Michael Utley: Hey everybody. This is Michael and Chris. Welcome to Episode 54 of the Dodgeball Marketing Podcast. Hey Chris.
Chris Raines: How are you doing, man?
Michael Utley: Good. Happy Friday.
Michael Utley: And this episode, we're going to talk about SEO basics. Five link-building best practices. We always say that we're not an SEO podcast or an online marketing podcast for experts. We're for marketers and for beginners, people who are learning. And so this is a little bit of an introduction to how to think about linking pages and content—on-site, off-site, all the above—to make the most.
Michael Utley: So Chris, why don't you take the first one?
Chris Raines: Yeah. So the first link-building best practice is, make sure you're interlinking between your pages. And so a lot of people think of linking, they think of establishing backlinks from other sites linking to you, but it's also important to let Google know what pages on your site you think are most important. So one of the ways you can do that is make sure that your navigation on the top is linking to your most important pages. So this becomes obvious when you look at the way most websites are built, but if you're a local services company, you're going to put your services pages on the front, because those are most important.
Michael Utley: And sometimes people kind of mess it up. Sometimes they just have one link for services and they sort of downgrade all of their most important things to a second level because logically it makes sense. But it might be good to kind of minimize that other stuff and move a couple of those services up a level.
Chris Raines: Right. Right.
Chris Raines: You might do the same thing with locations. If you're a local business that has three locations, you can put all those locations there. So that's the first thing is make sure all the pages that are most important to you are linked in the top navigation. You probably already do it anyway when you just think through your site, what's most important. But that's important to Google to communicate what pages are most important to you. And then that will influence how Google views your website as well.
Chris Raines: And then are services and sub-services pages linked? Okay. So a service page would be something. . . We always use the painter examples because it's easy. But a service page might be indoor painting, and then a sub-service might be gymnasium painting, something like that. So like a service within a service. So make sure that if you're creating sub-service pages, that those are linked back to your service page. So you might have that service page for indoor painting with a bullet list of various indoor painting options, services. And make sure those are linked to the appropriate service pages.
Chris Raines: Also, if you're doing content pieces. So if you've got a blog going or some kind of newsfeed section of your website and you're mentioning those services in the context of that blog, make sure you link that back to your indoor paint or let's say—
Michael Utley: Interior painting.
Chris Raines: Right. So a good example is if you were doing... Say the gymnasium painting example. So if you were doing a post on best paint types to use for gymnasium painting, right? A natural place for that to link would be back to the gymnasium sub-services page. So look for all of your content on the opportunities to link back to your most important pages as well, not just the top nav, but all the other places where you're putting content.
Michael Utley: Yeah. And be sure to use keyword-rich text in your links, as opposed to "Click Here" or "Read More." "Click Here" and "Read More" are a little bit empty calories. If you're linking to something that's really specific, it's great to also use keywords in that text. So what you said. In the body of the copy, where there are natural places. That's really an important point.
Michael Utley: Next best practice. Number two. Look for backlinking opportunities. One of the toughest things about doing online marketing and doing SEO is getting really good links from other websites back to your website. One of the ways that is good to do that is by managing any off-site properties that you control. These could be things like your YouTube channel or your social media channels.
Michael Utley: Also other websites that you have, if you have other websites that are appropriate. For example, if you have adjacent businesses or something. Not physically adjacent, but subject-matter-adjacent, and they have separate websites, you can cross-promote between them. And that's actually going to send a signal to search engines about the destination website. "Hey, somebody out there is linking to us. That's good." And the higher the domain authority of those other websites, the better. And you know, this is very debatable. Google kind of goes back and forth. Google says that if you link to a website with lower domain authority, it doesn't hurt you, but a lot of people think it does. But generally, if you have a high domain authority website linking to you, that's just good. So thinking about opportunities for that through PR. If you have the opportunity to produce a press release and distribute it through PR Newswire or any other kind of ways to do that, that being picked up and news stories being carried about your URL or your business are really good because that's creating links.
Michael Utley: Some other ideas, and one of the most popular things people are trying to do right now, is guest blogging. And this is really good if you have an existing relationship already that's really strong. Think somebody who would kind of do anything for you. You can take turns guesting on the other person's website and trading links. This is really valuable when you're thinking about a relationship between a company and their vendors. Having a set of vendors who can come in and provide really highly relevant content for your audience. So it's not throw-away content. You want real stuff, you don't just want to write content for search engines, but real stuff for people. You can have a highly knowledgeable vendor come in and talk about certain products that your audience wants to know about. And they're going to get a link back to their website.
Michael Utley: And then conversely, if you have a vendor that you promote a lot or use a lot of their products or services, they can say, "Hey, here's a case study. Here's a company out there that's using us. And we want to tell you about this great experience they had using us as a case study."
Michael Utley: And so that's a really good example of a high-ticket B2B, or sophisticated marketing guest blogging. We're not talking about pictures of your trip to the beach. We're talking about sophisticated content marketing across audiences in a set of relationships.
Michael Utley: There are other things that you can do. Managing online directories, listings, back to the website. Google Maps. Sometimes with affiliate marketing, you can get affiliates to generate links back into your website. So there's a whole big, complicated world of ideas. Using posts and content on sites like Quora is something that we've talked about before. But yeah, any of those backlinks that have good, highly relevant pages to the subject matter linking back to you, those are good.
Chris Raines: Yeah. And conversely, you can look for local link opportunities. So these are less about subject matter alignment, like you were talking about, and more about local. Like they're geographically local to you.
Chris Raines: So the way I think about this is... The best thing to do is to actually just be involved in your local community. And these will just present themselves. So a couple examples are if you have a local chamber of commerce. Most chambers of commerce have member directories and they offer you a link back from that. So those are valuable. Any local directories for... You have neighborhood business direct... There's all kinds of directories out there that are sort of locally focused. Community events you've participated in. Maybe your company sponsored a local charity 5K. That's a link opportunity. If they've got a website, they can link back to you. Maybe you sponsor a local little league team. I mean, there's all kinds of ways that you can find out what's going on in the community, get involved in it, and see if you can generate local link opportunities from that.
Michael Utley: Yeah. If your staff is going out to volunteer with a church event or a community service event, participating as a corporate entity, and asking them to give you a little shout-out on the website, that's a way to do it. Anything where money is being used, if you're supporting or donating to something, they're generally pretty happy to share a link on their website.
Chris Raines: Yeah.
Michael Utley: Yeah. Next step. Number four. Post to Q&A sites. We talked about this a little bit in a previous segment, but let's dive in a little deeper. A good way to become known as a subject matter expert with search engines is to go to the websites where the highest level of expertise about that subject matter exists. These can be sites like Wikipedia, Quora, Reddit. And working with them is not always easy, and doing it once and forgetting about it is not going to be effective.
Michael Utley: So let's talk about how to think about this. Number one, make a list of the places that have relevant content to your subject matter. If your subject matter is cybersecurity, you can actually find quite a bit of activity happening on sites like Quora and Reddit around the topic of cybersecurity. There are actually entire communities out there for many, many subjects. It would actually be tougher to find a subject matter that doesn't have a passionate community. And so a lot of these sites have pages where folks are going in and they're really building a reputation in these communities as being an authority.
Michael Utley: So here are the three tips that we recommend for using these communities. Number one, don't try to do all of them. Instead, pick the ones where the highest relevance of subject matter exists. So if you're a company that offers cybersecurity and you look at Reddit and say, "Wow, there's a really strong cybersecurity community there." Maybe say, "Hey, we're going to start posting to Reddit. We're going to answer and comment, engage on Reddit, and that's going to be our thing." Don't get spread too thin and say, "Well, there is a little Facebook group and there is this other Discus discussion board on this other website. And there's Reddit and there's Quora, and we're going to try and do them all. We're going to be really aggressive, try to do them all." Try to be master of one of them first before you expand. So pick your channels wisely, pick well.
Michael Utley: Number two, understand that the publishing process for all of these is very different. And some are easy, some are hard. Quora, Reddit, very easy to integrate into a workflow. Wikipedia, very difficult. And Wikipedia is more meant to be the official encyclopedia of the internet, not a thriving, active discussion environment. So for something like Wikipedia, we recommend dialing back the frequency and really taking. . . If we're building a page around a company on Wikipedia, we're saying, "This is going to take us 12 months to do." You have to go in real slow and real light with Wikipedia. You can't just start pushing stuff to the Wikipedia domain and have it accepted.
Chris Raines: It's got to be accepted by the team of moderators, right?
Michael Utley: That's right. And so Wikipedia has a very different kind of filter. But once you get in there and get established through best practices for publishing to Wikipedia, having that URL pointed back to your website will be very valuable. And we've done this a number of times, but we talk about it as a six to 12-month strategy. You can't just go load up a bunch of your sales propaganda onto a Wikipedia page about your company and expect it to stay. It won't stay.
Michael Utley: Number three, live out of an editorial schedule. Whatever your plan is, whatever you're planning to do and engage, it's going to have to depend on consistency rather than passion or how you feel. If you assign to your CEO to go out to Reddit once a month and say something smart, they're going to do it once. Nobody's going to say anything about it, and then they're never going to do it again.
Michael Utley: What you have to have for all of your online marketing as a central repository of dates, formats, and who's doing what. And we call that a master editorial schedule. And your posting to these off-site properties to get inbound links are no different. Put it in as separate rows with dates. If you're using Basecamp or some other project management software to run your business, break these up as separate Basecamp actions and run the play. Don't do it for less than six months or a year without evaluating it. Excuse me, don't do it for less than six months or a year before you evaluate it. Don't judge it too quickly. You got to run this type of tactic for six to 12 months to even get a little flicker of value out of it, because what's happening is those inbound links are getting built over time. And it's just one tactic of a full, robust SEO strategy. Chris, why don't you take us out with our last item.
Chris Raines: All right. Last one. And this is more of a user experience thing than an SEO thing. I don't think it affects your SEO at all, but it's to make sure when you do link externally to your website—
Michael Utley: Or off your website, yeah.
Chris Raines: ...off your website, make sure that it opens in a new tab. So most content management systems will allow you to control whether you just zap someone in the same window to the new website or if it pops open a new tab. And so we want to include links to references from the website that are relevant to people, but we don't want to unnecessarily draw people away from our website. So if you don't link it into a new tab, you run the risk of losing that visitor. And that's one less person that will lose track of you and maybe not convert, maybe not call, whatever. So a good middle ground there to serve the users in terms of providing them information and not lose them down a wormhole is to make sure that all of your links open in a new tab.
Michael Utley: Yeah. And I would add to that, I don't like ever having a link to offsite in the top nav of the website. I think if you have in your top nav something where you absolutely have to link somebody away from the site, what I would prefer is take them to an intermediate page where you explain, "Hey, this is going to be an off-site website. This is what's going to happen." But if you absolutely have to have something at the top of every page that takes people either to a login screen or a customer portal, something that's just, by definition, got to be on a different domain, I would take that and break that out as a button or a link separate from your main navigation area. I think if you have something like customer portal or patient login, get that often up into the right somewhere in a different corner so that when they're on your main nav area, they're thinking, "Okay, this is where I can kind of drill in and find what I'm looking for to do next." And all those links should be two pages on the same domain.
Michael Utley: Good. Hey, that's Episode 54. Thanks, everybody. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn (@DodgeballSEO) and drop your questions there. Please subscribe and follow us on YouTube, in particular. Thanks. We'll see you on the next one.
Chris Raines: See you later.