Ranking, Not Spamming
There’s a great thread brewing over at the Cre8asite Forums where a local business owner asks if it’s possible to beat out high-ranking spammers without resorting to their level. The answer is yes. There’s actually an entire industry based around this concept. I think its called search engine optimization.
Let’s be clear about this. You do not have to spam to get high rankings. There is nothing you can accomplish by spamming that you can’t do with a little hard work and patience. Spamming may get you results faster than trusted white hat strategies, but they won’t be long lived. If you want your site to rank well for the long term, the rankings have to be earned, not stolen.
As a local business owner, there are many things you can do to gain a significant advantage over the spammy sites challenging you for your keywords. We suggest focusing on three main strategies:
- Local Search Engine Optimization
- "Traditonal" Search Engine Optimization
- TSTA (this will be explained later; don’t skip ahead!)
If you’re a small site, it may be easier to focus on your local search engine optimization goals before jumping into a full blown SEO campaign. Local sites need to make sure they’re targeting both industry and local phrases. This includes ranking for terms like "cowboy boots yourtown", as well as including regional jargon related to your industry.
As a local site you’ll not only want to obtain links from related, authoritative sites in your industry, but also in your region. Seek out links from your city’s Chamber of Commerce and local business organizations. Submit to local directories and try to get links back from other local businesses you’ve worked with.
Realize that you have more than just the search engines’ main index at your disposal; the engines’ local indexes serve as a less crowded side door. To make your site more appealing to these engines, market your site as a resource for your location. Display your company’s full address (with local phone number) prominently on your Web site in the footer of every page. Offer maps and driving directions on an About Us or Location page. This will help increase your visibility as your site will appear not only in the engines main index, but in the local verticals as well.
Once you’re ranking well locally, it’s time to try and pick up those generic terms. After all, if your site is optimized correctly and ranking on its own merit, then your competitors actions should be of little concern. Let them spam each other to death and get kicked out of the engine; you just focus on creating the most useful site possible.
We have an entire site dedicated to educating business owners on successful search engine optimization, so we’ll only touch on the bare minimum here. If you want the real goods, grab a bottle of water and start here. We’ll see you in about four days.
Site Design: Take a look at your site’s design. It should be easy for both users and search engines to navigate through. It should stand out from your competition without being so flashy that it drives people away.
Content: Make sure the content on your site is authoritative and worthy of being linked to. I know, the "content is king" mantra has been beaten to death, but it’s important. The expertness of your content is what will separate you from your competition and it is what makes your site link-worthy.
Keywords: What keywords are you trying to rank for? Are you targeting both broad and targeted terms? Have you implemented them in all the necessary areas (Title tag, Meta Tags, Headings, etc)?
Links: Develop a solid link campaign, knowing when to link out and who you want to link back to you.
Once your primary and local SEO goals have been addressed, there’s one more step you can take to beat the spammers. I call this The Shari Thurow Approach (TSTA). I’m a big fan of Shari. I’ve seen her present in San Jose and Chicago and she absolutely has the accessibility goods. One of the reasons I enjoy Shari so much has to do with her penchant for outing spammers for the annoying, useless beings they are. If you see a site blatantly spamming, don’t be afraid to send an anonymous tip to Google’s spam team and let them know. To do so, simply fill out a spam report and watch the instant karma happen. It’s really quite beautiful.
If you’re a local business, focusing on your primary and local search engine optimization goals should be enough to help your site rank above those using black hat and spammy techniques. You don’t have to spam to get high rankings, you just have to be smarter.