For Jeff Oxford, founder of Oregon-based 180 Marketing, search engine optimization boils down to four buckets. He stresses that link building is a priority.
“first time [bucket] It’s link building from quality sites,” he told me. “You may have great content and a fast, mobile-friendly site, but you may not rank well without backlinks.”
Oxford founded 180 Marketing in 2013. Fast forward to 2022 and the company is made up of project managers, specialists and link builders.
He and I recently had a discussion about the state of SEO in 2022. The full audio of our conversation is embedded below. Transcripts have been condensed and edited for clarity.
Eric Bandholz: Should merchants pursue SEO?
Jeff Oxford: Yes, SEO isn’t as advertised as it used to be.
Google has official guidelines outlining certain things you should do to optimize your organic search rankings. These include creating great content and creating user-friendly and mobile-optimized websites.
The opposite is so-called black hat SEO, such as keyword stuffing, invisible fonts, self-generated links from forums, and comment posts.
Effective SEO can be simplified into four buckets. The first is link building from quality sites. You may have great content and a fast, mobile-friendly site, but you might not rank well without backlinks.
The next bucket is content. Original and well-written blog posts and product descriptions are essential for merchants aiming for organic rankings. Never use the manufacturer’s product description.
Next is page optimization. Title tags, header tags such as H1 and H2, and image alt tags.
The final bucket is technical SEO. Your site should be easily crawlable by search bots, free of duplicate content, and importantly, load fast. Google’s organic ranking is now “mobile first”. That’s why a mobile friendly site is so important.
Bandholz: Let’s say you’re looking to outsource your SEO. What questions should you ask prospective companies?
Oxford: Ask us how the company builds backlinks. Do you have an example? Can they explain strategy and expectations? Ask about content features.
Link building is most important. Getting links from other sites is difficult. Modifying the site structure and content is relatively easy. Attractive links are not. New sites with low domain authority will not rank without backlinks.
When it comes to content creation, SEO firms should research keyword opportunities and provide a list of top topics to address. The company should create a content brief that describes the questions to answer and the keywords to include.
Bandholz: How can merchants generate backlinks?
Oxford: When you offer a product that people love, backlinks come naturally. Therefore, selling quality goods is the first step. Asking bloggers for product reviews is also effective, but exchanging free sample reviews is technically prohibited by Google.
Guest posting is another way. Find relevant sites that have a good reputation. Create articles with links to product pages. Then ask the editor to publish it. But be careful with guest posts. People buy blogs and turn them into guest post farms where 100% of the posts are just guest posts.
Podcasts are another strategy. Check out the notable podcasts in your industry and offer to be a guest on them. Then request a backlink when the episode is published.
You may be able to convert your discount code into a link. Advertise your code on relevant blogs and websites to attract backlinks.
Bandholz: How can merchants do SEO themselves?
Oxford: One of my favorite resources for beginners is Backlinko. All free, easy-to-learn and useful SEO information for beginners. Another great resource is Ahrefs. They have a great blog with practical content and a great YouTube channel that breaks down concepts step by step.
Bandholz: How can listeners reach out to you?
Oxford: Our website is 180marketing.com. I am on LinkedIn.