I’m writing today to let you in on one of the SEO industry’s biggest secrets. The best SEO marketing professionals know quite a few things that the average person doesn’t, but this is one of their most important pieces of SEO knowledge.
The best SEO professionals know that you can’t do SEO on your own. Without a few tools and techniques to help you better understand and observe how your SEO related actions are impacting your site, there’s no way for you to be truly successful with SEO.
Luckily, there are quite a few great SEO tools out there. These tools can help you with various aspects of SEO, from keyword research to checking your site’s design. Even better, many of these tools are free and simple.
If you become highly invested in SEO, the more expensive and advanced tools are better. These are the types of tools we often use on your behalf here at SERP Ability. However, some of the simpler, free tools are great too. This is especially true for beginners. Also, we and other SEO professionals rely on a few free tools as well. Sometimes, the free option really is the best.
Here are three free SEO tools that are sure to give your SEO a boost. Most are fairly simple to use, too! If you take the time to get to know what these tools do and how they work, you’re sure to find SEO success.
1. Xenu LinkSleuth
This free and easy to use tool will spot any broken links on your site. Broken links make your site much harder for Google’s spiders (AKA the Googlebot) to crawl. If your website is hard to crawl, it won’t rank very well on Google.
Although this isn’t necessarily an everyday use tool, it’s great to check your links every once in a while. Fixing a few broken links can make a huge difference to your SEO – and it’s fast and easy!
This tool is especially useful for very large sites, or sites that have been active a while.
This simple tool allows you to check for copies of your content on the web. It can help prevent others from plagiarizing your material. It can also help you ensure that any work your content writers produce is genuine and original.
3. Google PageSpeed
This simple tool does just what it sounds like it does. That is to say, it measures how quickly your web page loads. Web page load times are important to both user experience and SERP ranking, so this is good information to have.
It’s 100% free and available directly from Google, meaning you can use it worry free. It’s an important part of every SEO professional’s arsenal.
Once you’ve mastered the use of these three very basic SEO and web presence tools, do some research and find more tools. Also, continue reading our blog – one of our writers may post about some more advanced tools sometime in the future.
To increase your site’s web traffic, all you need to do is improve your SEO. You can do this today simply by taking a few simple steps.
There are both free steps and paid steps to improving your SEO. I’ve got a few of both I recommend to businesses and individuals first looking to increase their sites’ traffic.
Free Ways to Improve Your SEO
There are several aspects of SEO you can improve on your own if you have the time and know-how to do so. Of course, you can also hire a marketer to do any and all of these activities.
One aspect of your SEO that you can easily improve is your site’s use of keywords. You can do keyword research manually or with any number of free keyword research tools out there on the web – and in case you don’t know of those tools, I’ll write a blog post in the near future detailing what these tools do and where they can be found.
Use keywords on your site frequently but subtly. You don’t want to attract the wrong kind of attention from Google by keyword spamming.
Of course, there are other simple, free ways to improve your SEO (and therefore your web traffic) besides keyword research and use.
In addition to working with your site’s keywords, you can try to generate links. Of course, there are ways you can directly or indirectly pay for links, which I’ll discuss later in this article, but for right now I’m going to focus solely on free ways to get links.
There are several free ways to get links, but one of the best by far is guest posting. Guest posting is fairly easy to do and can generate a ton of links if you have the right content and the right contacts. It is also a social good – with guest posts, you share your expertise with the world, which benefits them as well as you.
Paid Ways to Improve Your Site’s SEO
There are various ways you can pay for improved SEO. Some of these are legitimate and helpful, while others are not. If you’re looking to pay for improved SEO, look out for scams that will take your money and not offer you anything in return. Beware of anything a company or individual offers that seems too good to be true.
The best way to pay for SEO improvement is to hire a professional SEO marketer like SERP Ability or one of our competitors or colleagues in the field. An SEO marketer can tackle many of your problems for you at once, and with minimal required input from you.
Another useful way to pay for improved SEO is to purchase SEO tools. However, these tools are often very advanced – they’re sometimes not worth the price for small businesses or individuals without specialized SEO knowledge. There are also many free alternatives to these tools available online.
You know that external links are one of the biggest, maybe the single biggest, component of SEO, right? If not, here’s a quick primer for you:
- An external link is any link that targets a page on a different domain. If another site links to yours, that’s considered an external link to your site (also called a backlink). You can (and should) also send external links to other sites.
- Every time a site links to yours, Google’s algorithm considers it something like a vote – that other site says you’re popular and legitimate, which means Google can consider putting you higher in the SERPs.
- Not all backlinks have equal value, though – because of new regulations against spam links and because Google and its competitors measure the value of a link based on the perceived value – meaning the popularity or PageRank – of the site it comes from, some links are inherently more valuable than others.
- Links from popular sites are also valuable because they’ll get you a lot of organic traffic (customers arriving at your site because they clicked on the link).
A whole lot of SEO is chasing backlinks (or creating them artificially), and every SEO marketer in the world has her or his own ideas about how to do it. We can’t give away all the details of our successful model at SERP Ability, but we can give you a few basic pointers to help you get started without our help.
How to Get External Links:
- Create great content.
- Other sites are more likely to “vote” for you if you have amazing content (well-written, legitimate, interesting, etc.).
- Keep the rest of your SEO house in order.
- Make sure your SEO is always at the top of its game – getting a few links is great, but having every other SEO factor taken care of will make it even more likely that more people find your content – and some of those people will be webmasters who may want to link to your site.
- Consider the benefits of blogging, particularly guest blogging.
- We’ve written about each of these in detail before, but here’s the quick version: a blog is your best bet at attracting site visitors on the merit of your content alone, and will also make your site look legit to anyone who may want to link to it.
- Guest posts on others’ blogs give you an automatic opportunity to link back to your site – which is one of the major reasons guest blogging is so popular.
- Link out to others.
- This is one way of getting other webmasters’ attention – and also makes you look a little more legitimate to Googlebot.
- Ask other sites directly if they’ll link to you.
- This is actually one of the many approaches we use here at SERP Ability – but it is admittedly a bit harder when you don’t have a lot of contacts in the SEO world behind you.
- Sites in similar areas of interest that are not direct competitors are the most likely to do this. For example, you might ask a foodie blogger to review your restaurant and link to your restaurant site.
Keep these tips and tricks in mind for now, and continue reading our blog – we’ll keep you posted on any new developments in this or any other important area of SEO.
Every time you hear, read, talk, or even think about SEO, linkbuilding is going to be a huge part of that. And most of the conversation around linkbuilding revolves around the ever-elusive external links – which we’ll be sure to post on in the near future. However, that’s not what we’re going to talk about today.
Today I’m here to let you know all about an often overlooked but extremely important aspect of SEO that I just mentioned in my last post, about the value of blogs – internal links and site organization.
Look at the picture above and imagine each of those letters is a page on your site, and the lines are paths – created by internal links (which simply means links that refer to pages within the same domain – AKA your site) – that Google’s spider (or Googlebot) can travel along.
Remember, if you want a page on your site to give you any value at all when it comes to SEO, it must be 100% discoverable by Google.
Googlebot does not use the search bar on your site or fill out forms – and, truth be told, a good number of your potential customers won’t bother to do those things either.
That is why every page on your site (except for pages like payment confirmations, which obviously have to come after the submission of a form and won’t have an impact on your SEO anyway) should be linked internally to at least one other page – and preferably more, if you want Google’s spiders to be sure they’ve indexed all your pages and your site visitors to stick around longer than a few minutes.
Wherever possible, you also want your pages to have a hierarchical structure. This obviously won’t work with blogs, where every post is equal in value to every other post, but it should work for the rest of your site – with the HOME page at the top, a few big CATEGORIES under that, and possibly SUBCATEGORIES under that.
Of course, internal links between CATEGORIES and other CATEGORIES (or SUBCATEGORIES and other SUBCATEGORIES) can only help – but make sure your site is arranged in a basic hierarchical structure first!
When thinking about the benefits of a hierarchical site organization and a plethora of internal links, you might also wonder about the benefit of including a sitemap. I’m here to tell you it’s absolutely worth it.
Like internal links and a hierarchical structure, inserting a site map is simple, free, and not time consuming. It’s something you most likely won’t need to hire an SEO marketer for, and even though it doesn’t have the biggest impact in the world when it comes to SEO, it has a big one – and if you’re not set up right in the first place, other SEO strategies likely won’t help you much.
Don’t own a site like the one in the picture – if you’ve come so far already that you’re ready for customers to see your site, you’ve worked too hard to throw it away over something as simple as good organization.
If you’re at all serious about making money online, you’ve looked into SEO – and if you’ve looked into SEO, you know that a good blog can have huge benefits for your SEO marketing plan. But how does this work, exactly? And how can you best use blogging to your advantage?
One of the best things about a blog for your internet marketing strategy is this: blogs are full of content – and content is king.
Think about it: if the only thing Google’s spiders (also known as Google Searchbot) can see and therefore index for searches about your site is your business hours and what kinds of goods or services you sell, there’s nothing that really makes you stand out from the pack – and that means your site’s going to be lounging somewhere around page 10 of Google not doing a bit of good for you or anyone else.
However, a blog component, when added on to your main site, unlocks a universe of potential. Here are a few things you can do with a good blog:
- Use SEO keywords to attract Google and other search engine users to your site.
- Create engaging content that makes customers like the idea of doing business with you, and want to stick around.
- Restate some of your initial content so that Google sees it multiple times.
- Use tricks and presentability methods like strong images to attract people to your site.
- Provide better internal organization to your site to make it more navigable for users and spiders.
- Attract backlinks – and give you an opportunity to establish legitimacy by linking out to other blogs and articles.
- Potentially, a blog can even make you money on its own if it grows to have a wide enough readership.
Although there’s a great deal you can do with a blog, it’s not easy to get all those benefits. Here are a few things you’ll have to keep in mind if you want to have real success with blogging:
- In order to maximize the benefits of having a blog, you must post regularly. Every day would be nice, but you should post every week at a minimum.
- Every blog post should have at least one link out to a source of information you’ve drawn on – and once you have a few blog posts, you should also do a lot of internal linking to keep customers on your site and make it more accessible to spiders.
- Your blog’s content should not appear anywhere else on the web – this will look shady to both your customers and Google.
- You should write as well as possible, and definitely very clearly – you don’t have to be Shakespeare, but your customers should be able to understand and enjoy reading your blog.
For more of what makes a good blog, head over to Moz’s article on providing unique value in your content – if you can follow the rules the video and transcript set out, you’ll be on your way to creatively using your blog to benefit your business.
We just completed a post on the importance of mobile search to your business’ web presence in 2017, and mentioned the importance of external properties to mobile SEO. But what exactly are external properties, and how do they help boost your SEO?
External properties are anything on the web that’s not owned by your business but relates to your business – this includes Google Maps information, Yelp reviews, and social media accounts. These external properties are hugely important to local SEO and non-geo-specific SEO for several reasons.
You need to create or update and maintain as many legitimate external properties for your business as possible if you want to win at SEO. Here are a few reasons having a lot of external content affects your SEO:
- Having multiple results related to your business on one SERP can push out the competition and give your business legitimacy with customers.
- Because sites like Google Maps and Facebook are ubiquitous and hugely respected, they will almost always rank higher than your main business page.
- You can use each one of these external properties as an opportunity to create a backlink to your main site, which boosts your main site SEO.
- External properties like Google Maps can make your business easier to find geographically, while reviews on sites like Facebook, Google, and Yelp have a huge psychological impact on customers.
Here’s what to do if you want to create a virtual empire of external properties related to your site. First, you’ll want to claim your business on Google and Yelp – once you’ve done that, fill out the profile on each site completely and be sure that contact and location information are accurate. Also be sure to include a link back to your main site – this will both boost your main site’s SEO and bring customers to the main site organically (when they click on the link after becoming more interested in your business via Google or Yelp).
You’ll also want to create accounts on social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for your business. This can be time-consuming, but it’s all free and the payoff is huge. You should also check out our article on maximizing the potential of these sites for your SEO and your business’ bottom line – they can have a huge impact with minimal effort beyond the initial setup because they provide an organic space in which you can provide content for and interact with your customers and potential customers effortlessly.
Once you’ve completed all this, you’ve got your bases covered when it comes to external properties – all that is left is to maintain them.
For Google and Yelp, this is simple – check your accounts frequently, respond to negative reviews (but never defensively – show the customer that you are solving the problem!), and be sure to update your contact and location information if it changes.
For social media accounts, there’s a little bit more involved, but it can be easily worked into the rest of your marketing activities. You want to create new content for your social media accounts every day or every few days so returning users have something fresh to look at. You can also share the same content across multiple accounts to make it more accessible.
The best SEO gurus know that mobile is going to be bigger than ever in 2017 – and this makes perfect sense, seeing as it’s been a growing trend since the early ’00s at least. That means we shouldn’t expect earth shaking changes in the world of mobile friendly search engine optimization, but the fact that it is rising even further in importance means that you need to be aware of how best to use mobile search to your advantage.
So how exactly does mobile search affect your SERP standings? Let’s take a closer look.
- Because so many of Google’s users search on mobile devices, Google and the other big search engines know that catering to this market is a big part of what will bring them success.
- This means that for a while now Google and its competitors have prioritized mobile-friendly sites in their SERPs.
- There’s also a psychological factor – if a potential customer does somehow end up on your site with a mobile device and it’s not mobile-friendly, you and your company will look unprofessional and old-fashioned – meaning you’re not going to interest anyone in you and/or your product.
- Because mobile search grows every year due to the proliferation and higher use of mobile devices – including phones, tablets, and similar electronics – making sure their SERPs are mobile-friendly becomes more important to Google, Yahoo, and Bing every year too.
What does this mean for you and your company? First, it means that you’ll need to ensure that all of your own internet properties are mobile friendly. To test this, navigate your entire official site with a mobile device – make sure everything loads quickly, looks right, etc. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to address that problem with your website designer or an SEO marketer – because being mobile friendly is hugely important right now, and will only become more important.
You’ll also want to make sure the external properties related to your site and your business are mobile friendly as well. You won’t need to worry about the big external properties like Facebook, Google Maps, or Yelp – they’re already mobile optimized (in fact, they’re ahead of a lot of the rest of the internet when it comes to being mobile friendly, which is why their market shares are so huge).
However, you will need to consider any smaller sites that review you or your products, any sites you or someone at your company guest blogs for, etc. – these all need to be mobile friendly if you want them to have any real impact on your SEO bottom line.
When you’re producing more content that you want to use to help you or your business rank higher in the SERPs, consider a few of the following factors so that you know the content in question is optimized for mobile use:
- Text loads faster than images – don’t use a lot of big images in one post/article/page!
- Use HTML5 instead of Flash to create moving content – Flash isn’t standard across the board on mobile devices.
- External properties related to your site are more important than ever when it comes to mobile search.
If your SEO is always mobile ready, you’re sure to have a great year in 2017!
Anyone who’s studied SEO for a while can tell you that a well-written, search optimized blog can have huge benefits for you or your company when it comes to marketing online – but what about writing content for other individuals’ and companies’ blogs?
This can also be a good way to hugely increase your traffic and further build your online brand. It’s called guest posting, and it’s been relevant to SEO for a while, but looks to become hugely important in 2017.
How does this help your online presence? There are quite a few ways:
- Your name and your company name are attached to the blog posts you write for others – meaning that searches for those names can turn up these well-written, informative blog posts and make your brand look good.
- You can backlink to your main site (and possibly your social media pages, Yelp page, or other external properties related to your brand as well) from the guest post – either in the byline or in the text of the article. These backlinks, especially if they come from popular, reputable blogs, are hugely effective in boosting your SEO. Many SEO gurus say (and there is significant evidence from Google supporting them) that links from other sites are the single biggest factor in determining your SERP ranking.
- Writing guest posts for others’ blogs can provide networking opportunities that often lead to business partnerships, employment, and other tangible benefits.
If you’re sold on the benefits of guest posting now, and you think you have the writing skill and industry expertise to do it, here’s how to get started:
Put yourself in contact with bloggers in need of guest posts. Many popular blogs have a submission process for guest posts that’s not unlike submitting queries or finished articles to a newspaper or magazine – and even if they don’t, you can always contact the blogger directly.
You can also consider using services like myblogguest.com, which directly links bloggers in need of guest post with writers who can provide those posts for them. This approach works best if you have quantifiable expertise in particular fields.
In addition, the opposite approach – having guest posters write for your blog – can also be beneficial to your online brand. How does this work?
Every time a guest poster writes an article for you, she or he provides a unique perspective that you might not get if you write all the posts alone or use only staff writers. This can make your site look more varied and interesting both to site visitors and to Google’s spiders – for example, the guest poster might use a lot of search terms that you hadn’t thought of yet!
This content is free, which means that you can update your blog more frequently without spending any extra money. It also means that you’ll have more free time to work on other aspects of the company, whether marketing-related or not.
Last but not least, those potential networking relationships described above run both ways – meaning you might find an expert to review your product or a great new employee through being open to guest posts.
Many small business think they can get away with not using social media to promote themselves, but this is not the case – just as many business owners think SEO less effective than “traditional” marketing methods such as TV, radio, or newspaper advertisements, though this is not true.
The fact is that even if you have great SEO, you might not be making the biggest possible impact if you’re not utilizing social media to its fullest potential. Even if the rest of your SEO or SEM package is great, you might not be getting all the customers you possibly could if you combined SEO/SEM with a strong social media presence – because a social media presence compliments SEO.
“How does social media help my SEO?” you might ask. Well, here are the answers.
A strong social media presence can help your SEO by providing valuable backlinks (or “external links”) to your company’s main site. How does this work? It’s simple.
You’ll link your profiles on social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google Plus to your company website directly. This can be easily done during the initial setup of your accounts on these sites.
That provides your main site with a few backlinks and a little more legitimacy. But you can really put your SEO through the roof with the following technique:
Every single time you post new content on your main site (which you should do frequently, perhaps through a blog), share that fresh content (or an excerpt from it) on social media with a link to your main site. This will boost your SERP rankings not only the first time it is posted, but even more with each share, forward, etc.
Why does this happen? I’ll make it simple for you – one of the primary ways Google and other major search engines determine what appears in their SERPs at all and where these things appear in their SERPs is backlinks or external links.
Every time another site links to your site, that’s a backlink or external link. And each and every one of these is considered a sort of “vote” for you by that other site – which makes you appear more legitimate, relevant, and interesting to Google and its competitors in the search engine industry.
Backlinks (or external links) are considered the single most important factor determining where your site lands on a SERP by many prominent SEO experts – and that means that the more backlinks you have to your site, the more customers you’ll get on autopilot.
If you’re interested in creating a major social media presence for your business, please check out major social media outlets like Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, and Instagram. A presence on any of these sites will almost certainly boost your SEO – and will help you in other ways as well, which I’ll be sure to document for you in a future post.
With a strong SEO presence, you’re sure to dominate at SEO – and in the hearts and minds of potential customers everywhere.
Google’s algorithm – how can we understand it?
Google and all the other major search engines use complex algorithms to bring users relevant results so quickly; SEO is the practice of making your site more attractive to those algorithms through various methods.
But the algorithms are so complex, secret, and so frequently updated that no one in the SEO world really understands exactly what’s in them – not even the very best and most expensive marketers. I’d be willing to bet that a huge percentage of Google’s employees don’t even know everything about the algorithm!
So how do SEO marketers do what we do? We’ve learned, through contacts in the industry and years of trial and error, as well as resources available directly and publicly from Google and other search engines, most of what works and a lot of what doesn’t. We look at the trends, at what’s succeeding and what’s not, and use the knowledge we glean from that to help anyone who needs better internet marketing. And in blogs like this one, we pass the information along to you.
Recently, another big SEO blog claimed they had done the impossible – listed all 200 factors that Google considers (a number which it publicly shares on its own information pages) when indexing and searching web sites. The article, which is one of the most interesting I’ve read in a while (excepting everything from this blog, of course), is available over at Backlinko.
Even the writer, though – and he’s one of the better SEO gurus out there – knows that this can’t possibly be a definitive, exhaustive list. He admits in his first paragraph that a great deal of this list is conjecture, controversial, or both.
So why’d I send you over to the article, then? Two reasons: one, it’s just plain interesting; two, some of these factors may be extremely important. So my advice to you is this:
- When it comes to SEO, stick to the proven methods first. These include, in rough order of importance:
- External links
- Internal links / site design
- Quality content
- However, if you feel you’ve covered your bases there and you’re consistently putting out quality content to keep your site fresh, you might try considering some of the other factors listed in this article.
What I mean to say is that the proven, most common methods have been shown by marketers and businesses everywhere to get real results. Although it may not stay this way forever, they’re the gold standard for now.
However, some of these smaller, more controversial things are worth looking at. Perhaps they’ll make the difference between being on the top of page 2 and the bottom of page 1. Or maybe they’ll give you or your marketing professionals ideas about where things are going.
Because if there’s one thing we absolutely know for certain about SEO, it’s that the rules are always changing.