In our first installment of SEO wrangling we talked almost exclusively about on-page SEO. While this is an extremely important part of SEO strategy, it is only the second half of the battle. Your pages need to be good when a user gets to them, but it doesn’t matter how good your content is if nobody sees it. This is where the off-page SEO work is important.
HOW TO FEED THE PANDA AND PENGUIN PART II
The first thing to understand is that the spidering programs that search engines use to rank your site don’t spend much time on them. After all, there are literally billions of pages to index. This means that there are specific areas that the spiders will target.
Once you understand how search engines index the multitude of pages that they come across then you can focus on these areas. Google assigns a Page Rank (PR) to each of the sites on the web. This rank is based on the perceived reliability of the information and the relevance of the information to the general public doing searches. Facebook has a PR of 10 while a new blog by Joe Schmo begins with a PR of 1. These page ranks are the number one factor in ranking a site during a keyword search. Of course, this PR number is derived from both on-page and off-page SEO, but it is extremely important that you understand the weight of each particular domain when you start to try ranking up your own.
Before we dig in to the wonderful world of off-page SEO, we need to discuss different search engine optimization techniques in terms of ethics. There are three categories of SEO: white hat, grey hat and black hat.
- White hat SEO is generally regarded as the ethical way of doing business. This includes using organic linking and honest page ranking techniques.
- Black hat techniques are just the opposite. These are akin to the dealings of two shady figures in the back room of a bar in Tel Aviv. They are the link sellers, robotic Twitter followers, networks of fake link baiters, etc.
- Somewhere in the middle is the grey hat technique. This is something that may not be above board but is still used quite a bit in the industry. This category would include buying Twitter followers, YouTube views or FaceBook likes to artificially inflate your rankings. This can be a good way to get your brand noticed in a market that is flooded with questionable competition.
Each of these styles can be seen in the three major areas of off-page SEO: backlinking, social networking and page load tweaking.
Backlinking is the heart and soul of all off-page SEO. This is where your credibility is put to the test. Google and other search engines count on web users to assess the quality of the content of web pages. This entire belief hinges on the practice of linking to high quality content. When a website links to another webpage it is giving it credibility. The more sites that link to your page, the more credibility the page will gain. The amount of credibility is determined by several factors.
Page Rank: The page rank of the page that links back to your page is the number one thing that the Googlebot looks at. If you get a link from FaceBook, remember they are PR 10, this will add much greater credibility to your page than one from a PR4 or PR6 site.
Anchor Text: The anchor text is the text on the page that contains the backlink to your site. The more targeted your anchor text is the more it will weigh toward your PR. So a backlink that says “Go to this site for more information.” Will rank your site for “this site” while one that says, “SEO techniques you can use” will rank for the phrase “SEO techniques.” Obviously the second one will give you a better result. If you come across a site linking to you with the first phrase, you should try to contact the webmaster and get them to rephrase it to something targeted on your keyword.
Link Ratio: When you are trying to place a link on an outside page, don’t waste your time with sites that already have several other links out to other locations. The more links that a page has to outside sources, the less weight is given to each link. For example, a Facebook page that links out to 25 other pages will divide its Google juice (ranking ability) between all 25 links. A lower PR page that only has one or two outbound links would only divide its Google juice between those two sites. Even a PR1 site would give more Google juice in that example. So find a higher PR site with few links and try to get linked from there.
Linking Page Age: A shortcut in determining approximate PR for sites is to look at the length of time the page has existed. Google is wary of sites that are less than two years old and will generally limit their Page Ranks.
Deep Linking: While it’s great to get links to your homepage, links that go directly to your content pages tell Google far more than the simple Homepage ones. These deeper links tell the Google spiders that there is quality content beyond the first page of your site. The more quality links you have beneath your site the higher your Homepage PR will get.
Paid Linking: While paid linking is not a no-no per se, it isn’t really a great strategy for long term success. You can buy ads with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo or any number of private ad agencies to drive traffic to your sites. This will rarely, if ever, help your PR because search engines ignore these ads. Buying a review, however, could be a good grey-hat technique. This could create a permanent link to your site from a single page of a higher PR site.
If you are serious about buying permanent links, stay away from directories as they have taken a hit in the latest Penguin update. This being said, there are still a few that are quite good; dmoz, best of the web and the Yahoo directory still carry some weight.
Leveraging your links through social activities is also a great way to gain page rank. Add a link to your homepage to the bottom of your signature in any forum that you participate in. This is one of the best ways to get some love from the link spiders. They generally drive people with similar interests to your sites. This will result in longer page view times and more backlinking opportunities.
Blog review sites are another new arena. Because several of these sites are simply a new way to pay for links, the search engines are starting to sniff them out and reduce their link juice. If you can get a legitimate blogger, one who doesn’t only do blog reviews, to highlight you, this is a good place to start. Google is very interested in blogs that update content daily.
Building a network of like minded individuals and cross promoting each other’s sites can improve the PR of the entire group. This will become a snowballing effect, as each individual page gains in PR, their link juice will do the same.
PAGE LOAD SPEED
The speed at which your page loads is extremely important to Google. In a world where click happy users will gladly head to the next site after three or four seconds, getting your page on screen quickly is a make-or-break skill. To keep load speeds down and keep the spiders happy, here are a few tips.
- Check your cache status. Make minor upgrades or changes to your site every few days to keep it on the spider radar. If the spider doesn’t see new content, it won’t re-crawl your site.
- Implement a robots.txt file. This file will tell the spider which pages to crawl. You can direct it to faster loading pages and away from ones with customer purchase forms or thank yous and errors. You can also use it if you have doorway pages that you want particular spiders to avoid.
- Use CSS files. These files load much faster than other types.
- Code your Java script from one page so it doesn’t have to be loaded on each individual page.
- Cut longer pages into multiple short pages and use a slide-show technique to get the first page up for view while the secondary pages are still being loaded.
- Define your height and width tags so images load immediately and don’t have to wait for the rest of the page content to load.
- Avoid using JPG files unless you need high quality resolution. GIF and PNG files load far quicker.
- Use W3C validation. This will help eliminate open code and optimize your page for web loading.