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If you’ve been following along with this series you should be ready to start building back links and directory listings, or what’s more commonly known in the SEO world as off page optimization. While on page optimization reflects what you think is important about your site, what really matters to search engines is how important other people feel your content is. This is best demonstrated by the number of other sites that link to yours.

Link Building

As I mention in Part 1, links are like highways that make up the interconnected structure of the web.  They also serve another critical role by providing a strong external signal.  When someone links to your site, it’s like casting a vote for pages they feel have relevant content. The more links that point to your site, especially with keywords as the anchor text, the more relevant a search engine deems your page. Quality vs. quantity is a good rule of thumb to follow when building links. Generally speaking, one back link from a reputable and authoritative site is better than 10 back links from commenting on a blog.

Building links is one of the biggest but most important challenges for SEO. If you do nothing else to improve your SEO, work to build links and search engines will notice. Use social networks to build relationships and distribute your content for other people to link to. Well written headlines hook readers which can lead to more links. If you blog, comment on other blogs and leave a bread crumb link back to your site or offer to guest post on blogs with related content. One secret trick to link building is that getting .edu sites to link to yours gives you a good dose of link juice…if you can get them. Contact schools and universities and find a reason for them to link to your site.

Directories

Web directories were originally created to organize content on the internet into logical categories, and this data powered many of the web’s largest search engines for some time. There are literally thousands of free and paid directories that range from very general to highly specific subject areas, but you really only need to concern yourself with just a few.

Lately, there seems to be a lot of controversy about the value of a DMOZ listing. DMOZ, also known as the Open Directory Project, is human edited directory that search engines would harvest information from to display in their search results.  Because of that, getting listed in DMOZ was a huge plus in getting listed higher in Search Engine Results Pages, but it came with baggage. Being a human edited directory it can sometimes take months before your listing is published, and getting something changed is almost impossible. Since it’s free, go ahead and submit a well written listing under a category that fits your business and move on with life.

Yahoo! Directory is another one to have on your radar.  This is a paid directory that costs $299/year for most sites. Yahoo! bills this directory as “the world’s most visited internet destination”.  I don’t know about all that, but many SEO’s still consider this a good link to have in your arsenal, especially if you’re just getting started and need all the help you can get. If you can afford $299/year, consider getting listed in Yahoo! Directory.

That same Google Account you set up to access Analytics, AdWords and Webmaster tools I covered in Part 2 also allows you to claim a free listing with Google Places. Google Places for business is also free so be sure to claim it and use these tips from Google to optimize your Places listing to best show in local search engine results pages.

This brings our SEO Essentials Guide for Beginners to a wrap.  We’ve covered how search engines work, tools and methods for conducting keyword research, on page optimization and today’s look at off page optimization.  Next week I’ll summarize these posts and provide some final thoughts.  In the mean time, if you’ve got an SEO question drop us a note in the comments section, on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks for reading!

Mike

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The SEO Essentials Guide for Beginners Round Up:
Part 1 – How search engines work?
Part 2 – Where do I start?
Part 3 – Getting under the hood
Part 4 – Building links & directory submissions

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