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[Webinar] Understanding the fundamentals of SEO

Tim Kelsey | | June 21, 2017

SEO is a huge, complicated and sometimes overwhelming industry. If you've ever felt confused about how to strengthen the search presence of your site, then this webinar is perfect for you.

In this presentation, we discuss how search engines work, how they determine rankings and what you can do to improve your website's search performance. We'll also get into specific strategies for optimizing your website and building inbound links to help improve your keyword rankings and drive more organic search traffic to your site.

Note: We had an audio problem starting at the 2:00 mark, but it comes back in about 30 seconds later.

Download the presentation.

Video Transcription

Tim:
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the "Understanding the Fundamentals of SEO" webinar. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to join us today and learn a little bit more about SEO. Throughout the presentation today, we'll be talking a little bit about how search engines work and how they determining rankings and what you can do to improve your website's results.

If you're totally unfamiliar with SEO, that's fantastic. That's exactly what this webinar is for. We're going to help build that foundational knowledge for you and if you're already a little familiar with SEO, that's okay as well. We'll be getting into some specific tips and strategies that you can be using to improve your website and focus on your SEO.

You should have a chat option in your "Go To Webinar" control panel where you can submit questions to us throughout the webinar so if you have any questions that pop into your head along the way, feel free to shoot them in there and at the end of our presentation, we'll have a little bit of time to go through some of those questions.

Also, if you experiences any audio problems during the presentation, just shoot us a quick thing in that chat box and we'll be able to troubleshoot those issues.

Also, we'll have a special offer regarding some of the SEO services that we provide so make sure you stick around to the end and you can hear that special offer that we have.

My name is Tim Kelsey. I am the director of marketing services here at Pronto Marketing. I've been working in SEO and marketing related things since I started here at Pronto and I'm really excited to share some of my knowledge with all of you today.

Scott:

I'm Scott Pressimone. I'm the senior marketing consultant here at Pronto. I work on various marketing add-on services and I also provide general marketing guidance to our clients.


(This 30 second clip wasn't audible in the webinar due to a technical issue.)

Since online marketing can get pretty confusing, we group everything into 4 main categories: Web Presence, Content, Traffic, and Analytics. Web Presence means how you present your business online - this includes your website, your social media profiles, and your overall online exposure.


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Content is then used to provide value to your visitors through your sites copyrighting, blog posts and other maybe downloadable sources on your site. We did a whole webinar titled "How Content Marketing can help grow your business," back in April and we'll also include a link to that at the end of the presentation in case you weren't able to attend that webinar.

Now, traffic is about getting more visitors to your website and I know this is a very popular topic and, in fact, it's the one that we'll be focusing on today. Lastly, is analytics, which will help you figure out what's working, the areas that you need to make some improvements and we might even have a webinar on this at some point down the road.

Tim:
With that out of the way, we'd like to start off with a poll here to learn a little bit more about how much you know about SEO today and how familiar you are with it. I will be launching the poll here in just a second. Our question is how familiar are you with search engine optimization. Your options are I don't really know anything about it, I know I should be doing it but I don't understand it, I know enough to do some SEO work on my own or Hi, I'm Larry Page, co-founder of Google. In other words, you're very familiar and confident in your SEO skills.

We're going to give everyone a few more seconds to fill out the poll and we'll take a look at the results.

Okay, I'll be closing the poll in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Let's take a look at the results here. Seems like the majority of you know at least a little bit about SEO but not a ton and there's perhaps one person here who's very confident in their SEO skills, and that's fantastic. Hopefully, we'll be able to teach the majority of you quite a bit about SEO and whoever that very confident person is, hopefully you'll learn something new today as well.

Scott:
Alright, so for those who are less familiar with SEO, let's go ahead and define what search engine optimization means. SEO is the practice of improving a website's performance in the organic search results with the aim of improving keyword rankings and driving more qualified traffic and leads. To illustrate what this means, take a look at this screenshot here on the right.

When you go into Google and you search for something like "IT Support Philadelphia" you'll be presented with 3 types of results. Page search is at the top. Since we're using Google, the Google search engine, in this example, these page results are coming from Google AdWords and these paid searches have a little icon that says "Ad" next to them.

Next, is local results and the local results also usually show a map next to it as well. Companies listed here need to have an address in that local area and in most cases, they'll also have pretty good SEO on their site as well to get them higher in those results.

Lastly, you'll see the organic results, and this is what we'll be talking about today. This is the top 1, 2 and 3 search results for this particular term. One thing that you really need to remember here though is that SEO is a huge topic and it can't really be covered in one hour, so our goal is to kind of give you an overview and get you headed in the right direction so you can really start improving your rankings but of course, it doesn't mean you're going to necessarily end up as number 1 results for all the top keywords. It's really about getting you on the right track so you can start to make those improvements.

Tim:
It seems like we might have had some audio problems there and things got cut out. If you have any questions that something wasn't clear and your unsure about, just shoot into the questions box and we will get around to those at some point later in the presentation but hopefully we're done with the audio issues. It seems to be working okay now, so I apologize for that.

Before we can go into search engine optimization tactics and strategies, I think it's important to understand what a search engine does and how they do it. There are 3 main things that search engines today try to accomplish. The first is that they crawl and index as many pages around the internet as they can. They do this by sending out what are called bots which are essentially software tools that go around and discover new pages on the internet or go back and look at old pages that they've already discovered before and gather information from those pages and send it back to you a server where it can be stored until it's needed later.

The second step in the process is to be able to retrieve those pages and information from those pages when people search for something. Sometimes when you're searching in Google, it'll show you how many results they found for that search phrase that are potentially relevant for that search phrase.

Lastly, the part that you're probably most familiar with and the thing that we'll be talking quite a bit about today, is being able to rank those documents based on their relevancy for the keyword or how well the search engine thinks that information answers the question being asked. Google has spent billions of dollars building out their infrastructure to do this. They have trillions of pages in their index that can be searched through and they've come to dominate the world of search because they do a really great job of organizing all that data in a way that answers their user's questions.

That's something that I think is really important to understand and something that we'll be touching on throughout the presentation today is that search engines don't care if they send traffic to you. They don't care if your site is ranking well. They care about answering their users questions because their users are what bring money to search engines and without their users, they can't exist. That's something that's really important to remember whenever you're doing something with SEO is that ultimately the goal of the search engine isn't to do anything with your site, it all has to do with their users and giving answers to their users.

I think it's also important to understand the history of search engines to figure out how we go to where we did today. Back in the early 90's when the larger search engines first started coming out onto the market with AltaVista and Lycos WebCrawler and a few others, they were okay for what they did at that time but they were also very easily manipulated by people who wanted to rank 1st for a particular keyword. This was the case because those search engines were based on algorithms that were originally developed by scientists and professors who were setting up the very first computer networks at their research laboratories in universities. Those algorithms worked well when you're working in a closed environment with people who are working together to maintain the data and have very clean search results. It didn't work so well when you're dealing with something as huge and messy as the entire internet and when people quickly found out that ranking well for some keywords was very profitable, they're of course going to do whatever they can to rank for those keywords.

There are some pretty simple ways to trick these search engines into getting your site to rank. You could just throw in your keyword a couple hundred times on to a page and that was a clear sign to the search engines that "Hey, this website must be about this keyword and we should rank them for it."

In the late 90's, Google came around and flipped the whole industry on it's head and they did that by instead of only looking at the content on each page, they looked at how all these websites linked to each other and that was really important because they essentially added this 3rd party human element to how they determined rankings because instead of depending only on the website owner to provide content and provide information about what that site should rank for ... With a link, they're depending on another website owner, who's essentially saying "Oh, I'm linking to this page because I think it's valuable. I think it's something useful and I think my readers would potentially find it valuable," so Google started looking at that and that was really what set them apart from the other search engines at the time and led them on the path to where they are today to become the dominant search engine.

Scott:
I think a useful way to think about this is instead of trying to pick the best websites and web pages for every keyword, Google looks at the most popular websites and sees how they're connected or linked to other websites so good credible websites will likely link to other good credible websites and that's what they're banking on, right?

If there's some lonely website that was never mentioned on any other website then it's unlikely that it has great information so Google probably won't put that particular site or that particular page very high in the search results.

Okay. Now that we know that Google and other search engine companies developed algorithms to deliver the best results and the most relevant results to their users, it stands to reason that they want to keep it that way, right? They want to stay on the top, they want to keep doing that. What about the magic SEO button? You know, the button that business owners can push when they want to get their website to the top of the search results so they can get more leads, right? We all want more leads.

Sadly, there is no one click fix. It just doesn't exist and we can't update some tags on your website so that your listed number one in a competitive search term. It's just not possible because it goes against what a search engine's trying to do and the engineer's working at Google are pretty smart people, right? They aren't very easy to trick. You can come up with some tactics and you can try to trick it but in the long run, this sort of thing doesn't last. There might be some people advertising and saying "I'll get you number 1. I'll get you number 1." Realistically, that's not going to be a good long gain tactic.

Now, the good news is, I don't want to be all negative here. The negative good news is that Pronto does have a lot of experience setting up websites correctly so search engines can crawl and understand the content that's on your site, which really helps lay your SEO groundwork and what we'll be discussing today will certainly put you on a good path to improving your search engines over time because these methods that we're going to go over are all about providing useful content which is easy for users and search engines to find and help improve your rankings.

Let's break down SEO a bit into these two main categories. Onsite optimization refers to everything that can be controlled on your website directly. This is the content, the keyword usage, your site speed, the organization of your site and these things make it easy for search engines to find and understand the information. Offsite optimization is everything outside of your website. It's the history of your domain name, the reviews that you might have on other websites, your listings on business directories. Maybe even the links that are on other websites that are pointing back to your website to show that it's a popular site and a good resource and these things are also known, these links that I'm talking about, they're also known as inbound links or back links.

How do these optimizations impact your search results? Onsite optimization influences the relevancy of your pages for a particular keyword while offsite optimization influences how authoritative or popular the search engine sees your page. If you have a page on your site which is relevant to what the user wants and it's seen to search engines as being popular, then it's more likely that your page will be ranked well in the search results. The idea here is that you can't really have one without the other if you really want to drive traffic to your site. You want to be relevant and you also want to be popular, right?

Tim:
With that said, like Scott's been talking about, SEO's really broken down into these two main categories but within those categories there are a lot of different factors that can influence your site's performance in the search results.

On the left side of the slide here, we have a great info-graphic from Search Engine Land that they call the SEO the periodic table and this is a great job of breaking down all the things that potentially have a positive impact on your site's performance as well as a few things that can have a negative impact on your site's performance.

I'll go over this image a little bit and talk about a few key points but we'll be sharing this presentation with all of you when we're done and you'll be able to go through and click on some of the resources we linked to on these slides if you're interested in learning more and the Search Engine Land website does a great job of explaining these in more detail.

On the onsite optimization side of things, there are some really big important things that search engines look at and really, the biggest is your content and the quality of that content. Whether you are providing helpful information, if that content is unique and it's not just copied or scraped from somewhere else. There looking at how you use your keywords throughout the page and throughout the content of that page and using that information to help determine what potential keywords that page might be relevant for. They're also looking at the structure of the site, how your title tags and page headings are organized, how they're able to crawl through the site, if they're able to access all of the appropriate pages and they're also looking at things like the structure of your URLs or whether you're using a SSL connection for a HTTPS domain instead of HTTP. That's a fairly new development where Google's making this push to get all the websites out there a bit more secure.

On the negative side of things, they're looking at things that potentially show that your site is low quality. If your contents very thin or doesn't really provide a lot of detailed information, that can potentially count against you or if you're repeating keywords too often. It's called this tactic "keyword stuffing" where your throwing in the same keyword over and over again just because you think that's going to help you rank. Like I was talking about a little bit earlier, that was a tactic that was used to manipulate search engines back in the 90's. They learned from that, saw that people were doing it and now they actually check for it and if you do it, you can potentially have your sites performance hurt by that.

On the offsite optimization side of things, really the biggest thing involved there is links from other websites pointing to your website. We'll be talking about that quite a bit later in the presentation, but essentially, it's not just the number of links that are pointing to your site, but also the quality of those links. A link from a stronger website is going to carry more SEO value than a link from a weaker website. It also tells them how trustworthy your site is or what the potential is for your site to be spammed by looking at the quality of those links.

Then, on the negative side of things, they're looking if you have a bunch of low quality links, if it seems like you've potentially paid for links to built in the range of 100's or even 1,000's of links pointing to your site. Those are all potentially things that tell search engines this is not a really high quality site and we don't want it to rank so there are definitely some things you need to be careful with there.

If that sounds all pretty confusing already, there's some good news for you. If you're already a Pronto client, you really don't have to worry about onsite optimization at all. We have taken care of that for you. We've done the research to figure out what keywords are the best for you to target and we've placed those keywords throughout your website in the right places and throughout the content. We also do a lot of stuff to make sure search engines can crawl the right pages on your site, that they're not running into broken links or anything like that and our team of SEO experts is always on hand to help answer any questions that you have or help guide you through any problems that pop up. If you're not a Pronto client, there is an easy solution to that which is signing up for our services but we'll also be going through some onsite optimization tips here just so all of you are familiar with what needs to be done and how to make your website more friendly for search engines.

Scott:
Since you're taking the time to watch the webinar today, we don't just want to say take our word for it. We do all the onsite stuff for you, that's it. Just trust us, right? I mean, Tim's a trustworthy guy but again, we want you to also have a bit of knowledge on this as well so now I'm just going to go over a few of the best practices with onsite optimization.

The first step for onsite optimization is to research the most important keywords for your business. Tim will go into some tips on how to do this research but once you know your keywords, you want to group them into topic categories so for example, if you are a computer repair business, you might repair desktop PC's, laptops, netbooks, etc, right? These could all fall into the single topic category of computer repair. Now, on the other hand, if you also do repair phones, well then phone repair would be a separate topic category.

Next, once you have these categories, you want to create a page on your website for each topic category so not everything that exists, everything that maybe you could provide, right, but the main ones that affect your business. The most relevant categories for your offerings. For the pages that you're creating, you want to write helpful and informative content on these pages, so the content should be easy to read, it should have the relevant keywords in it and the keywords should be included throughout the page in a natural way. You don't go overboard with this but again, you stick to the topic that the page is about.

Tim:
One thing that will come up a few times during the presentation here is that SEO is a huge subject and it's pretty easy to give you a basic overview but some of these items that we are glossing over in a single slide deserve their own entire hour long presentation and one of those is how to research the right keywords for your site. I won't go into too much detail about it but I'll give you all a basic overview of what should be done.

Usually when I'm doing keyword research for a website, or for Pronto's website, I start off by brainstorming my own list of what I think people would potentially search for to find that page or find that topic and then take that initial list and put it into a couple different tools that can help provide some really useful information. Some of those tools include the AdWords keyword planner or Moz's Keyword Explorer. These tools give you information about how often people search for that keyword, how competitive or how difficult it might be to rank for that keyword and they can also give you ideas for other keywords that you maybe hadn't thought of that can help you expand that list. That should be your initial process to come up with your list of keywords that you want to target for each of your topics and then I think a final step that can be really helpful is going to look at your competitor's websites.

If it's a keyword worth ranking for, there's someone out there who's already done all this same research as well. You can go take a look at their site, get an idea of the topics that they're covering, the keywords they use in their content and just validate your results to make sure you're on the right track with your research.

Scott:
As I mentioned before, you want to be sure that your keywords are used appropriately on each page. The most important keyword should be included in your title tag and also in your heading. A title tag is what search engines and browsers display to help describe the subject of the web page. In this example, you can see from the Pronto site, the title tag is small business web design, website management Pronto marketing. The heading is this big bold text at the top of the page which tells your visitors what they're getting or what this page is about when they arrive on the page, so in this example, the heading is "The All in One Website Service".

The title tag and the heading don't have to be identical but they should both describe the subject of the page and to reiterate, when you're writing the actual page content, remember that you're writing for your audience, not just a search engine. You should be providing information that has value to your visitors. Also, keep in mind that search engines can understand synonyms, so you shouldn't be repeating the exact same keyword over and over again. As Tim mentioned, that's keyword stuffing and search engines don't like it so be sure not to do that. Write useful information on your pages above all else.

It's also important to make sure that your pages are visible to search engine. If a search engine can't crawl or index your site, there is no way that the pages will show up on search results so again, if you're a Pronto client, we make sure that all the appropriate pages can be indexed and we submit your site map to top search engines just making sure that they really know what is on your site and they can find you if they want to find you.

Another easy way to actually find out which pages on your site have been indexed is to just go to Google. Right in the little search bar in Google, type in "site:" then type in your website domain in the search bar, click submit and you will see all the pages on your site that are indexed and that Google can find.

Now, with all your pages set up correctly and visible on the search engines, you want to also make sure that you produce fresh content on a regular basis. Ideally, this would be once or twice a week but as much as you could handle would be good, right? Maybe that's not reasonable to start off at, and by refresh content, I don't mean going onto your site, your pages, your services pages just because. I hear this idea of "Oh, I want to freshen things up to make sure search engines see any new content," and it's not a bad idea to take a look at things from a fresh perspective and maybe change things occasionally, but that's not the sort of fresh content I'm talking about here. Usually with fresh content, I'm talking about blogging. The blog is an awesome place where you can write new content, on a regular basis, that provides value to your target audience, and what you can do here is think about the questions that your clients are asking for.

These can be questions that you really think that they might be searching in Bing or Google for and if you have an article or a blog post on your site that has an answer to that question, then that's a new opportunity for you to rank for that keyword or that phrase. Now, we go into much more detail about the blog writing and coming up with topics and planning and all that fun stuff in that webinar that we referenced and like I said, you can always go back to that presentation, that older webinar. We'll link to that a bit later today.

Tim:
One thing I'd like to remind everyone about, again, is that with all of this, with everything you do on your website, do it for people first and then consider how to make it better for search engines. Don't force a keyword to be used in a certain page just because you think it's important for SEO and likewise, don't create pages just because you think they'll be useful for SEO. Create those pages because they'll be useful for the people who you want to read them and one thing that actually comes up fairly often is the word count of a page. Search engines do tend to favor pages with longer content on them, with more words on them, but that doesn't mean that every page on your site needs to have 2,000 words. A page should have as many words as it takes to complete the purpose of that page and if the purpose of that page is just to get someone to fill out a form or get them to read something and move on to another page then maybe you don't need 2,000 words to do that. Make sure you're keeping your users and real people in mind before you do anything for a search engine.

Scott:
Now that we've got your website set up with the appropriate keywords and pages, it's time to start thinking about the offsite optimization.

With offsite optimization, links are arguably the most important part of offsite optimization and remember, links are that 3rd party human element to rankings that Tim had mentioned earlier. When Google sees other websites have links to your site for a specific keyword, this acts as a vote of confidence and it really signifies that your page is popular, that people really like it. If you're really authoritative or a really authoritative website links to your page then it means a lot and this little icon we have here, this little image you can see the yellow smiley face. It's a really big, powerful website so if this really good website links to your page, that means a lot. It has a lot of "oomph" to it, right? Whereas, on the other hand, the little green guys, they're good to have in most cases but they're not going to have as much as an impact so when you're link building, it goes back to the point of it's quality, not just quantity.

You could maybe start off with some of the smaller sites as you build up, but as your link profile gets bigger and bigger, it's going to be more important to build links from other websites that are more authoritative or more significant.

Another note to mention here is that links aren't the only offsite element that impacts your rankings. We focus on them basically because they're an area you can actually have an impact. You can't really impact how long you're domain name has been in existence, right? There's some things that you can't really do much about but links are one of the things that you can actually have an impact on.

Tim:
Alright, we're going to jump into our next poll here. I'll be launching it in just a second. We would like to know if you've every looked up your inbound link profile, the link profile for your website. Your options are "No, I don't know how to look that information up. Yes, but it's been quite awhile since I checked or Yes, I pay close attention to my inbound links." We'll give you a few seconds for everyone to put their answers in.

Alright, I'll be closing the poll in just a second. Let's take a look at the results. Looks like most of you haven't looked up your inbound link profile and don't know how to do it. That's no problem, we'll get into that right now.

Scott:
Right, yeah, 75% so I think this is a good slide. For those of you that haven't actually looked this up before, there is a free tool that can really help called Moz Open Site Explorer and you can visit the site and run a report on your website to see if you have any links on your site today ... I mean, you might actually have links and you didn't know about it, right? This will give you a good starting point and one thing to note here is that if when you're using this tool, don't go crazy with it because it is free but it only gives you 3 reports that you're allowed to run per day so maybe start with your own site and if you want to throw your competitors in there or something, do that too, but remember that you have that cap, okay?

Now, in this example here, it's for our website, prontomarketing.com, and with this report, you can see that we have 311,000 links going to our website from 754 unique domains and that's a lot of links, but you don't really need this sort of numbers. Since we actually work in this industry, this is why we've built up a lot of our own links over time. Having a few of them would be good so don't necessarily shoot for 311,000. That's a bit of a stretch.

On the left side of the report, you can also see that we have a domain authority of 47 out of 100. Domain authority is just a metric that Moz uses to judge the quality of your link profile so as a point of reference, many sites have a domain authority of maybe 10 or 20 or 30. 40's are pretty good, you're getting really solid, while on the other hand, something like Microsoft. They have a score of 100 out of 100, so kind of an unachievable goal for most but just to give you an idea, it is that sort of scale.

We can even dig into more detail of this report by looking at our page authority. The Pronto homepage that we've typed in has a page authority of 56 out of 100 while other pages on our site might have a lower authority and others might have a higher authority, so it all depends on what the actual page itself, how many links it has, how good the page is and this is going to have some ups and downs depending on the pages we're looking at.

Tim:
Once you've run your site through open site explorer, I also encourage you to check out this other tool, Ahrefs. Their link database tends to be a bit more up to date than open site explorer and they give you a lot of really good information on your link history and how your links have changed over time. Unfortunately, they don't have a free option where you can just search a couple times a day. You do have to create a free trial account, which ends after 7 or 14 days and then after that, you have to pay for their service but there's some really great information there.

Another thing I'd like to mention is that you shouldn't expect to see every single link that points to your website within these tools. Like I mentioned earlier, Google has invested billions of dollars into their infrastructure for crawling and discovering links. These companies have just a fraction of that level of money so they do their best to crawl probably on the range of billions of pages, which is quite a bit, and they can find a lot of the information out there but let's say you know that you have a Yelp listing out there that links to your website. If you don't see it within these tools, that's nothing to worry about. It just means that these tools don't have the resources to crawl that far into Yelp's site structure and find all the links there.

Scott:
One other thing to quickly point out here is that domain authority is a great thing to know, page authority is a great thing to know but these aren't the be all end all, so there really nice metrics to give you an idea but if you have a domain authority of 15 or 20 today and your competitor has a domain authority of 21 or 22, that doesn't mean necessarily that they're doing better than you in everything and they're always going to top you in the search results. With any of these things, it's not an exact science and what you're really looking for is trends and general things. If you're a 20, you'd hope to building that up over time. If you're building more links, you'd hope to have it slowly, steadily growing but don't look at it like it's the one thing to focus on. It's just another good data point to have.

Tim:
With that out of the way, we'd like to jump into some specific tactics that you can use to start building links to your website. One of the first things I'd recommend doing is reaching out to your network, to your vendors, your partners, your clients, anyone that you have a business relationship with and try to find a way that you can work with them to get a link from their website to your website. We launched this project for ourselves a year or two ago where we reached out to all of the vendors that we work with, that we pay for their services. Basically sent them all an email saying, "Hey, we love your tool. We love your service and we'd love to be included in a case study on your website."

Out of the 50 or so emails that we sent out maybe 20 or so responded and in the end we got included in about 10 or 15 different case studies on some really strong domains. We got Zendesk, which is the example here and we also got Hootsuite, Campaign Monitor, Zapier, a few others. It was this great way that we planned this project and went through it and ended up with a bunch of really solid links pointing to our site after that, so I recommend doing the same thing. You don't necessarily need to do it only with case studies. You could also use testimonials or product reviews or just reach out to these people that you know and that you work with and see what opportunities are there. Maybe they want you to write an article for their blog that would link back to your website, which is another tactic that we'll talk about in a little bit, but since you have that existing business relationship with them, it makes it much easier to approach them and figure out a way to earn that link from them.

Scott:
In addition to Tim's suggestions here, there are also some kind of low hanging fruit. Some things that are fairly easy to do that is well worth doing, right? You're local Chamber of Commerce will likely have a business directory. They might have a small fee to get listed but especially if you're already a member, make sure that you do get listed on your local Chamber of Commerce website.

There are also other local directories like Angie's List and Yelp and your prospects might actually be using these directories when they're shopping around for something so it's definitely good to get listed on them as well.

There are also industry specific directories. For example, if you're in the IT industry, there's Microsoft Pinpoint and awards directories like MSP Mentor, which does a top 250 list every year. Find your industry directories and make sure that you get listed on them. Again, if you're in a different industry, do a search. Search for "X" industry business directories and I'm sure you'll find some that are good, that you should get listed on.

You can also donate to local organizations or sponsor events. You might be doing this already but now that your kind of aware of how links are important, make sure you get listed when you do these things. Charities will usually list their sponsors and link to them from their website. If your hosting an event or sponsoring an event and there's a meet up event on it, make sure you get listed on that meet up event link, as well, and there's also alumni directories. You can often include your link to a website from these directories and since they have an edu domain for education, they're typically seen as having a higher value so they're definitely something worth getting listed on.

It's important to know that these will usually have a positive impact on your link profile, but as Tim mentioned before, Moz's Open Site Explorer or the Ahrefs tool, they might not see these links and that's completely fine. The search engines might seem them where some of these tools might not so do it, don't necessarily go back to the tool and say "Oh, it's not there yet. Oh, it's not there yet." It might take some time, it might not get listed on there. Do it anyway. It's going to help you.

Tim:
One thing I'll say quickly. There's been a lot of really great questions coming in and we still have quite a bit of information to cover so we'll try to move things along quickly here and get to some of those questions at the end. I'm sorry that we haven't been answering them along the way but we will try to answer as many as your questions at the end of the presentation.

Next, I'd like to jump into what perhaps is the most popular link building tactic out there which is called guest posting and this involves writing a blog article that you hand over to another website that's in your industry that's relevant to what you do and in exchange for that content, they link back to your website from that article. This is really popular because it's something that's helpful to people around the internet. It's generally seen as one of the safest ways to build links that isn't going to get you in trouble with search engines as long as you're doing it in a way that provides value to people and you're not doing it to just to get lots and lots of links to your site.

The process for going through this is to first find blogs in your industry that accept guest posts and a great way to do this, and a quick tip on the side here, is to search for your keyword and then in quotation marks something like "write for us guest post or guest article" and essentially what that will do in the search results is show you pages that include your keyword but also include that exact phrase "write for us," so that's a great way to find websites that are looking for people to send them content in exchange for a link.

Once you have your list of websites that you want to approach, you need to send them a pitch to see if they're willing to accept the content that you want to write for them and if possible, find an actual person that you can contact, send an email to them using their first name. Be as personal as you can. If you can do some research on maybe an article they recently published, tell them that you read it and that you loved it and then tell them a little bit about the article you want to write and how it will be helpful to their audience. Along that same note, you really do need to write an article that fits their editorial guidelines and is targeted at their audience. That's the best way to get something published on another website is to provide value to that website's visitors. Make sure you include a link somewhere either within the content, you can link to a resource on your site, or often times, they'll be an "About the author" section on these blogs and you can include in your short bio there a link back to your website as well.

At the really high end of link building tactics is something that takes a lot of work but has a very large potential reward and that would be finding the resources that your competitors have that seem successful and building better versions of them. This is really helpful because it's not only something that you can reach out and say "Hey, link to this" it's something that if it's really helpful and useful, people will link to it naturally because they want to share it in their blog posts or share it on their website and link to it on their own without you having to do the work to get them to do that.

As an example, we did this for ourselves last year where we wanted to write an article about how to generate more traffic for your website and we went to do some research on that and found someone who had posted an ultimate guide to getting more traffic. We looked at their version of the article, or their version of that guide, and we said we could do better. We could design something that looks better. We can provide better content that teaches people about all the marketing channels that can be used to drive traffic to a website and as a result, there's a lot of work to put all that together, to write it and edit and design it and make it look great and have it be really useful, but the results were fantastic as well. We received about 8,000 page views to that guide, got over 1,000 shares on social media, earned about 20 links to that page and that promotional campaign directly generated about 60 leads for us, so it's a ton of work but if you can put in that effort and build something better than what your competitor has, it's a very valuable resource in terms of SEO and in terms of the rest of your marketing as well.

Scott:
I know that all of this information about SEO might be a bit overwhelming but ... Actually, sorry.

Tim:
Yeah, so we have one more thing here that I want to talk a little bit about link building tactics that could potentially hurt you. In short, these are tactics that can be scaled to 100's or 1,000's of links. Anything that's repeatable and easy to do over and over and over again is something that can potentially get you in trouble with search engines, get your site penalized in the search results so it's performing more poorly or even potentially removed from the search results completely.

You also need to be careful about who you work with when it comes to SEO. I'm sure you've all received those shady SEO messages through your contact forums or through email spam that say "I'm going to get you to the number 1 ranking for Google," or "There's a problem with your website and I'm going to fix it." Be very careful with those. You really need to be working with someone who you trust with your website because there are these huge potential downsides if they do something dangerous with how they build links, so make sure your vetting everyone who contacts you and doing your due diligence to make sure it's something that isn't potentially going to hurt your site.

Scott:
Again, we don't intend to scare you with this stuff, so you have to be smart about it and we've gotten so many requests from our client because they say "Okay, I get all that. Thanks for letting me know the honest truth about this but what can you do for me because I don't have the time to do this stuff?" That's completely fine. Some of you might have the time, some of you might not, but we are definitely here to help you on this stuff so just remember that you do have Pronto and we do have the team that Tim mentioned. If you come up with any questions, if you're saying I'm not sure about this page on my site, send us a message. We're always happy to help with that and if you want to get even more advanced and really dig into some of these more difficult techniques that Tim and I have talked about then we can help with that stuff too. We are here to help you and assist you through the process.

Tim:
As I mentioned earlier in the presentation, we provide onsite optimization for all of our clients, for all of the websites that we manage. We do this because we feel that it's a fundamental part of being successful online, so we handle your content, build a great design for you, make sure it's all usable and that your keywords are all in the right places and search engines can access all the pages on your site. We did some research on this from clients. How they performed before launching their Pronto website and after and on average, over the course of 6 months, their organic traffic increased by about 50%. That's really what you get when you get the fundamentals right, so having this onsite optimization done correctly can have a very big impact on your site's performance.

Scott:

I guess you started on a really good foot and again, I think people really do see those improvements. When they're not done right and they move over to us and they do have those key fundamentals, it's a really great way to go about it and a great ground work for you, but as Tim mentioned, some of our clients want to get even beyond that and they say, "Okay, well we've got the groundwork down but can you guys help me rank "x" for this particular keyword? I want to get up. I want to compete with my competitor here." That's why we did come up with some packages for SEO as well.

What we have here is the 3 advanced SEO packages. They focus on that offsite piece and let me explain a little bit about how they work. We start by working with you to determine the key words that would have the greatest influence on your business so this is basically the keywords that can drive more traffic to your website if your ranking improves. Maybe you're ranked 20 today, you're not even really on the map so much. We want to maybe focus on that because a lot of people are searching for that term and we can help bring it up. We really want to identify those keywords first.

Then, when the program starts, we begin writing the blog posts on the topics that are relevant to those keywords and we include these links, or these posts, on other websites. We work with other websites to publish these articles and then we include links that go back to your website so that's what's going to start to help build your domain authority and build the link profile to your site.

In addition to the guest blog posts, we also do press releases in this, so every 3-6 months, we'll write a press release and we'll publish and distribute the press release, which also can build links and get that online presence up even more.

Finally, I'm sure a lot of you are business owners so you know how important ROI and we care a lot about that, too, so we really want to track and report the impacts that these programs are having so we'll take a look at the keywords, we'll where you stand today and then we'll track it over time to see the influence that their having. In this little chart you have here, you can see how some of these key words that we were tracking, we started running link building program and you see them go up, up, up, up, up and sometimes they go down a bit. Sometimes they fluctuate a bit more than this but it usually does have a very positive impact on your keyword rankings which in turn results in more traffic to your site and with more traffic to your site, you get ranked and you can actually start pulling in some more leads, which is I'm sure what you really care about, right?

Now, as a special bonus for attending, as Tim mentioned before, we will give you a 50% discount on the first month of any of our link building programs. That's up to $750.00 off so it's pretty substantial. I didn't include the promo code right here in the representation but we will make sure that we email that out to you along with additional details about the advanced SEO programs that are really getting the nitty gritty, if you really want to dig deeper, and if you run into any questions about them, you can always email me, so always happy to talk through anything, talk about your particular case and even set up a call if you want to chat about it.

Tim:
As Scott mentioned, many of our clients, or the majority of them, see some really positive results from our advanced SEO programs. This client in particular, we posted a case study on our blog a few weeks ago. This client came to us and they were ranking fairly well for a lot of their key words but they just wanted to be doing better. We put them through the program for several months and over that time, their organic search traffic increased by about 124% and their keyword rankings, their average keyword rankings, out of the ones that we were tracking for them increased by about 13 positions and today they're ranking in the top 10 for a wide variety of competitive keywords in their market. They're in a major US metropolitan city and they're ranking for things like IT support and their city name or IT consulting and their city name.

Overall, our clients see really, really great results and we can definitely help improve your SEO, strengthen your online presence and hopefully, drive up those rankings and that traffic.

I've mentioned a couple times already, SEO is this huge subject. There's so much to learn. We've been trying to rush through this presentation. We're almost at the end of the hour and there's still a lot that we wish we could be able to cover, so if you're interested in learning more, we'll send out this presentation to you, send out those slides and you can go through these resources and get a broader introductory to SEO through a few of them. I have a step by step process for the case study and link building tactic that we mentioned, as well as a link to the webinar, the Content Marketing webinar that Scott was mentioning earlier.

With that, you guys have been asking a lot of really great questions throughout the presentation. We'll try to get to as many as we can. We're coming up to the end of the hour here, so we'll try to squeeze a few in and if we go over, you're welcome to stay a little bit longer with us but we'll try to answer them as we can.

We have a great question here. What happens if you try to cheat the search engines and rank higher? That's a really good question because it's important to understand what's at risk when you are pushing the limits of SEO, going into strategies that search engines don't look favorably upon. Sometimes, these strategies can have actually have a really positive short term impact. You might go build 1,000 links somewhere and see your website shoot up in the rankings but probably pretty quickly after that, search engines, Google or any of the other search engines will catch on and the best case scenario, they just stop counting those links towards the quality of your site and you might go back to where you were ranking before.

In the worst case, you have a manual penalty placed on your site by someone at Google who reviews spam complaints or reviews the data that Google looks at and that penalty will essentially be either a specific page or even a domain-wide penalty that just brings your website down in the rankings. It would be to the point to where it would essentially disappear. You might be ranking 100+ at that point, so you do need to be careful out there when you're pushing the limits with how you use keywords on your site, if you're stuffing keywords in or using manipulative tactics to trick people within your website or when you're pushing the limits with what's really acceptable with link building.

Scott:
Just remember with some of these companies that will make really big promises, some of them are trustworthy and some of them are kind of fly by night. If you can pay money and they can build you a 1,000 links and show traction and they can get 3 months money out of you, or 6 months money out of you, they win whereas one of the things that we really care about ... We don't go after these fringe way out there things because I don't know, we serve our clients and your clients over the long run, right, so most of you that come to us at Pronto are going to be the people that are going to sending in support tickets and asking us other questions so we don't really want to get into any of this stuff that can really have a negative impact on the road. If Google's algorithm gets updated, we have to deal with the repercussions of it.

Tim:
Alright, another really good question here. Please compare and contrast both the costs and benefits of Google versus Bing? We've mentioned Google almost throughout the entire presentation almost exclusively and the reason we did that is because Google has, I think, 75% or 80% of the total search market share. When it comes to SEO, Google should always be your primary concern. It's the place that the majority of your search traffic is going to come in and it's really the one that SEO's around the world focus on when they're trying to figure out what is going to help you rank.

Bing is definitely a great resource and if you can rank well in Bing, that's a steady stream of traffic that you can get as well. The good news is that the tactics that we mentioned today about optimizing your site and building high quality links are things that can positively impact not only Google, but pretty much every search engine out there from Google to Bing to Yandex, a russian search engine or Baidu, a Chinese search engine. Search engines today are all basically the same in how they determine rankings. Each one has their own variations, maybe gives a little more weight to certain factors that the others don't but overall, if you are producing great content and getting high quality links to that content and to your site, you can be pretty sure that that's going to be looked on favorably by any search engine.

Another question here is how important is it to have SSL for your website? This is something that Google's been pushing on for the last year or maybe more where they're really pushing sites to go secure and have a HTTPS domain. As far as the impact it has on SEO, it's still really small and I wouldn't expect that if you added as security level to your domain, you wouldn't really notice a difference in your SEO performance but I do think over the coming years this is going to be a more and more important thing. It's something that Google is going to be pushing more and more so if you don't have a secure website today, it's definitely something worth considering down the road.

Scott:
It also probably depends on what you're selling or what you're doing. If you're an eCommerce store, if you have payment gateways, these are where it matters a lot more and you want to make sure you have SSL. If you're just displaying your services for clients to see then SSL maybe doesn't have as much impact or matter as much, at least today.

Tim:
With that, we've hit the hour here, so Scott and I will stick around for a few more minutes and answer a few more questions but I know all of you are busy and have the rest of your day to get to. As much as we love talking about SEO, we don't want to hold you here forever while we continue to blabber on, so thank you everyone for coming today and joining the webinar with us. We had a blast teaching you a little bit about SEO.

As Scott mentioned, if you have any questions, if there's anything your want to discuss, feel free to email either of us. We're happy to talk about SEO with you, talk about marketing in general or any questions that you might have and we will be following up shortly with an email to download the slides for the presentation as well as the promo code that Scott mentioned for getting the discount code on our advanced SEO programs. We've been recording this webinar, as well, so we will have a video recording available for you as soon as we've been able to process that video and we'll share that through an email as well.

Scott:
Yeah, just to add here. We do have a call link. I talked to a lot of clients about how to get their SEO up, how to do some of the other things on their site. Always happy to talk you through stuff so you can click the call link to schedule a call. Understand that maybe over the next week or so, my schedule might be pretty full because we do have a lot of attendees here in this webinar, but again, if you can't find the time, shoot me an email or we can maybe talk next week if you can't fit in, or the next couple weeks if you can't fit in this week. I'll be happy to talk to you about anything you need.

Tim:
Alright, Scott and I will say on for maybe another 5 minutes or so, answer a few questions. If you need to head out, feel free to take off or if you're interested in hearing about a few of the other questions that came in, we'll go through those as well.

We have a pretty specific question here but I think it is potentially useful for people, as well, to get an idea of how many links they think they should have on their sites. One of our attendees today says, "I have 253 links from 27 domains. Is that bad?"

There isn't really a number that I would say is a good or bad number of links to have. A lot of it depends on the keywords that you're going after, how competitive those keywords are, how competitive your local market is and what you're competitors have done, if they've built a lot of links or not. I don't think that 27 linking domains is bad. That actually seems fairly good but part of it also depends on the size of the business and how active it is online. If a business that has 200 employees and is pulling in a few million in revenue a year only had a few dozen linking route domains, that might be a problem or it might be something that we want to expand upon.

If you're a local business and it's just maybe less than 100 people or you're not really that well established online yet, 27 is fine. Again, it really depends on what's going around in your local market and within the keywords that you're trying to target.

Scott:
I go even further on that. A lot of these tools will allow you to see where those links are coming from, what the domains are that are linking to you. Take a look. Maybe it takes signing up for Ahrefs, the free trial, but look through them and say if it's some weird Russian site or something like this, I don't know, you might want to say I shouldn't be listed there whereas if it's a site that has good value, then it's fantastic. The devil's in the details on these things. Definitely see where those links are coming from first and foremost.

Tim:
One quick one that we can get to here is "What is the name of the Microsoft directory that Scott mentioned?" That directory was Microsoft Pinpoint, which is the directory they have for their partners, so if you're a certified Microsoft partner, you should be included there already but it's good to go double check that they do have a listing for you there and a link to your website.

Another question which I wish I had spent a little more time on this slide about which links to stay away from. I sort of skipped over it fairly quickly but again, it really comes down to links that are easily scalable and a few of the really main ones that you see very often are blog comments on just random websites just for the sake of leaving a link there, so it's not participating in a discussion or debate, it's just "Hey, great article. Here's a link to my website." I had an example on that slide of an article that had 14,000 comments on it. Some SEO guy somewhere, shady SEO guy, found that this blog article lets you leave comments and lets you leave a link in it and he went and did it or told his friends and now it has 14,000 useless comments with links on it.

Another common similar one is the same thing within forum posts and then there's also a tactic called "article spinning" where you write one article and it gets rewritten by this computer algorithm but it's written very, very poorly and then that content just gets posted on 100 websites that accept these article submissions.

Those are the three big ones that I think you should stay away from. The other thing I would stay away from is the website "Fiverr". There are some people who do provide real SEO services but really what it comes down to is you're going to get what you pay for. If you spend $5.00 on links, you're going to get $5.00 worth of value from those links so it's not something that is going to fix your SEO problems and if anyone is providing links at $5.00, they're probably using one of those tactics like blog comments or forum comments to just get those really easily or maybe they even have an automated system for doing it, so make sure you're very careful about who you work with with SEO.

Scott:
Also, think about if you ... It use to be a popular tactic where you just start up a bunch of really small websites and they'd be websites that offer no value at all but you can just pop up out a website and then just link to your site from that website that's unknown and we talked a lot about domain authority and things and obviously a website that's brand new, that's just made to do the one link to your site, doesn't have a lot of value, doesn't have a high domain authority, so this sort of thing that use to be popular changed after Google and other search engines updated their algorithms.

It's all common sense stuff. Have links that provide some level of value. If the guest blog posts, it should be a decently well written blog post that offers value to the reader and then you're in the safe zone.

Tim:
Another question here, which we only touched on briefly at the beginning of the presentation, is the difference between Google AdWords and organic search rankings and how these things relate to each other. Really, in terms of performance, they don't directly relate to each other at all. These are two entirely separate divisions at Google that don't work with each other so if you're running and AdWords campaign with Google, it doesn't mean you're going to perform better in the organic search results.

There are some maybe indirect benefits where there's some brand recognition that maybe comes with AdWords that could have this indirect impact on your overall search performance but there's nothing that says running and AdWords campaign is going to help with SEO at all.

Let's see if I can find a couple more questions for you and then we'll cut things off for the night.

Scott:
For the day.

Tim:
Oh yeah, sorry. We didn't mention but we are based in Thailand with the majority of the Pronto team so it's a little past 1 am. here but we're happy to stay up late and talk about SEO with you guys.

Alright, here's an actually really great question to end on is "If I look through my link profile in one of the tools that we talked about earlier and I see weird or low quality or shady links, what do I do?"

If you're not very familiar with SEO, the first thing you should do is go talk to an expert because this is a potentially serious problem depending on how many weird links that you have and you want an expert to look at it first before you go do anything. Sometimes having a few shady links isn't a problem. Google understands that you can't always control who links to your website so if there are some links from low quality directories or a bunch of blog comments and you don't see any negative performance, if you still seem to be ranking fairly well and you're still getting a decent amount of organic search traffic, there's a good chance that those links aren't really causing a problem, especially if they're balanced out by higher quality links that send these higher trust signals that search engines can see, but if you do have a very large amount of weird or low quality links or you've recently seen your keywords ranking just take a dive and you're not ranking for anything anymore or your organic search traffic has taken a dive and stayed down for a sustained period, your domain has poetically been penalized. That's something that needs to be taken seriously and needs to be handled by an expert.

There are paths to recovery, to get your site back to where it was, but it's very difficult and there's no guarantee that it will happen, so you do need to be very careful when you go out there with link building, but if you do have problems, I would say go talk to an expert right away and have them assess your link profile and let you know what they think the next step should be.

With that, we will end the webinar and there's a few questions that we didn't get to. I'll talk a look through them and maybe answer those in a blog article maybe sometime in the future but thank you again for coming and joining us today and we had a really good time talking about SEO.

Scott:
Alright, see you guys.

Tim:
Thank you.

Tim Kelsey

As a marketing specialist, Tim works closely with our clients to help them build and strengthen their online presence through a wide range of digital marketing channels. He and his team are Google Certified experts who excel at helping small businesses get the most out of their digital marketing investments.