Ranking for a Search Phrase in Google

I guess by now you’ve noticed that I’m not keeping up with the 1 post a week rate that I had for a while there. I’ve been thinking that at this point I’m going to be getting in one a month or so. More if the mood strikes, but from what I’ve been seeing that should be more than enough…. I’ve been spending a lot of time lately experimenting with getting good google rankings for search phrases and thought I would take a moment to give some details…. Maybe I should back up a few steps first though for some background….

December 2005 and January of 2006 were fantastic times for this site. I was getting a great amount of traffic each day. It seemed that all I needed to do was title a post with good keywords and it would promptly show up tops in google within a day or so. February was about the time their “big daddy” upgrade went live across the entire system and the bottom fell out of my traffic. I got maybe 10% the traffic I had previously, and it seemed like I couldn’t rank well for ANY keyword, not even my name (which is in the domain name and SHOULD be EASY to rank for.)

So, I spent a lot of time reading and trying to get an idea of what I needed to do to reclaim good rankings for various search phrases. The bottom line advice that I kept running into was you need more inbound links. I read complaint after complaint of other web masters saying they had lost the majority of their traffic, in the google sitemaps group it seemed like there was a fair amount of give and take, but almost every single one (that was not doing something silly like having obvious paid gambling links at the bottom of a page or something else completely irrelevant to their site)… almost every single one was advised to go and get more backlinks for their site.

A backlink is essentially another website making a link to your content. It’s an idea that makes the world wide web what it is. It’s the concept of citing other content with a link which, if followed takes you to more information on the subject. At that time I didn’t have time to invest trying to follow the advise of more inbound links. In fact, I didn’t know exactly WHERE to start.

The last six months or so though I’ve finally started implementing that advice and have seen dramatic improvements in search rankings and traffic. Among the things I’ve learned. 1) It is possible to just ask for a link from another site owner and get it. 2) Social bookmarking site links can be effective (both for social traffic and the link value that google sees), however the link value may decline over time as the link is deeper and deeper in the social site. 3) forum signature links can work dramatically 4) directory links can be effective. 5) Links from squidoo, qassia or other article directories can be effective. 6) The most valuable links are couched in content text. 7) Most importantly, the anchor text (text that is the actual link) is VERY important.

Say for the sake of argument that you are a self storage business. There are lot’s of keywords related to self storage. There’s mini storage, storage buildings. There are locations (I understand location (read: proximity) is the primary factor in most people’s decision to choose a particular storage facility. There are also security features of storage facilities to consider, space, the size of storage spaces and the price per month of a mini storage unit, initial costs and more keywords than you can imagine. But, if you wanted to rank for self storage in Greenville, you would want a link JUST like what I’ve placed in this paragraph. You would certainly want the page to be designed to talk about the things that are important to your site, self storage units, the size of self storage units, price and location of the storage units, etc. But, if those factors alone didn’t turn up good search results, you would want to see if you could get more inbound links with those keywords in the anchor text.

Many people make the mistake of using their domain name as the anchor text. This is okay, it still passes along a certain amount of reputation from the referring site, but ultimately it’s not been “tagged” with anything important keyword wise. I think ultimately, google’s genius is that they have realized that ultimately people “tag” objects. After all, we call a car “car” only because the majority of the population agrees that’s the name for the thing…. (Think about how many refer to a copier as a xerox….) Language is about “tagging” objects, and so are text links.

I’ve certainly glossed over a lot of things here, there are “brakes” so that if a site get’s too many backlinks too quickly with a certain anchor text there’s actually a penalty that kicks in. Primarily though if you are able to get any kind of inbound links at a reasonable rate you should be fine as long as the anchor text corroborates what is on the actual page linked to. (Anchor text snowshoe for a page that talks about nuclear physics would probably trigger the anti-google bomb penalties earlier than if it were used for a page talking about winter hiking equipment.)

I’ve also glossed over the value of various types of inbound links (some are much more valuable than others even though everything I listed above can be effective.) I’ve also ignored in this discussion the possibility that there are other sites building the same kind of inbound links. If you would like to see more stories about SEO and search rankings you might be interested in stopping by the earn money blog where you’ll find more stories like that as well as talk about entrepreneurship and how to make money online.


Update 3/16/09

I just checked – the site that I linked to above moved from the low 40’s-mid 50’s on the 12th and as recent as the 15th to #3 for that search phrase with the link above on March 16th. The power of one inbound link! In this case, many of the competing sites did not have direct inbound links at all (much less search term optimized links.)

Update 3/31/09

The last several days the site I linked to above has been in the #1 spot for the search mentioned. One thing that’s important to note is that the context of the paragraph where the link is has a part to play as well as the link. After all, relevancy is one of the things the search engine is trying to provide and so it only makes sense that something out of context or irrelevant wouldn’t weigh as much as a link within a relevant context.

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