Someone is looking for a music store in Jacksonville. They pull up their favorite search engine, type in “music store Jacksonville,” and wait to see what they’re offered. If you own a music store in Jacksonville, you’d like to be at the top of the page.
At that point, the search engines have a lot of power over your business. However, if you understand how the search engines make the decision of which web sites to offer the searcher, you have a lot more control over where your site stands in the search engine’s rankings.
Content is the first thing search engines look for. Are you the only music store in Jacksonville? If so, you’re in luck. All you have to do is make sure that the search engines can tell what you do from your website’s content, and you can count on a #1 ranking.
In fact, there are dozens of music stores in Jacksonville, so the search engine has to look deeper to decide which one should be on top.
Each search engine uses an algorithm to determine how trustworthy and valuable a website is. Content is the main factor here, too, along with how well the site is optimized, but the search engines realize that their robots can’t identify the most attractive, entertaining, or user-friendly website. They can’t tell how knowledgeable you are or how experienced, or how good a music store you are.
That’s why the search engines rely on links from other sites as well as the things that the robots can see for themselves. Human beings give links to other websites, they figure, and they do so only if they believe that the website is worth a link. A link from another website is a vote of confidence.
The metaphor isn’t perfect: all links are not created equal. To do your website good from the perspective of SEO, the sites that link to yours have to be relevant to your site. They do you more good if they’re highly ranked than if they aren’t considered trustworthy by the search engines. What your website needs isn’t just links, but links from high quality, relevant sites.
How can you tell which sites you should approach for links? Avoid sites like these:
- lots more ads than content
- little unique content
- lots of keywords stuffed unnaturally into the content
- lots of links to other low quality sites
- lots of random links to irrelevant sites
- mostly reciprocal or paid links to them
- little involvement in social media
- little involvement in business networks such as the Chamber of Commerce or BBB
- no physical address or local phone number
- no place page or Yahoo local listing
Instead, look at sites like these:
- Jacksonville business directories
- local news outlets
- related businesses (for a music store selling instruments, this might include music teachers and stores selling CDs)
- neighboring businesses
- community sites like Yelp and BrownBook
- schools with music programs
- musicians who use your products
- manufacturers of the things you sell
- bloggers who write about music
As you look at their sites, ask yourself, “Why would this site want to link to my site?” You can swap links in a friendly way with neighborhood businesses, but most sites will link to you only when it’s of value to them or to their site’s visitors. Do you offer a service that would be useful to a non-competing site’s visitors? Do you have information on your site that another site’s visitors would find useful? Approach the site owners with the benefit to their site that yours has to offer.
As you add links, you’ll see your site rankings improve. We just had the pleasant task of telling one of our clients that they had moved into the top three for local search, and we can promise that its’ a great feeling!