Beginner's Guide to SEO
Let the fun begin!
Alright, how’s your brain doing? We’ve learned how SEO works, have found keywords that your target market is searching for, and have created some awesome content on your website. You’ve accomplished a lot! Give yourself a pat on the back.
Alright, back to learning! You may have noticed during some of your research of SERPs that there are a lot of old, not so great websites out there, and that may make you wonder, “How the heck are they on the first page?” The answer is probably that they have a really good standing with the search engine, or have established “authority” with them.
So how do you establish this authority? Well, it can be accomplished in a number of ways, including by accumulating links from other high authority websites, building your brand, and building an audience who will be your personal helpers.
How do you go about getting links from other web pages? Let’s start with the basics.
What Are Links?
There are two main categories of links, inbound and internal.
Otherwise known as inbound links or external links, are a hyperlinked section of content that points from one web page to another. You can think of backlinks as SEO word-of-mouth.
Since the early stages of search engines, links have been treated as SEO word-of-mouth, and that doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon.
The other major category of links are called internal links, and these are the links that connect internal pages on the same website. This SEO word-of-mouth theory also comes into play with internal links, but you have complete control of these. Overall, the more links pointing to a specific page, the more important search engines deem that page.
Search engine crawlers use internal links to crawl from web page to web page throughout your website. So it’s important to have your internal links mapped out so you can make sure your website is directing crawlers the way you want them to.
Most websites start with a navigation bar on their website to make sure users and search engines can figure out what they believe are the most important pages of the website.
Types of backlinks
There are two types of backlinks you should make yourself familiar with:
Follow backlinks – are exactly what we just described. They count as a positive “vote” or SEO word-of-mouth for your web page from an external web page.
Nofollow backlinks – are what they sound like. They are links that are told not to be followed by search engine crawlers. These types of links do not carry that voting weight to your website.
You should usually shoot to get the first type of backlinks from other web pages (as long as they’re a web page that is in good standing with search engines). The only benefit to nofollow links is that they bring traffic to your website. So a nofollow link is better than no link at all!
Our favorite tool to check all types of links is Link Explorer by Moz.
Not all links are good
Something you have to do is make sure to monitor your links on a regular basis. If you get links from spammy, untrusted websites, search engines will sometimes rank you lower. When you check out the Link Explorer tool, you’ll be able to see the “Spam Score” for each backlink you have. The higher the spam score, the more likely it is to hurt.
E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness)
A phrase that Google loves to use throughout their Search Quality Rater Guidelines. To summarize E-A-T, is saying all web pages should have some sort of beneficial purpose and should avoid spreading hate, causing harm, or misinforming users.
The more E-A-T, the higher Google is willing to rank a page. An example Google uses is, “a medical advice website should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation.”
The same goes for backlinks. Google puts more weight behind websites with high E-A-T, since those websites usually will be harder to obtain links from. So how do you get these high-quality backlinks? Well it’s not easy, but let’s dive in:
How to build high-quality backlinks
Acquiring high-quality backlinks is not easy, which is why they hold as much weight as they do. Link building is a lot like networking because you’ll have to either make some friends or have people trust your content in order to get backlinks, and it’s an ongoing effort. Here’s what we’ve found to work best:
Create shareable content
If you create content that other people find resourceful, they’ll link back to it. This can be content like:
- Blog articles
- Unique resources
- Guides & eBooks
If you are an expert in a specific area, let’s use link building as an example, creating blogs, making videos, and publishing guides about link building is a great way to make people want to give you a backlink without even thinking about it.
Think about people you already know
If you already have a loyal client base, use that to your advantage. Create very specific content for these clients and send it their way. For example, local directories give out badges to premier clients to show with honor on their website.
Become a local hero!
Alright maybe not a full on Batman, but getting involved in your community is another awesome way to earn backlinks to your website fairly easily:
- Join local business associations
- Sponsor local events
- Run local promotions
- Donate your time to nonprofits
These are all things that usually have their own brand online and have a way of getting your website and links across them.
A common mistake we see daily (in the thousands of emails in our spam folder) is unauthentic and cookie-cutter outreach. Creating a template and then pasting it over and over to way too many random emails, asking for backlinks.
If you’re going to be sending emails asking for backlinks, make sure to provide value. You should be sending them information that will help them more than it will help you.
What to avoid when building links
SEO is just as much about what to avoid as what you should do. There are a bunch of spammy, unethical ways people go about to try and get more links:
Buying links is a big red flag to search engines. Your backlinks should be constantly growing at a steady rate. Not a huge influx all at once from buying them, and then stagnant growth. The types of pages that are usually selling backlinks usually aren’t the most reputable either.
Another way that people try to “outsmart” Google. If you’ve had a website long enough, I’m sure you’ve gotten plenty of emails (that probably are in your spam folder) asking to “trade links”. These are people offering to put your link on their site as long as you do the same. Not only is this against the rules, but you can also be sure most of them don’t follow through. Let’s just say there’s a reason those emails end up in your spam folder.
You may not always ask for this one, but this is a prime example of why you need to watch over all of your links and make sure the links you’re getting are from reputable sources. Links that are coming from spammy websites can actually hurt you. So watch out!
How To Research Backlinks
We wrote a step-by-step guide to help you learn how to research the backlinks your website already has and what you should be looking for when doing that research!
Link building best practices
- Quality > Quantity
- Create content that will make people want to link to your content without you even asking
- Link building is like working out. It’s not a one-time effort. It takes consistent practice in order to work correctly.
- Regular backlinks are more important than nofollow links, but nofollow links still play a role in healthy link building
- Remember to promote your content. Social media is a great tool for this!
Next up we’re going to take a look at some strategies for local companies. If you’re not a local company, feel free to skip over this chapter, but otherwise let’s do it! Chapter 5: Local SEO