My first question posted in the “Ask an SEO” series here at ThinkBait comes from Joe Whyte.  Joe is a well known SEO, with plenty of friends in the industry.  His question was just a poll he was sending around to numerous SEO people on his IM list.  Since I spent about 20 minutes working up this response, I figured I would post it here to get at least a little value out of it.

Question:

Do you use SEOmoz’s Keyword Difficulty Tool? (not really) What different methods do you use to get links for Easy Keywords, Medium Keywords, and Difficult Keywords?

Answer:

I don’t really use that tool.  It’s not a bad tool, I just don’t use it much.

As for methods… As usual, it depends on many factors.  Some keyphrases are so easy, all it takes it writing a single blog post about it and you’ll rank at the top spot easily.  Some are still extremely easy, but need a little extra to push it over the top.  In a scenario like this, an exact match domain with a few blog posts on (so it isn’t too thin) should do the trick.  If the exact match domain is not available, one could easily post a blog then fortify it with a few clean anchor links.  If the phrase you’re trying to rank for is very easy, and also has very little inherent value, here is a cheap and easy way to get a page to rank.

  • Post a blog or publish a web page with the exact keyphrase you are trying to rank for as the title (in the tag like this: <title>Keyphrase</title> – if you’re trying to get an already established page to rank, skip this step)
  • Create a few simple free blogs on hosted blog sites with the title as the name of the blog.  WordPress.com, Blogger, Vox, etc.
  • Write a short simple blog on each hosted blog you create, with the keyphrase in the title.  Make sure within the content of that blog post the keyphrase is used at least once, and that the keyphrase is a clean anchor text link to the site or page you are trying to rank.  If you are using the visual editor when posting your blog, the link should look like this: keyphrase.  If you are using the code editor, it should look like this <a href=”http://www.SiteOrPageYouAreTryingToRank.com/”>keyphrase</a>.
  • Wait for Google to put your site to the top

If the keyphrase you are trying to rank for is very competitive, the course of action depends on you or your client’s risk tolerance versus the potential reward.  Everybody wants fast rankings, but some of the methods it takes to get those rankings may get your site banned or penalized.

It also depends on the potential profitability of those rankings.  If you are directly hooked into a highly monetizable engine, you earn a lot more from those rankings than you would if you were an affiliate for the same company. That means those rankings are far more valuable.  There is no middle man taking a cut. You can probably afford to spend more to achieve long term gains.  In this case, the first thing I would spend it on is TALENT.  Build an in house link building team for that engine, train them to be link ninjas, and work through them to grow your rankings.

If it is a highly profitable operation, then don’t stop at doing just enough to get that top spot on Google.  Build an impenetrable fortress of linkitude that no competitor could even touch.  Once you’re on top, you keep building those clean links.  Do everything in your power to insure that the shifts in link power on next Google update are already covered on your link portfolio to prevent any droppage.

If you are an affiliate marketer, or you are using indirect monetization methods, or your business model is not yielding high margin returns, your strategy probably switches to a more down and dirty approach.  You have less to lose than an already established and highly monetized operation.  Intelligent link purchases, content distribution, social media manipulation, and other aggressive tactics will probably gain you impressive tanking results.  But you increase your risk tremendously.

If your keyphrases are somewhere in the middle of the difficulty range, you will be spending a lot of time analyzing the link portfolios for your competitors that already rank for the keyphrase you are gunning for, and emulating those results.  Just try to do what they do PLUS ONE.  If  they have 100 links from similar quality sites with the same anchor text, get at least 101 of those AND make sure you also get that low hanging fruit on top of that.  Use the same risk / reward mentality, and make sure you know how much your average search engine referral is worth to your site so you know how much you can afford to spend on getting those rankings.

If you have an SEO question, and want some FREE SEO ADVICE, feel free to contact me with your question.  I can’t guarantee all SEO questions will be answered right away, but hey it’s FREE SEO advice!