Website Ranking Factors For Small Business (Part 2 of 3)
In my prior article in this series, I discussed website On-Page Ranking Factors for small business websites. This article will cover factors that are considered Off-Page Ranking Factors and how they apply to a small business trying to achieve first page rankings for desired keywords.
Off Page Search Engine Ranking Factors for Small Business Websites
This first article will cover what is known as Off Page factors, meaning what can be done on the website itself. We will cover the following:
- Link Quality
- Embedded Link Text
- Number of Links
- Domain Age
- Social Media Shares
- Social Media Reputation
Inbound Link Quality
As a small business owner, you have no doubt been presented with so called “opportunities” to link your website with other web properties across the web. These solicitations often come in the form of emails or phone calls promising hundreds of inbound links to increase your optimization, often for a nominal fee per month. The other form of linking small businesses are often presented with are paid links from local directories such as: dexknows.com, yelp.com, yellowpages.com and others.
When considering buying links as a small business, it is very important to weigh the quality of the links, and what if anything they will do for your website. Solicitations that promise hundreds or even thousands of inbound links for a very low monthly price I recommend steering away from. These links are often generated from spam activity to other websites, or they may even be links traded or bought through other webmasters. Paid links can get you penalized by the search engines. No matter what kind of testimonials, reviews or whatever you see from these folks – however tempting it may be – don’t do it. SEOMOZ did an experiment with paid link building, you can watch the video here on why paid links are bad.
The second form of link building for small businesses above is links from local, trusted directories that Google and other search engines consider “Authoritative”. I do recommend this, as it will help the search engines understand what your small business does – and when you tell Google what you do, and an authoritative source says the same thing – that’s a good thing. I do however caution small business owners to buy listings on local directories for the right reasons. In my opinion the only thing you are looking to achieve with these local directories is getting the authoritative juice from them. This can be achieved many times with just a basic listing and profile, which often can be bought for under $40 per month. Many of these local directory companies (sometimes referred to as IYP’s or Internet Yellow Pages) offer so called variations of pay per click and SEO services, I recommend steering away these services as almost 100% of the time they are optimizing “doorway pages” to your site. They call these doorway pages many different things such as: store fronts, business profiles, 1 page websites and more, but the bottom line is that they drive the traffic to their site and not yours.
Embedded Link Text
There is a lot of speculation these days from different SEO experts on the value of embedded link text on your website…but since this article is related to SEO OFF your website, I won’t go into that. Embedded link text is the practice of try to achieve what is known as “link juice” from another web property.
Whether the website you are trying to gain juice from is a blog, forum, or maybe just a related type of business, embedded link text is nothing more than placing a link on another site with keywords you hope to be found for. For example in this article about Link Juice you can see that the person who wrote it linked the following terms: Link Juice, High Quality Backlinks and SEO Link Building Service. The hope here was that they would rank for these terms – which worked because I searched Link Juice and found them in 6th position.
Number of Links
PageRank is an algorithm that Google uses to measure the popularity of a website, page or post in relation to competing websites, pages or posts. I won’t even attempt to explain it further as the algorithm was developed by the famous mathematician John Nash – winner of The Nobel Math Award – he had a movie made about his life called “A Beautiful Mind” which starred Russel Crowe and Ed Harris.
Here recently Google has changed the way it applies the PageRank Algorithm to websites, but for purposes of local small businesses essentially it boils down to how many quality websites link to your domain. These days inbound links can be achieved through social media also…maybe the start of Link Building 2.0?
How long have you owned your domain? How long has it been registered? How long till it expires? These are things that the search engines check. A domain that’s been active for 10 years will be considered as a more trusted source than a domain that’s been active for 6 months. Unfortunately websites come and go for many reasons, if you’re the new kid on the block, registering your domain for longer periods shows the search engines that you are serious about your commitment to your website for years to come.
I’ve been in the internet marketing arena for almost 10 years now. Eight years ago when I would meet with small business owners, often the question was “do I really need a website?” and for obvious reasons I always said yes…fast-forward to the last few years the question is now “do I really need to do social media?” and again my answer is the same. Google and the other major search engines look and grade on how people socially engage your business, website and content. Whether someone is sharing your business on Facebook, or someone is Digg’in your website, it’s all tracked. How people are engaging your business right here, right now matters – not matter if you use social media or not. With the roll out of Google+ and the popularity of other social media sites, it’s something that can’t be ignored by a small business.
Social Media Reputation is a measurement of who shares your information on social networks. This is probobly one of the biggest reasons to get involved in article writing and blogging. Small business owners in local areas are in a unique position to set themselves apart as locally trusted sources on social media outlets by publishing high quality content that demonstrates their expertise in a certain field. 98% of small businesses will never take it to this level, so that leaves 2% to propel themselves ahead of their competition – garnering valuable real estate on SERP’s and social media sites.
Have you let the search engines know where you pull your customers from? The search engines realize that local search is huge, Google estimates that 20% off all their queries have local intent. Not telling the search engines your service area will leave your business in the dark to consumers looking for you outside of your immediate area. Google Places, Yahoo Local, Bing Maps, your website content, and those authoritative sources we spoke about before are great areas to start letting the search engines know where you serve.
Next article in this series will be: Website Ranking Factors for Small Business – Things that will hurt your website