search engine optimization — basics
Build Connections and Links with Your Community
All of the previous elements are controlled within the site. All of these are the necessary foundation for building good SEO. Even if executed perfectly—a tough presumption—these preceding elements are not sufficient.
A significant amount of SEO is based on links to your site. Other web sites will link to your site because you have good, valuable content. Search engines use this inbound link information to rate the significance of your site and its content.
There are two elements that determine your place on an SERP. The first element is content relevancy. This relevancy is based on content analysis, how well you structure your content and how well you inform the search engine bot of your content. The second element is an analysis of the inbound links to your site to determine how valuable your content is to the larger community.
This link citation index or link popularity is based on the number and quality of the inbound links. A link from the Washington Post home page is intuitively more significant than a link from a hyperlocal site that serves a rural community of 2,000 residents. The link citation index takes both the number and the importance of inbound links into account. Each search engine has a unique method for actually calculating the citation index.
The Google Toolbar (for Firefox and IE) will show the a numeric pagerank for pages you visit. While the number is in fact a range, the displayed number is sufficient to determine a pages relative pagerank value. The scale displays an whole number value from one to ten, the higher the number the better. The scale is also logarithmic. Each numeric increment indicates a site jumps 10 times in significance. By using Google Toolbar pagerank you can see the relative ranking of sites as you travel the Internet.
Developing inbound links is both an organic and a planned process. As you develop great content people will find it and link to it. The better the content the more referrals and the more sites will link to your content. This organic process is well served by the attention to detail that makes your site easy to navigate and makes your well-structured content easy to use.
However, sitting back and waiting is not going to move the needle much—or move it very quickly. Here are considerations for developing your inbound link plan:
- Have a site brand and identity. In addition to having great content, have a strong voice. Set your site apart from the noise by providing clarity, focus and a unique perspective.
- Build a solid base of good evergreen content that can continue to grow and will be an ongoing resource for your audience—and a reason to bookmark and refer your site.
- Submit your site to general directories including dmoz.org (an open source directory project). Only submit to sites that have actual hard-coded links back to your site. Script driven URLs do not help your SEO. You can determine if a site uses hard-coded links by viewing the source code and searching for one of the URL links.
- Do not submit your site to Free for All sites. Sites that take "anyone" without any screening are just spam factories and links from them have no SEO value.
- Link Exchanges are just that. In general, link exchanges done solely for SEO are not part of a news organization SEO plan.
- Thank sites and bloggers that link to you with a personal email. The personal touch counts in the virtual realm just as much as in the traditional marketing world.
- Engage in your topic by quoting, linking, adding comments to other sites, and highlighting the good work of others.
- If someone does link to you with "click here" anchor text, send them your preferred, reasonable link text and politely request the change.
- Link to others first. Community news publications can do a valuable service by linking to active community organizations and to community services.
- Invite others to write a column for your site.
- Offer to write a column for other sites that explains why your project has benefits for that audience.
- Use Twitter. News consumers are heavily represented on Twitter. Feed your followers with news and information that is significant. Have a "voice" for your Twitter feed. Automated Twitter feeds—except for important breaking news stories or subscribed alerts—don't work well. Create a hash tag for special events and breaking news stories.
- Make it easy for your readers to share your content on digg.com, delicious.com, reddit.com, techmeme.com and others. Make it easy for readers to email and repost your content.
- Create content widgets your readers can post to Facebook, Myspace and blogs. KDMC has a tutorial: Creating a Publication Widget.
- Create a Facebook fan page and keep it active. Tie your Twitter feed to your fan page news feed. Give your fans "advanced access" to special features. Invite them to "beta test" new content areas or provide feedback on new initiatives.
- Create a Myspace page and keep it active. The demographic differences between facebook and myspace mean one "social networking site" will not reach your all your market segments.
- Partner with your community/audience. Ask your audience for tips, leads and ask what the community considers important. Ask for content you can use including photos, videos, opinion pieces and local news reports. Ask for feedback and suggestions on how your site can be more useful and helpful. Create a virtual suggestion box and post suggestions and your replies.
- Checking links to your site is easy—type: link:www.example.com into a Google search.
If all of the above appears to be great deal of work, you have the essence of the scale and scope of the job of building good SEO. This tutorial is a basic presentation of SEO. A Google search of "advanced SEO topics" or attendance at a national conference on SEO will reveal deeper levels of work in SEO.
The good news is this tutorial presents the essential first steps and when you implement these basics you will see a significant improvement in your traffic and audience engagement.