submit your website to, the more one-way links you’ll get pointing to your website, and the higher you will rank. Topical Directories Note: I’m using “soccer” and “soccer news” as an example in this section. When you’re looking for topical directories, there are three easy ways to search for them. You can look for them using search engines. Let’s say you are searching for on-topic directories for your soccer news site. Here’s how you could quickly turn up a list of sites to get links from – search Google (or Yahoo) for the following: •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 “soccer” directory “soccer” resources “soccer” submit your site “soccer” add url “soccer” links

You can replace “soccer” with “soccer news” or “soccer equipment” for better targeting (depending on your site). If you are supporting a particular team, you can go even deeper and search for them – for e.g. “Manchester United” directory, or “soccer world cup” directory.

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The possibilities here are endless – use your primary keywords, combine them with common ‘link’ terms such as directory, resources, links, add url, etc and you will generate a long list of sites where you can get links from. Note: If you enclose the whole search term (e.g. “soccer news directory”) in quotes, you will get targeted results and a shorter, more manageable list to deal with. The other strategy is to use mainstream directories to help you find niche directories. Just looking at Dmoz, you can find lists for Sports Directories (http://dmoz.com/Sports/Resources/Directories/) and Soccer Directories (http://dmoz.com/Sports/Soccer/Directories/). Using the directories as a launching point, you can easily find topical directories to get your link building campaign rolling. Of course, the first strategy is also an excellent way to find potential link partners – something that we’ll come back to in the next chapter.

Paid Links / Reviews
Paid links from websites can take different forms – you can buy text link ads, ‘rent’ pages on websites or pay for reviews. For all three types of links, you can hire companies, use automated (paid) services or do it yourself by contacting webmasters directly. Search Engines and Paid Links There is a lot of debate and contention in the SEO world about how search engines treat paid links (and whether they can determine if a link is paid-for or not). I want to give you practical, usable information (and not drown you in long, endless debates). The bottom line with paid links is this: •	 Links are used by search engines to determine rankings. Buying links will increase your rankings, but it will also amount to a ‘manipulation’ of a search engine’s ranking algorithm (its equivalent to buying your way into the top 10 search rankings). Because of this, Google has taken a very hard stance against paid links. •	 Search engines are getting better at detecting if a link is ‘naturally’ earned or not. This means that if you exchange links or pay for a link, there’s a chance that the search engine can detect such a transaction, and this chance is improving every year. •	 The factors go into detecting the nature of a link are varied and complex – search engines use a site’s reputation, it’s history of linking out, the type of link, topical relationship between the two sites, a site’s history of acquiring links, etc. •	 On-topic, in-context links are taken as the ‘de facto’ standard for natural links. If your linking strategy follows this pattern, it doesn’t matter if you’re doing reciprocal linking or buying links – such links become very, very difficult to detect manually or algorithmically. •	 Based on my understanding, Google and other search engines use different degrees / thresholds to value a link – if the ‘doubt’ about a link is below a certain threshold, the search engine will give full value to that link (depending on other factors as well). If the link has some doubt, that will be translated into a lower valuation of that link.

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•	 Following the threshold model, a website that is ‘selling’ links is not penalized until a certain percentage of its outbound links are considered to be ‘un-trusted’. The higher this percentage is, the bigger the penalty for that site (in preventing that site from passing link value to other sites). •	 Sites buying links do not suffer any penalties because of ‘un-trusted’ links – only outbound links that are un-trusted are penalized against (see above). So that’s that about paid links. There are several online services that you can use to buy links, or alternatively you could offer to buy links on sites directly (targeting the link partners you’ll learn to find in the next chapter). Text Link Ads (http://www.text-link-ads.com/) and Text Link Brokers (http://www.textlinkbrokers.com/) are the two most popular link buying (and selling) services online. I would recommend using one of these two instead of a smaller service mainly because of their experience and their large ad inventory. Smaller competitors are liable to have smaller inventories – this translates into fewer options and more chances of leaving behind a ‘pattern’ in your link buying. The other option is to do this manually, or to ask an SEO consultant to do this for you. Should you buy links for search engine rankings or just traffic? Both, if you can manage it. A link that brings in traffic but not search engine ranking benefits is still valuable. Paid Reviews A relatively new development in online promotion is organized services for paying bloggers and websites for reviews – either for one of your products or your whole site. Sites such as ReviewMe (http://www.reviewme.com/) have popped up over the last year, offering advertisers a chance to “buy” a review on on-topic, popular sites to build an audience and get exposure for their products. As with paid links, there are question marks over the ‘acceptability’ of paid reviews (and the links generated from those reviews) – the issue is that if a review is paid for (positive or negative), the link generated cannot be ‘trusted’. However, there are three issues with this. One, it is a problem for the search engines on devising a better algorithm to evaluate links. Two, allowing reviews to be open (positive and negative) makes the process more honest. Three, search engines do not penalize at the granular level of ‘one’ link or ‘one’ review. Should you use paid reviews? Think of paid reviews as a customized form of news coverage of your product – it should be targeted to a relevant audience and your product must be good enough to capture the interest of the reviewer and his audience. Note: We’ve covered several of ‘paid’ methods for linking – now let’s look at some free link sources.

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Article Submissions / Guest Blogging
The traditional way to make this work is to submit articles (complete with links back to internal pages of your website) to general-topic or on-topic article directories or article aggregators (with the same criteria applied here as for directory submissions). However, that’s not an effective way to work – submitting your article to 10 different article directories is time consuming (note: if you do it manually) and yields little benefit compared to other link building methods. My solution for this is to use a three-step approach. Here I’ll assume that you have 3-5 articles written and ready for distribution. •	 Step 1: Submit a fresh and original article to 2-3 article directories (changing only the main keyword to specific phrases – such as changing “home theater systems” to “home theater audio systems” – and fixing the article where necessary to make ‘sense’. •	 Step 2: Find topical article directories (search for “keyword” + directory or “keyword” + articles in Google) and repeat Step 1 there, but with a second, different article. •	 Step 3: Contact potential link partners (next chapter) and ask them if they will allow you to add content to their site in the form of an article (in exchange for a link back to your site). In most cases this will amount to a paid link, but as a strategy for getting in-context links from on-topic sites it’s a no-brainer. Now, as I mentioned above, article submitting manually is time consuming, tedious, and not very effective because of that. We’ve created a free software program that will automate the tedious task of submitting your articles to popular article directories. The program is called Article Submitter and you can download your free copy here: http:// articlesubmitter.imwishlist.com Guest Blogging Another way to submit articles is as ‘guest submissions’ on blogs in your niche (or in related niches). In fact, many blogs will allow you to sign up as a contributor and either give you a full profile page or the ability to link back to your site (and internal pages) through bylines in every post (just like traditional article submissions). However, since we are dealing with blogs and not article directories, the posts you write will probably have some editorial criteria and will need to be original and fresh material. Usually people start guest blogging on popular industry blogs as a means of building their reputation and audience, which is a good strategy for you to follow if you’re in a niche for the long haul. The ideal strategy to get a guest blogging gig on a popular industry blog is to have a portfolio of articles plus a handful of ideas ready before you pitch yourself to the blog owners. Having a portfolio (and especially something that showcases past blogging experience) is very critical – you might want to start off by writing on your own site blog first. A good place to learn more about blogging is Performancing.com.

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Link Requests
Link requests refer to the process of sending e-mails to webmasters and asking them (directly or indirectly) for links. These can be reciprocal links, one-way links (free or paid), asking for reviews, just pointing them to a contest on the site, sending them to a cool article in the hope that they will link to it themselves, etc. Link requests are usually seen as very time-consuming, but the actual effort and time put in goes into finding link partners and evaluating them, not the link request process. In fact, with a link request template and stepby-step criteria for framing your link request based on the link value, you can greatly reduce the time spent on making link requests. Even then, the traditional method of link requests can quickly become tedious – which is why you should consider hiring someone and training them to build links for you. In the next chapter (Finding Link Partners) I’ve included a template for link request emails and some tips to follow when requesting links. And in the chapter after that (Link Evaluation), I talk more about the criteria to use when placing a monetary / time value on links and how you should treat such links differently. As time goes by, reciprocal linking gets less and less effective. So, if you choose to do reciprocal linking, be sure you use it as a supplement to the other link building methods. Do not solely rely on reciprocal linking, as it just won’t work in the long term. With that said, it can be an excellent “supplement” to other link building methods.

Link-Worthy Content
Quality content. Link bait. Flagship content. No matter what you call it, the core values and motivation remains the same: creating resources (information, tools, audio/visual media) that provide value and are interesting, usable and shareable. Value is the central theme here – everything you do in marketing or product creating or business management must be qualified with the value it will eventually provide to your customers. Value attracts – in a get-rich-quick world where we are being scammed left, right and center, genuine quality and value goes a long way in attracting customers. Value converts – customers who view you as a helpful, valuable resource will come back for seconds. Information needs to be interesting to attract your audience – it should stand out and be different and perhaps even project itself as more valuable than everything else that is vying for your attention. Anything you provide on your website or elsewhere under your name and brand must be usable / useful / of immediate use. This factor can turn your content from ‘just interesting’ to ‘indispensable’. If you can get people to follow your advice or use the tools you build, you will be building up your word-of-mouth campaign as these same people will start talking about your product / content. Shareable is more a mindset than anything you actively create. Making your quality content “shareable” means removing all obstacles between the user and his ability to share information with his friends / colleagues. How do you remove these obstacles? I discuss this, and more ideas about what makes your resources “linkable”, in a future chapter titled “Link Worthy Content”.

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The basic idea here is that if you have quality content, it becomes a lot easier to build links to that page (as opposed to asking for links to a page that provides little or no value to users). It is one of the most effective link building and promotional strategies that you can use in SEO and online marketing (and indeed, in any form of marketing).

Community-based Sites (Profiles / Content)
The social side of the Internet is growing exponentially – and as a result there are many community-based sites where you can a) build your own profile (or your site’s) and b) post content on it. These profile and content pages will rank well just on the basis of the domain’s high authority and rankings, and you can also use them to build links back to your website. You can see this example working in extreme with Wikipedia, where the domain’s extremely large amount of backlinks make it such a strong authority domain that a page on the site will often outrank many other more relevant websites. Wikipedia is the most popular example, but it isn’t the only one. Newspaper sites (International Herald Tribune, Guardian), profile sites (LinkedIn, MySpace, MyBlogLog), and content sites (Squidoo, About, Work.com) are all high-authority general-purpose domains that you can use for your search ranking and SERP ‘branding’ purposes. Profile Pages You can use profile pages to dominate search engine results for your own name / your company name as well as sending some authority links back to your own sites. This falls under the practice of online reputation management, which I’ve briefly explained below: Note: Reputation management refers to the practice of monitoring public discourse about yourself / your company and participating in this discourse to answer queries, reinforce (and offer thanks for) positive comments and resolve any issues that lead to negative comments. While we’re not going to cover online reputation management in further detail in this book, it is important to discuss what impact it can have on your SEO campaign. The top-10 results (in Google and other search engines) for your own name, your company / site name and product names are usually comprised of online conversations on those subjects as well as pages from your own site. As your website gets more popular, people will start typing in the name instead of the domain (you’ll be surprised at how many people actually do that) in their browser bar or search engine to get to your website. Along the way, they will also catch a glimpse of the rest of the top 10 results for your site’s name. You have a chance to control those results if you build profile pages on high ranking domains and if you promote selective pages for your company’s name (a positive review of your product in an industry blog, or something similar).

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Content Community sites are also an excellent avenue for promoting your site’s content / your products. Using content-based community sites you can easily build pages that are on-topic and send backlinks back to your website (as well as talking about your products). The way you will do this depends on the site’s editorial policies, but in general you should keep the ‘quality content’ criteria in mind (see above section and the separate chapter on quality content). Remember that you’re not just looking for backlinks here but traffic as well – in several cases (such as Wikipedia and Yahoo Answers (http://answers.yahoo.com/)) you may not get ranking benefits but you will certainly get loads of traffic. Resources Here’s a list of resources for both profile-management and content-promotion community sites. •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 LinkedIn MyBlogLog MySpace Live Spaces Squidoo Yahoo Groups Google Groups About.com Work.com Wikipedia Yahoo Answers Facebook Yahoo 360 Topix.net

Industry News Blogs
Most popular niches have industry news blogs, and they are almost always looking for interesting items to write about. Submitting a tip to one of these blogs (or better yet, submitting your own news article) can often result in the news item being picked up by the rest of the news sites. Interesting and quality news items can easily earn you plenty of links just by getting in touch with the news sites that are actively looking for that sort of news. To find these news blogs you’ll have to do some digging and research on your niche. Your best bet, however, will be to “know” your industry to get a good idea of the top sites. To find the top blogs for a niche, just do a search in Google or Yahoo for: •	 “keyword” blog •	 “keyword” blog news •	 “keyword” news

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These three searches will point you to the top ranking sites, which you can then use and explore to find even more relevant news sites in your target industry. Once again, your results here will vary greatly depending on the composition of the SERPs for that keyword and topic. You would be better off actually knowing your niche and knowing which sites accept contributions and which don’t. For example, in the SEO world, the top results for the above keyword combinations don’t give us much, but I know that: •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 Search Engine Journal (http://www.searchenginejournal.com/) SEOMoz (UGC) (http://www.seomoz.com/ugc) Search Engine Guide (http://www.searchengineguide.com/) Search Engine Land (http://www.searchengineland.com/) Search Engine Watch (http://www.searchenginewatch.com/) Batelle Media (Search Mob) (http://www.battlemedia.com/searchmob/) Bruce Clay Blog (http://www.bruceclay.com/blog/) SEO Buzz Box (http://www.seobuzzbox.com/)

Are just some of the SEO blogs that either encourage contributions, accept ‘tips’ or have ways where you can contribute posts online provided that you are meeting the blog owner’s goals as well.

Press Releases
Similar to submitting news to industry news sites, press releases can be used to target the traditional news media. The main trouble with press releases is that they’re poorly done 95% of the time. Using proper keywords and $500 distribution packages is little good if you are not producing something ‘interesting’ – and the most important part of a news / press release is the ‘hook’ that will interest readers. A press release is a lead to a story. Ideally, it should be tied-in with current events and / or industry news so that the resulting story is that much more interesting for the readers. I’ll say it again. A journalist is looking for a story that he knows the readers will want to read. And that is all you should be seriously worried about. That your press release has a story that people will ‘want’ to read. That’s what journalists are looking for. That’s how you should be writing your press release as well. Put your ‘journalist’ hat on and think about what you would attract you towards a press release, and then use those insights in writing your site’s press release. There are plenty of online resources available that can help your format your press releases and promote them, but unless your press release is a story worth ‘listening to’ there’s no point in writing it. There are many tips, tricks, and tactics involved in writing a compelling and effective press release. We’ve written an entire eBook on this here: http://www.PressReleaseFire.com

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Contests / Free stuff
One strategy you can use to effectively build links is to run an industry-based contest. It could be as simple as asking for articles on a specific topic and then offering a cash prize to the best article – you can usually find a sponsor to pay for the prize, and the articles will give you ‘free’ content to post on your site. This works better with websites that already have a sizeable audience – for a new site it would be pretty hard for such a contest to gain momentum unless you promoted it very heavily. Alternatively, you can offer items for free in exchange for reviews – again, this can take various forms such as sending product samples to site owners and bloggers, or just announcing on the site that you will give away something free for anyone that writes a review for your website. Once again, having an established website with a large audience will make this easier.

Quality Web Design
If you are a talented web designer (or if you have a good designer working for you), building beautiful websites and site themes (or blog themes) can earn you links as well. I’ll give you two strategies here – and I’m sure you can adapt this for your own use. Using Blog Themes A more viral way of getting links is to build a free site template and distribute it for free, asking for a link back as compensation. You can port that approach to blogging software such as WordPress (http://www.wordpress. org/) (which I’m using here for my example) – design a WP theme, promote it across the right channels and if your theme is any good, it will be downloaded and used by many people, getting you valuable inbound links (though not necessarily on-topic links). The key with WordPress themes (or any other blog platform theme) is to focus on building something that people will be sure to use. Many WordPress theme designers make the mistake of building a beautiful theme that is not very ‘usable’. With WordPress, design is important but usability is far more important. This approach will work best if you are a WP designer yourself – barring that you find someone who can do WP themes, and you can hire them to build a theme for yourself, and then release a free version of it to the directories below: •	 Themes.WordPress.net (http://themes.wordpress.net/) •	 Alex King’s WP Theme Archives (http://alexking.org/projects/wordpress/themes) •	 Template Browser WP Themes (http://www.templatesbrowser.com/wordpress-themes/) Make sure you also drop a line to the sites below – these are blogging-related websites and will cover / feature your theme if it is good enough: •	 Performancing (http://performancing.com/) •	 Weblog Tools Collection (http://weblogtoolscollection.com/) •	 Lorelle on WordPress (http://lorelle.wordpress.com/)

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Another alternative is to do a ‘download wordpress themes’ search on Google and contact the top 10 / top 20 sites with your ‘submission’.

Blogging Conversations
This applies to blogs and bloggers – if you don’t have one on your site, browse through and find out what you’re missing on. At its heart, blogging is more than just means of publishing online information – it’s a mindset that encourages webmasters to: •	 •	 •	 •	 Link to interesting stories Publish fresh content Link to like-minded sites (bloggers) Read and comment (provide feedback, discuss, participate in conversations) on other sites

As an analogy, a blog is a cross between a traditional content website and a forum – using the owner-oriented, content-rich format of a website and the social aspects of a forum. Understanding the nature of a blog is important because you don’t need a blog to adopt the same practices – you can do the same thing on your website. The thing with blogs is that blogging platforms quite often make such activities a piece of cake, and giving it a name and a specific methodology makes it easier to adopt. If you have a CMS that allows readers to make comments on your articles, it’s as good as a blog and can allow you to perform the same functions. And what does that have to do with blogging conversations? Remember that 3 of the mindset items I talked about involve ‘other sites’ – either in the form of linking to them or interacting on their sites. An integral part of earning links from other websites is engaging in personal relationships with webmasters and sharing interests – whether it is through email, through forums or through blogs. If you run a blog on your website (or if your website is a blog itself), the best advice for getting unsolicited links is to network with fellow bloggers and to engage in ‘blogging conversations’.

Social Media Marketing
At this point there are a few basic concepts that I want to touch upon: What is social media? Social media is a system of personal recommendations that usually involves some element of group voting (not necessary) to deliver interesting and useful information to readers / users. How can it help you? Leveraging the power of social media means gaining access to a large audience using the recommendations of other people (instead of a hard-sell where you send people emails or buy ads). These recommendations are viewed as trust-worthy and bypass the BS filter people raise when they are ‘pitched’ a sale.

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Social Media Online = Word of Mouth Offline Social media marketing on the Internet is nothing more than an online version of real world word of mouth marketing. The same rules apply – what you are promoting has to be interesting, shareable and useful and the people sharing it have to be influential. Now that we understand the basics, here’s an overview of how you can make social media marketing work for you. Build your Profile Being an authoritative voice in your community has a lot of value – if you are at (or near) the top of the pile as far as ‘influence’ is concerned, you have a bigger audience to work with, and your recommendations carry more value than those of people at the bottom of the pile. This way of influencing public opinion can suck but it works well. People who are well-known and trusted can get thousands of people to listen to them when they recommend a story, or a product. This happens in the real world (in your circle of friends even), and it happens online too. In social media marketing sites, your ‘profile’ determines your influence. For each site, there will be a different means of building your influence. Learn, and master. Help Readers Share Your Content Building link worthy resources has already been talked about (and will be discussed in more detail in a later chapter), so what I want to focus on is sharing. Online media is not always easy to share. Quite often, we place obstacles in the paths of our readers. If you require registration to read an article, that’s an obstacle. A .pdf file, while an excellent format for sharing information, is an obstacle (but also an advantage). Complicated and long URLs are obstacles. Site policies (preventing users from copying your content for non-commercial purposes, for example) are obstacles. Other times, we don’t do enough to help them share our site content. Using social media icons on your website (putting a digg / stumbleupon / del.icio.us icon on each article) makes it easier for readers to share your articles. Providing ‘email to a friend’ links on articles helps people share your work. Providing easy links for bookmarking your site / page helps people return to it later. There are many ways you can use to help your readers share your content and simultaneously remove obstacles that prevent them from sharing.

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Customize Approach for Target Audience Each social media network has a different set of users, different practices and different strategies for success. Content that will be easily accepted and promoted on one network may totally bomb on the other. Biases may spring up in certain social networks, once again based on the predominant composition of the user base. Your requirements for SMM may determine which tool / social network you will use. Build Your Network Success in social media is determined by how many people you can influence – your audience. However, there’s a section of your audience who will also be ‘influencers’, and as such, have their own audience. These are part of your network – people who can help you promote your content by pitching it to their own respective audiences. Connecting with influential people in your niche – through social networks and through personal communication – is a critical part of succeeding with social media marketing. Social Media Marketing Sites Here’s a list of the top 15 SMM sites (rankings are totally subjective and based on personal preference). 1. Digg 2. Del.icio.us 3. Wikipedia 4. Flickr 5. Reddit 6. Newsvine 7. StumbleUpon 8. Technorati 9. MySpace 10. Yahoo Answers 11. Yahoo 360 12. LinkedIn 13. Squidoo 14. Wikihow 15. Facebook

What’s Next
In the next three chapters we focus on the core skills in link building: •	 How to find potential link partners •	 How to place a value on a link from a potential link partner •	 How to create link worthy content for your site

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14 – Finding Potential Link Partners
In this chapter I’ll discuss how you can find potential link partners using: •	 Search Engines •	 Directories •	 Backlinks analysis The objective is to build a long, comprehensive list of potential link targets. We will then evaluate these links and pursue them according to their importance (next chapter).

Directories
The easiest source of finding quality links; and depending on which directory you are getting these listings from, also very valuable. The top directories have a strict editorial process that ensures that only trusted and high-quality sites are listed (although this is a subjective process, so there might be some bad apples slipping in). Picking from this list allows you to easily target sites that you know are editorially vetted and are quality, trusted sites. Take out the directory list from the previous chapter, then for the first directory: •	 Find the right category for your primary keyword – make sure you go deep and don’t stop at ‘Internet’ or ‘Sports’ – those are too general. A good way to judge this is to find the category you would submit your own site to. •	 Make a list of each site in that category – you might have a category with over 50 sites, but don’t give up, just make a list – name and site Url. •	 Repeat this exercise for the main secondary keywords for your site. For example, a “soccer news” site will have this category (http://dmoz.org/Sports/Soccer/News_and_ Media ) (soccer news) as its main category in Dmoz, but if the same site also hosts a “soccer directory”, it would also fit in this category (http://dmoz.com/Sports/Soccer/Directories/) (soccer directories). •	 Continue till you run out of high-level keywords. Repeat this exercise for each directory on the list, and take care not to repeat sites (this will make your job easier as duplicates keep popping up in subsequent directories). Also, note that you can download our free directory submitter software here: http://directorysubmitter.imwishlist.com

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Search Engines
The search engines will remain your best source of finding potential link partners. There are at least four ways you can use search engines to find link partners: •	 Top results for your keywords •	 Sites asking for / accepting links in your niche •	 Finding topical authority sites •	 Using search engine tools to track the sites linking to top ranking results for your keywords This section deals with the first two methods, while subsequent sections explain the last two methods. High Ranking Sites How do you find high ranking sites? Well, if you remember the chapter on Competitive Analysis, we talked about analyzing the SERPs for your keyword list and determining your top competition using a formula that ranked sites based on how high they were ranking across each search engine for each keyword on your list. While that list is still relevant and important here, I’d like you to expand on that and instead of working with the top 10 sites for each keyword, work with the top 50 sites for each keyword. Is that too much? Actually, depending on your niche of choice, that may be too little (or too much). However, you should also consider these mitigating factors: •	 Not all sites will be ‘quality sites’. •	 Not all sites will link to you. A list of 2000 potential link partners may seem quite large, but if 500 if them are spammy sites, and only 1 out of 10 of the remaining sites agree to link to you, that gives you a grand total of 150 links. Decent, but if you’re in a competitive niche it’s not enough. Searching for link pages We came across this in the previous chapter when we were talking about searching for ‘topical directories’. The same approach can also yield non-directory linking opportunities, so let’s recap the process. You can use search queries to look for link partners as well. Let’s say you are searching for on-topic links for your “home theater system” info site. Here’s how you could quickly turn up a list of sites to get links from – search Google (or Yahoo) for the following:

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Note: For best results, vary your queries by removing the quotes around the keyword phrase and using the allintitle: operator to narrow down your search. •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 •	 “home theater system” links “home theater system” resources “home theater system” submit your site “home theater system” add url “home theater system” links “home theater system” review

Replace “home theater system” with the more generic term “home theater” for a broader list of sites. You can also repeat this exercise for other keywords (home theater audio, plasma tv, etc.). The possibilities here are endless – use your primary keywords, combine them with common ‘link’ terms such as directory, resources, links, add url, reviews, etc and you will generate a long list of sites where you can get links from. As before, add these sites / pages to your ‘potential link partners’ list.

Backlinks Analysis
One of the easiest ways to find link partners is to research the backlinks of your top competitors. The theory is that if the sites that are top of the pile have links from a specific set of sites, the chances for your site to reach the top (or be near the top) will be much higher if you get links from within the same set of sites. There are two different ways of making lists: •	 Backlinks for each top-ranking site – this is a straightforward technique of finding the top 100-200 backlinks for each top-ranking site and adding them to your list (taking care to avoid duplicates). •	 Common backlinks – sites that are linking out to one or more of your competition are important – not only are they more likely to link to your site as well, but chances are that it is a high-value link. One way to do this is to use the Yahoo Site Explorer (http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/) and note the sites linking to your competition. For more information on how to use the Yahoo Site Explorer please see chapter 7 (Competitive Analysis) where I’ve given a short tutorial on how to use it. You can also export the backlinks of any website into a document, making it easy for you to refer to the list later on. For common backlinks, there’s a tool providing by We Build Pages (http://www.webuildpages.com/) called Common Backlinks (http://www.webuildpages.com/tools/common-backlinks/) can give you the common backlinks for up to 10 of your competitor sites. Definitely an easier way of doing things than matching backlinks manually.

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Topical Research
The most effective way of finding the authority sites in a particular niche / industry is to “know” that niche. So, for example, I know that in the SEO niche, SearchEngineLand (http://searchengineland.com/), WebmasterWorld (http://www.webmasterworld.com/) and SEOmoz (http://www.seomoz.org/) are big, big names. However, I also know that less known names such as SearchEngineJournal (http://www. searchenginejournal.com/) and SearchEngineGuide (http://www.searchengineguide.com/) can deliver plenty of link value as well – a newcomer to this industry won’t know this, because they don’t know the people behind the sites and they likely aren’t aware of the history. In the blogging niche, ProBlogger (http://www.problogger.net/) and BlogHerald (http://www.blogherald.com/) may be considered the top sites when it comes to talking about blogging. But study the industry for a while and you’ll find that sites like Performancing (http://performancing.com/) and Weblog Tools Collection (http:// weblogtoolscollection.com/) are quite popular and easier to get links from, whereas a relative newcomer like Daily Blog Tips (http://www.dailyblogtips.com/) is valuable in getting links as well. Quite often, you’ll have to do some legwork to get a list of topical authority sites in your niche. If you can find out who the top 5 sites are in a particular niche, quite often it’s a simple matter of following the sites they link to and building your list of authority / on-topic sites. One excellent method to find top authority sites is to use the ‘related:’ operator in Google. Here’s how it works: Pick a top site in any niche – let’s say we choose the top ranking site for the term “medical billing software” – adsc.com – and enter the following text into the search box at Google: related:www.adsc.com This will return a list of 30 or so results – all sites that Google associates on a topical level (and to an extent, authoritatively as well) with adsc.com. Note that this site is #1 in Google for one of the most important keywords in the medical billing niche. How long did it take you to find a list of 30 on-topic, authority sites? The steps you have taken here are: •	 Pick your top keyword •	 Search for that keyword in Google •	 Run a ‘related:’ query for the top result It takes less than a minute, and it delivers to you a list of sites that, if you could get links from, you stand a very good chance of ranking in the top 10 results for that particular term in Google.

Local Search
If your website / online business is geographically-specific, it would be a good idea to get an understanding of how ‘local search’ works and how you can optimize your site for it.

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What is local search? Local search is about users finding businesses in / information about a specific locality (geographical region). This could be a country, a city, or a group of countries. Who needs to optimize for local search? A Chicago restaurant, for one. A real estate agent in Los Angeles. A laptop retailer in Singapore. A book store in France. Local business and resource centers need the benefits that local search provides, and while search engines do not currently dominate the local search market they are making considerable efforts in doing so and search engine traffic is still a strong driver of visitors to ‘local’ sites. The best online resource (currently) for local search is this series of interviews conducted by Michael Gray: Local Search Interviews (http://www.wolf-howl.com/local-search/local-search-interviews-information-andresources) It’s a collection of short interviews (Q&A sessions) on local search with the top SEO and local search experts in the industry. If you want to learn quickly about local search, you should definitely read all of them. Links for local search If you’re looking for links to help you with local search, target: •	 ‘Local’ sections of general directories (most directories have a ‘regional’ category – drill down and you can find your geographical location)

•	 Local directories (for example a directory for Canadian sites, British sites or Australian sites) •	 Geographical sections of on-topic authority sites •	 Geographically-topical sites (SEO in China, etc.) In addition, you should already have optimized your site for geo-targeted keywords – e.g. “Houston real estate”, or “web design new jersey”. And then those keywords also form a key part of your search for link partners as well.

What’s Next
Of course, if you’re in a competitive industry a few links won’t be anywhere near enough in getting you ahead of the competition. Only a sustained period of building quality (and quantity) links will get you anywhere near page 1. Even then it’s still hit and miss (which is why SEO is an art and not an exact science). Before you start sending out link requests though, you still need to evaluate these links (in order to determine how much time and money you should spend on pursuing them). The next chapter tells you exactly how to do that.

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15 – Link Valuation
There are 10 different factors you can use to evaluate a link (and the site / page providing the link): 1. Quality Content / Providing Value 2. Backlinks Analysis 3. Outbound links 4. Site Topic 5. Site Authority 6. Link Format & Destination 7. Value / Competition in niche 8. Traffic value 9. Link Popularity / PageRank 10. Site Age Let’s look at them individually. Note: Both the site and the linking page have characteristics that make that link a good or a bad link.

Quality Content / Providing Value
Does the site have original, quality content? Is this a site that provides valuable information to users? While this is not a direct indicator of link value, the quality of information on a site denotes its ability to acquire natural links (unsolicited links). This helps that site’s ranking on a variety of levels – regular link growth, link popularity, varied anchor text, in-text links, etc. – and this in turn makes it a good, powerful site to get a link from.

Backlinks Analysis
If you’re using Yahoo Site Explorer (http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/) , you can easily analyse the backlinks for a particular page and that of the site itself. There are three things that we’re looking for in backlinks – links from ‘trusted’ sites, links from ‘on-topic’ sites and the anchor text used in those links. Site Backlinks When you are looking at the linking page’s site’s backlinks, pay special attention to ‘trust’ and ‘authority’ links. You’re looking for a link candidate that will deliver the necessary topical authority and trust to your site / page, and for that to happen the linking site itself must have authoritative and trusted links pointing to it. On-topic links are important as well, because they establish the site’s topical link neighbourhood. However, if the linking site is on a more ‘general’ niche than your own site, you might want to look at the on-topic links being pointed to the linking page itself.

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Page Backlinks A page with several off-site links pointing to it is always an ideal candidate for getting a link from – that page is doing well not just because of its domain but has the added benefit of direct links to it. Track the page’s backlinks and look for topical clues – are the links from topically-related sites? Anchor Text The anchor text (and text surrounding the link) remains the primary method for a search engine to find out what the destination page is about. Keyword-rich anchor text that is varied (all 100 of that site’s links having the exact same anchor text would be ‘unvaried’) and on-topic is what you’re looking for.

Outbound links
Using the Outbound Links tool (http://www.linkvendor.com/seo-tools/outbound-links.html/) , you can easily generate a list of pages / sites a page is linking out to (for larger pages, this is a faster method than looking at it manually). Once you have this list, take a look at the number of sites that page is linking out to – the fewer, the better – ideally there shouldn’t be more than 10 links going ‘offsite’ on that page, but in several cases you can’t apply that (links page – yes, they still work), so try to stay on the right side of 100 outbound / offsite links on that page. Also look at the topics of the sites being linked to – are they similar to your site? Is the anchor text used relevant to the topic of the sites being linked to (and to yours)? There’s no fixed formula, so use your judgment and if you see a page that is predominantly linking to unrelated topics and/or is linking to too many sites (100+), it’s not a good page to get a link from. An exception can be made for directory links and links from known authority sites.

Site Topic
Is the site on the same topic as yours? There isn’t always an exact match, so you should also be looking at related topics – for example, “web design” and “computer programming” are related topics. Ideally you want the site topic to be related to your site’s topic. An exact match is good but not always necessary – diversity in linking sites is always good and quite often the topic of the linking page itself matters more than the subject matter of the linking site. In some cases you’ll have a general-purpose site (a directory, or maybe a content portal such as Squidoo), in others you’ll have a site that is only slightly related to your topic. In both cases, as long as the site is authoritative in its niche and can drive link juice and traffic to your site, you should accept the site (and link).

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Site Authority
In chapters 2 and 3 (Understanding Search Engines and Search Ranking Factors), we discussed authority sites in detail. To get a full picture (or a recap), review those chapters – here I will provide a summary. Site authority is: •	 Tied to a topic – an authority site on ‘apples’ is a site that is expected and known to provide timely, relevant, useful and accurate information on apples. •	 Measured using a combination of backlinks analysis (who is linking to this site) and topical analysis of the site itself (what is the site about). An authority site has plenty of sites on a similar topic linking to it, and it also as plenty of authority sites in other niches linking to it with relevant anchor text. If you come across an authority site, note that it is a must-get link.

Link Format & Destination
Is the link in-context, or is it in the footer / sidebar / link list? Is the link on a links page alongside 50 other links or is it on a article with only a handful of other offsite links? Does the linking page allow you to link to an internal page (deep linking) or are you only allowed to link to the main site? In-context links on a topically relevant article that allows you to link to both the site and its internal pages are ideal. I’d take the deep link over the site link, although you have to understand that both serve different purposes – site links are to build the site’s authority and trust (while also getting search engine rankings for primary keywords), deep links are for keyword-targeted search engine traffic for internal pages).

Value / Competition in niche
In a very competitive niche, you need link popularity as well as link quality. In a high-revenue niche, the rewards of top search engine rankings are very high. If you are working in a competitive niche, you may have to focus on quality links in the start to get you going but you will definitely need link quantity as well. This could change your approach to link building, making you accept some low quality links. If you are working in a high-revenue niche, you’ll need to spend more money than usual on link building – in the form of offering money in exchange for links.

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Traffic Value
Is the link going to bring in traffic for you? This is a very important question because if you are going to pay for a link, you’d want it to do the maximum for you, and that involves driving traffic to your site. A low quality link that brings in traffic is good, just as a high quality link that brings you search engine rankings.

Link Popularity / PageRank
All other things being equal, a link from a PR 5 page is better than a link from a PR 4 page. Why? Because link popularity still matters despite what everyone else may tell you. Yes, going by link popularity / PageRank only is a bad strategy, but using it as part of your calculations / evaluation is necessary.

Site Age
Like content quality, the age of a site is not directly relevant, but it is an indicator of other factors – aged links (more trust), regular pattern of link growth (trust, authority) and lots of on-topic content (authority). While getting a link from a site registered in 1999 is good, you also have to check for other factors – link analysis, content quality, etc. We’re almost done with link building – there’s just one more thing I want to discuss with you on this topic, and that is the value of link-worthy content.

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16 – Link Worthy Content
Viral marketing. Word of mouth. Quality content. Linkbait. Flagship content. There are many names given to an ideology, a method of writing and providing information and tools (whether on your website or otherwise). I’m going to throw my own name into the hat (link-worthy content), but I’d also qualify this with: It doesn’t matter what you call as long as you understand it and consistently use it to bring results. Knowledge is important because without understanding what makes content link-worthy, your efforts will be a hit-and-miss process. Practice is important because not only do you need to know how it’s done but you also need to be ‘good’ at it to make it really work. Let’s look at these two separately.

What is Link-Worthy Content?
Link-worthy content, in its simplest terms, is content (articles, tools, resources, media) that attracts links. Links are to the Internet what personal recommendations are in the offline world. In other words, link worthy content can be understood as content that we would recommend to our friends. However, not all resources / ideas have mass appeal. One person’s brilliance could be another individual’s absolute tosh. For content to be link-worthy, it has to appeal to a large group of people. It has to attract an audience, and the only way you can do that is you understand what classifies as ‘attractive’ to people. Here’s a quick list of characteristics that ‘attract’ people: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Out of the ordinary Original Humor Something outrageous Anything that evokes a strong emotional reaction – offensive material, extreme views (political, religious, philosophical, etc) 6. Information on a particular topic (that already has enthusiasts and an audience) 7. Useful advice / tips Traditional advertising is usually based on a combination of these 7 characteristics, however they tend to focus on points 1 through 4 (have you noticed how we complement ‘originality’ in ads, and how much we appreciate a funny ad?). That’s good – they are creating material that attracts attention – but that’s not enough.

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Temporary attention – the sort that TV ads attract – is no good. Taking this example to the website content model, funny and outrageous material will get you noticed and get you links, but this is temporary love. You want the really powerful stuff – the type of content that continues to attract links over a long period of time. There are two ways to make this work – by combining #5 (evoking strong emotions) with one or more of the first four characteristics, or by creating content that accommodates the 6th and 7th items on the list as well. There are upsides and downsides to using #5 – quite often this strategy can get you a lot of attention and you can use the response and the success of that strategy to create a long-term link building solution. However, it can also garner you a lot of resentment and can backfire on you as well. Personally, I don’t actively seek to polarize public opinion or use offensive or extreme content to promote my sites. It is a given that some people will disagree with what I say. That’s acceptable. What’s not acceptable is for me to actively seek conflict. On the other hand, #6 and #7 are central to getting people to refer to you over a long period of time. So let’s recap: A useful, informational resource that is original and funny (with a non-traditional perspective) is your best bet for creating content that attracts links. Note: You don’t always have to funny – tools and software aren’t funny. Remember to apply each characteristic in the context of your current situation and site needs. Now that we understand what ‘is’ link worthy content, let’s look at the next step. Throughout this book I have emphasized ‘quality content’ – and in the previous section you got an idea of what I’m talking about. But there’s a specific reason why quality, originality, usefulness and timelessness are emphasized whenever we talk about link worthy content.

Quality
Quality is a subjective, indirect influencing agent. Its effects will differ on each person. Quality can mean different things for different types of content. For a video, this may mean paying attention to detail, having a coherent script and an acceptable level of resolution. For a written article, this may mean wellwritten, clear and mistake-free language. For software, this could simply be that it delivers on its promises, is simple to understand and use, is mistake-free and manages to ‘wow’ the user. I’m sure you can add your own criteria to what I’ve listed above. What you’ll notice is that it’s a similar theme across different types of content – quality means being clear and understandable, eliminating mistakes, delivering on expectations (or over-delivering) and doing all the above with some style.

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Originality
Being unique does NOT mean original. You can jumble up the sentences in this chapter and call it ‘unique’ content. But if all you’ve done is simply rehash the same information already out there and are offering nothing different and new, you are adding to the noise. How can you be ‘original’? •	 Use personal experiences You can use your personal experiences in that field to enhance your content. Not only does it allow for the reader to relate to you, it also allows you to bring an original touch to your content with very little effort on your part. •	 Use innovations from other niches Using innovations from other niches is often a good idea. For example, sectors at the “bleeding edge” of technology – web design, blogging, search marketing – are all sectors where you see many different mediums of content generation and community building. However, take the video tutorial format to another niche, say, ‘learning spanish’, and you might just have hit the jackpot. This doesn’t apply to technological innovations though – you can use marketing strategies and tips learned from those on the ‘frontline’ of marketing development and apply them successfully in your own niche. •	 Repackage to explain better / make things clear If there is plenty of information in your niche but its hard to understand, make the effort, take the time out, understand what’s being said, and repackage it in simpler, easier to understand terms. Break large articles down into smaller pieces. Or you could pay someone to do it for you. •	 Elaborate and complete The opposite of what you’re doing in the previous tip. If there isn’t enough detailed and complete information about your topic of choice on the Internet, start writing and fill that gap in. This is rarer as more and more people come online, but you will always find a good opportunity for this whenever there is a new development in an old sector (or if a new niche pops up). And even in established niches, there are still pockets of incomplete information – if you know how to look. •	 Use a different medium Switch mediums to help readers get a different view. If your niche predominantly uses articles, go to reports and video. If it’s an e-book oriented niche, start publishing articles.

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There are plenty of ways to be original. However, you can’t be ‘original’ and gain links if you don’t get the next bit right.

Usefulness
One of the biggest problems we face is information-overload – too much information being thrown at us at the same time. Advertising, news, sports, family, friends, work – it just doesn’t stop. With such fierce competition for a person’s attention, there are only three ways to get it: •	 If you have something that they are looking for •	 If your content is original •	 If you use a ‘shock-and-awe’ approach The last tactic works, but loses its effectiveness if it is used more than a few times. In fact, it just raises the bar and makes it harder for yourself to get attention in the future. The key is to flip the funnel and create a resource that people are actively looking for – so that they are seeking you out instead of you running after them. What do people usually look for? That depends on which industry / niche you are working in. For example, in the resume writing niche, people are usually looking for tips to improve their current resumes, or templates that they can use to just plug their info in. In most ‘gadget’-related niches, people are looking for product specs, comparisons and product reviews. Find what your audience needs, and then provide it (and be original) – they will love you for it.

Timelessness
News gets ‘old’ and outdated very quickly. As a result, building a business around news requires you to continuously pump information out in order to keep your customers satisfied. On the other hand, ‘how to’ information (especially in non-technical fields such as self development, hynosis, palmistry, sports, games, etc) does not get outdated for a long, long time. Here’s a handy test – look at the content you’re creating, and ask yourself if it will still provide real value to your readers several months (or years) from now? I wouldn’t suggest that you plan for a thousand years, but planning for the long term (depending on your niche of choice, that could be anywhere from 1 to 5 years) is smart. However, sometimes timely content regarding current events in your industry or on things that will be outdated in a few months or years is necessary - your audience will demand it, and plus it makes for good linkage if you can push it out earlier than anyone else.

What’s Next
The next chapter discusses how you can improve and fine tune your site promotion campaign by tracking your site traffic and monitoring your search results.

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17 – Campaign Tracking
Site analytics is the analysis and reporting of user activity on your website to help you make informed decisions. Tracking your search marketing campaign involves use site analytics, monitoring your search engine rankings and tracking inbound links to get a complete picture of how your search marketing campaign is progressing. In short, I’ll talk about how you can: •	 use traffic data to aid in your search marketing campaign •	 how to track your search engine rankings •	 how to use feedback from site analytics and your rankings to retune your search marketing campaign

Site Analytics and Search Marketing
Tracking search engine traffic can help you uncover new search terms and providing you a real-time view of your search marketing campaign’s success. Before we can talk about how we can use analytics data though, we need to know which data to use. While tracking search engine traffic, you need to: Track search terms that bring in traffic Which search terms are bringing in visitors to your website? Knowing the answer to this helps you in two ways. First, it helps you measure the success of your search marketing campaign. By knowing which search terms are bringing in traffic, you can track how much traffic they are bringing in and which pages they are driving traffic to. Also, combining this information with your search engine rankings you can easily predict future search traffic. Second, you will almost invariably find keywords variations bringing you traffic that you might not have included in your original keyword list. Depending on the volume of traffic these variations are bringing in, you can further optimize your pages to bring in more traffic. You should also be tracking which search engine sends you traffic for a particular search term. This will help you predict the value of each search engine for sending traffic for your chosen niche and help you in fine-tuning your search marketing focus. Measure traffic volume per term How much traffic does each search term bring in? The real value here is in using traffic data for aggregation and reporting – how much traffic does a particular search term bring in a day? In a week? In a month? You should also be tracking which search engine sends you how much traffic.

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Match search terms to landing pages Which pages are getting search traffic, and from which search terms? Does the search traffic data match your initial search marketing plan? Once again, the real value here is in using this information to optimize your campaign. Before you do that though, you need to track your search rankings as well.

Tracking Search Engine Rankings
Tracking search rankings is a simple (but tedious) process of finding out where your keywords rank across the 3 major search engines on a regular basis. There are a couple of things you should keep in mind: •	 Search rankings fluctuate, so during the start you might have a situation where your site’s rankings for a certain keyword go up and down every day. •	 Depending on your location and the Google datacenter you are using, you may get different rankings (based on search personalization, geographical location and slight differences between datacenter updates). Because of this, checking rankings on a daily basis is a futile and time-wasting exercise. You’d be far better off in checking your rankings every two weeks, and ensuring that you recheck them on back-to-back days so you can eliminate any fluctuation errors or API errors (if you’re using rank-checking software). How do you track your search rankings? There are a couple of ways to do this. One, you can check them manually – this is time-consuming, so I wouldn’t advise this method. Two, you can use online tools to track rankings – The program we use for this is SEO Elite (http://www.seoelite. com/) , which is covered in detail on a DVD included with this package.

Tuning Your Search Marketing Campaign
After tracking your search traffic and rankings, there is plenty of information you can now use as feedback to fine tune your search marketing campaign. New Search Terms Mining your traffic stats can point out more search terms and keyword variations for you to use. Depending on the volume of the traffic, you may consider adding a new page to your site optimized for that keyword, or optimize the page getting the keyword traffic to ‘tune in’ and rank even higher for those terms.

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Low ranking search terms After a period of time, you might notice that certain terms are not improving in their rankings at all. This could mean one of three things: •	 You need better on-page optimization on that page •	 You need more links to that page •	 You need to wait If you’ve followed the advice given in this book, you usually don’t have to worry about on-page optimization not being ‘enough’. If the keyword you’re worried about is a broad term or a very competitive keyword, you might need more links. Usually though, it’s a combination of more links plus patience that will get you there. Knowing which keywords are ‘failing’ to achieve desired rankings can help you refocus on your marketing efforts. Untargeted search traffic Are your pages getting untargeted search traffic? Traffic is not ‘bad’ per se, but one reason for a page getting untargeted traffic is the lack of proper optimization on that page. If that’s taken care of, it is usually because you lack the right type of links to the page / site. You wouldn’t know this unless you were tracking your search terms. Nonperforming search terms What about those search terms that bring in a LOT of traffic but don’t convert into something tangible; that is, an ad click, newsletter signup, product purchase, etc.? This could mean one of two things – either that keyword is not in sync with your offer (you are selling a $49 e-book on a page that receives traffic for ‘free ebook’), or your landing page is not optimized for leading visitors towards the desired outcome for that page.

What’s Next
Finally, we’ll wrap things up and finally let you get started optimizing your website for the big 3 search engines; Google, Yahoo, and MSN!

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18 – In Closing…
I hope you’ve come away with quite a bit of practical examples and methods for ranking your websites higher in the major 3 search engines. I won’t drag out the conclusion to this course any longer than I need to, as I know there was A LOT of information to digest. You should now know plenty to get your website to the top of the search engines; but for those that are 110% dedicated to seeing their online business succeed, and want to take their knowledge of SEO to the next level, we’ve created the most comprehensive SEO Homestudy course available anywhere in the world. It took us 8 full months to put EVERYTHING I know about SEO onto videos. You can learn more about how to get ahold of this limited quantity Home Study Course here: => http://www.seomindset.com/HomeStudy/ With that said, all that’s left is for you to take action on what you’ve learned. Go get ‘em! Brad Callen Bryxen Software, Inc http://www.affiliateelite.com http://www.keywordelite.com http://www.seoelite.com http://www.nicherevolution.com

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