Off-Page Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Primer

In the earlier years of search engine optimization, it was all about on-page optimization. Things like the page title, Meta tags, heading tags, comment tags, and anchor text were the only things that mattered. Keyword stuffing could easily get your website to the top of the search engines results page. If I wanted the number one position, all I had to do was copy my competitor’s page, add my keyword one more time, and viola – I’d rank first. These days, things aren’t quite that easy. In order to obtain top positioning in the search results, your website has to gain to credibility or “web cred” in order to be recognized as important.

Optimize Your Domain Name

As of this writing, appears that the search engines do weight the fact that your domain name has your keywords in it. Problem is, many SEO professionals and amateurs are exploiting this by registering domains with the keywords in it, separated by dashes. Nobody knows how long the search engines will continue to weight this factor, but none the less, it’s probably not a bad idea to include a keyword or phrase in your domain name, but don’t get out of hand: www.please-let-google-ban-my-site-because-of-all-these-words.com

The number of years your domain has, and will be, registered for also has an effect on search engine rankings. If you have an older domain name, it is generally concluded that the website is not spam and will probably be around for years to come. This makes sense – Google should give higher priority to a website that’s been around for 5 years, than give the high ranking to a brand new, untested website. It may be a good idea to acquire a domain name that been around for a few years and also contains one of your keywords. The downside is that this option may be expensive. If you don’t have the budget for that, Google also seems to give credit for the number of years that the domain is pre-registered. I’ve looked at some data, and it seems that if you register your domain for a few years out, Google assumes you don’t have a fly-by-night website and you may be entitled to a slightly higher ranking. Given the miniscule cost of registering a domain name these days, it’s probably not a bad idea to register your domain name for 3 years rather than 1.

Page Rank

Google assigns each web page a Page Rank based on the number and quality of inbound links you have pointing to your website. You can view your website’s page rank by downloading the Google Toolbar. Your page rank will be displayed as a green bar measuring from 1 to 10. Don’t worry if you only have a Page Rank of 1 or 2 – most websites do. In order to get your number up (4 or 5 is pretty good), you’ll have to get other websites to link to you.

Quality Counts More Than Quantity

As soon as webmasters realized the importance of back links, numerous schemes were hatched in an attempt to build up thousands back links very quickly. Google has since caught on, and if your website acquires too many low-quality links too fast, you may get penalized. Here are some tips to obtain the best quality back links:

One-way links are better than reciprocal links. Reciprocal links are being de-valued because it is not natural linking – it’s an arrangement between the webmasters. If you can afford it, it may be a good idea to buy some one-way links to your website.

Get links from pages with a high Page Rank because some of that will pass through to your site, increasing your own site’s Page Rank.

Get links from sites in a related industry or geographical location. I do a lot of web design in my home town of Windsor, Ontario. Therefore, I make sure that I buy or trade links from other web design related sites, Canadian, Ontario, and Windsor directories. Google will see that your site is relevant if you do this.

Make sure your keywords are included in the link from other sites. If your keyword is included in the anchor text, Google will assume that your site relates to that particular keyword.

Get a listing in Open Project Directory (DMOZ), if you can. Only the best sites get into DMOZ, and it gives your site a lot of credibility in the eyes of the search engines.

Don’t inter-link your websites! If you think you can just link all of your own websites together and improve your Page Rank, forget it. Google will see that the IP address of all domains is the same, and, either give you little or no credit, or if you have a lot of sites inter-linked, penalize you.