Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Beginners

You've finished your web design, uploaded your files, and set up your blog, but you're still not getting as many visitors as you hoped for. What gives? Chances are you haven't started working on one of the most important ways to market your site, Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

What SEO Is

Search Engine Optimization refers to the collection of techniques and practices that allow a site to get more traffic from search engines (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft). SEO can be divided into two main areas: off-page SEO (work that takes place separate from the website) and on-page SEO (website changes to make your website rank better). This tutorial will cover both areas in detail! Remember, a website is not fully optimized for search engines unless it employs both on and off-page SEO.

What SEO Is Not

SEO is not purchasing the number #1 sponsored link through Google Adwords and proclaiming that you have a #1 ranking on Google. Purchasing paid placements on search engines is a type of Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and is not covered in this tutorial.

SEO is not ranking #1 for your company's name. If you're reading this tutorial, you probably already know that ranking for popular terms is darn near impossible, but specific terms, such as a company name, is a freebie. The search engines usually are smart enough to award you that rank by default (unless you are being penalized).

Who Uses SEO

If a website is currently ranked #10 on Google for the search phrase, "how to make egg rolls," but wants to rise to #1, this websites needs to consider SEO. Because search engines have become more and more popular on the web, nearly anyone trying to get seen on the web can benefit from a little SEO loving.

Keyword Research

Before you can start optimizing your site for the search engines, you must first know which terms you want to target. A good start would be to choose 3 or 4 keywords you would like your website to rank well for. With these keywords in your mind you can then set a goal to rank in the top 10 results on Google for each of them (we refer to Google because if you can rank well there, you'll rank well on the other search engines). These keywords can be either broad or specific, but you'll want to study our list of pros and cons of each before choosing.

Broad Keywords

A broad keyword is one that many people search for, because they may only have a vague idea of what they're looking for. Broad keywords tend to be very short and aren't very specific (e.g. "shoes" or "sports"). These keywords are difficult to rank #1 for because so many other websites might have an article or two that mention shoes. However, if you can rank well for a broad keyword, you will be receiving a great deal of traffic.

Summary: Hard to rank for, but worth it in the long run. We recommend that beginners only choose a broad keyword if their industries are not very competitive.

Specific Keywords

A specific keyword is something that contains many adjectives or words that make the search very targeted. The people doing these types of searches know exactly what they want (e.g. "used black high heel shoes"). These keywords are much less competitive and are easier to rank for on search engines. The downside is that they receive a great deal less volume of searches per month. In terms of traffic, you will need to have several #1 rankings for specific keywords to equal one #1 ranking broad keyword.

Summary: Easier to rank for and it's highly targeted traffic. The only downside is that the number of visitors you will receive is relatively low.

Unique or Branded Keywords

These are the words that are specific to only your company. They are one of the most easiest ways to get traffic. However, some companies will release a new product, with a unique name, and then forget to optimize for that keyword on their website. Their SEO savvy competitors can then pick up the slack and take over the top rankings for these terms. If you have a popular brand or product, make sure that you have optimized for these freebie keywords.

Keyword Research Tools

Keyword research tools are 2 parts voodoo magic and 1 part hard statistic. This is partly due to Google not releasing actual numbers and partly due to overeager SEO Tool developers trying to sell their products. Because there is such a sizable uncertainty in all keyword research tools, it is best to use as many different sources as you can,. Even with multiple sources, you should only take the information you gather as a recommendation, rather than a fact.

Yahoo has been releasing their keyword search information for years, and many tools are based off of this specific data. We've collected a wide variety of helpful tools that will give you a general idea of which keywords you should target when making and optimizing your websites.

Picking a Short List

To put the optimizing tactics that we teach to good use, we recommend that you try to target no more than 2 or 3 keyword phrases per page. A common mistake by many SEO beginners is to stuff 500 different keywords on one page and wait for the #1 rankings to roll in. That might have worked 10 years ago, but the algorithms that search engines use these days are much more sophisticated and are not tricked by this. That's why it's best to start small, and be concise with the keywords that you choose. New sites in particular will find it nearly impossible to rank well for many keyword phrases upon first starting out.

What is PageRank?

PageRank is a ranking system that previously was the foundation of the infamous search engine, Google. When search engines were first developed, they ranked all websites equally and would return results based only on the content and meta tags the pages contained. At the time, however, the PageRank system would revolutionize search engine rankings by including one key factor: a site's authority.

To determine how important, or authoritative, a site was Google chose several big sites, such as,, and These sites were clear authorities, and Google figured that if these websites chose to link to another site (let's say site B), then site B would receive a piece of that site's authority. If site B were to link to another site (how about C), then site C would also receive a piece of authority, though much smaller.

Using this system of passing authority, Google would then count up how much authority a site had and give it a PageRank from 0 to 10. The PageRank system has become more complicated since then, but this is how it all started.

What's my PageRank?

If you would like to see what PageRank your site has or other sites have, install Google's Toolbar. Google has made a small green bar that starts at 0 page rank (a blank bar) all the way up to 10 (a full green bar, which is 100% authoritative). It should be noted that the PageRank shown in the toolbar is an estimate released by Google, and it is only updated every 3 months or so.

Who Uses PageRank?

When PageRank first came out, only Google was using the technology, but as other search engines have seen how much it improved Google's accuracy, nearly every search engine has added the PageRank system in to be at least part of their algorithm. In the past, while many of the search engines were still working on adding PageRank to their search algorithm, some couldn't wait to make their own and instead signed deals with Google to have them power their results (Yahoo did this for quite some time).

Apart from search engines, SEOs (Search Engine Optimization specialists), link buyers, webmasters, marketers, and anyone interested in a site's value will often look to the Google PageRank when trying to quickly determine the importance of a site.

How Important is PageRank?

When Google was in its childhood, PageRank was the single most important factor for ranking well. However, as soon as the SEO community caught on to this, there was a great deal of people who found ways to artificially boost their clients' PageRank. Those sites became more authoritative than Google thought they should be. Since then, Google and other search engines have constantly refined how important PageRank is, and its importance has definitely declined through the years.

One tactic Google uses is to update Google Toolbar PageRank values four times a year instead of every week, making it difficult for SEOs to know a site's real PageRank. Another tactic is to prevent a site that has been known to sell links from passing any of its PageRank (authority) on to sites that it links to. However, Google can't use that tactic too much because then they run the risk of preventing good sites from being ranked as they should be.

This is a battle between Google and SEOs that will not be ending anytime soon!

Where do I Get PageRank for my Site?

Now we've come to the part where you actually have to do work! It's tough, but getting a high PageRank for your site should definitely be part of your longterm SEO strategy.

The only way to get PageRank is to get a link from a site that already has PageRank. This means that getting a ton of links from PageRank 0 sites will not help your score. However, a single link from a site with a PageRank 6 can immediately boost your site to a PageRank 5 if the site is trusted by Google and is not linking to a massive amount of other sites.

The process of increasing your PageRank is directly tied to link acquisition. Link acquisition is getting links from other sites, be it via natural or through link purchasing. We cover both of these topics in greater detail, and you should read each lesson to learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Final Thoughts: PageRank

Although not nearly as important as it used to be, PageRank can still be the deciding factor that bumps your site to the top of the search engines. Not only that, but it is also a good indicator of which sites you should spend your most time trying to get links from. Sites with a PageRank 0 are either being punished by Google, or just have an authority of zero, nada, zilch, bupkis, and generally not worth your time.

SEO Title Tag

The first and most important part of your on-page SEO is the title tag (<title></title>). Many people who outsource or create a site in a WYSIWYG editor completely forget about the last of the meta tags that still gives some quality ranking love from search engines.

The benefits of using optimized title tags are three fold:

  1. A user searching for your keyword will see your site's link highlighted in the search engines if your page's title is the same as the phrase they searched for. This drastically increases click through and can even give you more traffic than those who rank above you if their title tags are not optimized.
  2. Increase your rankings on the search engines.
  3. Help the engines distinguish between pages that might look similar.

Higher Clickthrough Rates

Search engine optimization isn't just about showing up number one on search engines. Rather, it's about getting the all the traffic that you deserve from the search engines. If you rank #6 for "free hats" and you and your competitors forget to include that in the page's title tag, chances are, the person doing the search won't see much difference between your site and the others.

However, if you were to change your website's title text to target your most important keyword phrase "free hats", then when someone completes the search for "free hats", they'd see your site show up in bold. This technique will greatly increase the user's desire to view your site first, as your site looks much more relevant and targeted.

Better Rankings

All too often, people believe that the title tag is a place to list the business and domain name of the website. This is wrong and is wasting one of the easiest ways you can tell the search engines what the a page is about and how they should categorize it. While humans might not notice the title tag, search engines certainly do.

Use this opportunity to choose the most important keyword that you want to go after and get the free ranking boost that so many websites are missing out on. If you still want to include your domain or name of the company, do it after your keyword, followed by a dash (e.g. "free hats -") to show that your keyword is the most important.

Help the Engines Distinguish your Pages

It's not easy being a search engine. They crawl the web day and night, taking the information from the web and trying to categorize it in a useful manner so that users can find what they're looking for. Make their job easier. Post clearly what the topic of each page is, using title tags, and help the search engine to distinguish one page from another.

You may have two pages that are quite similar and it may require a little thought to point out how they different. Don't make the search engines figure out for themselves because they might make a mistake. Instead, make the decision for them. Spell the differences out for them and help your rankings in the process. This is just one strategy in avoiding the duplicate content penalty, which we'll be getting into greater depth later.

SEO Header and Bold Tags

Although the internet has changed a great deal in the last ten years, one thing that has remained status quo is the way that webmasters designate topics and things of importance. Topics of a page are often set with header tags <h1> though <h6>, while important items are put in bold to make sure that the user noticed them. However, not just the user notices these attention-grabbing tags. Search engines also use these as primary indicators of what a page is about and what content its creator thought was most important.

Header Tags - <h1> through <h6>

Header tags are a great way to help boost your search engine rankings. If you're creating a page about "free hats" and would like to rank for it, there's nothing shady at all about including a nice big <h1>Free Hats</h1> at the top of the page to make sure your users and the search engines know what your page's subject is. However, as with other search engine strategies, it is important not to stuff too many keywords into these tags. A good rule of thumb is to include no more than 3 or 4 <h1> tags per page, and always have at least a paragraph or two of text between your header tags.

A page that consists entirely of header tags looks pretty spammy to search engines, and it isn't very useful to your visitors.

Bold, Italic, and Emphasis

When you've used up your quota of header tags on the page, don't stress out. There are still plenty of tools to target your keywords with. When mentioning your keywords throughout the page, it's helpful to put them into italics, bold, or emphasis (<em>) to make sure the search engines know that these words are important.

Often people use a lot of flash animations and CSS <span> tags to format text, but search engines don't have an easy way of determining either of these. Why make the search engines work harder than they need to? Use these basic HTML tags and help yourself (and the engines) out!

SEO Keyword Use

So you've researched which keywords you want to target, but just putting the keywords in your <title> and <h1> tags is not enough. If you stop there, you're not going to be able to cover all the bases or pull in as much search traffic as you could. When doing on-page optimization for your selected keywords, there are three things to take into consideration:

  1. Keywords Density - How many times is your keyword mentioned on your site? If it's too much, you'll look like a spammer; if it's too little, you won't look like a relevant match and the search engines won't consider your site.
  2. Keyword Variation - Altering versions of your keywords will help you capture hidden search engine traffic.
  3. Similar Keywords - These are closely related topics to your keywords that will aide the search engines in correctly categorizing your traffic.

Keyword Density

Although some SEOs will talk about aiming for an exact proportion (e.g. the number of times your keyword appears divided by the total number of words on the page), it's a little too much work for something that will take care of itself as long as you know how to write well! Use your keyword frequently on your site, but not so much that it makes the page look weird or a sentence sound awkward. If you just use the keyword once at the top of the page and then reference the keyword as "it", for the rest of the article, you'll definitely be using it too little.

If you want some numbers, you should use your keyword at least three times on the page. This does not include keyword variations.

Keyword Variations

You may have found a couple of high traffic keywords using a keyword research tool, but those estimates often group similar keywords, alternate spellings, and plurals into a single word. Valuable traffic is hidden when using those tools. This hidden traffic lies in all the subtle variations of your keyword that someone may search for.

Similar Keywords

If you're making a page to target "big hats," consider changing up the adjective "big" to its synonyms, like "huge," "giant," "large," "humongous," or "oversized." You can also use the names of specific words that relate to "big hats," like "cowboy hat" and "sombrero." By using this tactic, you give yourself a chance to rank for those similar keywords, plus you let the search engines know more about your page and what it's about. The more a search engine knows about your page, the better off you're going to be!

SEO Internal Linking Structure

The honest fact is, if company owners knew how important that the internal linking structure of a site was to a site's performance on the search engines, they'd have multiple dedicated staff working just to make sure they had it optimized 100%. This topic is a little advanced, but it's helpful to break the inner linking structure down into three parts:

  1. Page depth
  2. Quantity of Internal Links
  3. Quality of Internal Links

Page Depth

Page depth refers to the number of required clicks to get to a page from the homepage. Pages that are available in one click are deemed more important than those that are nearly hidden and require more than 3 clicks to reach. It might seem a little strange, but if you can visualize your website in a tree graph, you will easily notice why certain pages are performing poorly in the search engines.

By organizing your site in this format, you can see which pages are getting a lot of page depth love and which are hurting. If you have a lot of worthless pages and few important product pages, you might take this opportunity to restructure your site.

Quantity of Internal Links

This point is simple; the more internal links you have that point to a certain page, the more important search engines believe that page to be. A common page that ranks well on almost every site is the homepage. This point will continue to be true for many years because nearly every webmaster programs their site so that every page has a link back to the homepage.

So how do make your other pages benefit from this? Does that mean you should have every page on your site include a link to EVERY SINGLE PAGE in your site? No. That's an obvious red flag to search engines, and you'll be seen as a spammer if your site has a couple of paragraphs and then 500 links to every other page on your site.

A better strategy would to have a "Top Products" section that includes a link to pages you want to receive the most link love. Another strategy is to have a link for each of the major areas of your site. This will help give those areas a lot of link love, and in turn, they'll be able to get more link love to the pages contained within them.

Quality of Internal Links

Just including a bunch of internal links to an important page is not enough; they also need to be high quality links. For your most important pages, make sure the links they receive have as many of the following criterion as possible:

  1. Anchor Text - If you're targeting a certain keyword(or keywords) make sure the internal links have the keyword in the anchor text. Also, bonus points for using slightly altered anchor text throughout your site.
  2. Link Position - The higher a link occurs in the HTML, the better. If you link to "cowboy hats" at the top of the page, but "sombreros" towards the bottom of the page, search engines are going to view the link to "cowboy hats" as more valuable than the link to "sombreros."
  3. Link Zone - The best scenario for link love is to link from one page to a highly-related page. The closer the subjects of each are in topic, the higher the amount of link love that will be transferred. For example, it is better to link form a page about "cowboy boots" to a page about "cowboy hats" than it is to link from a page about "tacos" to a page about "cowboy hats." This doesn't mean you shouldn't include links on pages that are different, but just keep in mind that the link love will not be as strong as it could be.

Anchor Text

Simply getting links from many other websites is not enough for your website to rank well in the search engines. The quality of your anchor text will play a huge factor in ranking your pages for specific keywords, especially competitive ones.

What is Anchor Text?

Anchor text refers to the words that make up a link; they are the words that turn your mouse cursor into a finger-pointing hand. For example, in the sentence, "I really like to go to this store," "this store" is anchor text for the link.

Why is Anchor Text Important?

Search engines gather data by traveling around the web via links, jumping from page to page. Links are the lifeblood of a search engine and are used as key indicators for identifying the topics of the pages they're about to go to. If 100 sites link to a site with the link "Texas Architect" or similar words, the search engine can be fairly confident that the site is about an architect in Texas.

Targeted Keywords

If you want a page to rank for a keyword that is particularly difficult, be sure to focus on getting the keyword in your anchor text. Many newbies will request links to the page they're trying to boost and forget about the anchor text. While getting links to the page is most certainly going to help, you should try to get at least part of your keyword into the anchor text whenever you get the chance.

Varying Anchor Text Slightly

Imagine this scenario: you know which keyword you want to target, and you're starting to get links with the desired keyword. That's great, but you should be careful about getting too many links that look exactly the same. If you have 99% of the links that are pointing to your page with "Rocky Mountain Oysters," that will send up a red flag at Google that these links probably are not normal links. This is bad! You don't want to make Google suspicious.

Instead, when you request other people to link to your page, ask for variations of that keyword, such as: "Rocky Mountain Oyster", "Alternative Oysters," "Rocky Mountain Festivals," "Rocky Mountain Foods," and so on. It is because people have exploited anchor text in the past that you have to be careful about the way you do it today.

Keywords and URL Alignment

When getting all of these links with the desired anchor text, make sure that you're linking to the correct page, as a very common mistake to simply link to the homepage ( instead of the page that should be getting the link (

Researching Competitors

The internet is a great place for someone to make their fortune, but the secret is out. It is now unlikely that you will be able to get to the top of the search engines without first clawing your way through a crowd of competitors. The trick to making this journey easier to educate yourself on your competitors and taking advantage of any opportunities you uncover.

Known Competitors

If your website isn't a unique idea, you probably already know of a couple other companies that are doing what you're doing. For example, if you are starting a web design company, you can do a quick Google search and see that there are easily over a million sites, but that doesn't mean it's impossible for you to rank well. If you refine the search down to the city you live in, the number of sites is a great deal smaller and from there you can begin to develop a strategy. Write down your top competitors, and let's further research how you're going to beat them.

Who Ranks Well for Your Keywords?

Do a Google search for your most desired keywords, and pay attention to who is showing up in the top 10 results for each. Is there one company that is dominating the search listings? Are there certain sites that seem to rank well for one topic, but poorly for others? On your competitor list, make a note next to the companies that are the strongest. Just by attempting to compete with the big boys, you will find you will get a great deal of search engine traffic that you never had before.

What is the PageRank and Alexa Rank?

What PageRanks do your competitors homepage have? If your site is a PageRank 1 and your competitors' are a PageRank 9, there's no way in hell you're going to be ranking above them in the foreseeable future. However, if you're a PageRank 4 and they're a PageRank 6, with a little dedication, you'll be able to chip away at that gap and eventually pass them with a long-term plan.

Alexa ranks are a completely different beast. A site may rank 100,000, and yours may rank 800,000, but your site may very well receive more traffic that the other does. This is because Alexa gathers data from users who have decided to install the Alexa toolbar on their browser. So, if a site has a group of Alexa users that happen to frequent their site, their site will be artificially inflated. If the Alexa rank is in the top 100,000 there is a fair amount of data gathered and you can be more confident in Alexa's results.

How Many Links do They Have?

Now that you know which of your competitors are strongest, you need to find out how they got so strong. Do a Google search for the website's name (make sure you do the search in the form "" and not just "domain," to eliminate a lot of false results). The results will show a rough number of how many links your competitor has. If it's a huge number, sit down, take a breath, and let's see how you're going to compete.

You can also use the link: command (search Google using the form "link:") and the link popularity checker to see how big a site is on the engines. None of these tools are exact, but if you use a few sources, you'll have a pretty good idea of a competitor's web presence.

Decide to Fight or Flight

Now that you've seen some rough estimates of the strength of your key competitors, it's time to take a real look at the work ahead of you. Do you have a chance to compete with the big boys? Are there no big boys and all you need are just a few links to overpower your rivals with?

Consider the data and think about whether you're OK working long hours to slowly work your way up to your competitors, or if you'd rather do SEO as an afterthought and just continue to have fun making your website. You might also decide that you've chosen the wrong industry and start looking for a new industry to compete in!

If you want to run, then come back when you've got a new idea. However, if you're ready to fight, read on!

Targeting Sites

If you want to rank well for a specific keyword, especially a competitive keyword, you can go about it the old-fashioned way and try to get links from anyone you can and slowly move up the rankings ladder. Or, you can use these high-powered techniques to quickly gain authority in the eyes of Google.

Copy Your Competitors

When you do a search for your rival's website,, you'll find out the most authoritative sites that mention your competitor. Visit these sites and decide if it would be possible for you to get a link from those site's. If it's a review site, it may be as easy as sending a free product for review to the owner. If it's a forum or wiki, it may be just as easy as adding your link.

Don't do this all at once! Make a note of all the sites you would like to get a link from, and slowly acquire links over an extended amount of time. There is no set time period, but try to spread it over at least a 6 month period.

Searching for SEO

Often, the best way of finding a solid place to get links from is as simple as going over to Google and typing in your exact keyword. You may think this is crazy and that there's no way you'd be able to get a link from someone who is ranking well for your desired keyword, but you'd be surprised just how many website owners care nothing for SEO and will be more than happy to link to your site (as long as your site is valuable to their visitors).

Obviously, the higher a site ranks for the keyword, the better it is to get a link from them. And if you can somehow pull it off, getting a link from their page, the one that's ranking well on Google for that keyword, would be priceless.

Get a Link from Competitors

Get a link from a competitor using your nicest greeting and biggest smile! Many competitors will be up for a link exchange, but if you have some unique pieces of content that your competitors don't, you may be able to get one of those precious one-way links!

Diagnosing a Site's Health

While any link is a good link, not all links are created equal. Here are a few of the key factors that go into deciding how healthy a site is, and in turn, how powerful a link from them will be for your SEO needs.

What is the PageRank?

What's the PageRank of the page that is linking to you? What are the PageRanks of some of its subpages that link to other sites? Install the Google Toolbar to find out. While some websites may have very high PageRanks for their homepage, the other pages on their site may have a much lower PageRank. Pay attention to the specific page that will be linking to you when considering how good a site's PageRank actually is.

Cache Status

Does the site have an up-to-date entry inside of Google's cache? You can check by searching Google with the command "". A site that doesn't have an up-to-date cache is often a red flag that there is something wrong with a search engine's ability to crawl that site.

Link Popularity

How many entries does the site have? What is its link popularity? Use Marketleap's Link Popularity Checker to get some quick and dirty facts about a site's web presence.

Number of Outbound Links

Does their links page already have a ton of links on it? The more links they have, the less link love your site will receive. Also, are there a lot of sponsored links to unrelated sites like sites about gambling, pharmacies, or adult content? These can also devalue a site's ability to pass on link value.

Age of Site

How long has a site been registered for? Usually, it's best to get links from sites that have been around for more than two years, as search engines tend to be a little less trusting of brand new domains. You can check how long a website has been around by going to the WaybackMachine and seeing when the earliest entry for the domain was.

Link Building

The most important part of any SEO campaign is getting more links to point to your site. Links really are the measure of power on the internet, as a site with bad content but a lot of links will outrank a beautiful, relevant, site with great content but no links...everytime.

So, you know you want links, but what's the best way to go about getting them?

Get Links from Related Sites

When building your site's authority on the web, you should always be striving to get links from sites that are in the same industry as you. Google tends to give more weight to links that are in the same industry, especially when the link is from a site that Google views as an authority (a Pagerank over 6).

Don't worry about only getting links from sites that are in your vertical, but if you have a choice between a link from a general blog and a blog that specializes in your industry, always go with the industry related site first!

Get Deep Links

When acquiring links from other sites, don't just have the link point to your homepage ( Instead have them point to the content pages that you would like to have rank better in the search engines. By getting a link that points directly to a content page, you are showing the engines:

The more links you get pointing to a specific content page, the more the search engines are going to believe that the content page is something special and should be ranked at the top of the results.

Pace Yourself!

Although any link is a good link, getting 10,000 links in a week is not as beneficial as getting 10,000 links over the span of 6 months. When a site suddenly gets a ton of links, this throws up a red flag at the search engines that the site may be trying to cheat its way to the top. There are exceptions, but it is best to take a long-term approach when acquiring links for your site, especially if your site is less than two years old (another red flag).

Have a plan of how many links you want to get and then work on that plan a few hours a week for several months. This way you can show the search engines that your site is gradually growing in popularity and is regularly receiving new backlinks (the best indicator of a good site!).

Consider Paid Links

Getting someone to link to you for free can sometimes be hard, especially if you're in a competitive industry where people have so many other choices of sites to link to. If this is the case, you may consider buying a certain amount of links every month. To read more on this, check out our paid links lesson to see the latest ways to go about this.

SEO - Paid Links

Debating about whether purchasing links, reviews, considerations, etc. is ethical or not is something we'll leave up the individual. Search engines would prefer that all links are natural, but the fact of the matter is that a substantial number of the links on the internet have been paid for in one way or another. Be sure to check out Google's official policy on paid links.

That aside, let's talk about the different kinds of paid links you have access to and some strategies for getting the best bang for your buck.

Permanent Vs. Temporary Links

The most temporary a link can be is a paid placement on a search engine. When you sign up with Microsoft, Yahoo, or Google to pay for an advertisement spot for a given keyword, you are not buying a link; you are buying a paid listing in the search results that is not guaranteed to even show up. Search engines do not index these links, and they are completely ignored when they are determining how much of an authority your site is. This is a common misconception among newbies, and you should be glad that you won't be wasting any money on your SEO efforts purchasing paid placements on the big search engines.

Moving away from search engines, however, most websites allow you to purchase a monthly text link or banner placement in a designated "sponsor" section. While this type of temporary link might give you some good click through traffic, the benefit in terms of SEO is limited. Search engines can take months before they credit your site with the new link, so if you only purchase a one month placement, you'll probably not see a change in your rankings. For SEO purposes, try to keep a link for at least three months before deciding if it's worth keeping.

On the flip side, a permanent link might be a placement in a website's link section, a review on a blog, or even a new topic posted on a forum. These links are typically forever, unless a site is taken offline (happens more than you'll like) or the site is sold and redone. These nearly-permanent links are the best for SEO and are key to building up your site's authority with the search engines in the long-term.

Where to Buy Links

There are several places to buy links. Some types of purchasable links have been around for years, and others are quite new. Expect to see this list change in the future, as it's one of the more volatile parts of SEO there is.


There are literally millions of directories that you can submit your website to. Not only that, but there are services out there that will automatically submit your site to hundreds of directories, for a fee. These directories and services are, for the most part, worthless. The search engines caught on long ago to the people mass-submitting to directories, and now, only a select few directories pass on the link love they used to.

It should be noted that directories which are easy to get into are most likely going to contain a great deal of poor-quality sites. When the search engines figure out that a directory is not filtering submissions, the value of the link will be worth next to nothing. This is why we recommend that you focus on the three directories listed below (or niche directories for your industry). Avoid low quality general directories!


Viewed as the golden child of Google, the dmoz directory has often been the source of much anger and frustration from webmasters trying to get their site listed in this king of directories. Although the value of a link has decreased over the years, a link from can still significantly affect your search rankings. To be listed on dmoz all, you need to do is navigate to a category related to your site and submit a free submission.

However, don't expect an immediate response. dmoz is notorious for being slow to add links (and sometimes never) for a variety of reasons they probably won't tell you. Also, if you resubmit your site to a category you are often placed at the end of the queue, so don't submit more than once a year and hope for the best!

Best of the Web

One of the oldest sites on the net, Best of the Web has been around since 1994 and is pretty strict about who they let into their directory. To be considered for a listing you must pay a fee. They also have two different types of payment plans: annual or lifetime. If you're serious about your site being successful on the search engines, pay the lifetime fee, as it will pay for itself soon enough.


Yahoo's directory is similar to Best of the Web, but the quality is a little less. However, all search engines still consider this a valuable directory and a listing here will definitely boost your rankings.

Forum Signatures

Forums are a great source of traffic and link love for sites that are just starting out. First you need to find a forum that supports links in the signature, then you simply have to post on the forums to get links. Another option is to sponsor a member of that forum in exchange for them including a link to your website. However, it should be noted that some forums do not allow this, and you should research this issue before investing any money.

Important note: Some forums have a system where links are automatically marked with the attribute "nofollow", which means that they are marking the links as untrusted. Read up on our no follow lesson to see how this will affect the link love you receive from that site.

Text Link Ads

Although this isn't exactly a permanent form of advertising, these types of links tend to be a bit more below the radar than a typical site sponsorship deal. There are several text link ad brokers that have a network of sites that are willing to put text links on their website in return for a monthly fee. At some of these sites you can even get placed on a single page on the site, rather than on every page (this is good because then your link doesn't look like a normal sponsored link!).

Blog Reviews

With the rise of blogging popularity, it was obvious that something was going to come along to allow the massive amount of bloggers to make an extra buck. Well, there is a new option for bloggers to make money using ReviewMe, SponsoredReview, PayPerPost, and V7NContextual. All of these sites have a network of bloggers that are waiting to make a post for your company if you're willing to pay a fee. These posts can range from a full review of your product to a simple mention of your website in a post that's about the industry you work in.

These links are forever, but make sure you don't purchase links from blogs that have too many paid posts. The search engines are getting better at sniffing these sites out and will often penalize these blogs, preventing them from giving out link love if all they do is post sponsored reviews.

Directly Contacting a Webmaster

Often, the best way to get a nice link on a website is to talk to the owner of the website directly. By doing this, you can select sites that do not have a great deal of paid links already, and you can get a whole bunch of value at a reasonable price. The downside to this approach is that it takes more time and effort than it does going through another company that has streamlined the process for you.

SEO Tools

There are a lot of repetitive tasks to be done when optimizing your site for the search engines. To make your life easier, we've compiled a list of the most popular SEO Tools (nearly all 100% free) and categorized them into the following:

Keyword Discovery

Before you can begin to optimize your site for search engines, you must first know which keywords you are going after. Use these tools to find which things people are searching for in your industry!

Keyword Volume

Almost as important as knowing what people are searching for is determining how many people are searching for it. Use these tools to get a rough estimate of the number of people searching for a keyword or phrase.

Keyword Density

Backlink Tracker

Site Popularity

Keyword Rankings

Firefox Addons


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