Tips for Optimizing SEM Efforts, Part 1

Off-page opportunities: creating quality links
Inbound links are crucial to organic search engine rankings, and quality matters more than quantity. Beyond simply avoiding purchased links from brokers, you must now curate inbound links carefully and cultivate ties to sites with stellar reputations. With social media playing an ever-larger role in organic rankings, you can generate even more relevant and fresh inbound links. Try the following to hone in on the best off-page prospects:

1. Think local. Searches with keywords without location information are increasingly producing results listings that include localized suggestions via search engine tools such as Google Places or Yahoo Local. Localized information is crucial for mobile shoppers looking to locate products on the go. Meet this growing segment of specialized search results by enhancing on-site store locator information with a unique page for each outlet, then optimize off-site listings to match. Most local directories also offer the opportunity for businesses to “claim” their pages and add information such as store hours and the types of products and services.

Outdoor retailer REI produces a series of local results in the second position in organic search results. Its Google+ Local page includes store-specific information (e.g., specialty services offered) and links directly to a page on the main REI site specific to that location, which lists still more localized information such as a schedule of in-store events and classes. Optimize your information on other local business directory sites such as CitySearch, Yellow Pages and SuperPages, as well as review sites like Yelp.

2. Make news. You can’t always control what coverage your brand receives in the news media, but you can distribute your own news. In-store appearances by authors or celebrities, participation in charity events, new products or services, contests and seasonal tie-ins are all potential fodder for creating informational, puff-free press releases that include links to relevant content on your site. You can also distribute releases to sites such as, and (for fees ranging from $30 to $500), which feed into Google News and other sources.

3. Set the stage for social. The exact impact of social media endorsements on natural search rankings is unknown, and the landscape is constantly shifting, but the consensus among the majority of SEO experts is that social media signals will become a top-ranking factor in the future, particularly with the entry of Google+.

When formulating a concrete social SEO plan, the more you can integrate your social outposts and main website, the more you stand to gain. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Enable social sharing and product endorsement on every network, even if you don’t maintain an official presence there. Add Google+ “+1” and Pinterest “Pin It” functionality to product pages on your main site alongside links for Facebook and Twitter.
  • Interlink social outposts and your e-commerce site. Be sure to give your site maximum linking exposure by cross-promoting wherever possible.
  • Seek endorsements and mentions from authorities. Cultivate relationships with reputable industry bloggers by sending them press announcements. Seek out popular, topic-relevant Twitter accounts to follow your brand, and “like” related, credible pages on Facebook, inviting them to like your site in return.

This is part one of a two-part series. The second and final installment of this series will run in next Tuesday’s (12/18) issue of eM+C Daily, and will focus on segmenting the search audience for targeted ad spending as well as how remarketing fits into SEM plans.

Ken Burke is the founder and executive chairman of MarketLive. Ken can be reached at

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