Friday, April 20, 2007

Two Sides to Every Story

Search Engine Optimization, Back to Basics, Part 3

There are at least two ways to look at everything. Most of those are opposites: Dark and light, healthy or sick, smile or frown… Sometimes, the two sides of an issue support each other: Spaghetti and meatballs, hamburger and fries, rock and roll, that sort of thing…Well, it’s that second category that suits the search engine optimization world, and the topic of our conversation today.

In order for your website to rank well on the search engines, it has to effectively use two factors. These are: On-Page Factors, and Off-Page Factors.

The on-page factors are the elements that are on your site directly, built into it’s visible and invisible coding that can impact your effectiveness. Usually, this means having strong keywords and keyword phrases scattered throughout your website. These keywords need to be relevant to your content, sought after by your audience, and not as common out on the ‘net. They have to be used in the right places in your site. With the on-page factors, what you’re essentially doing is building your site so that it works.

How do you do that?

  1. First of all, do some research and discover what keywords to use in your site. Imagine one of your customers. He’s sitting at, and wants to search for something your website has. So, he types it in, and hits the “Search” button. What would this imaginary guy type, if he was looking for your products? The words you use for search engine effectiveness MUST be relevant to your site.
  2. Then, you’ll want to test them. Do a search with the words you’ve imagined. How many other sites use that same word? It’ll be a lot, trust me. But by narrowing your searches, you can get that to a relatively low level. Use sites like to test which words are being sought, so you’ll know which words are in demand.
  3. Third, make a site that’s full of good content. Information is what people are looking for, so provide it. Search engines will appreciate having some good substance to index. And, if that substance happens to have good keywords in it, well…
  4. Finally, stir the keywords into the content. Just like too much pepper can spoil a soup, too many keywords and too many repetitions can ruin the flow of your text. Still, it’s good to mix it up.

The off-page factors are the elements that are not on your site. Most of all, this involves linking. Specifically, it involves getting other sites to link to your site. This can be a challenge, since you can’t just log into someone else’s website account and add your site to his “Favorite Links” page. You have to show them that there’s a reason for them to do it for you. You have to be able to offer them something of value.

How do you get people to link to you?

  1. The easiest way I’ve ever seen to get an inbound link (someone linking to you) is a reciprocal link. That’s a win-win, you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours kind of arrangement, where you contact the owner of another site (relevant to yours), and tell them you’ll link to them if they link to you. In addition to helping with search engine ranking, it also benefits by bringing direct clicks. That means traffic.
  2. Share your content. As you write articles and information to put on your site, offer it up to other site owners. Tell them that you’ll let them reprint it for free, as long as they link back to your site. They get good content for free, you get a linkback. Another win-win!
  3. Contact bloggers and see if you can’t get them to write about you in their blogs. To do that, you have to have something of interest to the blogger, and more importantly, their audience. Usually, that’s something more than just a catalog of products.
  4. On some blogs, if you post comment on someone else’s writing, you can leave a URL which gets converted into a link. Be careful, though. Make sure that your comment is relevant to their blog, and something insightful. Otherwise, it’ll just be seen as blogspam and deleted.
  5. There’s no reason why the other site linking to your main site can’t be one of your own. Set up some other sites, and link them back and forth. Each one counts.

Balancing both of these factors can be challenging. But as you work your site, it will rank better and better, and soon you’ll be at the top of the list!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome (

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