Table of Content
- Titles & Metas
- Website Silo Architecture
- URL Structure
- Alt Tags
- Page Speed
Social & Web 2.0
- Branded Social Media Profiles
- Branded Web 2.0 Properties
- Consistent NAP
- Correct pre-existing citations
- Check competitor’s citations
- Reviews & Ratings
- Competitor Links & Anchor Text
- Building Domain Authority
- Pillars of Content & Outreach
- Other Link Sources
In 2012, Google processed somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.2 trillion searches. Since then, the online giant has seen a relatively stable 10% annual increase in search volume growth for the last 3 years.
That’s a staggering figure.
Moreover, 43% of these searches have local intent.
Meaning – there’s a great deal of profit to be gained for small businesses from organic search engine traffic.
However, due to this large amount of potential online commerce – the competition to attain top Google rankings has become increasingly cutthroat over the first half of this decade.
We all want a slice out of that pie.
And with Google’s latest advancements in their algorithm’s technology, getting that slice has become slightly more difficult with the passing years.
Back in 2008, ranking was a matter of “throwing the kitchen sink” at your website in terms of backlinks. Now the game’s much more sophisticated.
There’s a myriad of factors that are weighed by Google’s algorithm which must all be targeted as part of your entire search engine optimization campaign.
Some of these factors include:
- On-Page SEO
- Social Media & Web 2.0
- Inbound Links
These are some of the key elements that when executed properly create a holistic web presence for your business.
The On-Page & Off-Page efforts create authority and relevance. Citations, Social Media & Web 2.0 promote trust and brand exposure. User Experience, Conversions and Traffic are by-products of a properly executed SEO campaign.
Without further ado, let’s examine each one of these elements carefully.
On-Page SEO is the foundation of any search engine optimization campaign. No amount of link building or traffic generation can ever make up for a slipshod On-Page implementation.
There are various aspects of On-Page SEO that we’re going to be discussing here but let’s start with the most basic and arguably the most imperative element:
A web page’s title tags are the most important on-page ranking factor and they’re very easy to get wrong. People have a tendency to make long titles that end up being ignored and subsequently changed by Google in the SERPs.
My best advice is to follow this simple rule:
Always have your main keywords first, followed by your brand’s name.
Clearwater SEO Company – Alvarez Web Services
This lets Google know what you’re primarily targeting and your brand’s name helps in click through rate. Here’s a snippet preview:
Something else to note here is that the “meta description” is not used for further optimization but instead to provide information and garner more clicks.
Having your keywords in the meta description can and does help, but it does not make nearly as big an impact as a correct title tag.
Website Silo Architecture
Website silo architecture is my bread and butter. By far the most potent ranking technique out there – bar none.
Now, I’ve already written a 4000-word beast resource on the proper implementation of site structuring but I’ll briefly touch on it as it’s my favorite subject to talk about.
The art of structuring a website based on grouping clusters of semantically related information to enhance relevance and link juice distribution is a forgotten one.
Appropriately enough – we’re now moving into what’s being dubbed “The Semantic Era” or the Web 3.0.
Where Google is beginning to utilize A.I. technology to return search results based on semantic information, user intent, amongst other elements. (i.e. Rank Brain)
This means that silo architecture is beginning to become a much more important aspect of search engine optimization as On-Page factors are receiving more weight in the new algorithm.
The main object of SEO Silos is to create a cohesive structure within your site by grouping together like content (as indicated by your title tags) which strengthens your relevance and skyrockets your rankings in Google.
Additionally, through the proper use of internal links – it would then take 90% less inbound links to produce a top 3 ranking on any given query.
Check out an example below:
Secondly, take a look at the permalink structure (also called URL-String) of your website. What your URL says also helps Google interpret as well as the users know what page they’d be going to.
It’s a great indicator of a web page’s relevancy.
This is a big reason why exact-match domains tend to rank a little easier than others.
The basic premise here is to have your exact keywords in the URL as shown in the figure below:
As you can see in this example – this website has a clear hierarchical structure that is both useful to the user and Google.
While this is not always possible to implement with established websites as it’d cause some serious damage – webmasters should strive to structure their permalinks in a coherent fashion.
H1 headers hold a significant amount of weight in Google’s algorithm as they help search engines decipher the relevancy of the page.
As such – smart use of them is absolutely critical.
I’ve found that the best way to leverage their power is to put semantically related keywords on your H1 tags or slight variations of your main term.
This way you can rank for a broader range of keywords rather than just the primary term you’re going after.
The terms you use here should be dictated primarily by your keyword research. Never use random headers and assume Google’s going to know what you’re talking about.
That’s downright detrimental to your search engine success.
Use related keywords and / or synonyms.
This is another severely overlooked element that holds a significant amount of weight in Google’s algorithm.
The “alternate tag” is what Google utilizes to process an image’s meaning as it cannot yet read an image’s graphics.
Therefore, it’s critical to employ the proper use of alt tags.
At the mercy of sounding redundant: use either your main keywords, slight variations of it, or related terms which are dictated by your keyword research.
Never assume that just because you have a picture on your page Google’s going to know what it is specifically.
You could put a picture of a giraffe with the alt tag “dentist Miami” and it’ll boost your ranking. However, the users on your site might question your sanity.
That was just a rough example to really drive that point home.
Be smart with your alt tags, and Google will reward you. Often times, the difference between a #1 and a #2 ranking is the proper optimization of images.
And if for one second you don’t think that there’s a significant difference from a #1 and a #2 ranking – you might be surprised:
There’s a huge drop-off and a noticeable drop between the top 3 spots in Google when it comes to click-through-rates.
The loading time of a web page has recently become a prominent Google ranking factor.
Extensive research has shown that users heavily prefer pages with quicker loading times. At the same time, pages with elongated waiting periods tend to have abysmal conversion rates.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance to optimize your site’s page speed. Luckily, there tends to be a pattern amongst slow pages on the internet – at least according to my research.
Here are some of the biggest culprits behind slow-loading websites:
- Poor coding
- Some themes tend to have long lines of codes that drastically delay loading time. Often times, this is out of our control, so it’s important to choose themes with optimized coding frameworks.
- Un-optimized Image Files
- I’ve ran into many websites that have thousands of large pictures files, many of which are not used at all, and this tends to decrease site loading speed exponentially. Optimizing image file sizes is imperative – especially for bigger sites.
- No Caching
- Caching your web pages is incredibly important and this alone can skyrocket your web page’s loading speed. The use of caching plugins with the correct settings will do the job nicely, rarely ever will you need any advanced techniques here.
- Non-responsive theme
- It’s 2016 and Google has reported that over half of its search traffic comes from mobile. Web pages that are not mobile-friendly are receiving severe penalties from Google so it’s important to adjust right away.
Asides from those 4, there are some lesser elements that can hinder your site’s loading time and these are factors like:
- Too many high resolution images on a page
- Unorganized layout
- Bulky content above the fold
- Incessant pop-ups
- Non-use of content distribution networks (CDN)
- Cheap hosting
- Cheap registrar
All these elements should be easily spotted by a professional search engine marketer and dealt with before the start of any campaign.
Slow websites just have a much harder time producing significant ranking results.
This is why I often take a “minimalist” approach to web design and focus primarily on the necessary elements that need to be present on any given page.
Social Media & Web 2.0
Having a brand presence on social networking platforms and web 2.0 properties is necessary in today’s era of semantic search.
Not only is it necessary to build a strong online presence but also as a foundation to your search engine optimization campaign.
There’s an intangible “credit” given to websites that have an online brand associated with them, it promotes trust from Google who values heavily the use of branding.
A few years ago, people would simply make exact-match domains with no brand associated with them simply to game and manipulate Google’s algorithm.
As such, the big G started incorporating “brand” related factors into its algorithm to enhance the quality of its search results.
If you type in Google “Alvarez Web Services” you’ll see all the platforms in which I’ve created a brand.
This has helped increase my rankings exponentially.
I even did a press release to enlarge the reach of my brand. This is a very important factor that needs to be taken into consideration.
Here are some valuable social media and web 2.0 sites in which you should create an optimized page to strengthen the presence of your brand:
- Google My Business
These are the ones I personally use, however, you can also make any others you want. An added benefit is that you not only control these platforms but also the anchor text of the link.
On top of that, these websites all have a domain authority of over 90 – so they’re powerful links as well.
With that said, let’s talk about another source of powerful links with a more local implication.
Some recent studies regarding click-through-rates have shown that the map pack in local searches seems to be drawing a considerable amount of organic search traffic.
And with Google’s ever-changing local search landscape – it’s imperative to snag a position in those top 3 spots.
When it comes to CTR, having a considerable amount of positive reviews on Google+ seems to have a positive correlation with the amount of clicks the page garners as opposed to its ranking position.
Given these reasons, digital services such as “reputation management” have come to be of importance to help businesses attract reviews and ratings from their past and present customer base.
However, in order to ascend to the top 3 positions – there’s some things you have to take care of.
Having a consistent Name/Address/Phone is paramount to your success in the map pack. As such, I always have my clients fill out a format which I then use for every single citation I build throughout the campaign:
|(City, State Zip Code)|
Once you have this down – it’s merely a copy and paste process which will yield tremendous success. But again, before that – there’s some things you have to take care of.
Correct Pre-Existing Citations
You most likely have some citations lying around whether you remember making them or not. Things like Yelp listings, YellowPages, BBB, and the likes all classify as citations.
Facebook Pages, Twitter Profiles, Pinterest Accounts and other Social Media Platforms also count as citations.
It is imperative that one goes back and revises old citations to make sure they have a consistent NAP all across the board.
There are services online that will pull up all your citations within minutes, but you can also check them by searching for your brand name on Google.
Once you’ve done this then you’re ready to move forward.
The point here is to know what your competitors are doing to rank well in the map pack. As such, we focus primarily on checking the top 3’s citations and consistencies.
A good rule to follow is to match all of them and then one-up them by building a couple dozen more.
By maintaining consistency and quality in these citations, there’s a very high chance of you ending up in the top 3 results on the local map pack.
Now there are some external factors at play such as the domain authority and the overall SEO-friendliness of your website – but assuming you have this handled, there should be no reason for you not to rank.
This is a big reason for why we delay the process of citation building within our agency until the campaign is underway – to make sure all bases have been covered as to enjoy a smooth ride to the top.
Note: The location of the user will also influence how the map pack is displayed.
Geo-tagged images and videos have tremendous application in local search engine optimization. They aid Google in not only establishing the relevancy of your page (through alt tags) but also by “adding” a location to the picture.
Nowadays, with social media – it’s very easy to use the geo-tagging feature. However, I still find people not utilizing this on a regular basis.
This is as simple as posting images on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Yelp and the likes and attaching a geographical location to the post with a link back to that particular page.
Yet such a small feature can provide you a significant boost over your competitors.
If you’re anywhere near as OCD as I am, and you obsess about ranking #1 (no one remembers who came in second place) then I’m sure you look for as many of these little nuances as possible to give you a lift.
Often times, being #1 in competitive niches is all about these tiny details that fly over people’s heads.
It’s easy to neglect these features because it is true that they don’t make much of an impact on a large scale. But when it’s a matter of going from spot #2 or #3 to #1 – it is the only thing that matters.
And as you know by now – the difference between those 3 spots in terms of revenue generation is substantial.
Start utilizing the geo-tagging features in videos and images when building citations – it’ll give you a massive advantage over your competitors.
Reviews & Ratings
Reviews and ratings do play a part in the map pack ranking algorithm. It’s another one of those little nuances that give you a tiny boost over the competition.
The problem is that not every customer is going to leave you one. As such, it must become a conscious effort from the business owner to extract as many ratings as possible from their past and current customer base.
One of the most true-and-tried methods is offering some kind of incentive to all those customers who leave a positive review and / or rating on your Google My Business or Yelp page.
Most business plans have some kind of “referral” program where people receive incentives for bringing in a friend with them.
A good strategy would be to also include this on your online reputation management plan. Although it may seem like a loss of revenue at first – increasing your reviews and ratings can be a huge difference on whether you rank in the map pack or not.
A top 3 ranking in the snap pack with positive reviews can garner as much as 20% of organic clicks, which can produce an immense amount of revenue for your business.
These reviews and ratings may also aid in conversion optimization.
Now let’s move on to the last element of this section:
If you apply all the aforementioned factors and you still haven’t cracked the top 3 results, it might just be a question of authority.
Perhaps, you might need to boost the power of your existing citations.
There are some ways to go about this but keep in mind that it’s relatively difficult to build links to a page that is not your website.
Most people don’t find a great site and then link to its BBB page instead.
HOWEVER, there are some things you can do.
- Interlinking your properties
- Some platforms allow you to add links to other properties of yours. Add your primary citations and social media profiles here.
- Some of these platforms include YouTube, G+ and Google My Business, Flavors.me, About.me, Tumblr, Blogspot, and WordPress.
- Linking from your own site
- You can write articles promoting your “write a review and get a free month” special.
- You can include links to your social media accounts from your home page.
- Add Yelp / BBB / Facebook / Twitter links from your footer / sidebar.
- Grey Hat Links
- This part here is optional so use it at your own discretion.
- Build web 2.0 links to your citations (Profile links, Forum Links, Comment Links).
- Use expired domains to link to your citations.
- Build links using automated tools.
In some instances, grey hat links may be necessary – however, not often. Usually this will be in competitive niches where other people are using grey hat and even sometimes black hat ranking techniques.
Typically these are verticals with very high pay-outs that are worth the risk and the use of churn-and-burn SEO. For example:
- Web Hosting
And while on the topic of building backlinks, let’s kick into the last portion of this post:
Link building is most people’s bread and butter, and with good reason. A contextual link from a relevant authority page will send a website to the top of any SERP in no time whatsoever.
However, such links can be tough to achieve. Most people give up on landing authority links and they resort to the next best thing: web 2.0 blogs, private link networks, automated links, and the likes.
And while these links do work – they simply pale in comparison to a properly executed link building campaign.
Let’s analyze some of the reasons for why Grey Hat Links work:
- You control the anchor text
- You control the link building velocity
- You control where the site links to
- You control the metrics of the sites you purchase
- Rankings happen rapidly
- Little resistance (no need to outreach / produce great content)
- Slightly safe when done correctly
Now, those are compelling enough facts for why people choose to go with grey-hat links. However, these links work best in smaller niches.
Unless you’re willing to invest a significant amount of time on building and maintaining a private network of links – this won’t work as well in competitive niches.
Which is why I tend to prefer white hat SEO. The link acquisition methods are easier to scale more rapidly.
As such, we’re going to focus primarily on white hat techniques on the next sections. It’s time to start thinking bigger.
Anybody can rank for a phrase with 120 searches per month; 200,000 competing pages and $5 CPC. That’s amateur hour.
Let’s talk 1,000 searches; 2 million competing pages and $23 CPC.
This is big league SEO.
“Divorce Attorney Miami”
“Cheap Car Insurance NYC”
Let’s get right into it.
Competitor Links & Anchor Text
The very first thing one should do when attempting to rank a new website is to check what the competitors are doing first. This includes On-Page, Social Media, Citations and Inbound Links.
You have to know what’s currently working for that particular SERP and emulate it in your campaign. Google literally tells you what works for any given search term you’re trying to rank for.
With that said, here’s the main things to be looking out for when reverse engineering a competitor’s ranking.
- Amount of referring domains (RD’s)
- The more referring domains a web page has, the tougher it’ll be to beat it. Don’t focus so much on the amount of total links but rather on the amount of RD’s.
- Strength of RD’s
- On that note, find the strength of these links. Are they on low authority sites, are they on high authority sites, or are they on high authority pages (the hardest to beat).
- Type of Links
- Find out the link source. Is it a blog, a web 2.0, a citation? What type of site is it coming from?
- Find out the type of link. Is it contextual (body of text), or a site-wide link (sidebar, footer, it appears everywhere on the site)?
- How did it get there. Is it a guest post, link round-up, an editorial, a paid, or simply a contextual link?
- Can YOU get on there? Be creative and figure out if you can in any way also be placed on that page or steal the link (more on this later).
The main point here is to figure out how the link got there and figure out how much of an impact it is making by examining the amount of referring domains and their strength. Also if you can weasel your way on that page.
- Anchor text percentages
- Figure out how much of their backlink profile is targeted. Usually, they should be more geared towards branded, URL and related anchors – a site with lots of exact match anchors generally means there’s active SEO going on.
- Pages with high amounts of targeted anchors tend to be filtered and sandboxed by Google.
- Often times, the difference between a website ranking #10 and the one ranking #1 is the anchor text profile.
- If building links manually, utilize your brand name or your naked URL for best practices. Avoid exact or even partial match anchors.
Building Domain Authority
The main purpose of behind a link building campaign is to build domain authority. The more referring domains a page has with strong link metrics – the quicker the domain authority will build.
Assuming a website is properly silo’d as instructed in my other post – 100 referring domains with decent link backgrounds will be enough to produce significantly competitive rankings.
With around 50 Referring Domains you can absolutely rank for terms like “Divorce Attorney Miami” or “NYC Real Estate”.
Real revenue-generating search queries.
You can start to see why trying to leverage private link networks can be difficult to scale at these competition levels. It’s a huge time and financial investment, they’re also more of a liability than an actual asset.
Producing white-hat links at scale is on the other hand – relatively easy. Also, there’d be no reason for a site to get penalized or slapped in any way, shape or form.
The actual acquisition of links will be discussed in the next section.
The real reason why one should focus on domain authority rather than building relevance through targeted anchors is because your On-Page Silo Architecture will take care of this for you.
However, if you have a relatively new site – you might find it difficult to rank for competitive queries without any inbound links.
As such, competitive rankings will stem from a strong website silo architecture with a properly executed link building campaign.
How do you build such a massive amount of quality links with ease? Simple.
Pillars of Content & Outreach
Right now, Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique is my go-to link acquisition practice. The core of this technique is to research keywords that have commercial intent where the top pages have garnered a significant amount of inbound links from other sites.
The main goal is to then out-do the content of that page by a substantial amount (and I mean completely blow it out of the water), followed by a massive e-mail outreach campaign to webmasters who previously linked to the original pages and informing them about your “new and improved” resource.
Following this method – it’s very easy to capture anywhere from 30 to 50 links on a monthly basis to catapult your rankings on Google. Subsequently, this will produce serious revenue for your business.
For instance, let’s say you sell marketing services for lawyers. The phrase “Lawyer Marketing” can be very lucrative to rank for at a $32 CPC and 390 monthly searches.
Writing a monster resource on the proper steps to take when doing branding and marketing for a law firm, as well as best practices and other useful information can be used as “link-bait”.
However, this isn’t always possible in every niche – so there must be other powerful link building sources to choose from. And there is.
Other Link Sources
Here’s some alternative link building methods that you can utilize when the above technique is not available for your niche:
- Donation Links
- Some companies will have a “sponsors” page where they provide do-follow links to people who made a donation to their site. These links are white-hat and they can be often be used with great benefit.
- Free web directories
- Directories like DMOZ can add great value and trust to your domain in Google’s eyes. Since it’s a heavily regulated directory, only real authority sites ever make it on there. As such, receiving a link from this directory can give you some real brownie points in the SERPs.
- Link Round-Ups
- Search out for people in your industry who do “round ups” and suggest your pillars of content to them.
- These “pillars” are very high quality posts that add an overwhelming amount of value to your readers. Most people will gladly link to these without even thinking about it. It’s always good to have 4 or 5 in your back pocket and being on the look-out for these link curators.
- Private Link Networks (As A Last Resource)
- If all else fails, you might have to go out and buy some expired domains in which you can build out your own little network of websites. However, this should only be used as a last resource since there’s a chance you might get penalized if you commit a mistake.
Wrapping it up…
This is the strategy that’s at the backbone of all our campaigns.
Whether it is for personal sites or for clients – it’s proven to work time and time again.
TL;DR – It revolves around creating highly valuable authority websites with cohesive on-page silo structures which are based around clusters of semantically related information, tied together by internal links to enhance the relevancy of the site.
Then through the use of pillars of content and various link building methods –reaching out to authority figures in your industry or community in the hopes of landing quality contextual links through providing value to their audience, or providing a better resource than the one they previously linked to (e.g stealing links).
Once this is being carried out, creating new and correcting pre-existing citations with the proper NAP format is next in the to-do list.
While maintaining consistency and quality in the building of citations, one should keep in mind to utilize geo-tagging features whenever possible.
At the end of the campaign, a top Google ranking should emerge on real revenue producing search terms. Often times, such rankings will stay for years to come with little to no maintenance.
If you need some more information or clarification, give us a call. We’ll gladly point you in the right direction.
Until next time,