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SEO for Small Businesses On A Budget – Manual Backlinking

This post originally appeared on Small Businesses Do It Better

SEOGALHave you got a website that isn’t ranking well in Google? Are you about to get a new website built but have spent all your budget on design and development? Are you afraid of hiring an SEO company because you’ve heard about unscrupulous black-hat activities that will get your site penalized?

These days, building a website without incorporating any Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is pretty much pointless. Unless your business is so unique that it doesn’t have any competitors to worry about, you need to think about SEO.

Existing small business website owners can easily check their current website rank by typing the relevant search terms that a potential customer would use into Google. E.g: if you are a massage therapist in Woodstock, VT, you might try “massage therapy woodstock”. Do that and see where you rank in comparison to your competitors.

Two Main Types of SEO

There are two main types of SEO; Off Page and On Page. Today we’re going to focus on one (there are many) Off Page activity that is considered essential towards improving your website ranking. It’s called Manual Outreach Backlinking, you can do it yourself, and it doesn’t cost a dime. What it does cost, however, is your time.

What is Backlinking and Why Do I Need It?

A backlink (also known as an Inbound Link (IBL)) is simply a link to your website from somebody else’s website. You need it because search engines (like Google) consider the number of relevant and quality backlinks when ranking your site. Think of it like a vote…the more votes your site has, the higher you may rank.

Let me make this clear right now. Backlinking is only a small part of SEO. Just having more links than your competitor does not necessarily mean that you will rank higher than them in the search engines, but it does help. Your overarching goal in any SEO activity is to reach your target audience. Link building is one component of that.

Not All Backlinks Are Created Equal

There are ruthless companies out there who will take your money and promise you hundreds or thousands of backlinks in return. More often than not, this is a very bad idea. Search engines measure and like valuable links. The companies that offer link building programs are rarely taking the time to manually seek out valuable links. Typically, a software program shoves your link wherever it can to varying degrees of sophistication. During the early days when I didn’t know much about SEO, I deployed this very same strategy on my own site and secured lots of links, but have since been cringing because my website could easily be penalized by Google for doing so. Trust me – it’s not worth it, and Google et al will give you many more kudos for real, honest, links.

Ok. So what you want is inbound links from sites related to your niche/industry that are a good fit for your business. If the link is successful, you will be attracting customers who will want to read and share your content and, hopefully, your link. Don’t try to get your website linked to a site that does not appeal to your target audience.

Link Building Research

So, your first job is to conduct research and make a list of potential websites that you would like to be linked to based on the keywords that make sense for you to target. I’ll explain more about keyword research in another post but there’s plenty of info on the web about it if you don’t want to wait.

Here’s a few ideas to get you started on your search:

  • Industry blogs
  • Industry associations
  • Online guest book signings
  • Forum signatures
  • Online industry directories
  • Online local directories
  • Companies that you partner with in any way
  • Sites where you have published an article (in this case, you must insist that they link to your site!)

You can search for potential linking opportunities by typing your keywords “<massage therapy> submit a guest post” or “<massage therapy>local directories”, into Google (in this case, using the example of a massage therapist).

Try to avoid sites that have a “no follow” link policy because that won’t give you much juice. Having said that, if it’s a trusted site with authority, ignore what I just said about the “no follow” policy if it means gaining exposure to your key audience.

Link Building Research Tools

I’m going to tell you a little secret that will cut your research time in half. There are free tools on the web that will show you exactly what backlinks your competitor has! I personally like ahrefs which will give you enough of what you need for free. There’s also opensitexplorer which gives more information about domain authority and page authority of the linking sites – use this info to help prioritize the list of websites to approach.

Check out these tools and busy yourself with creating a prioritized list of websites to approach.

How Many Links Do I Need?

There’s no hard and fast rule to this. It would seem obvious to obtain more links than your competitor but remember that one link on a really authoritative website in your niche could take you far beyond 10 links from a variety of sites that don’t have much of a reputation.

How Much Time Do I Need To Put Into Building Backlinks?

Link building is an on-going activity and initially, it is very time consuming. Google doesn’t trust anything unnatural (who does?!), so gaining tons of links overnight is a bad strategy. After you’ve performed your research and written optimized content for guest posts, carve out a certain period of time each week to build links at a steady pace.

Worth noting: the more niche your business or offering is, and the more local your target market, the easier it’s going to be to rank well. I encourage new businesses to find a niche, and existing businesses to carve out a niche from their existing products and services. I’ll write more about this in another post.

You Have Your List of Websites to Approach…Now What?

Some of the websites on your list, mostly the directories, will allow you to add a link to your business without any hassle or further a-do. For many other sites (and the ones that will give you the most juice), you’ll need to create valuable content that will engage the audience and encourage the owner of the blog/website/etc. to include your post. In many cases, efforts to become part of a community and build relationships will be necessary and this is not a bad idea for your business anyway. When submitting a link to your site, please follow the anchor text instructions found here.

I highly recommend that you read this article about advanced guest blogging on the Moz site before you begin. Moz is an excellent resource for beginners and pros on all things SEO.

When Will I See Results?

Don’t expect results overnight. The benefits of SEO takes time and for new websites it can take more than nine months to see results. Soldier on, continue writing valuable content, and hone your SEO skills. You can do it!

Lulu White is the owner of Lulu Web Design – a friendly little web design company in Hartland, Vermont that specializes in offering affordable websites for small business owners


SEO and Link Building Basics

Published on June 10, 2013, by

Link Building is no longer needed for PR NowBringing your business to the online world is a daunting venture. It takes much more than just coming up with a good domain name and publishing some content pages; it takes an ongoing effort to drive traffic towards your site. A major part of this, as you may have heard, is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in which a website is tailored to be easily read by (usually) Google’s algorithm and ranked highly. However, even if your onsite SEO is great you can improve your rankings even better with link building which is a major part of offsite SEO, but it is also largely misunderstood and something that small businesses struggle with.

Link Building: What is It?

As the name implies, link building is the process of going out and actively getting links to point back to your site. This doesn’t mean linking between posts or pages within your website, that is internal link structuring which is an important aspect of onsite SEO. Link building almost always refers to securing links on foreign domains that point back to your site, known as “back links.”

Google, and other search engines, regard back links to your site as a merit of good faith from the website where the link is featured. It’s telling them that the webmaster, blog owner, editor, tweeter, follower, etcetc, found your site useful in some way and want to showcase it to their visitors. While links pass along traffic to a site directly in the form of people following the link, most of the time links are built for SEO purposes.

The Dark Side

While a direct traffic boost from a link is always great, the main purpose of link building is to manipulate your standings in the search engine results page (SERP). Ranking highly for your search terms can provide an immense amount of traffic to your site, and this means that SEO and link building (once they were proven to work) became heavily involved in spammy techniques that built as many back links as possible. Sites with little to no meaningful content would rocket up the SERPs and outrank sites that deserved the high rankings. This led to “good” sites having to resort to black hat measures in order to compete in the rankings, or had them taking a bite from the apple just to get an edge up on their natural competition.

The Google Spam Hammer

Nobody hates spam more than Google’s own Matt Cutts who helped to spearhead a movement against spam on the internet. In the rolling Google and Panda updates by Google, sites that use black hat and unnatural link building methods (along with onsite SEO methods) were hit hard in their rankings. Many sites saw decreased rankings, and some saw removal from Google altogether. This has sparked a movement towards “white hat” link building that doesn’t get noticed by Google’s algorithms as spam.

How Do You Link Build?

With all of that on the table the question remains, how do you go about link building? Well for starters, you want to focus on natural, white hat link building that doesn’t look like any kind of spam. This means staying away from buying links, link schemes or networks, or anything that might be related. White hat link building takes a lot of time to do correctly, but the good thing is that you no longer need hundreds of thousands of links in order to rank. If you can get a handful of links on quality, relevant sites to your own, you should see your rankings start to increase. There are some time proven strategies for this kind of link building are guest blogging on relevant blogs in your niche, and simply calling up or emailing webmasters and editors and asking for a resource link. Yes, this takes time, but building relationships with people is just as important as building the link.

The Importance of Good Content

Without high quality content you’ll find yourself floundering in the rankings and in your link building endeavors. Create resources and pages that are engaging and helpful to visitors. These will naturally build links over time as people link to them. With weak content, you’ll be hard pressed to convince anyone to link to you – naturally or otherwise.

Don’t underestimate link building. It can have a powerful influence on your sites traffic and bottom line, but it also takes a lot of time and effort to do it correctly. At all costs, stay away from spammy black hat techniques because once you get in a hole with Google, it is a chore and a half to dig yourself back out.

This post originally appeared on Small Businesses Do It Better


Social Media Tips from Expert, Mari Smith

Published on March 21, 2013, by

I can’t say enough about the tips Mari Smith gave me in this interview. Invaluable information about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media networks. Tons of resources in here – be sure to have a pen!

Watch the whole interview, get show notes, and watch other interviews with industry experts at SmallBusinessesDoItBetter.com


An Easy Way to Get More Pinterest Followers

Published on March 6, 2013, by

How to get more followers on PinterestThis stuck out like a sore thumb to me so I naturally felt obligated to write a blog post about it! While searching for some new people to follow on Pinterest I noticed that some users were “verified” and that their badge of authentication made their name and website address stand out and made me want to click on their profile more than those who did not have the badge (see the screenshot to the left). Wouldn’t you click on the profiles with badges too!

Get your site verified by adding your website URL in your profile settings. Next, select “verify website” which will generate a verification file to download. You will need to upload this file to your site, then go back to https://pinterest.com/domain/verify/ and press Click here to verify your website. Further instructions, in more detail are available from Pinterest. Wa-la! You now have a spiffy new “verified” badge on your profile for everyone to notice!

Get more pinterest followersWhat do you think about this badge – do you think it makes your profile stand out from those who are not verified?

Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest too!


Live Interview with Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran

This post originally appeared on Small Businesses Do It Better
Live Interview with Barbara Corcoran on Small Businesses Do It BetterTomorrow morning at 7:30am PST/10:30am EST I will be interviewing Barbara Corcoran LIVE on the Small Businesses Do It Better Show. Barbara’s story is incredible – she used a $1,000 loan to start her business, which she later sold for $66 million. Most people know Barbara from watching her on ABC’s Shark Tank, which has become a smashing hit with millions of viewers of all ages tuning in each Friday night.

The weekly Small Businesses Do It Better Show incorporates live chat for the viewers to network with one another and message questions for the guest through the host. A live stream of the Twitter hashtag #sbdib will also be displayed on the live show.

Following this special episode, Carissa will announce the winners of The BIG Giveaway contest, which contains over $1,200 in Shark Tank products and other prizes.

When: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 7:30am PST/10:30am EST
Where: live.smallbusinessesdoitbetter.com

Image courtesy Barbara Corcoran

New Changes by Facebook Affect Your Cover Photo

Published on January 16, 2013, by

new facebook cover photo rulesEffective January 15, 2013 Facebook’s guidelines have changed yet again. One of the most significant changes is in regards to the Cover Photo on your profile and/or page. Here are the rules directly from Facebook:

Covers may not include:
  • images with more than 20% text;
  • price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it on socialmusic.com”;
  • contact information such as a website address, email, mailing address, or information that should go in your Page’s “About” section;
  • references to Facebook features or actions, such as “Like” or “Share” or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features; or
  • calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends.”

Followed by, “We reserve the right to reject or remove Pages for any reason…”

You better make some changes if any of these items listed are on your cover photo!


Taking some time off for the Holidays? Search Engines Aren’t…

dont forget to blogYou may be taking a few extra days off over the next few weeks, which is expected, BUT, don’t forget that search engines aren’t taking any time off. Why is this so important you may ask… because long gaps in between the dates you post new blogs or updates on your website can impact your search engine rankings.  This does not mean you have to work on Christmas or change your plans just to get that blog post up – type it up in advance and schedule it so there won’t be a significant amount of time in between posts.

Don’t forget about social media updates either. Use the scheduling feature on Facebook and/or a twitter tool like Hootsuite to schedule updates. You don’t want to entirely disappear from your loyal social media followers.
Happy Holidays!


TODAY ONLY: Free Online Business Listing

Small Business Saturday Business ListingSmall Businesses Do It Better is offering a FREE Premium small business directory listings for ALL small businesses TODAY ONLY – on Small Business Saturday, November 24th, 2012.

All business listings submitted before 11:59pm PST on Small Business Saturday will be free.



Does Your Website Work?

How to seo your websitesDo you ever wonder why you may not be getting people signing up for something, clicking over to a specific page or contacting you via a certain form on your website?

Well, have you tested it to make sure it works? After you make any changes to a link or form, test it out yourself and make sure it works! This may be higher on my list than most due to my early software testing days, but if you have a potential client on your website trying to subscribe to your email list, fill out a form or clicking a link and it does not work properly – most likely they will leave your site, not to return.

By simply testing out these things right after you put up something new or make a change, you can sleep better at night. I’m sure most DIY’ers may not think of doing this, but it is SUPER important!

image courtesy SEOPlanter