SEO Link Building Strategies – 7 Best Practices for 2011

A major ranking factor in Google’s algorithm is link popularity. The search engines assess the quality and quantity of links pointing to your website pages and factor that in when assessing the value of your website and where it should be ranked.

“When Google was founded, one key innovation was PageRank, a technology that determined the “importance” of a webpage by looking at what other pages link to it, as well as other data. Today we use more than 200 signals, including PageRank, to order websites…”

Links to your website are beneficial because they:

  1. Drive traffic
  2. Increase link popularity, improve Google Page Rank & search engine ranking

However, efforts towards link building should be well thought out, well executed, and legitimate. A badly executed link building campaign will not only be a waste of time and effort, but could also risk your website being penalized by the search engines.

Some points to remember when building links to your website:

1. Build them up slowly and naturally, if you build up too many too quickly it can look suspicious and raise a red flag with the search engines.

2. Check out Google’s guidelines for webmasters on linking & potential penalties. “…some SEOs and webmasters engage in the practice of buying and selling links that pass PageRank, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.”

3. It’s the quality, not the quantity that counts. The best links are ones from high quality, high PageRank sites with related content. It’s better to have one good link, from a related high PageRank page, than many inconsequential ones.

4. Links from .GOV and .EDU sites are very valuable, however they are not easy to get. .GOV & .EDU sites have always been considered authoritative, and so are highly ranked by the search engines. In turn links from these sites pass on that authority.

5. It’s good to have your target terms in the anchor text for the links (the words that are linking to your site), however overuse and repetitive use of the exact same terms may raise suspicion.

6. If you buy links, it should be transparent that they are paid links (paid advertising).

7. One of the best ways to acquire links is to create great content. Blog’s are a good platform for this, since you can create short, pithy posts on topics you think will interest people.

Regardless of what type of search marketing you are doing (organic, paid, local, or social) Google is always looking for the same things when reviewing a company’s website and online activities:

  • Is it good for the user?
  • Is it transparent?
  • Is it credible?
  • Is it authoritative?

The best results will be achieved by consistent and persistent efforts over time, with a primary goal of improving the user experience.

As with climbing a mountain, with link building, and other search marketing activities, it takes time and effort to get results, but as with mountain climbing, if you make a mistake it’s shocking how fast and how far you can fall.

How’s your link building going? Are you actively working on it? Have you gained links by creating great content? I’d love to hear your experiences.

Author: Cecily Crout

Web Design – More Than Just a Pretty Face

It seems like these days any Tom, Dick or Harriet can design a website, however all websites are not created equal.

Just because it looks lovely it doesn’t mean it’s going to help you meet your business goals. Your website has to be found, used and enjoyed, if it’s going to generate the leads and sales you’re hoping for.

Let’s say you want to create a new website, or update your current website. You have a logo and a color scheme. You have a pretty good idea of the content you want on the site. You’ve found a web designer who you’re confident will create a lovely looking website for you; you’ve seen their portfolio and they have lots of lovely websites in it.

But before you go ahead with the project, before you sign off on anything, in fact, before you even settle on your web designer, you should find out how they take account of the following:

  • Web Standards
  • SEO
  • Usability
  • Metrics

To get an idea of their awareness of these elements of web design and development, here are some useful questions to ask:

  1. What programming languages will you be using to build my website, and how will this effect search engine crawlability and indexing, user experience, and download time?
  2. How will my website be optimized for the search engines?
  3. (If a redesign) How will you make sure that the search engines and users can find my new website pages when the page names change?
  4. How will my website be optimized for users? Can I be confident that visitors will have a clear understanding of what my website is about, be able to navigate my site easily, and take the actions I want them to take?
  5. How will we measure results after the site is launched?

A good, knowledgeable web designer should be able to not only answer these questions, but also explain them in a way that makes sense to you.

Although elements like SEO, Usability and Metrics are huge subjects on their own, your designer should have a solid understanding of how they relate to web design. They should also have a professional support network to help fill any gaps in knowledge he or she might have, and to whom they can refer you for more specialized services if necessary.

With these concerns addressed, moving forward you can be confident that your website will not only look lovely, but will also more likely become the business asset you are hoping for.

What other knowledge/experience would you expect a web designer to bring to the table for your web development project?

If you are a designer, how do you feel about being involved in these additional aspects of building a website?

How Websites Work

A website is a collection of web pages, documents and multi-media files that are hosted (stored) on a server (computer) on the Internet. The server can be in your own town, in another part of the country or in another part of the world.

All of the public Internet servers throughout the world are interconnected. When a person goes online with their personal computer, they connect to the Internet and are then able to access all publicly available documents and files stored on the World Wide Web.

The location of a website and its files on the Internet is usually identified by a domain name.

When you type the domain name for a website (website address) into a browser address field, or click on a link to the website via a  search engine results page, you are requesting to view that page and the related files stored on the server at that location (the domain).

Your request is sent from your computer to the server of your Internet service provider, which then passes on your request. The request is passed through a series of interconnected servers until it gets to the ‘host’ server where the website files are stored.

The host server responds to your request by sending the content back to you along a similar path of Internet servers. You are then able to view the web page and related files via your web browser, e.g. FireFox or Internet Explorer.


Since these terms are somewhat abstract some people confuse their website ‘domain name’ with their website ‘hosting’. In my next post I will go into a bit more detail about what a domain name is, and how it relates to your website and hosting.

SERPs, what are they and why should I care?

SERPsSERPs are ‘Search Engine Results Pages’ (the pages of search results you see after submitting your search query).

Understanding what kind of content is presented to you in the SERPs, and how it got there, can help you be a more shrewd and savvy searcher.

If you’re a business owner, with or without a website, getting to know what the SERPs have to offer gives you more ways to market your products and services, and maximize your web visibility.

A Google Results Page

Google SERPs ScreenshotAt the end of this post is a large screenshot of a Google search results page with the various parts identified (click on the thumbnail on the left to see it now). It highlights the paid and organic listings, the shopping results and the universal search results, all of which I’m now going to describe in more detail.

Organic vs Paid Search Results

One of the first things you need to know about SERPs is that they usually offer at least two kinds of results, organic search results, and paid search results.

On the left of the SERP you will see the organic listings, which are given the majority of the page space. The term ‘organic’ is used to describe the non-paid search results that are ranked by Google’s calculation of their value and relevance to the search query you’ve entered. The owners of the organically listed websites have almost certainly spent time working on the quality of their content and optimizing their web pages for the search engines.

Paid search listings are placed at the top and right hand side of the page (or sometimes only on the right hand side of the page). These results are labeled ‘Sponsored Links’ and if placed above the organic search results are distinguished by a pastel backround. This is what is known, among other things, as ‘Pay-Per-Click’ advertising. The advertiser has to pay for every click through to their site via one of these paid search results.

So as a web user, when choosing what to click on, it’s important to bear in mind, that the organic results have earned their placement based upon their content. The sponsored listings have paid for their placement.

Universal Search & Google Base

Also, on the left, in the main body of the Google search results pages, you might see some other results from Google’s ‘Universal Search’. These are results Google offers if it’s pertinent to your search query.

For example if you are doing a search on a product, you’re likely to see shopping results at the top of the page listing the product and various prices. These listings come from Google’s ‘Product Search’ database. If you own an e-commerce website you can upload your products and related information, for free, to Google Base for the opportunity to have your product listings show up for related shopping searches.

Google’s Universal Search also includes, when relevant, video results, image results, news results, book results and more.

Local Search: Google’s Local Business Listings

google-local-searchIf you are searching for a service and use a town or city name in your search, then Google will show a map and a list of 1-10 related business listings at the top of the search results page.

As of April 2009, even if you don’t use the town or city name, Google will try to identify your location and show you the local business listings if you type in a location-relevant search term such as ‘restaurants’ or ‘bicycle repair’.

If you’re wondering how Google knows where you are located, you can read more about it here –

There are a couple of ways Google gathers content for these listings. They either retrieve the information from other web sources, or the business owners  set up a Google Account and enter their business information via the Local Business Center. This is one of many free services Google provides.

In this post we’ve touched on organic vs paid search, shopping results, universal search and local search and have pretty much covered all of the basics of the Google SERPs page. If you have anything to add or any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

Example Google Search Results Page


Why Recode an Existing Website?

Often we work with clients who wish to breathe new life into an existing website. They can do this by adding new content, new features, or by using search engine optimization (SEO) to optimize their current content.

When we evaluate an existing website, we try to consider and balance many aspects including usability, scalability, modern development standards, design, seo requirements, and cost.  Unfortunately, we often recode-existing-websitefind that existing sites are not designed with scalability in mind, and are built and maintained with outmoded development practices, and more often than not with no consideration for SEO.

In a lot of cases, we conclude that the best and most sustainable route for these websites is to initially re-code them (and sometimes update the design).  There are always minor improvements and enhancements that can be made without a re-code, but it is often like using a bandaid to mask a problem where surgery is required.  Also, it often seems irresponsible to make changes and improvements to a website if there are underlying problems that haven’t and won’t be addressed without a rebuild.

Without a sufficiently sized, well engineered, and stable foundation, it will often be more time consuming and costlier (in the long run) for our client to continue to add to an existing website.  Naturally, it seems counterintuitive to some people to take their functioning website and recreate it, especially given the increased initial cost, but it is often the only reasonable route.  It saves money and frustration down the road, lays the proper foundation for SEO basics, and ensures that their website maintains it’s usability and functionality with growth.

How Search Engines Work

Since this is a new blog about web visibility, I thought I would kick things off with a bit of basic information about the driving force of the SEO industry, the search engine.

how-search-engines-workThe World Wide Web (www), or ‘the web’ as it’s more commonly referred to, consists of gazillions of interconnected computers called servers. Stored on these servers are squillions of web pages and files, the same way we store files on our own personal computers. The web pages and files for each website are stored in one or more folders (directories) on these servers.

Search engines work by sending out a robot (web crawler), an automated software program, that crawls the web collecting information. The robots crawl from web page to web page and from website to website by following links. They retrieve the content they crawl, the web pages and related files (image files, PDF files, Word documents etc.) which are then added to the search engine database (index). Search engine marketers commonly refer to this as ‘indexing’.

Each search engine has an algorithm, a set of rules by which it determines the value, validity and relevance of the content it has retrieved.

When a web user types in a search term (keyword) at that search engine, the content the search engine considers most pertinent to the search query, based upon its algorithm, will rank highest in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

The search engine robots aren’t genius and can only do what they’ve been programmed to do. They’re also not human, and historically have not been able to do many of the things that humans can do, e.g. see images, see flash movies, interact with web pages that require the clicking of a button or the filling in of a form.

A website can be built in ways that can either promote or inhibit crawling by a search engine robot. If a robot can’t navigate a website easily, it can’t access all the content. In turn, this means that the search engine will not index the content. If the content isn’t in the search engine database, there is no way for a web user searching at that search engine to ever see those web pages come up in the search results.

Ideally, to promote crawling and indexing of all of a website’s content, the website should be built to web standards using search engine friendly coding. If that content is also optimized for the search engines by adding target search terms in the appropriate places, then the search engine robots will be able to identify & evaluate the website content and rank it for its target search terms (keywords). This will give your web pages a better chance of being seen by the web user searching for your topic, products or services at that search engine.

Knowing the basics of how search engines work is not only the beginning of achieving good web visibility, it is also important to properly approach website search engine optimization.

Thanks to Jeff Jones Illustration for the artwork :-)