How to Evaluate an SEO Company Using Google’s Own Guidelines 0

How to Evaluate an SEO Company Using Google’s Own Guidelines was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

It goes without saying that customer trust must be earned. This is especially true for online businesses, where faceless websites ask for confidential information or dole out “professional” advice to anyone who searches for their keywords.

Search engines like Google and Bing work hard to evaluate the trustworthiness of the websites that appear in their search results because they want to keep their users happy. It turns out that people shopping for professional services online can follow similar guidelines in order to evaluate businesses before choosing to engage with them.

In this post, we’ll look at Google’s approach to assessing the expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T) of websites, and learn how to apply a similar technique to choosing a search engine optimization agency.

Using Google’s own methods, you will learn:

  • How to assess an SEO company’s reputation.
  • How to evaluate an SEO vendor’s expertise and authority.

Plus, I provide you with 12 questions you can use right away to evaluate an SEO service provider.

Setting Standards for SEO Vendor Evaluation

Many people who inquire about Bruce Clay SEO services have been burned in the past several times, by other providers. They claim lies were told, promises were broken and their business was almost destroyed by the all-you-need-are-links type of SEO companies or the cheaper-is-better offshore workers.

We know from experience that buyers today are more skeptical than ever. We have many stories of doing disaster cleanup projects … so just know that it’s not always easy to trust SEO service providers. In fact, SEO is one business area where mistrust is widespread due to so many unethical businesses that jumped into the arena the last ten years, offering “snake oil” solutions that ultimately, and sometimes permanently, harmed their clients.

As Chris Brogan and Julien Smith observe in their book, “Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust”: “We are currently living in a communications environment where there is a trust deficit.”

So, how does someone looking for an SEO vendor find an evaluation method to be sure they are choosing the right agency? One way is by using Google’s own method of screening for trustworthiness.

It turns out that Google’s search quality rating guidelines were designed to help evaluate the expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness of websites — and ultimately, of the people and businesses that run them.

Google’s search quality rating guidelines were written to help a team of human evaluators assess web pages in Google’s search results. The information they gather is likely built into their search algorithms in order to surface the highest quality content.

Google specifically points out the importance of what it calls “Your Money or Your Life” web pages. These pages are held to a higher standard of quality evaluation because they can impact the well-being of consumers across important aspects of their lives. From their rating manual:

Some types of pages could potentially impact the future happiness, health, or wealth of users. We call such pages “Your Money or Your Life” pages, or YMYL … We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low quality YMYL pages could potentially negatively impact users’ happiness, health, or wealth.

So what does all of this have to do with choosing an SEO agency, you might be wondering?

Any business decision, including choosing an SEO agency, can positively or negatively impact the health and wealth of a business, and as such, should be held to a higher standard of evaluation before signing a contract.

When researching and evaluating SEO vendors, much of the process starts online, and I’ll discuss next how to do that using some of the guidelines that Google provides, in addition to my own advice.

Evaluating Reputation

In its quality rating manual, Google points out that when you’re evaluating a website, you’re also evaluating, in many cases, a professional or business:

Keep in mind that websites often represent real companies, organizations, and other entities. Therefore, reputation research applies to both the website and the actual company, organization, or entity that the website is representing.

This can be useful for marketers and business owners to keep in mind when evaluating potential SEO companies to partner with.

As I mentioned earlier, many businesses that come to Bruce Clay today for SEO services weren’t sure whom to trust.

Evaluating reputation is a key part of choosing an SEO agency, because — let’s face it — there are a lot of companies out there that are great at “marketing.” In other words, they can have a beautiful website and put up an excellent professional front, but behind the scenes, they lack the talent needed to drive SEO results.

In their quality rating manual, Google agrees:

Many websites are eager to tell users how great they are. Some webmasters have read these rating guidelines and write “reviews” on various review websites. But for Page Quality rating, you must also look for outside, independent reputation information about the website. When the website says one thing about itself, but reputable external sources disagree with what the website says, trust the external sources.

The manual goes on to highlight some of the ways you can research reputation, and this can apply to SEO companies as well:

Use reputation research to find out what real users, as well as experts, think about a website. Look for reviews, references, recommendations by experts, news articles, and other credible information created/written by individuals about the website. When a high level of authoritativeness or expertise is needed, the reputation of a website should be judged on what expert opinions have to say. Recommendations from expert sources, such as professional societies, are strong evidence of very positive reputation.

Evaluating Expertise and Authority

Author Malcolm Gladwell says in his book “Outliers” that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something.

So if someone has been in an industry long enough, they should be an authority, right?

Not always the case. And science has actually debunked that.

While experience can certainly be a factor, it’s often more important to assess the actual expertise of a vendor to verify that they have put in the time to understand the craft inside and out, in such a way that creates successful SEO strategies, not just quick fixes or churn-and-burn tactics.

You can also better understand a SEO vendor’s level of authority by assessing the thought leadership reflected in its website content, publications, articles, live presentations, and more.

It goes without saying that expert SEO advice will come from expert sources.

Google provides some guidelines on how to assess the content of expert authorities online, and SEO vendors are no different:

  • High quality medical advice should come from people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. High quality medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.
  • High quality financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, etc., should come from expert sources and be maintained and updated regularly.
  • High quality advice pages on topics such as home remodeling (which can cost thousands of dollars and impact your living situation) or advice on parenting issues (which can impact the future happiness of a family) should also come from “expert” or experienced sources which users can trust.

… Think about the topic of the page. What kind of expertise is required for the page to achieve its purpose well? The standard for expertise depends on the topic of the page.

In other words, what sort of standards would you hold an SEO authority to when evaluating their content?

people in silhouette

12 Questions to Evaluate SEO Company Reputation, Authority and Trustworthiness

There are two types of SEO vendors: those you can trust, and those you can’t.

Brogan and Smith define “trust agents” in their book as the following:

Trust agents have established themselves as being non-sales-oriented, non-high-pressure marketers. Instead, they are digital natives using the Web to be genuine and to humanize their business. They’re interested in people (prospective customers, employees, colleagues, and more), and they have realized that these tools that enable more unique, robust communication also allow more business opportunities for everyone.

This is important for selecting SEO vendors. These type of vendors value education and helping businesses succeed over just “sales.”

I also think it’s important to have a set of evaluation methods you can apply to better understand if you are engaging with trustworthy SEO vendors.

Here’s a short list I compiled that can help marketing managers or business owners on their way:

  1. How long has the SEO vendor been in business?
  2. Does the internal team have sufficient skills and experience?
  3. Does the company demonstrate thought leadership through speaking engagements, expert content or training?
  4. Does the company have a good reputation among its peers in the industry?
  5. Has the company received any awards or accolades?
  6. How involved is the company in the industry’s professional organizations and/or professional community?
  7. Does the company have SEO methods that are keeping within Google’s quality guidelines (aka “white hat” practices)?
  8. Does the company demonstrate SEO success by ranking well for their targeted key terms, such as “search engine optimization”?
  9. What sort of clientele does the SEO company serve?
  10. What sort of results has the SEO vendor achieved for its clients through its methodology?
  11. How do they relate to their prospects? Do you feel like you’re getting good guidance or being “sold?”
  12. How do they work with new clients? Do they have formal onboarding processes to ensure everything goes smoothly? Do they have dedicated account managers so communication stays open? Do they offer training on their services?

Past customer input can also be useful. When researching this online, however, Google warns of the pitfalls:

Customer reviews can be helpful for assessing the reputation of a store or business. However, you should interpret these reviews with care, particularly if there are only a few. Be skeptical of both positive and negative user reviews. Anyone can write them, including the creator of the website or someone the store or business hires for this purpose.

One way to sift through the noise is to ask for a few references from past clients to better understand how the SEO vendor performed for them.

Today, Trust is Earned

We know that Google Search is the starting point for many businesses looking for a reputable SEO vendor. Referrals are important, too.

With either method, buyers need to be able to properly evaluate their options — especially since so many buyers are skeptical, but perhaps not sure where to start.

This is especially important when money is on the line and SEO practices can help or hurt an entire enterprise, not just its website.

Using Google’s standards of evaluating reputation and E-A-T, as well as some of the methods I’ve outlined here, should position marketers and business owners to make a more informed decision when buying SEO services.

What do you think? Have you ever been burned by an SEO company? What did you learn and how did you recover? I’d like to know in the comments below.

Looking for an SEO team you can trust? Bruce Clay’s ethical SEO services drive your competitive advantage.

Let’s talk more about growing revenue through smarter digital marketing.

Source: Bruce Clay

How to Create Authentic Hyperlocal Content At Scale 0

Posted by mahannay

The “why” and “how” of sourcing local talent from national HQ

A recent report on national-to-local marketers mentions that, with the exception of email marketing, “enterprise brands are struggling to make digital as effective as traditional tactics and media” for local branches’ ad dollars. With locally focused email newsletters, it’s generally easier to automate locally targeted sales or events. On the other hand, local content is much more essential for local SEO and social media engagement, and this is where enterprise brands have not yet fully conquered the local space.

For national brands, accumulating content that resonates with locals in each individual market is an excruciating task. Not even the best of researchers or the slyest of copywriters can match the value of a local’s knowledge base. Meanwhile, local partners may not have the time or the storytelling know-how to create quality local content.

Content without topic knowledge is generic; content without storytelling chops is ineffective. Herein lies the problem for local: How do you plan quality, shareable articles, videos, and digital media with a local focus at a national scale?

The answer: Find locals to create content about their region.

As Ronell Smith recently wrote, SMBs have the content creation advantage when it comes to local know-how, but I respectfully disagree with Ronell on his preference for local brands topping local content SERPs. Generally, I’d prefer the best local content to top my searches, and many national startups are disrupting local habits for the better (think Uber v. your local cab company). National, online brands will never be able to replace the helpful salesperson down the street, and franchises will never be the first choice for dinner with friends from out-of-town, but there is a space in the market for enterprises, especially if they’re willing to take the time to mingle with local creatives.

The three methods in this post have varying SEO side effects, depending on the tactics used. While local content is a boon to local rank, a “sponsored post” on a local news source won’t have the same effect on your rankings. But while SEO is a factor to consider in content creation, it’s not the only reason in town. Good ‘local’ marketing doesn’t always mean scaling standardized national content and messaging to every market; rather, this post posits that ‘scaling local’ means developing targeted resources that resonate in each market.

1. Patronize local media

PR is not the only way to work with journalists anymore. Many media publications both large and small are adding content creation services to their revenue stream. Sometimes this means sponsored content, where a piece is commissioned (and labelled as such) by a for-profit partner. In other cases, journalists are working with brands to bring their talent for story to commercials, website content, or other branded media.

According to a 2014 Pew Research report, “the largest component of the growing digital news world is the smaller news site. A large majority of them are less than a decade old, about half are nonprofits, most have staffs of five or fewer and many also rely on volunteer and citizen contributors. Their greatest area of focus is local news coverage.”

One such example at the local scale is Bit & Grain, a North Carolina-focused long-form publication, whose pieces are supported by its founders’ storytelling productions for brands and nonprofits. I spoke with the weekly publication’s three cofounders on their revenue generation experiences, 18 months post-launch.

Cofounder Ryan Stancil explained that they’re still experimenting with revenue generation models, but that content production and creation is their most successful funding tool so far.

“People need help telling their story,” Stancil said. He added that their work-for-hire is both very different and very similar to the pieces they create for Bit & Grain. It’s different in that it’s commissioned storytelling, but it’s the same level of quality they bring to their weekly pieces.

A sampling of Bit & Grain’s local fare.

Stancil brought up their recent sponsored piece on a local restaurant as an example. While clearly labelled as “sponsored content,” the piece received the same aesthetic care and storytelling craft as any article in the publication. Stancil’s cofounder, Baxter Miller, echoed a similar sentiment in their sponsored content process.

“If anyone came to us about doing a sponsored content piece, we would vet them as much as anything we put on our editorial calendar,” she said “And really the process is much the same.”

I also spoke with Shawn Krest, the managing editor of local publication Raleigh & Company, which began as a fun side project/playground for Raleigh, NC-area journalists and has evolved into a blog-like online publication. The site was acquired by Capitol Broadcasting Company in August of 2015.

While Raleigh & Company covers the same region as Bit & Grain, the publications’ similarities end there. Raleigh & Company’s subject matter is more irreverent, with pieces poking fun at Presidential candidates, and others interviewing NFL recruits who will never see game day. Plus, Raleigh & Company’s copyeditors have no qualms about the first person appearing in its columns.

“We’ve had pieces where writers really open up and talk about issues they’re dealing with,” Krest said. “Addictions, things like that. I feel like when Raleigh & Company is at its best, you see the writer sort of bleeding on the keyboard as they’re writing.”

Local journalism is going niche in a way that daily newspapers couldn’t. For brands, this is another potential win, as you’re able to zero-in on a narrow audience in your city of choice.

Like Bit & Grain, Raleigh & Company is open to sponsored posts, but Krest is not willing to lose the tenor of the publication to satisfy a sponsor, as he explained when the blog was acquired by Capitol Broadcasting Company.

“We said at that first meeting, ‘we use the F-word and we’re not going to stop,’ and they were fine with that,” he said. “The first time they wanted us to look more like the local news, it would not work.”

While as different as Eastern and Western NC barbecue, Bit & Grain and Raleigh & Company have similar limitations to their branded content philosophies. This shouldn’t be a problem for companies seeking true neighborhood flavor in their local content. For brands who want a bit more control, a collaborative approach with an influencer may be a better option.

Finding local journalists

Local media is transforming. For some, this is a frightening prospect; for others, it’s a moment of opportunity. During the recent Sustain Local Journalism conference, which I attended, a few local writers and publishers gathered in Montclair, NJ to discuss the biggest issue currently haunting their industry: how to keep funds flowing. While some local news sites, such as Philadelphia’s Billy Penn, have found success through events, many at the conference agreed that revenue diversification was the only way forward. Not every local writer will want to craft a piece for a brand, but others are willing to work with the enterprise in order to support their own local efforts.

Here are a couple online lists of local media sites:

Though both lists fall short of the total, as neither has Bit & Co. or Raleigh & Company among their publications.

2. Capture the photographer next door: Partner with local influencers

Influencer marketing is nothing new, but it is under-utilized for local campaigns. Whether they’re Insta-famous or a YouTube personality, every influencer calls somewhere home. And for local content creation, audience size is a secondary metric. The biggest offering local bloggers or vloggers provide is a local perspective and content creation experience.

My favorite rule of thumb when approaching bloggers (credit to a presentation by Molly McKinley of Adwerx): Give before you ask.

And “gifts” don’t have to be free products. They don’t even have to be physical items. Can you invite local bloggers to an upcoming company event? Do local offices receive event tickets in exchange for local sponsorships? Maybe you could allocate a budget to sponsor their existing local interests. For enterprise-size brands, links and shares of smaller bloggers can offer a big boost to their SEO and/or social media accounts. At ZipSprout, we’ve developed locally focused content by interviewing bloggers about their favorite area restaurants and day trips.

Local bloggers have both neighborhood and content creation know-how. While your competitors chase the influencers with the biggest following, consider first seeking the voice that matches your brand.

Finding local influencers

Bloggers and influencers are typically organized categorically, so I have to go back to some of the prospecting lessons I learned from my cofounder, link builder Garrett French, to find influencers based on location.

I find success using phrases a local would have on their blog, such as:

"here in philadelphia" intitle:"blog"

From which I found:

Sometimes it helps to get a bit more specific, since many bloggers don’t have the word “blog” on every page. So I tried:

"here in philadelphia" intitle:"my dog"

From which I found:

Want a local photographer? Try:

"here in philly" inurl:""

Photo by @bkerollis, a Philadelphia-based blogger and choreographer, on Instagram.

Of course, you can search for #Philadelphia on Instagram, but Google conveniently sorts (somewhat) by post popularity.

3. Brand Y x City Z = Local data

It’s not just “the top 10 cities for” — find local data in context with national trends. Good narratives find the context and connection to bigger stories. What does your data from City X say about how that area stands out from the crowd?

At ZipSprout, we’ve reported on the top corporate sponsors in a particular geographic region, finding that local news and tech companies, followed by national banks, are the most widespread donors to local nonprofits and events in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina. We also visualized the most frequently used words in local organization’s “about” pages. Thanks to our data, we can write a similar article, but with very different results, for cities all over the U.S.

It can take some developer time, but local data can be automated on city pages. What’s the most popular Starbucks order in Omaha, Nebraska? What’s the most frequently rented Hertz car from the Dallas/Fort Worth airport? What are the most and least popular times to ride a Lyft in NYC?

Locally focused blog posts and landing pages can be fun. Showing customers we know they’re unique says a lot about a brand’s local presence, without saying anything at all.

Conclusion: Write local, right

If you really want to have hyperlocal visibility, in the SERPs and in local publications, you need hyperlocal content, at scale.

The Woodward and Bernstein-style newsroom may soon be old fashioned, but we’re also in an age that appreciates authentic, quality storytelling, and local branches often don’t have the personnel or resources to develop local content. Neighborhood know-how can’t be fudged, so why not partner people who can tell your brand’s story with a local accent?

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Source: Moz

Moz Local Brightens Map Maker Shutdown Blues with Google NAP Change Alerts 0

Posted by MiriamEllis

“Why, there’s a change in the weather, there’s a change in the sea
So from now on, there’ll be a change in me.”
Ethel Waters – There’ll Be Some Changes Made

Change happens fast! Recently, I came across a local retail store that was violating Google’s naming guidelines on the company’s Google My Business listing. As a tiny experiment, I used a Google account I had never used before for any Maps tasks, recommending that Google correct the name. It took 48 hours for my suggestion to be implemented and for me to receive a thank-you email from Google. Just like that.

I like this particular business and didn’t want them to get in trouble with Google, but you can’t count on all your neighbors (or their marketers) to have the same civic-minded motivations. Negative SEO in the form of nefarious local listing edits to your name, address, and phone number (NAP) is a genuine threat to traffic, leads, and sales, requiring due vigilance.

Google makes changes and we adapt. Google plays Pomp and Circumstance for its announced “graduation” of Google Map Maker to Google Maps and respected Local SEOs like Joy Hawkins and Phil Rozek take a minute to sing the blues and then look around for solutions to the changes.

Your competitors can edit your listings without leaving a paper trail

High on the local SEO industry’s list of concerns surrounding the March shutdown of Google Map Maker is that it cements trackless negative editing. Map Maker formerly allowed us to connect the negative edit history of Google My Business listings to a specific Google user. This info might help us realize that our data’s assailant was a competitor, a disgruntled past employee, or a non-customer, enabling us to report the edits as obvious violations. Google’s sunsetting of Map Maker means all third-party edits (both positive and negative) will now go through Maps’ suggest an edit feature, leaving no traces behind them.

So, this most recent change is certainly a problem, and unfortunately, not one I can offer to solve for you today — but I can solve the bigger issue underlying this whole negative SEO scenario: I can help you make sure no one ever edits your Google My Business listings without you knowing about it right away.

Moz Local will alert you if anyone edits your Google My Business NAP

Unless you operate a famous brand with an active following ready to instantly alert you via social media if your listing data has changed, you’re more or less on your own when it comes to monitoring your GMB listings.

Whether you’re an overworked small business owner or the marketer of a franchise with 300 locations, it can be a tiresome challenge trying to police your listing data on a continuous basis. Of this task, Hawkins says,

“…unless the business wants to check their information daily, there is currently no way that they will know about changes.”

Making time for these manual checks, particularly if you’re short on resources or long on total number of listings you have to manage, is enough to give anyone the blues. Fortunately, Moz Local customers can whistle a happier tune, knowing that should unscrupulous persons edit their GMB name, address or phone number, an email alert like this will swiftly appear in their inbox:


This convenient alert system, already at work for all Moz Local customers, not only removes needless worry and the obligation of tiresome vigilance, it could very well prevent significant damage to your traffic and revenue.

Just how negative can competitive edits be?

Imagine a family-owned carpet cleaning company in a competitive market with one very unethical competitor who successfully swaps his phone number for the victim’s. Call volume suddenly tanks and the carpet cleaner begins to entertain a variety of stressful hypotheses for the cause. Is this drop something seasonal? Is he just too small to maintain profit in a crowded market? Are past customers unhappy with his service? Has a new enterprise come to town, edging him out with better pricing?

Days, weeks, or months of reduced call volumes could go by before the anxious owner connects the drop to his Google My Business listing having been maliciously edited. It can be hard for any small business to absorb a single day’s lost business, let alone weeks of it!

Doubt this would happen? I might have, too, until I went through the famous florist listing hijacking of ‘08 (the same year Google released Map Maker, coincidentally), resulting in tears, revenue loss, and staff layoffs at devastated businesses. We’ve seen phone numbers edited en masse to direct to call centers. We’ve seen thuggish demands for a piece of the action while listings were held hostage. We’ve seen lawsuits and sentencing.

So, yes, this form of negative SEO is a very real problem, and the truth is that dyed-in-the-wool spammers are already well aware of the trackless edits they can make via Google Maps. And in some ways, the shutdown of Map Maker may only further encourage them to continue their sneaky work… but not undetected.

While Moz Local can’t individually identify these spammers for you the way Map Maker has for the past eight years, it does take the major scare out of malicious edits by ensuring you’re alerted to them right away and can act to rectify them. It’s my sincere hope that knowing this provides welcome peace of mind for our customers who work so hard to achieve visibility in Google’s product.

It’s a new year and we’re all gearing up to meet and master whatever changes Local SEO will bring our way in 2017. Not familiar with Moz Local? Get to know us this Q1 via our free Check Listing tool.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Source: Moz

What Links Can You Get That Comply with Google’s Guidelines? – Whiteboard Friday 0

Posted by MarieHaynes

If you’ve ever been the victim of a Google penalty, you know how painful it can be to identify the problem and recover from the hit. Even if you’ve been penalty-free thus far, the threat of getting penalized is a source of worry. But how can you avoid it, when it seems like unnatural links lurk around every corner?

In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we’re overjoyed to have Google penalty and unnatural link expert Marie Haynes share how to earn links that do comply with Google’s guidelines, that will keep your site out of trouble, and that can make a real impact.

Links that comply with Google

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey everybody. My name’s Marie Haynes, and today we’re going to talk all about links. If you know anything about me, you know that I’ve done a lot of work with unnatural links. I’ve done a lot of work helping people with Penguin problems and unnatural link penalties. But today we’re going to talk about natural links. I’m going to give you some tips about the types of links that you can get that comply with Google’s guidelines. These links are sometimes much harder to get than unnatural links, but they’re the type of link that Google expects to see and they’re the type of link that can really help improve your rankings.

I. Ask

Number one is to ask people. Now some people might say, “Wait, that’s not a natural link because I actually had to ask somebody to get it.” But if somebody is willing to vouch for your website, to link to your website, and you’re not giving them anything as an incentive in return, then that actually is a good link. So you can ask family members and friends and even better is employees. You can say, “Hey, if you have a blog, could you mention that you work for us and link to us?” Now, if they have to hide the link somewhere to make it actually happen, then that may not be the best link. But if they legitimately are happy to mention you and link to your company, then that’s a good natural link that Google will appreciate.

II. Directories

People are probably freaking out saying, “Directories are not natural links. They’re self-made links.” I’m not talking about and other types of spammy directories where anybody in the world could create a link. I’m talking about directories that have a barrier to entry, a directory that you would expect that your business would be listed there, and a directory perhaps that people are actually using. A good place to get listed in these directories where you expect to see businesses is Moz Local. Moz Local can really help with the types of directories that you would expect to see your site listed in.

There are sometimes also, though, niche directories that perhaps you have to do a little bit of searching for. For example, let’s say that you’re a wedding photographer. You might want to be listed in a local city directory that tells people where to find musicians for their wedding and venues for the wedding and also wedding photographers. That can be a really good link, and it’s the type of link that would bring you traffic as well, which is another indicator of a good link. A good way to find these opportunities is to search for your competitors’ phone number. You can do a search for the phone number minus their site, and that should give you a list of directories that Google actually thinks are good examples of links to your site. You can approach those directories and see if you can get a link to your site.

III. Industry connections

Most businesses have connections with suppliers, with vendors, with clients, and with partners. These are places where you would expect to see that your business is listed. If you can get listed on these types of lists, then that’s a good thing. A good way to find these is to find out what lists are your competitors on, take a look at their link profiles, and see if there’s anything there where you should be listed as well.

IV. Unclaimed brand/name mentions

This is a place where somebody has mentioned your business, mentioned your website, perhaps mentioned your name, but they haven’t linked to you. It’s perfectly okay to reach out to those people and say, “Hey, thank you for mentioning us. Could you possibly link to us as well?” A lot of the time that can result in a link. You can find these opportunities by using Moz Fresh Web Explorer. Also, I think every business should have set up Google Alerts to tell you when somebody has mentioned your business.

However, even with these set up, sometimes some things get missed, and so I recommend every month that you go and you do a search for your brand name and subtract out your website. You might want to also subtract out sites like YouTube or Facebook if you have a lot of those listings as well. Then, set the date back for one month and see what new mentions have happened in that last month. You may be able to reach out to some of those businesses to get links.

V. Reclaim broken links

A way that you can find broken links to your website is to go to Google Search Console and look at the crawl errors. What I’m talking about here is a place where somebody has linked to your website but perhaps they’ve misspelled the URL. What you can do, there are two ways that you can reclaim these. One is to reach out to the site and say, “Hey, thanks for linking to us. Could you maybe fix the typo?” Number two is to create a redirect that goes from the misspelled URL to the properly spelled URL. When you do this, you lose a tiny little bit of link equity through the redirect, but still it’s much better than having a link that goes to a broken page, because a link that goes to a 404 page is one that doesn’t count for PageRank matters.

VI. Be awesome

Journalists are always looking for stuff to write about. If you can do something with your business that is newsworthy, then that’s fantastic. Something you can do is create an event or perhaps do something for charity, and journalists love to write about that kind of thing.

A good way to find opportunities to do things like this is to do a Google search for local and your profession. Let’s say you were a hair salon. You could do a Google search for local hair salon and then click on news. You’ll see all sorts of news stories that journalists have written about. Perhaps a local hair salon has offered free haircuts for veterans. That gives you an idea of something that you can do as well. That also gives you a list of the journalists that are writing these types of stories. You can reach out to those journalists and say, “Hey, our business is doing this awesome thing. Would you consider writing a story about us?” Generally, that would include a link back to your website.

VII. Get press? Get more!

If you’re getting press, do things to get more of that press. I have a story about a client who had a product who went viral. What he ended up doing was contacting all of those people who had linked to him and offering himself as a source for an interview. We also contacted people who mentioned the product but didn’t link to him and said, “Hey, could you possibly link to us? We’d be happy to do an interview. We’d be happy to provide a new angle to the story.” So if you’re doing something that is going viral, that is getting a lot of press, often that means that people are super interested in this aspect of your business, and you can usually, with a little bit of work, get more links out of that process.


…Which stands for Help A Reporter Out. HARO is an email list that connects journalists with businesses, with professionals as well. These journalists are looking for a source. For example, if you’re a dentist, there might be a journalist who’s doing a story about teeth whitening. That journalist might want to use you as a source and then link to you. A tip that I can offer is, if you’re using Gmail, is to set up filters in Gmail so that you only see the HARO requests that contain your keyword or your business. Otherwise, you can get up to three of these emails a day, and it can be a little bit overwhelming and fill up your inbox.

IX. What content is already getting links?

A good way to do this is to go to Google Search Console, Links to your site, Most linked content, and click on More. This is going to give you a list of the URLs on your site and the number of domains that are linking to those URLs. If you download the list, you’ll also be able to see the exact URLs where the links are coming from. If you have content on your site that actually is already attracting links, then this is the type of content that you want to promote to other people to get more links. You can also contact the people who did link to you and say, “Thank you so much for linking to me. Is there something else that we could produce that would be useful for your customers, for your readers?” Often that can give you good ideas for creating new content, and the links are right there if those people are willing to give you ideas to write about.

X. 10X Content

This is creating content that’s 10 times better than anything that’s out there on the web. This doesn’t have to be expensive. It can just be a matter of answering the questions that people have about your product or your business. One thing that I like to do is go to Yahoo Answers and search for my product, for my profession, and see what kind of questions people are asking about this profession or product, because if people are asking the question on Yahoo Answers, it often means that the answer is not easily available on a Google search. You can create content that’s the best of its kind, that answers any questions that people might have, and you can reach out and ask for links. If this is really, truly 10X content, it is the type of content that should attract links naturally as well.

So these are 10 ways that you can get links that will comply with Google’s guidelines and really should make a difference in your rankings. These are going to be harder than just going to a free link directory or using some spammy techniques to make links, but if you can do this type of thing, it’s the type of thing that really moves the needle. You don’t need to be worried about the Web Spam Team. You can be proud of the types of links that you’re getting.

Thanks for watching. I’d be interested in seeing what types of links you have gotten by creating great things, by doing things that Google would expect businesses to do. Leave a comment below, and I’m sure we’ll have a great discussion about how to get links that comply with Google’s guidelines.

For more educational content and Google news from Marie, be sure to sign up for her newsletter or one of her new course offerings on SEO.

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