Ranking well in the Search Engines for most keywords used by small businesses is very achievable. There are many factors that go into search engine ranking formulas or algorithms, but they can be broken down into two broad categories – on page factors and off page factors.
On Page SEO Factors
You have complete control of the on page SEO factors and the search engines expect you to get it right. The primary on page factors are:
Page Title – Title Meta Tag
Page Description – Description Meta Tag
Keyword Meta Tag
Keyword Meta Tag
Site Information – including About, Privacy Statement, Contact Information
No one knows for sure, but SEO gurus seem to agree that on page SEO factors account for less than 20% of your search engine ranking for a keyword / page combination. This could be completely missing the point because I believe that on page factors can hurt you more than help you. I’ll talk about all these factors over the coming weeks, but I see two big problems with on page factors on a lot of sites:
- Poor Site Structure
- Poor Quality Content and Design
Poor site structure comes down to poor interlinking between your pages. I see so many sites that don’t take advantage of the power of internal site links. These are yours to control and you should be linking to other pages on your site in every page and every post. This takes some planning to determine your major keywords that become your categories and then the keywords and pages that will support those categories.
Basically, within reason link (1 link per 100-125 words) to other pages on your site. There are a lot of reasons that I won’t go into here, but your pages should be at least 450 words with 3-4 links. If you go longer, no problem (and add another link or two). If your a little short, no problem. But, aim for about 450 words.
High quality content mean good for SEO and conversion. SEO should get the visitor to the page, but content keeps them there long enough to do what you want them to do. If they leave, it’s generally because the content and site design are poor, or, it’s not closely related enough to the search term. Ask yourself, for each page, why would a visitor come to this page and then answer the question with engaging content.
Off Page SEO
Links, links, links. Off page SEO is about links. If on page factors account for 20% or less of ranking factors, that means that off page links account for 80%. Wow! This is true if there is anyone seriously pursuing SEO in your market. It’s about where links come from and the anchor text of the link. Here is the hierarchy of links that I look for from best to worst:
- High authority site, discussing my exact keyword phrase, using the exact keyword anchor text
- High authority site related to my keyword, using my exact keyword anchor text
- High authority site unrelated to my keyword, using my anchor text
- High authority site with any link to my site
High authority sites are the mega-sites of the world and the mega sites within your niche. For instance, a link from CNN or MSNBC is very powerful, but a link from Realtor.com to a local real estate site is from a high authority site within that niche.
Now take the exact same keyword conditions for relevance and anchor text used above and apply them to following links in order:
- Industry related site or blog
- General Blog on Topic
- Paid On Top Topic Directory (Yahoo, BOTW)
- Ezine Articles
- UAW Articles
- General Blog Off Topic
- Other Article Directories
- Blog Comments
- Low Level Links from forums, twitter, profiles, etc. (lots and lots)
- Social Bookmarks
- Reciprocal Links
The list is not complete. I’ll do that at another time and explain more about each one. The point is that you should have a lot of links from a lot of sources. The number will depend on the competition for a keyword phrase and could be anywhere from just a few internal links to thousands of external links. Most small businesses will not need thousands of links to compete locally. An entry in Google Places and a few hundred links to key pages will work for many small businesses. However, in businesses such as real estate, the competition is tougher. It took about 7,500 links to my main real estate site and over 700 internal pages to reach the number one ranking for my main keyword term in Google, Yahoo and Bing. In big markets, it will take more, in smaller markets less.
Don’t send all your external links to your home page with exactly the same anchor text. I shoot for 40% to the home page and 60% to internal pages. No one term should be any more than 40-50% of anchor text to any page. Internal links don’t need to follow these rules.
Build your links from the best source possible, but also make sure to get all the links you can from good places. Stay away from drugs, porn and spam sites. Get one-way links whenever possible. Keep link building even when you’ve reached number one for your terms.