Search Engine Optimization Tips


To rank well, your site needs to prove to Google that it’s popular. That means having lots of “link juice” flowing in. Link juice is a term SEO’s use for the increase in rank you receive from an inbound link (a link from another site to your site). Think of your site as a barrel, and all your inbound links as tubes leading to your barrel. From the tubes drips the precious link juice. The sites with fuller barrels rank higher.

Google sees inbound links as votes of confidence for your site. Those links say, in effect, “This website’s good enough for me to want to send my visitors to it.”

Creating awesome content for your site is the best way to attract links. But this takes tons of time and money that many business owners don’t want to spend.

Thankfully, there are easier ways to get links. You can even do it without being a spam-spewing sleazeball. The two techniques I recommend are submitting your site to directories, and soliciting links from other webmasters.

Submissions to Directories

Online directories are like yellow pages for the web. And like the yellow pages, human beings hardly ever use them. But Google visits them, and if it sees a link to your site, you get a little “link juice.” It’s not much–maybe just a drop–but cumulatively directories can give your site a huge boost in popularity.

Before you start directory submissions, create an on-domain email account (one that has your domain name in the address, like [email protected]). Just use this account for your submissions. Many directories will use the account to send you confirmation emails, but will also send you a river of spam. A few months after you finish submissions, delete the account and the river of spam will disappear.

Submitting by Hand

If you’re long on time and short on cash, you can register your site by hand. Here’s an excellent list of free directories.

Hiring a Submission Service

Or, if you find doing all those submissions mind-numbingly boring, you can hire a service to do submissions for you. I like Luminous Co. Their order process is cumbersome, but they do good work. I typically do the 500 BASIC Manual Directory Submission package for $120. Or, for cheaper prices and simpler order process, WL Marketing is good, though they’ve made mistakes with my orders, and they don’t submit to as many high-quality directories. I recommend their 600 Directory Submissions package (just $33).

Submission Tips
  • You’ll be asked for the “title” of your website (submission services ask for a variety of titles they can use). This is key: Use your target keyphrases as your titles.
  • If you’re doing your own submissions, you’ll notice some directories ask for a reciprocal link (a link to the directory from your site). Don’t give them one–just move on to the next directory. Also, don’t pay for a link–99% of directories are not worth it.
  • Luminous Co. will use your on-domain email account for your submisisons. This gives you a chance to monitor the work they’re doing, but you’ll have to pick through all those emails and click on the ones that require a click for confirmation.
  • WL Marketing creates a Gmail account for you, and says they’ll click on confirmation emails. They’ve neglected to do this a few times for me though, so keep an eye on things–you’ll at least be able to see which emails they’ve opened.
  • Sometimes they ask for keywords associated with your business. This is not an important decision–just make up your own list of words related to guitar, teaching, and music (guitar, lessons, teacher, acoustic, electric, etc.)
  • You’ll also be asked to provide a description. This doesn’t need to be Shakespearian prose. Even high-quality directories get few visitors. You can cut-and-paste some text from your website if you like. Make sure to save anything you compose so you can reuse it.

Link Solicitation

The directory submissions are a nice boost to your popularity–think of them as getting your site a good haircut–but what if you want to date the prom king or queen? You’re going to need some high-quality links, and you’re going to need to ask for them.

Building high-quality links is about building relationships. To get the webmaster of a popular blog or tab site, you need to do more than just ask for a link.

Relationships mean give-and-take. In exchange for a link, site owners might want

  • a reciprocal link
  • money
  • information (i.e. an article to point their visitors to)
  • social rewards (status, community, friendship)

The most typical arrangement is to swap links. If you don’t already have a spot on your site to post links, I’d recommend creating one, with a link to it from your homepage. Just don’t title it “LInks” or “Partners”–this tips off search engines that you’re link-swapping.

I know this all sounds like a hassle, and it is. But I make it easier by providing you with email templates. Just give it an hour a week if you can. When you see your website shoot up the ranks after getting a sitewide link from a popular blog, it’ll all be worth it.

Who To Contact

Pretty much any link will be helpful, but links from relevant websites give you a bigger boost. If you’re contacting an organization, try to contact most powerful person you can find.

Consider contacting:

  • Friends who have blogs
  • Business associates
  • Your favorite guitar/music blogs and sites
Who Not To Contact

No inbound link can have a negative effect on your SEO. The worst that can happen is that the link will be worthless.

But links leading from your site to another site can get you banned from Google. Google considers websites involved in super-spammy, destructive, or illegal activities “bad neighborhoods,” and swapping links with bad neighborhoods makes you guilty by association.

Since you’re not in the gambling, pharmaceuticals, or porn industry, you’re probably not going to accidentally link to a bad neighborhood, but be cautious.

General Inquiry Email Templates

Dear [first name],

[personal gesture]

What are your criteria are for choosing the sites you link to? I like your site and would love to be included.

Thank you,

[Your Name]
[Your site’s URL]

Hi [first name],


Here’s some code you can use for my link:

<a href="">[One of your target keyphrases]</a>

Thank you,

[Your name]
[Your site’s URL]
Link Exchange Email Templates

Dear [first name],

[personal gesture]

I like your site and was wondering if you’d be interested in exchanging links. I’d be happy to put a link to your site here:
[The link page on your site]

Thank you,

[Your name]
[Your site’s URL]

Hi [first name],

That sounds great. Here’s some code you can use for my link:

<a href="">[One of your target keyphrases]</a>

You can find your link here:
[The link page on your site]

Thanks again,

[Your name]
[Your site’s URL]
An Awesome Example

This excellent example of a highly-personalized link request comes from SEO expert Aaron Wall:

Hello <actual person>,

I’ve been browsing around photography sites for a couple hours now and just ran across yours…it’s awesome. [stroke their ego]

Wow! Your picture of that dove blah blah blah is one of my blah blah blah. [be specific and show you visited their site]

I took this pic of a flying mongoose here: [look, we’re into the same things]

<optional>I have already added a link to your site on my cool sites page.</optional> [Pay them if you feel you need to—link or cash or compliments or whatever offer you see fit. If you feel a phone call is necessary, then you may want to give them your number or call them up versus sending an e-mail.] [you or] Your site visitors may well be interested in blah blah blah at my site blah blah. [show them how linking to you benefits them]

If you like my site, please consider linking to it however you like. [Let them know they have choices—don’t come across as ordering them to do something. Also, sometimes just asking for feedback on an idea gives you all the potential upside of a link request without any of the potential downside. If they review your stuff and like it, they will probably link to it. And by asking for their feedback instead of a link, you show you value their opinion not just their link popularity.]

or with this code. [make it easy for them]

I think my site matches well with the theme on this page:

Either way, thanks for reading this and keep posting the awesome photos. [reminder ego stroke]

Feel free to call me anytime if you have any questions. I would love to chat about how you got that dove photo to come out so crisp and clear.


me at
my number

Link Solicitation Tips
Start With a Personal Gesture

This is a quick sentence or two of small talk that demonstrates the email was written by something other than a spam generator. You can…

Talk about the weather in the recipient’s town

  • I hope you’re enjoying the sunshine.

Talk about the day of the week

  • I hope you’re having a good start to the work week.
  • I hope you’re having an enjoyable weekend.

Complement them on something specific about their website

  • I visited your site and really enjoyed the clean design.
Brevity = Courtesy

Unless you have some personal connection with your recipient (i.e. you met them last year at a conference), keep your email short. The subtext: I’m not going to suck up your time chatting.


‘Nuff said.

Not All Links Are Created Equal

Sometimes you have influence over what kind of link you get. Do what you can to advocate for the best link possible without being obnoxious.

Warning: The following is a bit technical, written for those of you who think computers are fun, or at least tolerable. Don’t feel like you have to understand it in order to solicit links.

Anchor Text

The anchor text is the highlighted text in a link–the text you click on to go somewhere else. Whenever possible, the anchor text should include a target keyphrase. For example, if your business name is “Helga’s Hissing High Heels, Inc,” and your target keyphrase is “Snakeskin Shoes,” this link:

is better than this link:

The email templates I created for you contain link code with appropriate anchor text.

Page Rank

Page Rank (PR) is the technical term for link juice. It’s Google’s system of ranking pages based on their link popularity. has a huge PR because it has tons of inbound links.

Try to get links from high-PR pages. Usually, the homepage of a site has the highest PR, and for every link you need to click to get to a page deeper in a site, the PR goes down.

You can get a rough idea of a site’s PR by using this site. If you use Firefox, the Quirk SearchStatus plugin will display the PR of every site you visit. Very cool.

Link Density

If yours is the only outbound link on a page, all that page’s link juice flows to you. If you share the page with 1000 other links, you get 1/1000 of the link juice. So try to get links on pages that don’t have a lot of other links.


Links will give you more juice if they’re from pages that have similar subject matter to your own site.


nofollow is an HTML attribute value–just a word added to a link’s code–that tells search engines that the link should not influence the target webpage’s rankings. Basically, it creates a link but puts a cork on the link juice tube.

Sites like Wikipedia use nofollow links to discourage spammers. Most blogging software also makes links in comments nofollow for the same reason.

If you want to make absolutely sure you’ll get a boost in rankings from your link, you can check the source code of the linking page and see if the existing links have the nofollow attribute value. Or you can use this Firefox plugin: SEOForFirefox.

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