So you now have your Keyword list. Before you start on the next steps in your SEO Strategy you need to work out if the keywords are attainable. There is no point optimizing your site your site for a keyword in an extremely competitive niche where all the top rankers are large, authoritive sites with a huge amount of backlinks. Later on in the series I’ll be giving you tips on how to get decent links from over 500 sites so also take that into account if you are going to follow this course through till the end. And if all goes to plan those 500 or so links will produce a lot more links.
Before you start you are going to need these two tools:
You need FireFox so if you don’t use that (you heathens) then please download and install. These tools are really awesome and they come from one of the top names in Search Engine Optimization – SEObook.com. Once you’ve downloaded and installed the two tools power up FireFox and google.com in 2 tabs. Turn on the SEO For FireFox extension and in one browser window do a search for one or your keywords and in the other browser do a search for your site.
Just before we launched our new site on March 9th I hadn’t touched SEO elements on the old site in many years. I will use Reseller Hosting as an example again as I did with the Wordtracker. As you can see by using the Rank Checker tool on the SEO Toolbar we rank at #51 just before the site launch:
Three weeks later and we are hovering around 42 and Google is still returning a home page result for that term and the home page isn’t optimized at all for it. So when Google settles down for us I believe we’ll see a big jump. But I’m already seeing results in my SEO re-organization. :)
Okay, so in one browser tab I have the Google search results for hostnexus.com and in the other I have the SERP for Reseller Hosting. Looking at the result for HN these are the important metrics for now:
PR 4 Age: 2002 Y! Links: 4,830 Majestic SEO LinkDomain: 3,480
The Age metric is a bit buggy as it shows for some and not others. The figure comes from web.archive.org and connections to that service are sometimes rough. I’ve actually seen an improvement in recent weeks and I hear archive.org is getting its own data center built (awesome). But if you can get the age of a site it is another thing to consider as Google uses it in its ranking algorithm.
PR (Page Rank) I guess we all know. Y! Links are how many pages (not domains) indexed in Yahoo’s search engine that link to the domain. This number is to be used as a guide as it NOT accurate. Majestic SEO is another tool that the SEO For FireFox program uses. Again, use as a guide
In my opinion a Page 1 ranking is not enough. For real value you need to be the top #5 results so my first step is to compare the stats for HN with the top 5 listings. Here are the top 5 as of now:
www.hostgator.com/resellers.shtml PR 7 Age: 10/2002 Y! Links: 1,790,00 (Y! Pages 1,100) Majestic SEO LinkDomain: 41,897 www.premiumreseller.com PR 4 Age: 11/2005 Y! Links: 5,620 Majestic SEO LinkDomain: 1,775 www.5shadesreseller.com PR 4 Age: 12/2006 Y! Links: 27,700 Majestic SEO LinkDomain: 941 www.resellerspanel.com PR 5 Age: 05/2003 Y! Links: 248,100 Majestic SEO LinkDomain: 10,905 www.hostdime.com PR 6 Age: 05/2002 Y! Links: 5,810 Majestic SEO LinkDomain: 8,042
(I listed the Y! Pages stat for HostGator as their result is a sub-page so how many links pointing to the page is an important metric)
Our Y! Links number is low at 4,830. Before the relaunch it was over 25,000. This is due to NexusPortal being shut down and the engines having to reindex our forum. At first glance I would think that the top spot might be out my reach for now. HostGator’s link pop is outrageous. But to see PremiumReseller outrank the others makes me think that in the future, with some intense link building, even the #2 slot is attainable as it has less inbound links and lower PR than those below it. But these stats alone are not enough to give us the full story.
If you’re serious about competing in competive niches (like web hosting) you need to analyze the inbound links of the guys at the top. Knowing how many links is not enough. You need to know where these links are coming from and most importantly, you need to know about anchor text and how many links a competitor has continue the target term as anchor text. And unfortunately there not many tools that provide this data for free. You can use Yahoo’s API and get their info but as I said above – it isn’t accurate. Also tools using Yahoo’s API have limitations (on results and how many times data can be accessed). I have thought about making such a tool as a few I found seem to be broken but I am certain such a tool, if it became popular, would be a huge drain on server resources. Anyhow, maybe more on that at another time. :)
There are a few paid tools out there and I’ve tested a few but the cream of the crop is LinkScape. It has a limited free option but to get the meaningful data you need to be an SEOmoz Pro member (and I am). It is $80/mo but if there was one thing you had to invest in for your SEO efforts this should be it. You get alot of other stuff with Pro membership but LinkScape is the big daddy of SEO tools. At a glance you can tell where your competitor’s links are coming from and what anchor text is being used so you can easily see what type of link building work you need to do and how much of it.
I can see 5shadesreseller has about 1000 domains pointing to it and I know they all have “Reseller Hosting” in the anchor text. I know exactly how they got all those links via a very clever ploy that I think I’m going to copy (heh). HostGator has about 760 links from original domains with the Reseller Hosting anchor text.
So yep, you really need a tool that can analyze backlinks. LinkScape is its own search engine really. It doesn’t use any 3rd party data, it’s all spidered by the LinkScape bots. It updates monthly now and it’s getting quicker all the time and each update goes deeper. It also has its own metrics like mozRank that VERY closely mirror Google’s own PageRank. In fact they seem to have nailed Google’s trust algorithms to a tee.
Next thing to do is take a look at each site, see how it’s optimized and get more info. But on your own site these are all factors firmly within your control so no matter how well optimized a site is, you can do the same.
On the SEO Toolbar you can highlight the keyword text to see how many times the term appears and where it appears. We will also be going into these On-Page optimization techniques later in the series. But basically the rule is the keyword in the title, in one of the first words on the page, in an h1 tag and a few times elsewhere on the page. You can easily check the page to see how well it is optimized and check the source code for h1 tag usage. But these aren’t factors to consider when selecting what keywords to target.
Look out for sites with low PR with lots of links. This means that Google thinks the links are poor so if you collect good links it might be easy to outrank such sites. By working out a site’s link popularity and quality vs your own site’s link popularity and quality you can work out your chances of competing for a keyword. So research the SERP (Search Engine Ranking Page) for each keyword and see which are viable. Aim for two or three keyword terms per target page. If they are combinations of a primary core term that works even better. If you have a keyword term of “blue widget” for example and “cheap blue widget” is also a high value term the On-Page optimization techniques when combining the two will look more natural.
So now you can work out what keywords to target. Simple, right? :D