SEO has seen many methods and tactics come and go.
Take for example the black and gray hat SEO methods that made ranking up the search results pages an overnight thing. In the early ages of SEO and the digital marketing era, manipulating and controlling what topped the SERPs was as easy as pie.
SEO agencies and companies made run-of-the-mill content and made it to the top 3 results. You can get away with those kinds of websites and still make your way up the ranks despite the low quality and spammy content. You can stuff keywords within pages, while internal and external links can be strung like loose and poor-quality webs of connectivity.
These and more were the practices that you can easily pass off as SEO-worthy, back in the day.
Eventually, the search engines caught on.
One by one these unfair and dubious practices fell off the face of search results pages.
If your site was tagged with malicious SEO strategies done by your in-house SEO staff or an SEO company that you hired, expect your website to be penalized. Or, for the most part, you would receive a warning. Either way, your website will be suffering from ranking consequences.
On the other hand, if you are updated with SEO trends, then you will also know that quick fix backlink-creation services that once pushed webpages up the notches of search results are tactics that have now been rendered ineffective. Websites that are slow-loading and gave users an overall poor experience lose their spot in the search engine results pages. And the ones that have failed to adapt to the changing times and shift to mobile-friendly views also found themselves revising their SEO campaigns.
Whether you are new to the field of SEO or you are a veteran, then you would probably have an inkling on what was responsible for all these events.
For search engine giant Google, some of the popular ones that you have probably heard of are the Panda, Penguin, Pigeon, and Hummingbird updates, to name a few.
These algorithmic updates on the search engine filters done have constantly kept businesses and SEO agencies scrambling around. And chances are, you know this scenario by heart, as well: one minute your site may be on a higher rank, yet the next day your website could hit rock bottom.
Amidst all these uncertainties, you might very well be wondering, are there strategies that still remain SEO-viable and effective?
The answer is yes.
While you may have seen drastic SEO-related changes over the past couple of years, there are still some good old practices that are capable of achieving SEO goals. Strategies that have been aligned from the very start with what search engines aim for: bringing relevant and personalized websites closer to their users.
One such constant tactic is link building.
Link building: an SEO constant
Link building is the process of creating connections or links between web pages. You can also link to other websites (aka external linking). And they can link back to your site’s pages as well with what is called backlinks.
The importance of link building in SEO stems from the fact that search engines like Google are able to discover URLs of websites through links. Their bots crawl over and discover new pages by following links. These web crawlers also cross between links until they fetch and index web pages that are deemed relevant for display in every search.
What to consider when link building
Creating links involves more than just adding targeted keywords with clickable hyperlinks to other websites. There are several things that you need to consider to ensure that every link you build is valuable to your SEO campaign. Among these are:
Before, websites and other link building companies made money by getting paid from every backlink they send out to other sites.
For example, if website A wanted to build a link profile that is filled with a lot of backlinks, it can just pay SEO company X for link building services. SEO company X, on the other hand, will create backlinks directed toward website A. These backlinks come from websites B, C, and D, whose content and niche are completely irrelevant to website A’s industry. And the cycle goes on until website A gets more links. The more links website A received, the higher it ranked in the search engine results pages.
Today, however, if you own website A, your site’s ranking will depend primarily on the quality of backlinks that you have acquired. Search engines reward your site with a good ranking in the SERPs if your backlinks come from organic and unpaid websites.
In the same manner, search engines also search for relevance between linked sites. In the previous example, website B, C, and D had content and niche that are not at all related to website A’s topics. And while such practice resulted in an SEO boost in the early days, search engines have gone more stringent and rigid when it comes to their filters. Their algorithms now know better than to accept websites with thousands of links from irrelevant sites.
These days, the more relevant your site is to the ones that are linking back to it, the better its chances of ranking high in the SERPs. If, for example, website A is a site dedicated to marketing and search engine optimization, then your link building efforts should be directed to relevant sites such as a known SEO company.
Domain authority is a search engine scoring developed by Moz. Generally speaking, the more high-quality inbound links a website receives, the higher its domain authority score. A high domain authority score essentially means that the site is bound to perform well in the search engine rankings. As such, you should aim to connect and build links with websites that have a higher domain authority score. This way, you benefit from the authority and credibility of the sites you are linking with.
Going back to the previous example, a backlink from a website with a high domain authority (i.e. Forbes) is a much better option for website A. As opposed to having your website associate itself with backlinks from sites such as websites B, C, and D whose low-quality content is most likely to be given a very low score when it comes to domain authority.
Although quality is prioritized when it comes to link building, the number of backlinks your site receives is still worth noting. After all, search engines regard the number of backlinks that your site receives as a form of “vote of confidence”. As such, you should aim for a high number of quality backlinks from several websites if you are to maximize link building for your SEO benefit.
Link building strategies
Keeping these factors in mind, there are several link building strategies that you can use to achieve your SEO objectives. Some of which are:
Getting links through social interactions online
Things, like posting your comment on a blog, answering a question raised in a forum, and sharing your posts on social media, can all lead to link building.
Using content to gain links
Whether you create high quality and link-worthy articles on your own website, or you’re a believer of guest blogging, you can use content to strategically obtain links back to your own website.
Requesting for links via outreach.
Reaching out to websites and asking for a link back to your website is still a viable practice in link building. This strategy will often depend on how well you can strike a bargain and convince the site owner on the mutual benefit of a backlink.
Relevant and targeted directories for strategic link building
Another form of building links naturally is through online directories.
Also known as a business directory or a business listing, an online directory lists businesses in a particular niche, certain category, or a specific location.
When you put your business information on online directories, you are creating a base primarily for your business’ online presence. As a business, you want your target customers to find you when they perform an online search. Using directories is your proactive step. As you add your business to online directories, you form a bridge that helps you connect with your target customers.
For example, if you have a physical store and you want to improve your chances at being found online based on your location, then you can opt for local business directories (also called geo-targeted directories). Establishments like restaurants and cafes typically benefit from these directories as more and more users conduct a local search on mobile.
Or if you specialize in a specific category like real estate, then niche directories will serve your business’ website with a valuable online presence.
Aside from increasing your business’ presence and visibility online, making use of directories can also help your website to reach its SEO goals. Remember that part of what affects your search engine rankings are the links that your website has.
Online directories are basically listings that provide your website’s URL in link form so they can send users to your site. These online business listings are then a form of backlink that can help optimize your site for better search engine ranking. Getting listed in an online directory increases the flow of visitors to your site. The more organic traffic your site receives, the more it signals to search engine web crawlers that your site can cater to online users’ needs.
Aside from SEO, however, there are other benefits that these directories can provide. For example, an online listing in these business directories contributes to diversity in the link profile. As the name implies, a diverse link profile means that the kinds of links that you obtain for your website are varied. For search engines, this kind of link diversity is good since it makes your gained backlinks appear more natural (as opposed to those that come from a single source).
Another benefit is increased business credibility. When you line up your business alongside others that are within your industry or niche, you show prospective customers that you are a part of this community of service providers. As opposed to being a standalone business that depends solely on your own website, signing up for online directories shows prospective customers that you are recognized by others in the industry as a fellow professional that serves within the same niche. In addition to this, you can also take advantage of these directories’ features like ratings and reviews to add to your business’ credibility. With these features, you can show customers that you are transparent enough to display feedback from other customers who have availed of your services.
Having established the importance of these online directories, the next step would be to list down the ways on how to use these relevant and targeted directories for your link building and SEO advantage. To do this, you would need to:
Find and narrow down your target directories
Directories come in many forms. A simple search on the kinds of online directories will show you that there are general directories, business listings, local citations, as well as paid and niche directories. And while a lot of backlinks from several online directories may seem nice, you will have to pick the ones that are most relevant and targeted (in relation to your business) if you want it to be of SEO-value.
For one, relevance is a factor that search engines consider when they evaluate the backlinks that link back to your website. So, to get the benefit of an online directory backlink, it would be better if the link came from a relevant site. The more relevant a site it to your niche, the higher the chances of it sending your target customers towards your site.
Say for example you have a flower shop and you want it listed online. Logically, you will want to add it to a niche directory where it can be lined up with others in the same industry. This way, search engines like Google can see that the site that sends customers your way is a relevant one. In SEO terms, the search bots mark this relevant backlink as a do-follow link and honor the link juice passed from the directory towards your site.
Another thing to consider when choosing which directory to list your business in is its domain authority. As mentioned earlier, the domain authority is more of a score on how likely a website will rank on the SERPs. The higher the domain authority, the more link juice it can pass in the backlink.
You can find directories that are relevant to your niche by using advanced search operators or by finding out directories which your competitors are listed on.
For the first option, you can add the phrases “inurl: directory” or “intitle: directory” to your Google search, so you can narrow down the directory search. Other formats include “city + directory” (for local business listings) and “niche + directory”, among others.
The second option involves checking out which directories your competitor is listed in. You can do this manually by typing your competitor’s name on the search field and seeing the top directories that appear right after the local pack results. Or you can use tools to uncover their site’s backlinks.
- Sign up and submit your business listing. Once you have narrowed down which online directories are the most relevant and targeted ones in relation to your business, you can go ahead and sign up with these online directories. Upon creating an account, you can proceed to claim your business profile so you can start filling out important details.
- Create and manage your directory profile. Next to choosing the online directory where you will be listing your business information, creating and managing your profile is the second crucial aspect of this link building process. There are a few things to remember when creating your profile.
Note that a typical directory profile consists of your NAP or NAP+W. NAP means name, address, and phone number. While NAP + W is your NAP plus your web address (aka your website’s URL). And while this information may seem very basic to you, you need to make sure that all the details that you enter are accurate and updated. Make sure the company name is spelled out correctly. Or, if you have had a business name change, make sure that you update accordingly and use the current business name. The address should be written correctly as well as the street/building numbers. And the phone number should be the one your business is currently using. If possible, choose to use a local number so you can appear better in the local search results as well. Should you be adding another contact information like your email address, opt to use your business’ domain email. This is because email addresses in your own domain appear much more credible to customers as opposed to generic ones. Subsequently, the more credible a business profile appears, the higher its chances of attracting site visitor clicks.
You may upload photos or images to show your prospect customers how your establishment looks. However, do not use this image upload feature to simply add your NAP/NAP+W details to your profile. Remember that web crawlers can only crawl on text, so it is best to have these crucial business details in text form.
- Maximize directory features. Some online directories like Yelp have ratings and review features. On your part, you can maximize these features to encourage feedback from your customers. SEO-wise, these reviews, especially local ones, can help you rank higher in local SEO results.
- Ensure consistency across directories. Most likely, you will be signing up for more than one online business listing. And since this will be the case, you need to ensure that your every bit of information you enter in these directories will match all the other profiles that you have. You might not believe it, but there are some businesses that are guilty of neglecting this important part of using directories for link building. Sadly, forgetting to do this may have a huge impact on your business’ reputation.
For example, you changed your business name following a merger. To honor your business partner, his name was added to your business’ current name. While you have updated your Google My Business listing, you failed to update all other directories that have your business profile in it. As a result, your potential customers will be left confused and in doubt as to your business’ credibility. The longer you keep your profile inconsistent across directories, the lower your site visits will be. And once your site traffic lowers, search engines will detect that users no longer find value in your website or your business. In the end, you hurt your SEO rankings by failing to keep information current and accurate.
SEO may be a dynamic arena of algorithms and strategies, but there are some methods that remain effective despite the wave of changes. Among other tactics, link building is a valuable SEO practice that is consistent with the goals of search engine optimization: to connect quality websites to the right users.
One such means to achieve link building and attain SEO goals is through the use of relevant and targeted directories. By narrowing down the online directories you sign up with, you get to choose which ones are most relevant to your niche. In turn, this relevance is seen by search engines as a positive factor that can influence your SEO rankings.
Similarly, creating an accurate and updated profile that makes use of directory features such as images and reviews can also increase your site’s SEO rankings. As your business appears more credible to consumers through a consistent and well-reviewed profile, your brand presence and organic traffic will surely increase alongside your business’ website SEO potential.