SEO For Dummies: Part Three
It may seem like the way your company is presented online is out of your control, however that’s simply not the case. There are a few key places online that you can help push the needle when it comes to affecting your rankings online.
February 20, 2020
This is a three-part series on how SEO works and what you can do to help improve your SEO.
SEO. Those three letters are thrown around in the digital world more than ‘quid pro quo’ in the political sphere and ‘ROI’ in a business meeting. So what does it actually mean and how can you leverage it to grow your business? In Part I of this series, we’ll outline the basics of SEO and how it generally works. Part II will cover Internal SEO – so what you can do on your website to improve your searchability. Part III will cover External SEO – what you can do outside your website, in other places online to increase the likelihood that you’ll appear in targeted search results.
Now that you have a clear understanding of what SEO is and what you can do within your website to improve your company’s searchability online, we’ll now cover the external factors within your control that can improve SEO. The internet is not only a vast expanse of information – it’s a living, breathing ecosystem that is both delicate and volatile. It may seem like the way your company is presented online is out of your control, however that’s simply not the case. There are a few key places online that you can help push the needle when it comes to affecting your rankings online.
1) Online Listings
Google not only looks internally on your website when determining your SEO ranking, it also looks around the internet for other places your business is listed online. There are a variety of online directories that list business information including your business name, phone number, email address, services, industry and more. If Google finds incomplete, inconsistent or inaccurate information across these directories, it will hurt your SEO. Again, Google wants to provide searchers with the best possible company to deliver the results of the search, and will steer clear of companies that seem sketchy online.
Online directories that Google searches include Facebook, Bing, Foursquare, ShowMeLocal, Us-Info, Mapquest, Uber, Factual and more. The easiest way to streamline your listings is to use a service like Moz Local (https://moz.com/products/local). For a relatively low cost, Moz will streamline your listings across all online directories to ensure no SEO damage.
Google for Business Listing
The most important listing within your control is your Google Business listing. This is the first thing that shows up when someone searches for your company online, and most other online directories pull from this listing over time. In your Google Business listing, you can list your business hours, services, answer questions, show portfolio examples and more. The more active you are on your Google Business listing, the better you will rank, especially locally. Google does require offline verification via postcard to ensure your business actually is at the address you list online.
2) Backlinks & Link Building
The primary goal with developing a backlinking strategy is to build your domain authority. Your domain authority is your perceived expertise on a subject matter in the eyes of a search engine. Backlinks are created when another website online links back to your website. Google assumes that the more websites that link back to your website, the more knowledgeable and legitimate you or your company must be.
Backlinking is by far the strongest external strategy to use when it comes to establishing domain authority and increasing your ranking. The more trustworthy and authoritative the original source, the stronger the backlink and the better for your SEO. For instance, if the New York Times links to your website, that is an exceptionally strong backlink since Google recognizes the New York Times as one of the top news organizations in the country. Now, most businesses will not ever be fortunate enough to have a natural backlink from the New York Times. But luckily, backlinks don’t need to be that strong in order to have a positive effect on SEO.
You can build backlinks in a variety of ways. Publishing articles on LinkedIn or Medium, or guest blogging, is a great way to build links. Asking your clients to list you as a partner on their own website can help, especially locally. Engaging with your local community through being listed on the Chamber of Commerce website or sponsoring a non-profit event can help build backlinks. Link Building can be tedious and it can take time, but it is extremely effective. The main thing to consider when link building is to choose sites that are expert, authoritative and trustworthy. The better the source site in the eyes of Google, the higher Google will rank you in turn for being linked to them.
Online Reviews are another key factor in Google’s SEO algorithm, for obvious reasons. Google indexes all major review sites including Yelp, Facebook, Clutch, Angie’s List, etc., so reviews on any of these platforms are valuable. You absolutely want to make sure you are listed on any review platforms in your given industry, for example being listed on OpenTable if you are a restaurant.
If you do begin a review building strategy, but feel overwhelmed by all the platforms out there, the best spot to gather reviews is always Google. Asking customers to leave reviews on your Google Business listing, and then subsequently responding to the review, is a surefire way to improve SEO rankings.
In closing, it’s probably become clear over the course of this series that SEO is a complex subject that has no magic recipe for success. Not only are there dozens of factors included in Google’s ranking algorithm, but it also changes and improves every year. The best advice to hold close when building an SEO strategy is to always put yourself in the shoes of Google, and Google wants to give their customers the best possible search results. Also, remember who Google’s customers are – it’s you.