You’ve Got Questions About SEO, and We’ve Got Answers!
Our clients often ask us questions about SEO, and for good reason! The rules of SEO seem to change frequently and keeping up with the current recommendations is a daunting task. Here, we answer the most common questions our SEO team gets.
We hope that you find the SEO answers you seek on this page. If you don’t please do not hesitate to call 888-886-0939 to speak with a member of our U.S.-based SEO team.
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What are backlinks and how can they help my website rank better?
We will start with a basic definition of a backlink:
backlink: an incoming hyperlink from one page to another website.
Basically, a backlink is any link on another website that points to your website. Here is an example of a backlink for Best of the Web found on our website:
The words "Best of the Web" are highlighted in blue, and when the cursor hovers over them, they become underlined. This embedded link is known as a hyperlink. Hyperlinks can be internal—taking you to another page on the same site—or external—taking you to a page on another website. In the case of backlinks, the link is external, and the backlink on our site takes you to botw.org.
I am sure you have clicked on a link like this before; a link that took you to a website that explained a term or expanded upon an idea in the article. The link you clicked on to go to the explanation page was a backlink. These links often provide useful information and—as we will discuss in this article—can help improve your search engine ranking when done right.
Now that we’ve covered the backlink basics, we are going to dig a little deeper into this often-misunderstood topic. My goal is to arm you with the tools you need to not only get backlinks, but to get the best possible backlinks; those that help build your brand and increase your reach.
All Backlinks Are Not Created Equal
Backlinks are powerful. They can be used for good—helping your website achieve page one status—or they can be used for evil—as part of link-buying schemes that do nothing but cause harm. Next, we are going to explain both high and low-quality backlinks, and show you exactly how to get the type of backlinks that will improve the search engine ranking of your website.
What Constitutes a High-Quality Backlink?
The previous backlink example was intended to show you exactly how backlinks work. However, I’d also like to use it to illustrate the benefits of high-quality, ethically garnered backlinks. By linking to an external site, we have consented to give Best of the Web a bit of link juice. The more people that link to the Best of the Web site, the better it is for the site’s search engine ranking.
Since Foster Web Marketing is a reputable business that often writes about Web-related topics, and since our website isn't crammed full of other external links—a sure sign of a link farm—Google will view this backlink to Best of the Web as high-quality and, hopefully, reward the site for the backlink. This is exactly what you want for your site.
You want high-quality sites that contain a link that point back to your website. What this does is show Google that you are respected on the web and that people often link to you as an authority. But as you may have gathered, not all backlinks are equally beneficial. So to begin with, we need to discuss exactly what constitutes a high-quality backlink.
- A high-quality back link is one that:
- Is relevant to your niche.
- Is from a trusted website.
- Sends in referring traffic.
- Is embedded in the content of the site, not listed in a sidebar.
- Is not paid or reciprocal.
- Is located near other high-quality links.
- Is from a variety of sources—not 100 backlinks from one referring domain.
- Helps your page rank.
- Is hard to get.
That last one, "be hard to get," is the most important. Why? Because Google knows when you try to cheat the system—when you buy or trade backlinks. You may not get caught in a week, you may not even get caught in many months, but you will get caught. So, even though getting high-quality backlinks is a chore, it's one worth doing. Next, I’ll show you exactly how to get the kind of backlinks that you need to fully realize your SEO potential.
How to Get More High-Quality Backlinks
It's important you that you understand that backlinks are something to be earned, not bought. To get the kind of backlinks that will stand the test of time—Panda and Penguin be damned—you need a link-building strategy based on one concept: hard work. You don't simply "get" them by buying or trading for them, you earn them. Here's how.
The Wrong Way to Get Backlinks: Backlinks have long been an important part of a successful SEO strategy. They are so important that many website owners and shady SEO companies began buying into link-sharing and link-buying services. But, like any cheat, Google caught on and has been steadily de-indexing these services and blog networks.
And if you cheat, once Google catches onto your cheating ways, your website is going to be in a world of hurt. All of the good, honest, organic work you've done on your site will be lost. Your SEO ranking will plummet. Forget page one, you won't even be on page 21! That's how powerful backlinks are. They have such great potential to elevate your SEO game but, in the wrong hands, can decimate your SEO efforts.
Cheap, fly-by-night SEO companies will try to tell you that they can dramatically increase the number of links that point to your site, and they can. But they cheat. They pay for your site to be part of a shady linking scheme, like a private blog network. This may work for a time, and you may see your page rank improve greatly. But with Google, Bing, and Yahoo getting better at spotting cheaters, you are going to get caught.
And the SEO company you gave your money to and put your faith in? Will they help you out when your site tanks? No way. You've given them your money, and they are on to a new scheme—a new, get-links-quick trick that will work just long enough for them to get paid.
If it seems too good to be true, it is. Never forget that.
The Right Way to Get Backlinks: There is most definitely a right and a wrong way to get backlinks. The wrong way is easy to figure out: don't cheat. The right way is a little trickier, and like all natural, white-hat SEO strategies, it takes time and effort to get quality backlinks.
Here are five ways to get quality backlinks:
- Enlist the help of reputable directories. Put your name and information on high-quality, human-edited directories such as Best of the Web, Yahoo, dmoz.org, and lawyers.com. Having your link on these reputable sites will give you a few powerful backlinks. Tip: Although dmoz.org is a free site, you will have to pay to be listed on other quality directories. Before you pay to be listed on any site, ensure that it is a trustworthy site, is free from spam, and contains high-quality content. I want to stress that there are precious few directories that are worth your money, so choose with caution.
- Produce effective link bait. If you write and publish interesting, well-written, and timely content, you increase your chances of getting natural backlinks. This is because good content gets shared and linked to. Tip: To create tasty link bait, think hard about what clients and those in your field want to read about. Be sure your content is free of mistakes, easy to understand, and furthers your image as an expert in your field.
- Be a guest blogger. Guest blogging is a fantastic way to get quality backlinks. Just be sure that you never pay for a guest blogging opportunity. This is a big no-no. Tip: To become a guest blogger, be sure that you are involved with the targeted blog. Share interesting posts and comment when appropriate. You should basically "get to know" the blogger. And, as always, make every piece you write interesting, informative. and well-written. Matt Cutts wrote about how guest blogging is dead, but if you are doing it the right way this is still an acceptable practice.
- Get involved. Another way to earn high-quality backlinks is to get involved in your community. Often, when you give money or time to a charity, they will reward you with a thank you on their website. Sometimes there will be a link that points back to your site with the thank you; powerful! Also, ensure that you're listed with local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce. There is almost always a link on these sites. Tip: Our SEO team came up with a brilliant way to use community involvement to earn top notch, sustainable backlinks. Elsewhere on our site we discuss how we created this natural, sustainable link-building strategy using the charitable work our client has done.
- Link out. When you link out to other reputable websites within your field, you give their website a little boost, a little Google juice. And sometimes, they may give you some back. In this “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” situation, many people who have been linked to will return the favor and link back to your site. Tip: This reciprocal linking can be a good thing, as long as it’s done in moderation. What you don’t want to do is link out to hundreds of sites just for the sake of linking. If you do this you are not only giving away too much of your linking power, if many of the sites link back to you, Google could get suspicious and deindex your website—a death blow in many cases.
We've Got Your Back(Links)
Want to know if Google is punishing your site for bad backlinks? Then get your free site audit today. After we comb through your site, we will give you a full report, free of charge. What you choose to do from there and how you decide to go about fixing your site is up to you. We can help make the changes needed, or you can use the information we provide to make the changes yourself.
For more information about our full line of website services, or to ask specific questions about backlink strategies, call 888-886-0939 to speak with a member of our U.S.-based SEO team.
Is it a good idea to delete old content from my website?
Deleting old content is an excellent way to improve your site, boost your rankings and provide a better user experience—but only when done the right way.
Identifying Unwanted Content
Before you begin the deletion process you'll need to determine which pages need to go. This process can be daunting, but it's necessary to the success of your website clean-up efforts. Your first step is to identify all the pages on your site that haven't been viewed in a year or longer. Once you have your list of neglected content in hand, you'll have to decide if the content on the pages is worth saving or not.
In general, if a page hasn't been viewed in a year, if ever, it's a safe bet that nobody is ever going to need the information in the content. However, before you delete unviewed content, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the information in the article relevant and timely?
- Is the content unique?
- Is it stuffed with keywords and little to no real information?
- Has it been modified before and still isn't performing well?
- Are page views extremely low?
If the answer to any or all of these questions is no, then it's probably a good idea to delete the page. But before you begin deleting left and right, know that there is a right and a wrong way to delete bad content. If you do it right, Google will reward you. If you do it wrong, your SEO rankings could take a serious hit.
The Proper Disposal of Unwanted Content
The most important thing to remember when deleting content is this: Never ever delete without implementing a 301 redirect. It doesn't matter if you don't think anyone will ever find the page, you must redirect traffic. Period! If you fail to do so, anyone who happens upon the deleted content will be shown a 404 error page. Now, 404 error pages don't just undermine confidence in your abilities; Google hates them. If you have too many 404 error pages your site will under perform.
If you're using DSS, implementing a 301 redirect is simple. We have built an automatic redirect into the page deletion process. This way you're reminded to pick a relevant page to redirect to each and every time you delete a page. If you're not a FWM client, then you'll need to get with your webmaster and ensure that each deleted page is properly redirected.
When redirecting, choose carefully. Proper redirection means linking the deleted page to the most relevant topic possible:
- First choice: Redirect to a relevant related page.
- Second choice: Redirect to a relevant practice area page.
- Third choice: Redirect to an associated overview page.
Under no circumstances should you link to your home page. Google doesn't like this and neither will website visitors. What they're looking for is information that answers their search query. So if they search for "Why my bunions hurt when it rains?" they should, at the very least, find information about painful bunions.
And one more thing: you'll need to repeat the 301 redirect process each time you delete a page. There is no quick fix here, no way to delete and redirect 10 pages at a time.
Is it Tedious to do a Content Audit? Yes. Worth the Effort? YES!
Don't let the process of identifying bad content and deleting it intimidate you. Deleting irrelevant, unviewed content may be painstaking, but it's pretty much guaranteed to boost your search engine rankings and improve user experience.
Just like all white hat, ethical SEO techniques, there is no silver bullet to ridding your site of old content. So dig in and get it done; the sooner the better! Once you have removed the bad content you should be left with only great content that attracts more business.
If you'd like help better understanding this process, call 888-886-0939.
I'm so overwhelmed. How am I supposed to find all of the mistakes in my local listings and fix them? HELP!
I've got a bit of bad news. As you feared, it's not as simple as it should be to find mistakes in your local listings and clean them up. Is it possible to do so? Absolutely, and we will show you how in this article. But is it an easy, ten-minute task? No. However, with a little perseverance and patience, we have faith that you can do it. Here's how.
To clean up your local citations, we suggest that you use the following websites:
- Yext. Yext is a fantastic service that finds everywhere your business is listed. This can be a long, long list. In addition to just finding your local citations, Yext will scan all of these listings, showing you everywhere there is incorrect information, missing citations, or missing information. This includes mistakes in your phone number, address, and business name—all of which are crucial to the success of your local listing.
- Whitespark. If your local listings are correct, but you don't feel you're doing enough to take advantage of local search, try using Whitespark. This service will find new, niche-specific local citation sources that you aren't taking advantage of. It will also give you links to your current listings, allowing you to ensure the information found there is correct.
Once you find any mistakes in your local listings, it's time to fix them. Some of the fixes can be as simple as logging into your account and changing a "5" to a "7" in your phone number, but others will be much harder to correct. It can mean contacting each host of the listing sites where your information is wrong and getting them to fix it. And while doing so is possible—we do it all the time—the process can be lengthy and daunting.
There Is Good News, Too
The first bit of good news is that you know what local listings are, and you recognize how important they are and want to ensure that you're getting them right. Huzzah! Also, you have come to us for the answers. At Foster, we are experts at creating and fixing local listings. We love digging into your listings, cleaning them up, and then watching as your local traffic goes through the roof. Seriously, what could be better than that?!
The other good news is that you now have the answer to your question, and you have a choice: go it alone and fix your local citations by yourself or enlist our local-citation cleaning team to help.
If you'd like for our team to take care of your local listing for you—be that creating a new listing, cleaning up a current listing, or helping you change your location—we'd love to help. To get going, just call 888-886-0939, and a member of our SEO team will help you make the most of local search.
What are local citations, and why do they matter?
Local citations are other websites on the internet where your business name, address, and phone number are listed. Back in the day, the only place you had to get your local listing right was the Yellow Pages. Now, your listing is scattered all over the internet and, when incorrect, has the potential to snowball into an avalanche of misinformation and missed opportunities.
How the Local Citation Snowball Gets Rolling
The three big names in local search are Yahoo, Bing, and Google. However, there are many other sites that pull your information from the big guys and one another. So if your information is incorrect on any of your local listings, it's likely listed incorrectly on multiple sites.
When this happens, your listing and your local SEO efforts could be buried under tons of incorrect listings, suffocating your local search power and threatening the life of your practice.
I'm Listed Where?!
Local search is a big deal, so there is a good chance that your information is listed in more places than you know. To find out where your practice is listed, we suggest using the free website Yext. Yext will scan local listing sites and let you know where—and how—you're listed on each of the 50 most popular sites, apps, and maps.
This handy tool can help you find any mistakes in your listings. However, it will be up to you to correct mistakes everywhere your local citations are incorrect. If there are many mistakes across many sites, this can be an extremely time-consuming process.
Another way to check your local citations is to request our free website audit. We will check to see if your local citations are correct and, if they're not, can take over the process of repairing all your listings.
No matter how you get it done, get it done. Incorrect local citations have a huge impact on your local SEO power, affecting your local marketing efforts more than you know. For help digging yourself out, call 888-886-0939 today.
Google has announced it will no longer provide keyword data about searches. What does that mean for my website?
In late 2011, Google started to encrypt its searches for users who were signed into their Gmail accounts while completing searches in Google. This resulted in an increase in “not provided” keyword data being recorded in Google Analytics. In layman’s terms, this basically meant that, as a website owner, you couldn’t see the search phrase used by someone who found your website while signed into his Gmail account.
Although this was a road bump for search marketers to analyze keyword data, we rarely saw the percentage of “not provided” above 30 percent for lawyers.
In recent weeks online marketers have noticed a steady rise in the percentage of “not provided” data being passed into Google Analytics. This all came to a head on Sunday night when Google redirected all searches completed in its search engine to encrypted search. This has increased the percentage of “not provided” for organic Google searches to 95 percent or more.
What Does This Increase in “Not Provided” Keyword Data Mean for My Website?
First off, this new change will in no way change the performance of your website. What it does mean is that there is going to be a shift in the way online marketers can analyze organic traffic to your site. Some things to keep in mind:
- Don’t freak out. Google is not the only search engine out there and others still provide this keyword data.
- This should only reinforce the fact that you should not be focusing on high-level vanity keywords, but instead long-tailed search phrases that convert.
- As always, write content to inform and engage human visitors to your site and not to help improve your rankings in search engines.
- Choose another yardstick. There is a variety of other measurements to help you understand the success of your law firm’s SEO program.
If you are worried about how this news will affect your law firm’s search engine optimization, please do not fret. Foster Web Marketing’s team of attorney SEO specialists can help make sure your website is performing well even after this big piece of news from the king of search engines. Schedule a free website audit to make sure your online marketing efforts are working the way they should be.
What is the difference between a referring domain and a backlink?
Before we discuss the difference between a referring domain and a backlink, it's best that we get on the same page by going over a few basic terms.
Just the Facts, Ma'am
- Domain: A domain is an organization's unique descriptor listed within a URL. For example, in the URL “http://www.honkeytonk.edu,” honkeytonk is the domain name.
- Referring Domain: Also known as a ref domain, a referring domain is a domain that backlinks are coming from.
- Backlink: A backlink is a link on another website that points to your site.
So a referring domain is where your backlinks are coming from, and backlinks are the links on the websites that link back to your site. Think of the referring domain as a phone number and backlinks as the number of times you've gotten a call from that particular number.
Why You Need to Know the Difference
If you've dug into your backlink profile or had us do so with a free website analysis, then you have seen how many referring domains and backlinks are associated with your website. But what do they mean?
What you're looking for is the ratio of referring domains to backlinks. If you have a ton of backlinks and not very many referring domains, your backlink profile is very weak. For example, if you have 10 referring domains and 110 backlinks, Google is likely dinging your site for shady backlinks, which negatively impacts your page rank.
They punish high backlinks and low referring domains because, when a high number of backlinks come from a few sites, it's almost always a paid linking scheme, such as a private blog network. Increasingly, search engines are de-indexing blog networks. If your website is connected to the de-indexed network, your ranking will be affected. Because of this, it's best to stay far away from paid blog networks.
Getting Better Backlinks
If you find that your backlinks are all coming from a few referring domains, you have some work to do. Begin by reading our advice on the best way to get backlinks for SEO. Using these tips, begin to slowly increase the number of backlinks pointing to your site. This will take time, but it's worth the effort. Google is always on the lookout for quality, natural backlinks and will reward your handsomely if you are able to obtain them.
Want more advice on how to improve your law firm website's backlink profile and increase your SEO power? Call 888.886.0939 to request your free website analysis or speak with a member of our attorney SEO team.
How can local SEO help my business?
When done right, local SEO has the potential to not only help your law firm, but explode your practice.
This is because Google and other search engines, like Yahoo!, recognize that their users are increasingly demanding high-quality, local results. To give their users—your potential clients—what they want, search engines have improved their algorithms to ensure that searchers get exactly what they want.
Getting in on the Local SEO Game
To get you started, I'm going to cover the basics of local SEO—what you need to know now about local search SEO:
- Grow where you're planted, or move. It's important that you know that local search results on Google work best when your business is located within the city you want to be found in. For example, if your personal injury law office is in Grapevine, but you want to be found in Dallas—and the Dallas personal injury market in Dallas is flooded—you may be out of luck. While you can and should put some effort into getting found organically in Dallas (e.g. including Dallas-centric keyword phrases in your content), there isn't much you can do in Google Local or Google Maps to get found. Some attorneys choose to move their offices or open a satellite office in order to get in on a more desirable city. Alternately, you can increase your efforts in Grapevine in order to be the top local attorney in your home city.
- The devil is in the details. If critical information—business name, address, or phone number—is incorrect on any listing site, your local search SEO power will take a hit. So, if you are Foreman & Gary on one site and Gary and Foreman on another, or if your address is off by just one number, your firm won't be easily found during local searches.
- Realize the power of reviews. Reviews are an important piece of the local SEO puzzle. Reviews give consumers confidence in your services, and they send signals to Google that you are a business worthy of page one. If you don't have any online reviews, or if you only have a few, it's time to get an online review strategy.
Local SEO is all about taking advantage of your local market. To get help in doing so, request a free website analysis, or call one of our local SEO experts at 888.886.0939. We'd love to help you dominate your local market.
How do I improve my website bounce rate?
Trying to figure out Google’s and other websites’ analytics can be extremely confusing. What do all of the ratios and rankings actually mean? Since bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits compared to visitors who view more than one page of a website, the best way to improve it is to keep visitors on your site.
So let us answer this question instead: “What can I do to keep people from leaving my website?” Here are five simple things you can do:
- Add well-written content. Studies have shown that one of the main reasons visitors will click away from a site and proceed to block it from search results is because of misspellings and poor grammar. (Along with poor grammar, here are some more stats on why people bounce.)
- Add relevant content. Nothing will make a visitor leave in a click of frustration faster than discovering that your article had nothing to do with what you claimed it was about. Fluffing meta descriptions to draw people to the page will backfire if the page isn’t actually about what is described.
- Add call-to-actions to your content. Give people a reason to keep browsing through your site. Phrases like “check out this article on how to prevent car accidents” or “request a free copy of our book” will encourage readers to check out other pages.
- Add credibility to your content. Offering a wealth of common-sense information on your website at no charge shows that you are willing to take the time to educate the community. This shows that you are most likely an expert in your field.
- Add lots of content. Give people something to look at. It makes sense that a visitor would leave your site if there are only five total pages to view. Providing readers with pages and pages of options increases the chances that they will stick around for a while.
Want to learn more SEO optimization tips to help your bounce rate? Let the experts at Foster Web Marketing help you. Feel free to call us toll-free at 888-886-0939, fill out our online form, or chat with one of our live representatives today.
How do I choose the right keywords for my website?
Determining the best keywords for a website used to be easy when search engines like Google put most of their ranking emphasis on whatever one- or two-word phrases you chose to hyperlink. Since then, virtually all businesses have jumped on the website bandwagon and become aware (if not savvy) about SEO.
Now things are much, much different. While content is still King, the phrases and words you use are now only helpful if they have actual substance and meaning.
This means that you now have to do a little leg work. You must research what keywords will best suit your practice and utilize them across the all of your marketing practices, including in your videos, your social media, and on your website.
But how exactly are you supposed to find the keywords you need when you don't even know where to start? We know that the process of maintaining SEO can be confusing and a huge challenge, which is why our FWM SEO gurus put together a list of the top ways to determine keywords:
- Searcher intent. Take an afternoon to sit down and really think about what went through your clients' heads immediately before they made the decision to contact you. If you're a personal injury attorney, perhaps it was figuring out who would pay for the medical bills after the car accident. If you are a doctor, perhaps it was their foot pain when running. Ask yourself "Why would they choose you over your competitor?" Once you put yourself in your potential client's shoes, you will soon realize that "Gotham City attorney" or "Metropolis plastic surgeon" no longer cuts it as a keyword phrase.
- Avoid highly competitive keywords. We've already established that vague keywords like "Gotham City attorney" are becoming useless, but another reason to avoid them is because they are overused. You wouldn't keep spending money on a raffle if the odds of winning were very slim, so why would you keep pumping time and effort (a.k.a. money) into keywords in which you might never be found due to stiff local or national competition?
- Use layman's terms and avoid legal, medical or business-specific jargon. After decades of working in your chosen field, you are more than familiar with terms you use everyday. But you must remember that many of the people you are trying to reach have never even needed your services before, so you must use common terminology in your content and keywords.
- Use tools like Google's Keyword Tool or Google Analytics to get a jump-start on what people are currently searching to find your site.
- Ask us! We'd be happy to help you determine the best keywords for your site, or simply take over the whole process for you. For more information on how FWM can help, call us at 888-886-0939 or fill out our online form today.
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