Jonny Ross, associate of Northern Lights PR
As more and more companies are recognising the importance of their online profile and the potential benefits to be gained by digital marketing and social retail, interest in search engine marketing and SEO – search engine optimisation – helps to set you high on Google searches – is increasing.
Even if you outsource your online marketing and SEO to an agency, it helps to understand how they work so you can keep track of progress and make informed decisions.
Offsite SEO involves (in its simplest form) link building; in other words, creating links between your website and other relevant websites. An abundance of good quality links is looked upon favourably by search engines such as Google, so is great for SEO.
Search engines rank websites according to a pre-defined set of algorithms, and they are constantly updating and refining these to ensure the most relevant websites are ranked highest in order to keep their users happy.
Penguin and Panda are two large Google algorithm updates. These updates have been going on for years – full list of Google algorithm changes here – but these two have received a lot more attention than others.
Penguin and Panda cover link-building strategies, and promote good quality, relevant and informative links over bought links or those that appear to readers as shoe-horned in.
In the past, Google were quite cagey about how their algorithms worked, as they didn’t want SEOs trying to ‘beat the system’. The main difference now is that Google are making these more public, so they have received more attention and sparked more debate.
Although they are two of the most well known algorithm updates, Panda and Penguin haven’t radically changed the state of play for SEO and link building; I just believe that Google have given them a higher profile in an effort to help people create more user-friendly websites. And I think Google has done this as it is now happier that the algorithms are refined enough to encourage good quality and relevant natural organic search results.
Much of this is common sense, but it marks a move away from some of the “underhand” or “black” SEO tactics of the past, these have beaten the algorithms to rank websites unnaturally high for certain search terms, but haven’t added anything to the search engine or website user experience.
The suggestions below are the kind of tactics that I (and others) have been recommending for a long time. Building links with other websites should be done in a way that is honest, relevant and engaging.
Don’t just send an email saying, “Can we swap links?” There needs to be a good reason why you are contacting another website and a benefit to their readers. Take time to build relationships with good quality, relevant websites. Some great tips on doing this in 15 minutes a day here.
(2) Be Generous
As pointed out by Dale Carnegie in his famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, we need to be generous in order to build a relationship in a busy world, and communication skills are key. The five words that can help you to build a relationship are: “How can I help you?”
NB Going to find a relevant website in your sector and seeing if you can help them is called “Outreach”.
(3) Keep it Human
Avoid websites where you are able to obtain a link without any human intervention. Sites with automated links are virtually guaranteed to have no value in the long term. Any benefit it offers today will disappear tomorrow, possibly bringing a Google penalty along with it. Focus your activities on websites with manual approval, where junk content and links are filtered.
(4) Don’t Buy or Swap Links
Search engines do not look favourably on any kind of mass link building, either through buying or automated swaps. The only legitimate way to obtain a huge amount of links in a short period of time is through viral content.
(5) Know Your Sector
Obviously it takes time to conduct prospects research and build relationships in your sector (the same as for PR), but this investment is worth the effort. This is where in-house B2B teams can gain a real advantage. This article by James Daugherty helpfully advises on sector-specific approaches. And the good news is that he rates the business and technology sector one of the easiest to get into!
(6) Offer Discounts
Offering a discount on your products or services or another kind of relevant benefit to customers of your target site can be a great way to begin building a relationship. Select carefully and base your offer on relevance and on good quality marketing data. This is a great way to introduce new customers to what you do, as well as build links.
(7) Write a ‘How To’ Guide
Sharing expert knowledge for free is normally well received if it is carefully written and targeted for your prospect website audience. Combining all the other advice above and employing a good copywriter can help you develop new relationships that will build your profile both online and offline.
(8) Find Out More
The key to staying on top of SEO industry trends is following some of the key industry news and updates. Here are links to some of the main industry websites and their advice on post Panda and Penguin SEO and link building:
If you’d like to find put more about how to maximise the potential of your website to generate business, do give the team at Northern Lights PR a call on 01423 562 400.
Have you found this article useful? Are you currently investing in SEO and link building for your company website? Have you ever been issued with a Google Penalty?
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