I’m going to throw out some pretty solid advice that may immensely help your startup (or languishing) website get off the ground. And it all has to do with link building.
I’ve been working on websites since 1999. Back then, things were relatively simple. Search engines didn’t really know what they were doing and there were very few websites in existence. If you wanted to rank for something, all you pretty much needed to do was to stuff your title, meta description and meta keywords full of the term you wanted to rank for. If there wasn’t much competition, there you were on page one of Yahoo or Google. Bam – done. Although back then, I’m not really sure why you wanted to rank. There weren’t many opportunities to make money or grow a business online. I think it had more to do with ego. Even for the larger companies, not much was available. I can still remember the old men running all those financial companies telling their employees that this “…internet thing was just a fad.” Seriously, I remember that like it was yesterday.
These days, trying to rank for something is extremely difficult. Google’s latest algorithmic changes (panda and penguin) have thrown the SEO world into disarray. They’ve done a tremendous job in “keeping us honest” in 2012. I suppose that will be a year to remember.
Back in 1999 (and probably before that), building links to your website was critical for any amount of indexing and competitive ranking in virtually all search engines. If there were no links to your site from an existing site, you may not ever be found. Sure, there were those website submission pages that still exist today, but honestly, all you needed was one link from someone.
Link building for your website is a huge topic that really can consume most of my day trying to explain. Since I hadn’t planned on going too deeply into this, I’m going to focus on an area I’ve been thinking of and have been really noticing throughout the year. It’s somewhat theoretical but more practical that you can imagine.
Virtuous & Vicious Circles
In economics, there’s a topic that has many similarities to the online world, and real life in general. This topic has to do with virtuous circles and vicious circles. You’ve probably known what these circles were all your life, but never knew their exact definition. Let me give you an example of something similar to the economic version that may happen in real life:
Virtuous Circle: You are a man who loves cologne, gold and women. You love wearing the cologne, the gold and really love attracting the women. The only problem is, you are very poor. You can’t afford any cologne or any gold, and therefore, the type of women you are trying to attract, aren’t even looking at you. These woman like men who wear an enormous amount of cologne and who are really shiny from all the gold hanging around their necks.
To get the women, you need to figure out a way to get the cologne and gold. One day, you ask your good pal to lend you some money for some cheap cologne. He agrees because he wants to make you happy and you’ve offered a good argument of your reasoning. You take the money he lends you and run out to the closest Sears to pick up a small bottle of Old Spice.
The next day, you lather your entire body up with Old Spice and head down to the town diner. You know the girls at the diner aren’t exactly the ones you are trying to attract, but you know they like Old Spice. Since you don’t have any other money besides the money you spent on the cologne, you simply walk back and forth in front of the diner without going in. After a while, a mediocre woman catches your glance, smells you and starts talking to you.
Let’s go down the virtuous chain of events that happen from here: You start talking to each other. She really loves how you smell and decides to ask you out on a date. She explains that she’ll pay for everything. After three dates, she buys you your first gold chain. You wear your new gold chain with pride and secretly steal all the tips she leaves on the table whenever she takes you out to dinner. With the tip money, you purchase more cologne, but this time, you increase the quality to Drakkar Noir.
Wearing your new cologne and gold chain, you start hanging out down at the local night club, where many more women hang out in hopes of finding a man such as yourself. These woman have much more discerning taste and notice how finely groomed you are. You begin acquiring at least three phone numbers a night. You date often and somehow figure out how to get these woman to pay for everything, just like you did with the first woman you dated.
From there, you break up with your first girlfriend and after a year of doing what you do, you have so many women and so much money that you decide to open your own diner, nightclub and a foundation that helps lonely men who love cologne, gold and women.
I hope you got a kick out of that example. It took much of my imagination to come up with it. Now, let’s look at things the other way around, and this time, with a bit less typing.
Vicious Circle: You are a man who dates woman who exclusively date men who wear an inordinate amount of cologne and gold. Since you’re known around town as the cologne and gold man, you have many fine girlfriends and since dating women is what you really love to do, you are very happy.
One day, you house gets robbed. The thief comes in through an air conditioning vent, enters your bedroom and steals all your cologne and gold. You wake up, freak out and call your favorite girlfriend to tell her about it.
At first, she is very sympathetic and offers you some consoling advice. She says, “Go out and buy more cologne and gold.” You think that’s a great idea, and decide to do just that. The thing is, all your money for the past few years has been derived from the women you date. Now that you smell like a regular guy and aren’t wearing any gold, none of your girlfriends will talk to you. That is, until you smell good again and are shiny like gold. One by one, you begin losing your girlfriends. One day, you wake up, make a few phone calls and realize that every last one of the women you used to date has blocked your number. The only thing you can think to do is to ask your good buddy for a few bucks so you can run out to the closest Sears for a small bottle of Old Spice.
There you have it folks – my long version of virtuous and vicious circles when it comes to real life.
Now, when it comes to vicious circles in the online world, things can become very drawn-out and tedious. Virtually anything can happen and in an effort to stay focused on what may help you with your very own website, I’m going to focus simply on the virtuous circle. And for all you people who are looking for some good SEO advice, get out your pencils and paper.
How To Create a Virtuous Circle Online
The first thing you want to do when launching or revitalizing a website is to submit the website to a few good directories. Now, when I say good, I mean good. You don’t want to waste your time with the zillions of junk directories out there. You can generally judge a good directory by its PageRank, its cost to submit and its general popularity on the web. I use three directories for all my web properties and they are:
All three of these directories have fees attached to their submission process, but I feel they’re worth it. Why? Follow this chain of thought: I have a brand new website with no links and no search engine rank. I submit my (quality) website to all three directories, they accept my submission and they list my website. The first thing that happens is that the search engines crawl the directory pages. Since all three directories I listed above are quite popular, they are crawled often and when they are, my link is found. The first goal is completed. My website is now able to be crawled by the search engines.
As I mentioned above, these directories are popular, and since they are, they have a fairly good PageRank. To learn more about why PageRank matters and how it’s transferred to any website in a linking relationship, please read more about it here. Since my website is in an outgoing, one way linking relationship with the directories above, PageRank is transferred. Another goal is completed. PageRank is being sent my way.
People out there in cyberland just love to write things on their blogs, websites and Facebook pages, to name a few. What they particularly love to write about are “best of” lists. They write about the best classifieds sites, the best Jiu-Jitsu sites and so on. Where do they get these lists from? Well, they visit the directories I mentioned above and copy them. If I have my website listed in these directories, there’s a good chance they are going to take my link and put it on their website as well. Virtuous circle in action.
Another place people get lists from is search engine results pages. They type the term they want to write about in Google and take the first ten results Google spits out. You have to remember, people writing these types of things aren’t necessarily interested in what they are typing, they are simply trying to create content. If your site is there, they’ll take the link and post it in a variety of places instantly.
Think about this – you run a local Jiu-Jitsu academy and have a website you want to promote. You’re goal is to have your website appear in the search engine results pages for a wide variety of terms. The problem is, other websites are currently showing for the terms you want to rank for. How do you get into those spots? There are only ten positions on page one.
What you need to do is think. What do search engines want to display in their results? What is their primary goal? Well, search engines’ first goal is to have people return to their engine day in and day out. In order to have that happen, they need to show good query results. If they show lousy ones, Google users are going to switch to Bing and vice versa.
If you want to take a position on page one of Google, you are going to have to work at it. First, you are going to need to give the search engine a reason to love you. You need to write compelling content each and every day. Search engines crawl popular and active websites. If your site is stale and hasn’t changed in some time, your crawl frequency and rank position will suffer. It’s built into the algorithm and it’s a fact. If you run a blog, update it and be sure to show snippets of updated posts on your homepage. Search engines love this.
What’s just as important as great and active content is your relationships with those in a similar niche as yourself. If your Jiu-Jitsu website is in linking relationships with related websites, you are in a good position to steal a ranking position from someone currently listed on page one of Google. The more links, the better. Here’s the problem – how to get into these relationships.
The answer is flattery as link bait. Check this out – “Hey man, I just wrote a nice post about that class I took at your school. I posted some great pictures and a nice video that really makes you stand apart from everyone else. Since my school and your school are in two different markets, would you mind linking to my post from your site or Facebook page? I think it would cast your school in a good light.”
Done. And not only is he flattered, he is going to give you that link from his site, Facebook page and will probably email it to a few friends. This type of link building is virtuous as well as viral.
The trick here is to tell your friends that you wrote about them. Simply writing and forgetting about it isn’t good enough. Put yourself on a schedule and form these active relationships.
There are many types of viral marketing these days, so I am only going to touch on a few. This will also be my last section for now.
Viral marketing is huge. It’s basically a type of marketing that works by itself. It works “…through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of viruses or computer viruses.” This is my favorite type of marketing because all the work is front loaded. Once you put the development and creative time in, it runs on auto-pilot and gives you the breathing room to engage in other types of marketing or to push your next viral campaign out.
There are a few simple techniques you can use when you want to take advantage of viral marketing. They are:
– Email signatures. Every email you send out has your website link at the bottom. Everyone who’s anyone already does this. Google, Yahoo!, iPhone, Android…you know what I’m talking about. It’s branding at its best. Does, “Sent from my iPhone” ring a bell? We’ve all seen it.
– Share links. I like to use a service called AddThis for this tactic. They are are great company and have been around for a while. All you do is copy/paste some code on your site and let it do its magic. You can see an example at the top of any page on this blog. Users are now accustomed to these share links and use them frequently. So, once you finish placing the code on your site, they work by themselves. No more work from you.
– Newsletters and FeedBurner. Over the past few years, I’ve moved away from newsletters and have begun a few FeedBurner campaigns. To me, newsletters were a lot of work and after a while, people start getting ticked off at them. I’ve had people threaten all sorts of stuff thinking that I was sending them spam. What they forgot was that they signed up for the newsletter in the first place. They are effective though and have a high success rate.
The reason I gravitated towards FeedBurner though is because all the information I want to share is in the blog posts I author. My posts are more frequent, are more informative and are half the work of writing them and then including references to them in a monthly newsletter. All I do now is type, post and by morning, everyone who has signed up to receive them by email has a message waiting for them. They can choose to delete the email or click through to the post’s content. It’s a great way to market virally. Once someone receives the post by email, they can forward it to a friend or visit the post itself and then use a share link to forward it to friends. Options are great for marketing.
– Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. You should already be doing this. Every post you write or page you update should instantly be posted on one of these pages. I recently posted a piece to one of my business Facebook pages and within minutes, over 250 people had seen it. That’s huge and fairly self explanatory.
– RSS Feeds. Your blog comes with this already. If you are using a popular CMS (content management system), you most likely have his feature as well. You need to display the link to your RSS feed page on your outer pages somewhere. Many people subscribe to RSS feeds to keep up with friends, news or anything else that’s updated regularly. The whole idea here is to get your most recent information out in front of as many eyes as quickly as possible. Simply creating a website or a web page and letting it sit is a recipe for disaster.
Okay, I think I’m done for today. I have a huge amount of good information, so if you are interested in any related SEO topics or link building ideas, please leave a comment. I’ll get back to you ASAP. Also, if you’d like to read more posts about how to promote your website, please take a look at the SEO link at the top of this page.