Sunday, December 16, 2007

SEO That Works: What's Missing from Your SEO Strategy?

I have six years experience developing and promoting Web sites for literary non-profits, and have placed three of the four sites I created on the first page of a Google search for their most relevant keywords. And I even had "link pages" show up as high as the second page!

All that "page rank" stuff that the "experts" tout befuddle most site owners. The simple truth of the matter is that page rank and it's subsequent visibility in the search engines is best served by creating content rich sites that: Optimize the use of contextual links that use the keywords; The use of good page titles; The use of well thought out keyword and description meta tags; And a policy of linking primarily to sites with content related to your site with a focus on sites that also link primarily to related content.

As for links back to the site, any link is good, but shy away from link farms. Albeit sites with related content and decent page rank are better, chasing those with a certain level of page rank will hurt you if you are foolish enough to ignore them or publish your selectivity. No link to your site hurts, and sites that are just starting up will not come back when they rise to an acceptable level—and those that never attain it will not link to you without a reciprocal link. Being selective will cost a site hundreds of links. Link popularity is link popularity.

The problem with all of this is that everybody that Web site operators compete with does it. Another problem is that many of the sites with which we compete for position on the first page of hits are not likely to be bumped from their position in the search engine rankings (,, and a few others), and we did it to ourselves.

We put links to sites like and on pages not disallowed by the robots.txt or a robots meta tag. In doing so, we shaved room off of the top of the first page of the search engine hits for everyone.

A little strategy I developed can help overcome the drawbacks inherent in getting more inbound links than the competition and the difficulty we may have getting links to our sites from top rated blog and zine posts. The strategy is even better that the last of these.

The strategy is outside the box, and requires a bit more work, because it cannot effectively be automated, like a link exchange--but it is a link exchange. That's where the similarity ends though:

Optimizing Your Link Exchange

One important aspect of this strategy is that the link pages not look like link pages to the googlebot and others. As simple as this is, a little explanation will likely help clarify what I mean.

The search engine bots recognize links on link pages as links on link pages, because of the structure of most (all?) link pages, and the link does not score as highly as a link from a content page. To make a link page look like a content page in the algorithms:
  • The page name and title need to be something other that "links" or "resources"
  • It needs keyword and description meta tags
  • And the links need to be structured like content, ie:
Doonz Magazine is a [a href="URL1"]literary non-profit publisher[/a] of [a href="URL2"]traditional poetry and prose[/a].

In the example above, the brackets ([]) should of course be angle brackets (<>), and URL1 would point to the link partner's default index page, and URL2 would point to a top ranked site where you will find an explanation of "traditional literary prose."
The next important part of this strategy is to create a "special" links page in addition to your current link exchange page, say literary_publishers.html, where you would list those link partners who cooperate with you in implementing this strategy. On this page, you would dedicate an entire paragraph or two to describing the content of each link partner's site—with links to several of the features on the link partner's site. Ideally, your link partner should provide this for you, and you should likewise provide a content rich description of your site for the partner.

Better yet, use two or more pages, and split the paragraphs between them. Each paragraph should of course have different context and use keywords and content related to the page title and meta tags. Doing this has the advantage of allowing for a short, context related list of keywords--which theoretically boosts the relevance of the content.

Your link partner(s) would of course do the same for you--and benefit from it himself/herself. Only the search engine operators know this for sure, but a lot of the experts speculate that content with outbound links earns points itself.

Now, all you need to do is to create content pages with rich text-link content. You need it for your overall SEO strategy, because getting your "link partners" to cooperate in this strategy will be like pushing your car up a 15% grade. If you want it badly enough, it's worth the effort though.

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