Search engine optimization has become a necessary component of any modern digital marketing plan. If potential customers cannot easily find your website on Google, you are likely forfeiting sales to your search savvy competitors.
The problem for startups and small business owners is that vendors who specialize in search engine optimization often prescribe overly complicated and expensive solutions only to deliver lackluster results.
It is important to understand that Google is in the business of relevancy. It is the most dominant search engine in the United States because its users can expect the platform to consistently deliver the most relevant results for a given search query.
In years past, search engine optimization agencies could trick Google into thinking a website was relevant through spammy and deceptive means known as black hat search engine optimization. Through ongoing algorithm updates, Google has squashed those old tricks and will penalize websites or even remove them from their index if they are conducting some of those shady practices.
The key to modern search engine optimization is not to trick Google into thinking your site is relevant; it is to actually be relevant and implement best practices to reveal that relevancy to Google. Among the factors that can establish a high level of relevancy, backlinking, which is establishing links to your website on credible third-party sites, is and will continue to be the most potent. Here are four easy ways to generate backlinks and, in turn, boost your overall search visibility:
Contribute to Blogs and News Sites
The rise of bloggers and nontraditional news outlets, along with newspapers and magazines placing greater focus on digital content, has created a huge demand for contributed posts and articles. It is an opportunity for industry experts to engage these sites and secure opportunities to share thought leadership while earning valuable backlinks.
Investopedia, for example, has a robust platform for financial advisors to share personal finance articles. Regional business journals often consider guest articles from local business leaders. The key is to research blogs and outlets to identify the best, most relevant opportunities.
When those opportunities are secured, make sure to include a brief bio at the beginning or end of the article, per the outlet's editorial guidelines, with your company name linking to its homepage. In the body of the article, look for opportunities to link back to your own website content to earn multiple backlinks if allowed by the outlet.
Set Up Directory Listings and Review Sites
Creating directory listings and pages on review sites, many of which are free, are easy ways to generate backlinks. While manually researching these sites can be tedious, there are many free online tools and resources that can streamline the process. The search engine optimization platform Moz, for example, offers a free tool that shows where your company is listed, where it is missing a listing and where information is inconsistent or incomplete.
For review sites, I have talked to several small business owners who worry that creating a page might attract bad reviews from unhappy customers or former employees. The fact is those people can create a page and write bad reviews whether you decide to claim the page or not. By taking ownership of it, you can add your website to earn a backlink while also ensuring other information on the page is accurate and attractive.
Create and Distribute Press Releases
Press releases are a popular way to make positive, newsworthy company announcements. They also make for excellent backlinking opportunities.
Many small business owners have a false impression that their work is not worthy of a press release. The reality is, if you have hired someone, celebrated a milestone, launched a new product or opened up a new office, you have had perfect opportunities to issue a release.
View other companies' releases to make sure yours is formatted correctly, and make sure to incorporate backlinks in the body of the release and a link to the homepage in the boiler plate - which is a brief description of the company located at the end of the release. And to distribute the release across the internet, use a reputable press release distribution service like PR Newswire or PRWeb.
Earn Press Placements and Awards
Business owners cannot simply opt out of public relations. No public relations is bad public relations, which is why it is important to engage the media as an expert source and earn recognition for your work through award nominations. Additionally, by not engaging the press, you are missing out on backlinking opportunities with those outlets.
When you are placed in an article as an expert source, some reporters will backlink to your website when they mention your company, although it is important to understand that some will not due to editorial guidelines or personal preferences. You can anticipate this by reading their past articles to get a feel for how they typically handle linking.
For the do-it-yourselfers, there are services like Help A Reporter Out that help to match journalists with sources for their stories. For those interested in working with media relations experts, it is best to work with consultants or agencies with a full understanding of search engine optimization and a reputation for delivering tangible success.