Back in the good old days, getting top search results ranking was as easy as slapping together a website with content no more sophisticated than that produced in an elementary school writing class. Splurge on a $50 package of 5,000 backlinks delivered within 48 hours and watch the money pour in. And pour in it did, creating countless digital millionaires until the day that the inevitable finally happened: Google grew up.
Google wasn’t the world’s first search engine, just the smartest. It saw links as “votes” cast by authority sites that could be used to determine the relative value of a site in providing a rewarding experience for search users. The biggest problem with this strategy came to light only after marketers realized that Google’s algorithm lacked the ability to distinguish quality links from bad, and began to hijack the search results with thousands of cheap, irrelevant, and low-quality backlinks.
Links with anchor text that has been over-optimised for target keywords.
Links from low-quality, spammy websites, including directories, that are unrelated to the recipient’s industry or geographic area.
Links gained through guest post blogging or through guest and forum commenting.
Basically, any link that has not been editorially earned as a reward for providing relevant quality content.
The Dilemma of Google’s Anti-Spam Link Policies
On the one hand, Google has acknowledged that links will continue to be an important ranking factor in its search algorithm for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, Google seems to be saying that it doesn’t want webmasters to engage in any form of overt link building.
An estimated 80 percent of all websites are relative newcomers to the digital marketing arena. They have not had the opportunity to gain a favorable position gained through years of an online presence, or to acquire the backlinks that Google still demands but has so severely limited access to.
Perhaps Matt Cutts, head of Google’s anti-spam team, best defined the nature of the uphill battle facing webmasters today when he said: “link building is sweat plus creativity.”
More than ever, earning links today requires high-quality, relevant content. Content should be unique or at least packaged with a creative spin, or written to update or amplify previously published material.
Before you even begin to think about creating a new piece of content, you need to think in terms of creating a linkable asset, one that has the value that someone will willingly exchange a link for.
Identify the sites that you will be seeking links from as well as the type of content that would appeal to their audience.
Start by creating quality content on your own website. Prospective third-party publishers of your content expect to see a solid body of articles that demonstrate expertise in your field as well as the ability to craft well-written articles.
Emphasize relationships over one-shot pitches to acquire a link. If a blog is worth pursuing as a link source, it’s worth making the effort to build a long-term relationship.
The world of online marketing has completely changed the way in which companies advertise to attract new and existing customers.According to Latest survey conducted by msnbc business expert JJ Ramber that smaller businesses are more inclined to use online marketing campaigns to attract customers as it is often more cost-effective and more likely to meet the right audience. While online marketing may be cheaper (when compared to the cost of printing, TV adverts, billboards etc.) it certainly is not easier. However, to get you on the right track we have compiled a list of 6 Do’s and Don’ts that can help you to improve or formulate your marketing strategy.
1. Do Put Quality First.
You get what you pay for so don’t skimp out on your marketing strategy or web page, don’t sell low-quality goods and don’t cut corners. There is a lot of competition out there and you cannot afford to sell low-quality goods and services; you will only get bad reviews and unhappy customers. When you put quality first you also put customer satisfaction first, and that is definitely a recipe for success.
2. Do Go Mobile!
Don’t have an app-less marketing strategy! Mobile apps are the future of digital marketing. Assume that over half your potential audience is browsing the web when they are taking a break, using their smartphones; therefore mobile optimization is key to effectively building a relationship with your new and existing customers.
3. Do Have a Strategy.
Identify your target audience and study them, be aware of trends and forecasts and pay attention to what tactics and strategies other popular brands are using and develop your own tactics. Don’t, however, try every digital marketing strategy under the sun. All you need to know is who your audience is, what they want, where they are and how to reach them.
4. Do Think About SEO.
Search engine optimization, though not necessarily new software, forms part of the foundations for a comprehensive and competitive web campaign. Your marketing presence depends strongly on this, so don’t ignore SEO and do get yourself familiarized with it.
5. Do Have a Marketing Budget.
Don’t be cheap; failing to properly take into account the cost of an effective marketing strategy could potentially cripple your business, especially if you have to “find” money from other parts of your business. Small and startup businesses need better market penetration, and this really becomes a case of “you have to spend money to make money.”
6. Do Be Prepared To Make Mistakes.
This is probably the most valuable advice for any small business owner. It will take time to get your business going and mistakes will happen along the way, and you need to be adequately prepared to bounce back from setbacks. Proper planning, budgeting and a fair amount of flexibility are essential. Just don’t be scared of hard work because that’s what running your own business is. But once your business becomes a success, all that effort will have been worth it.
When you start a search engine optimization (SEO) campaign, you’ll probably be eager to see results as quickly as possible. You might be pushing the growth of your startup, or making up for lost time in the digital marketing front.
You know that links are your best tool for building domain and page authority, which in turn will make your site more likely to rank for relevant searches, and you also know that SEO takes a long time to develop. But if you’re going to invest all this time and effort, you want to know exactly how many links it will take before you start to make progress.
So how many links does it take to move your site up the ladder?
Key Link Variables to Consider
First, you need to understand that not all links hold the same value. Links work for SEO because they serve as third-party markers of trustworthiness; the link pointing to your site will fluctuate in value based on its nature, location, and relevance.
These are some key variables to consider when evaluating the “value” of a link:
Source strength. The biggest factor here is the domain authority (and, to a lesser extent, page authority) of your link’s source. Trustworthy sources that link to your site will make your site seem more trustworthy than sources that are new or low quality. You can use tools like Moz’s Open Site Explorer to check the domain authority of your sources. Generally, the higher the number, the more powerful effect you’ll see from the link. Aim for links that come from sources with a DA higher than your website’s current DA.
Domain diversity. The value of links from a given domain has diminishing returns with each link after the first. That is to say, in general, from a purely SEO perspective, it’s better to have a single link from each of three different domains than it is to have three links from one domain—even if that source has a high DA. Therefore, the diversity of sources that currently link to you will also play a role in how many total links you need to see a benefit.
Target page. Links pointing to your site will pass authority to your domain as a whole, but they’ll also pass authority to the individual page they specify. If you use the majority of your links to target one specific page, such as a high-quality content post, that page will rise in rank faster than it would if you used a variety of internal pages to link to. In general, it’s better to go for the diversity; otherwise, you might trigger a red flag for spam, but if you’re looking for fast results for a specific page, this may be a good strategy.
Keyword associations. The anchor text of your inbound links doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to, but there’s still something to be said for keyword associations between your off-site content, your off-site publishers, your anchor text, and the nature of the work you’re linking to. These variables can significantly influence how a link portrays your internal pages’ relevance.
Delay. You should also be aware that building a link to your site won’t immediately boost its authority; Google needs time to crawl and evaluate those links, so it might be weeks or longer before you see the effects.
Other Variables to Consider
On top of the variability of “link power,” you’ll also need to consider these other variables:
On-site factors. Links are powerful, but they won’t be the only factor affecting your domain and page authority. On-site factors, including the structure of your website, the depth and quality of your content, and other page-level factors, will also affect how your campaign develops. This could significantly hasten or slow the process depending on how much time you spend on it.
Additional links. When you build a link, you’ll be introducing a new population segment to your on-site content. That, in turn, can fuel the development of even more inbound links. A single reference point can lead to an explosion of new reference points, amplifying the power that a link can have under the right conditions.
Competition. You’ll also need to consider how much competition you’re facing, and the keywords you’re trying to target. If you’re going after a number one position for a high-traffic keyword, it could take hundreds or thousands of links to get you there, on top of perfect on-page optimization and other factors. On the other hand, a low-traffic long-tail keyword could be easy to snatch up.
Time and Effort
Overall, it’s nearly impossible to calculate the “number” of links required to see results, because links aren’t the only variable in the ranking algorithm. Instead, your results are going to be dependent on the amount of effort you put in (including the quality, diversity, and targets of your links) and the amount of time you put in (allowing your authority to develop naturally).
The more time and effort you put in, the faster you’ll see results—but “fast” in the SEO world is often at least several weeks. Try not to focus too much on link quantity. Instead, focus on acquiring the best links you can for your domain, on a consistent basis. The results will manifest over time with continued effort.
For marketers in the education vertical, Here are some helpful tips to get your site optimized in time for admissions season.
July typically means a new fiscal year for colleges and universities, bringing with it new marketing plans and goals for the upcoming educational year. Where does SEO fit into your higher education marketing plan this year? Hopefully, right at the top.
Earlier this year, Chegg Enrollment Services and the National Research Center for College and University Admissions (NRCCUA) conducted a survey of 726 high school students researching universities. Online searches ranked as the top method used by prospective college applicants to discover universities and programs, and the second most popular method used both during and after the admissions process.
However, higher education faces its own set of unique challenges for SEO. University websites are often segmented by school, program or department. This can result in many contributors to the SEO process, often without a singular roadmap to follow across the organization. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for the university’s IT department to own web development, sometimes creating a backlog for technical SEO changes that need to be made.
I’ve worked with many colleges and universities on SEO, and the problems can certainly be unique compared to other industries. I recorded a webinar about those challenges earlier this month, and I pulled out the primary points to share. As you begin to prioritize your higher education marketing plan and the specific SEO tactics you’ll tackle this upcoming year, here are the seven top areas that I see as some of the greatest challenges in SEO for universities, and also the areas that need the most attention.
1. Perform an SEO audit
Before you can improve on your organic rankings, you have to first understand what needs to be done. Performing an SEO audit will help you to identify and prioritize tactics. That’s especially important when some of the tactics involve technical site changes that involve the IT department. Often a university IT department will have a backlog of requests and site changes.
Google has announced that in the coming months, it will be implementing “mobile-first” indexation. Essentially, this means that the mobile version of a website, rather than the desktop version, will be considered the default version for Google to create and rank its search listings (even for desktop users).
This shift to mobile first may pose a problem for universities — often, multiple websites and content management systems are pulled together under one overarching domain. That often means that some parts of the university’s website may be mobile-ready, while others are not.
Remember, too, that Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool works on a page-by-page basis. So don’t trust that just because one page of your university’s site is mobile-friendly, all of them are. Make sure mobile is prioritized for your site this year.
3. Review your keywords and how you’re integrating them into site content
While there are many areas of the university website that may be outside your control, most marketing departments do control the site’s content.
It’s not uncommon for colleges and universities to name a degree or program with a brand name that might not match the search keywords a prospective student will use in a search query. And while Google is getting better at semantics, it’s not perfect. Help Google learn the connection by integrating keywords and brand terms.
For example, my own degree is actually in “Human Communications” from James Madison University. What does that mean? Over the years, I dropped the word “human” from the degree on my resume because it confused so many people. The intent of the university had likely been to separate mass communications (journalism and the like) from other communications (public relations, alternative dispute resolution). But if I were a student today searching for a degree in public relations, would I know to use the term “human communications?” Would Google know that human communications and public relations degrees are the same?
Consider the terms you’re using on the page. Even if the branded degree is “B.S. in Human Communications,” you can write content that incorporates important keywords that define the degree, such as “The Bachelor of Science in Human Communications is a degree incorporating public relations and corporate communications.”
Websites often inadvertently create duplicate content, but it’s important to recognize duplicate content and indicate to Google which version of the content you want to be displayed in organic search results. There are three common culprits I find on university websites that create duplicate content: secure protocol, URL parameters, and blogs.
Google has indicated that using secure protocol can give a website a slight edge in the organic search rankings, so many sites have already implemented it. However, some sites forget to redirect the nonsecure version (HTTP) to the secure version (HTTPS). HTTP and HTTPS appear as two different URLs to Google; thus, if it finds both versions, then both may be indexed and ranked, creating duplicate content.
Another problem with URLs is parameters. Here’s an example of JMU’s donation page:
Notice how the URL is the same except for the “dids” parameter. Google identifies each URL with a unique parameter as a unique page. In this case, JMU is using the dids parameter to determine the program that the donor specifies that the donation is given to. It’s the same page with just the donation recipient changed. Dids 288 is the Future Fund while 188 is Finance and Business Law Department Endowment and 426 is the Wolla Scholarship.
This can become a problem if one of these URLs ranks above all others; it could unfairly skew how donations are received by various recipients. By identifying parameters to exclude in the Google Search Console, this problem can be easily fixed, or even avoided altogether.
Blogs, too, can lead to duplicate content. Take this example from UVA’s Darden School of Business. Darden has 10 blogs — some run by the school, some by professors, and some by students. Sometimes blog posts might be copied and used on multiple blogs on the site because each blog has a unique audience, and a piece of content might resonate with multiple audiences. For example, a piece titled “UVA Darden Strategic CFO Roundtable Tackles Impact of Trump Administration First 100 Days on Business and Society” appearing on the Institute for Business in Society blog at Darden also appears on the news section of the Darden site, creating duplicate content:
In this case, the canonical tag should be used to identify the piece of content that should receive the SEO benefit and be the version ranked by Google.
5. Address page load speed
Page load speed is a ranking factor for Google and has been for many years. One of the more common issues affecting page speed is image size. It’s not uncommon for university websites to have multiple people adding content, including images, to the site. However, not everyone who is uploading images is also optimizing them for the page.
The example above shows two images. The image on the left is only 194 pixels wide. It’s the actual image size of the image file that loads on that page. The image on the right is 783 pixels wide and has a file size of 143K. If the image were resized to fit only the 194 pixels needed, the file size would be reduced by 88 percent.
Taking the extra step to resize images can go a long way to help improve page load time, and it’s something that university marketers often can control. Free online tools like Compressor.io can help you resize images quickly and easily without sacrificing image quality.
Also try Google’s newly revised Test My Mobile Site tool, which tells you how fast your mobile pages are loading and how you compare to others in your industry. Google will even send you a report with specific recommendations on what to fix to improve mobile page load speed.
6. Optimize your linking
Inbound links are typically the most difficult type of link to attain but can hold great value. Unfortunately, when sites are redesigned or degrees or programs are changed or removed, it can create broken links. External links that once pointed to a live page are now broken, and those inbound links are lost for SEO. Or are they?
I recently Read an article about link reclamation — reclaiming your broken inbound links. Link reclamation represents an incredible opportunity for many sites to regain valuable inbound links quickly by just fixing the broken links. What impact can it make? I recently ran a broken links report for Virginia Tech using Ahrefs. While Virginia Tech boasts nearly 8 million inbound links, it also has over 400,000 broken inbound links. By reclaiming its broken backlinks, Virginia Tech could increase its inbound links for SEO by 6 percent.
7. Measure, assess and understand SEO value
SEO requires a lot of effort and addresses many aspects of your site. How do you know if your efforts are resulting in positive outcomes? Analytics is a great place to start. It’s important to measure beyond the page view if you can and examine how organic traffic is responding to calls to action on your site. Set up goals and review how organic traffic meets those goals.
With university sites, it’s not uncommon to find many third-party tools, such as application processing, integrated with the website. In most cases, these third-party tools don’t allow for Google Analytics tracking code to be added to the pages within the tool, such as pages of the online application process.
Consider creating an event goal in Google Analytics to track when a visitor begins the application process and tracking a page view goal for the page the applicant returns to on your own site once the application is submitted. This will allow you to parse how many applicants start the application process and how many finish and even allow you to provide retargeting ads to those that do not initially complete the process.