The number one thing I get asked about regarding SEO, is link building. Everyone wants to know how to get links. While I admit that linking is damn important, I don’t consider it a golden ticket.
Link building is not and never will be a magic bullet for your SEO problems. Most sites and companies that ask me about link building, have a plethora of other issues they need to work out beforehand. For example…
User Experience and Design
I consider this the most important factor above all. If you have poor UX and design, your site will have a high bounce rate, a low conversion rate, and a lower chance of gaining organic links.
The sad part is sites with poor design usually don’t want to redo their site. They’re willing to pay someone to link build, but for some reason the concept of development frightens them.
If you work for a site like this, you need to prove to your client how important a redesign is. Try showing them increased sales numbers from another project that had a positive redesign.
Basic On Page SEO
Getting the on page basics worked out will propel your link building efforts. It’s like putting a little jet pack on your links. Also, these are usually fairly simple to implement.
- Title tags and meta descriptions
- Alt tags on images
- Internal linking structure
- Proper h1 tag implementation
- Duplicate content issues
Steady Content Creation
I know this has been said a million times over, but you need to create a source of content. However, you can’t just throw up a bunch of content and forget about it, you need to push it out regularly.
Obviously the easiest way to do this is through a blog. I know it’s time consuming, I know it sucks, but do it. Depending on your niche, it might even be less expensive to hire someone to run a blog than link build.
If done right, creating fresh content is worth more than link building.
Technical SEO Fixes
This is another huge one. Here are several technical fixes that you should implement prior to link building.
Your URL Structure: There are a lot of great articles about URL structure. You don’t have to do anything too crazy, even if you just implement the basics, you’ll help your site out dramatically.
Robots.txt: Implementing robots.txt allows you to block spiders from crawling certain pages of your site. There are going to be pages that are meaningless for search engines to index, for example print friendly sections of your site.
Canonicalization: If you have duplicate content issues, the canonical tag is one way to solve it. Basically, it passes all the juice from one page to another. So you if you have several pages with the same content, you can point them all at your strongest page with the canonical tag.
Crawl Errors: You should do a full site crawl and find any errors. Mainly, you want to spot 404’s and redirect them. Screaming Frog is a great tool for this.
After you’ve gotten these things fixed, you can start putting more focus on link building. However, this does not mean you shouldn’t continue to tighten your on-page SEO. This is merely a few things that should be focused on more heavily than link building in the beginning.
One thing to watch out for is clients “forgetting” about these fixes if they see link building working. They’ll start to think those other factors aren’t as important as you ranted about, that’s simply not true. There are other values that may not be realized immediately. For example, if you run a solid blog, you can get quite a bit of traffic from social media channels. This has nothing to do with search. It can also help you rank for the long tail, which is easy to forget about.
Going Above and Beyond
Once you’re pretty happy with all your on page SEO, you have steady link building going on, and you have a decent content stream, there are other areas to expand into. These are mainly advanced traffic targets, but can be very high value.
PPC: Everyone knows what PPC is, but not nearly as many understand the dedication and effort it takes to do it right. PPC is not a “set it and forget it” avenue. It needs to be constantly tweaked and maintained, especially if you’re traffic changes seasonally.
Landing Page Testing: People usually relate landing page testing to PPC, while it’s especially important to test out pages for PPC, this doesn’t mean you should ignore testing out different pages for your organic visits. One way to do some testing, is by serving up a different page for people coming in on a new IP address. This way your regular users don’t get confused by new design elements, but you get the chance to test out variations on new visitors.
Retargeting: Retargeting may not have high traffic, but if done properly, it can have a fantastic conversion rate. You’re only serving ads to people that have been to your site before, which means they already have interest.
Email Marketing: Newer companies seem to forget about this guy. Email is still a great marketing channel, because like retargeting, it’s focused on people that are already familiar with your site.
Social Media: You need a social presence. People tend to shrug this off, because they’re not impressed by the traffic, but it’s not just about the traffic. It’s about being present in your community and about growing relationships. If you have a dedicated social following it will propel everything else you do.
Conversion Rate Optimization: I know I mentioned landing pages above, but this is beyond that. There are more ways to tweak your CRO. For example, trying out different check out processes, different call to actions, different messaging, etc.
Everything is going to work a little differently for every site. Also, your staff will have different strengths and weaknesses than others. You need to find the channels that works best for you and focus on your strengths. After that, you can start to work on your weaknesses and figure out what you can do better.
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