What Is Search Engine Optimization?
(tl;dr – Don’t pay for inbound links. Ever. Do go to Getlisted.org and submit yourself.)
The secrets of how Google and Bing and the like rank pages are regarded with a mixture of secrecy and reverence typically associated with the Colonel’s 11 herbs and spices or the formula for Coca-Cola. Even if you guess them correctly, no one will confirm or deny your claim. This leaves a lot of room for speculation, flim-flammery, and false promises from so-called SEO Experts (along with plenty of totally helpful, absolutely helpful promises, too.) Ultimately, Search Engine Optimization is about doing whatever is within your power (and within the ‘law’ of the search companies) to rank higher than your competitors in a search.
Improve Your Ranking
Let me say now, I am no expert in search engines. If you are, you can probably stop here – this tip is pretty basic. But I have been doing some reading, and along the way, I learned that I had overlooked some really fundamental steps to improving the ranking of this very site while obsessing over meta tags, long-tail keywords, and the rest of those buzzwords. Today, I’m going to encourage you to turn over the lightest, flattest rock, that also happens to have the most search engine juice.
Backlinks – What are They?
When Google was first introduced, geeks were enamored of their algorithm and the underlying premise: A web site is probably a good one if people point at it and say “they know what you’re looking for.” A backlink is the term for this ‘pointing.’ If my analogy isn’t holding up, just know that a web site that has YOUR WEB SITE URL on it and that takes someone to your web site when they click on it is providing a ‘backlink’ (or inbound link, as they are sometimes known) to you.
Google was right, and they’re still looking where everyone is pointing to figure out who has the answer to your search query (and so are Bing and the rest,) but with much more sophistication, mostly because people put a lot of time and energy into trying to fool Google. Don’t try to fool Google. It doesn’t end well.
Here’s The Secret
The web is full of sites that want to be a kind of Yellow Pages (ask your parents about it) of the 21st century, and nearly all of them offer a free basic listing of your web site or business that includes a link back to your page.That’s a backlink.
Start with Getlisted.org. It shows you 12-15 directories you can I did it yesterday, and saw that I had left a lot of free inbound links on the proverbial table. It takes a long time to manually submit your site, but that’s what interns are for (ps. we’re looking for one)
It is my belief that the manual aspect of this process is what makes these quality inbound links in the eyes of the search engines. It is also my belief that anyone charging you money and promising you thousands of inbound links (or comments, or pingbacks) will end up submitting your site to a bunch of machine-made websites that will damage your reputation and ranking. One of our clients had paid a firm to do just such a thing, and found their car shipping company listed on, among other things, a site about Australian rainforests (and a crummy one at that.) If I were a potential customer and I saw your site linked on this one, I’d think you were running some kind of scam. That’s bad.
So crack your knuckles, and get ready to cut and paste your company’s name, address, url, social media site urls, phone number, email, etc. into lots of forms. You’ll have to verify a lot of addresses and otherwise confirm your legitimacy, but it is the best first step to building backlinks the right way.
Or is it? Leave a comment if I’ve got it wrong. Or let me know if I’ve helped you out.