Step 3: Promote [Linkation, Linkation, Linkation!]
Promotion is all about getting your content “out there”. How do you do it? Obviously, you could send out e-mail blasts notifying everyone that you have some great content on your website (and include a link to your content). But if you don’t have a master list of your prospective clients, then your alternative to disseminating your content is through a LINK CAMPAIGN.
SEO is as much about the number and quality of links coming into your website as it is about how your website content has been search engine optimized. Here are a few things to keep in mind about inbound links.
Why are links so important?
In the world wide web, links are the relationships or building blocks upon which search engines (e.g. Google and Yahoo) determine the popularity of your website. Search engines look at the web pages that are linking to your site to determine their relevancy and authority for a given topic or set of keywords (by examining things like link text, title of the web page, tags, and the URL). Interestingly enough, you want to make sure that inbound links and websites from which they are coming have the keywords that your are optimizing your website for. So if you want to target “Toronto auto dealership” (exactly in that order), then you want your inbound links to be written – preferably in bold and in large font – using those words in that order.
You will also want to try to ensure that the inbound link to your website which appears on other websites is not buried deep inside those websites; the more difficult it is to find; the easier the link is to find, the better!
So how do you increase the number of good quality inbound links to your website?
Here are the various FREE ways you can do it:
- Reciprocal linking: The best way is the most natural. If your website has good quality and regularly updated content that targets your keywords, other websites will naturally link to it. You can also set up a link-exchange program or form on your website, where you agree to share links with other relevant websites. Look at competitor websites or websites that are popular for particular keywords and ask them if they’d be willing to link to your website.
- Directory Submission: I have already written about this above.
- Article Submissions: Article databases like www.ezinearticles.com allow you to freely submit your articles. The great thing about these database websites is that they rank highly on search engines because they are older, have lots of content and are search engine optimized. So all you need to do is contribute content and have a link from your article back to your website.
- Press Releases: You can submit online press releases for mass dissemination (sometimes you have to pay) with links back to your website. Remember: if someone syndicates content from a website that contains your press release, that syndicated website is making your content (including links) viewable to their entire audience.
- Blogs: Blogs allow for easy linking (e.g. through comments and trackbacks). A trackback is an automatic system that notifies Blog Owner A that Blog Owner B has referenced one of Blog Owner A’s blog post. The end result is that a link will be created in Blog Owner A’s blog to Blog Owner B’s blog.
- Social Media: Much like article submissions, you can submit content to social media websites like www.FaceBook.com, www.Twitter.com, www.Digg.com, etc. with links back to your website.
Admittedly, these techniques take a lot of time and effort. The key is to create good quality content that has something relevant to offer when people are searching for your keywords. Patience and a good strategy are vital. Continuing to tweak your website with high hopes that it will be thrust on p. 1 of Google in no time is not the reality; you need to accept the fact that if you have a new website, it will take a while before it ranks well in Google.
Don’t try fooling the search engines
Now, in the underground world of SEO, there are automated programs that build up links as quickly as possible. These programs work, for example, to build links on unsophisticated blogs where owners are not checking ‘cloaked’ trackbacks (discussed above) that are essentially spam. Doing so – particularly if you have a new domain name – could lead to search engines punishing you. There may or may not be something called GOOGLE SANDBOX (no one is really sure), which allegedly punishes your website for many months if you build up too many links too quickly in an unnatural manner. It could also piss off a whole bunch of people if you are spamming their blogs with your trackbacks.
Techniques for linking
Search engines look at the Page Rank of the website from which your inbound link is coming from. The higher the Page Rank the better. Page Rank is a tool used by Google to rank your page. Just go to http://www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php and type in any url (e.g. www.canada.com). Within a matter of seconds, Google Page Rank will return a number out of 10 that gives you insight into how well ranked your website is on Google. Most websites are ranked 0,1, or 2. You should keep coming back to this tool to see if your law firm search engine optimization techniques, strategies, and perhaps vendors are improving your search engine results. The bottom line is that, the higher the PageRank (or “PR”) from the website linking to your website, the better.
You will also want to keep in mind that being linked from the homepage of a website with a high PR is much better than being linked from an internal page on that website with a lower PR. Make sure to check whether the page that is linking to your website has a Robots.txt file (as previously discussed) associated with it that allows the page to get indexed by search engines like Google. A Robots.txt file is simply an exclusion file that contains instructions for search engine spiders to either index or not index the particular page. If the Robots.txt file is set to ‘no-follow’, then the page will not be indexed.
You’ll also want to keep in mind that the value of the inbound link from the website by looking at the total number of links on that page (the more, the worse off you’ll be because the page rank will be divided by the number of links).
With respect to the specific text of the link on third party relevant websites, try to change it up (e.g. if you want to target the keywords “good Toronto lawyers”, then try to get keywords like “great Toronto attorneys” or “super lawyers in Toronto” in the actual link text that links back to your website), get it written in bold and underlined and in a header text, and put it close up to the top of the page. These things should all help building your link popularity.
What about buying links?
The idea of buying links goes as follows: what some people – and particularly SEO companies – offer and do is a service whereby they build dummy website that link to your site. In effect, they are trying to trick the search engines to ranking a particular website higher because it has links. By relying on these kinds of links, websites are disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their websites.
I liked Robert Guest’s Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, wherein he talked about his experience with phony links and SEO companies. In one particular example, he discussed a spam comment that had been made under one of his blog entries. It turned out to be his own writing and it actually linked back to a prominent DWI law firm’s web site! What had happened was that a spam comment bot just copied and pasted his own materials in the comments, but then linked back to the law firm. All of this was done to trick Google to rank the page higher.
Another example I came across was even more eye-opening. A blog in Lead-Gen SEO described how, in the summer of 2008, popular lawyer referral service FindLaw had been caught selling links to its clients in a bid to increase their search engine rankings. An e-mail had been sent out – likely without being cleared by FindLaw’s inhouse counsel – that gave a message to the tune of “buy super-link-juice-passing text links from Findlaw and get top rankings in Google”. The big problem with FindLaw’s actions was that it was also selling web development services; hence, its clients may not have realized the risk they ran (i.e. in case Google decided to punish them) by engaging in FindLaw’s services.
Overall, buying paid links on dummy websites as a form to cheat the system is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Google can (and probably should) be punishing those websites that engage in such conduct and put warnings up not to deal with certain SEO companies who engage in these deceptive practices.