Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has been a hot topic for quite a few years now, but even with all the attention it's been getting, not all site owners and decision-makers truly understand why they should even care. It's hard enough to keep a website up-to-date, and with the constantly changing algorithms of how search engines calculate where to place your page within results (i.e. Google's PageRank, named after co-founder Larry Page), it can be even more complicated to know what you need to do to succeed in search.Unfortunately, there's no clear-cut answer for this. In the early days of SEO it was simple: web ranking was heavily based on keywords and how often they were used on your page. This was before search engines had the sophisticated algorithms we're dealing with today. Now, according to Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, high-quality content and link building are the two most important signals used by Google to rank your website for search.High-quality content is fairly self-explanatory, but link building can be a bit more complex.There are three types of links:Internal links are links between the pages within your own website (i.e. all on under the same domain).Outbound links include any links on your own website that link externally to other websites with a different domain name.Inbound links (also known as backlinks) are links that come from other websites or a different domain name. These are by far the most important for SEO, but they are also the hardest to obtain. Inbound links are essentially votes of trust, credibility, and authority that help your ranking, but there is one key caveat to this: it is vital that these inbound links are natural and that they come from high-quality websites.Why do these inbound links need to be natural, and what does that really mean?In 2012, Google launched their Penguin Update. It essentially made them very effective traffic cops who can catch the sites that are spamming search results with artificial links, specifically those that do so by buying links or otherwise obtaining links through sketchy networks that only exist to boost Google rankings. These artificial links are seen as fake votes of trust, and could be placed on online forums, blog comments, social media profiles, and more.Before, it was more about quantity with inbound links: getting as many as possible, no matter where they came from. After Penguin, everything changed. Having inbound links to your site is the best way to show that your page is a voice of authority on its subject matter, but if Google can tell the links are artificial, paid for, or coming from a low-quality site, then they can actually hurt your PageRank.We can avoid these negative consequences from Google by getting high quality, genuine inbound links. Here are some ways to do it:
Create awesome contentAs I mentioned earlier, high-quality content and link building are both great ways to improve PageRank - and they do not have to be mutually exclusive. If your page is creating consistent, original and relevant content, then the odds of having it shared, quoted and cited by authoritative pages goes way up. For example, any of the pages I linked to in this article earned an inbound link because they created great content that was useful for me.Here are seven key features of high-quality content, courtesy of Search Engine Journal:
Bring value to your readers, and you may earn an inbound link via social sharing and awareness. That is surely worth the effort of content creation.
Citations and directoriesSo, you've built high-quality landing pages and ensured that your website is full of great content. Now what?You need to make sure people can find you.Let's go back in time for a second. Remember when it was still necessary to use a phone book in order to find contact information, whether for a friend or a business? If you wanted to find an accounting firm in your area, you would go to the Yellow Pages, look up "accounting" or something similar, and start making calls.Citation sites and directories are the modern, online version of the old-fashioned phone books. These include any site that has a company's name, address, and phone number listed. Now, while these sites do go out and gather this business information from the web in large quantities on their own, it is still a best practice to verify and/or submit your business listing if it's missing. Google loves citation sites, and they are often some of the top search results. So, if your business is not on a list but your competitors are, they are far more likely to be getting your potential customers when they go looking for the product or service you offer.Examples of citation sites include Yelp, Google My Business, Foursquare and CitySearch. We even have our own marketplaces for accountants and tax professionals: CountingWorks and TaxBuzz.
Help A Reporter OutCreated in 2008, HARO is an online service for journalists to obtain information, feedback, quotes and more for pieces they are working on. This is one of the easiest and most underutilized ways to gain publicity, and, just as importantly, earn some inbound links. You can sign up as a source on HARO to receive emails (up to three times daily), which list all the requests submitted by journalists. You can then easily respond to any that you and/or your company are relevant for, and the reporter will contact you if they are interested in collaborating.This is a super simple way to get quality publicity. Publications of all sizes use the service, from the smallest niche blogs all the way up to The New York Times. Plus, it usually involves far less time and resources than you would spend creating a full piece of original content and attempting to earn links from it. Just make sure the journalist links to whichever site or page you want to get the inbound link for.
Infographics with embed codeIf you lean even slightly toward being a visual learner like me, odds are you love infographics (like this Tax Reform Infographic from MD Business Solutions). They're an easy way for people who are bombarded with information all day (and let's be honest, that's most of us) to digest facts and figures in a fast and appealing format. The other great thing about infographics is that they can go viral in an instant; helping you increase web traffic, generate brand awareness, increase social media engagement and obtain natural inbound links.Hooray for more inbound links! The key here is to ensure that your infographic has solid embed code so you can better control how people will re-post and link to your content. This is one of the best digital marketing tactics of our day and age, and it's a simple way to bring in a large number of inbound links.Because we are an accounting-focused blog, here are a few ways to get inbound links that are specific to accounting and tax professionals:TaxBuzz blogIf you are a tax professional and you don't have a free profile on TaxBuzz, it's time. This is a great way for potential clients in your area to find you, see reviews, and get all the information they need to contact you.On top of these profiles, we also encourage paid users to write their own blog articles that we publish on their corresponding TaxBuzz city page. For example, Karen Drescher, CPA wrote a great piece on amended tax returns, which we then featured on our TaxBuzz Blog for Atlanta. This earned her an inbound link from an authoritative, credible source (TaxBuzz) and also brought more local web traffic to her site from people searching for tax pros in Atlanta.Q&A on TaxBuzzOur marketing platform here at TaxBuzz includes a Q & A section, where we post monthly questions that allow our professionals to share their knowledge. We then take these quotes and compile articles for our popular marketplace sites, TaxBuzz.com and CountingWorks.com. On top of building credibility by being quoted as a qualified accounting and/or tax professional, we also include a valuable, branded inbound link back to the professional's website.More visibility on search engines means more traffic to your website and more success for your business. One of the best ways to increase that visibility is to boost your PageRank, and obtaining authentic, high-quality inbound links play a vital role in this process.As you start increasing your efforts to obtain inbound links, just remember what not to do -- the 5 B's of Bad Link Building: Borrowing, Begging, Bartering, Bribing, and Buying. Steer clear of these and you're already way ahead of the game.We may not have completely cracked the code on search engine algorithms, but increasing your quality inbound links are most definitely a great start. If you are an accounting, tax or bookkeeping professional and have questions about inbound links or about how you can utilize TaxBuzz and CountingWorks to generate more five star reviews, contact us today at 1-800-442-2477 or set up some time to speak with one of our accountant social media experts. CountingWorks PRO offers a full suite of digital marketing packages, including citation building and off page SEO to help your brand rank high on the search engines.