How many times have you heard it proclaimed that “content is king”? On-page optimization – the process of ensuring that your main website copy is fully optimized for the search engine bots – is certainly still important.
It can be a juggling act producing copy that is engaging, useful and accessible while still incorporating the most effective keywords appropriately.
The good news is that the process of on-page optimization is entirely in your own hands. You can take your time, refine, tinker, and constantly update your content. Effective keywords can change very quickly but tools like Google Analytics allow you to keep on top of keyword trends and tailor your content accordingly.
Off-page optimization can be trickier as it depends largely on getting third parties to link to your site.
There was a time when the sheer quantity of backlinks your site could boast was of paramount importance. On some search engines like the Chinese giant Baidu, this is still the case. Google has become increasingly sophisticated however, and the quality of links is far more important than the quantity.
It can be a challenge building up these quality links but you certainly shouldn't adopt a “take what you can get and leave it at that” approach. The cultivation of quality backlinks is massively important in any SEO campaign and you should have a clear strategy of how to get them.
What Constitutes a Quality Link?
Just as Google's crawlers are evaluating and ranking your site, they're also busy doing the same for everyone else's. Good quality links come from trusted and popular sites. The precise details of the algorithms that Google and other search engines use to determine the overall quality of a particular site are, of course, closely guarded secrets.
Much of SEO is educated guesswork guided by observations of what works and what doesn't. Some sites, such as Reuters, CNN, or the BBC are instantly recognizable brands and it's safe to assume that a link from these places will be worth more than one from a site or source you've never heard of before.
For other sites, Alexa rankings can be a good guide to a particular site's popularity. Sites are searchable by keyword, country or category, making Alexa a great resource whether you're concentrating on domestic or international markets for your links.
As well as connecting to popular and trusted sites, the majority of your backlinks should be from sites that are relevant to your content.
Let's say you have a site for a small jewelry making business. You might have a number of backlinks from your friends' personal blogs, the local soccer team you sponsor and a political forum to which you regularly contribute. These might all be trusted (albeit minor) sources but a single link from a recognized jewelry wholesaler or quality blog about jewelry design could be worth more than all the others combined.
The Value of PR
The old image of the newshound doggedly tracking down stories is now somewhat out of date. Journalists and news gatherers do continue to source their own stories, of course, but submitted content is increasingly important as well. Press releases are relatively easy to make and free to send electronically.
You might be surprised at how many latent newsworthy stories there are within your business environment. They might not all make CNN or the BBC, but with a plethora of online news sources all clamoring for fresh content, you may well find somewhere to place most of them.
Don't forget to target any business-specific news platforms that might run pieces that are too specialized for a general or mainstream audience.
Other Routes to Quality Links
Making guest posts on relevant blogs can be a great way to achieve backlinks from a number of different sources. Ideally, these will reflect different aspects or angles of your business.
Social media continues to be massively important. The likes of Facebook and Twitter are massive worldwide but if you're concentrating on particular foreign markets, it may be worth doing a little research to find out which local competitors are important within that target market. The Russian Vkontakte (VK), for example, is popular in its homeland as well as Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus and claims to be Europe's largest social network with more than 100 million active users.
Pinterest is an interesting variation on both the social media and the 'content is king' mantra. Launched in 2010, Pinterest is a social photo sharing network and a current hot property. As it is image-based, you'll need eye-catching, quality images in order to get 'pinned'.
Quality content and quality links should be the linchpins of your SEO strategy. They can be challenging to develop and maintain but should pay dividends in the long run.