For Jeff Oxford, the founder of Oregon-based 180 Marketing, search engine optimization boils down to four buckets. Link building, he emphasizes, is the priority.
“The first [bucket] is link building from quality sites,” he told me. “You might have good content and a fast, mobile-friendly site, but you probably won’t rank high without backlinks.”
Oxford founded 180 Marketing in 2013. Fast-forward to 2022, and the firm is made up of project managers, specialists, and link builders.
He and I recently discussed the state of SEO in 2022. The full audio of our conversation is embedded below. The transcript is condensed and edited for clarity.
Eric Bandholz: Should Marketers Look For SEO?
Jeff Oxford: Yes, although SEO doesn’t get the publicity it used to.
Google has its official guidelines, which lay out certain things you need to do to optimize organic search rankings. These include creating great content and having a mobile friendly and optimized website.
The opposite is so-called black hat SEO, such as keyword stuffing, invisible fonts, auto-generated forum links, comment posts, and the like.
I can break down effective SEO into four buckets. The first is link building from quality sites. You might have good content and a fast, mobile-friendly site, but you probably won’t rank high without backlinks.
The next bucket is the content. Well-written, original blog posts and product descriptions are essential for marketers looking to rank organically. Never use manufacturers’ product descriptions.
Next is page optimization: title tag, heading tags like H1 and H2, and image alt tags.
The last bucket is technical SEO. Search bots should easily crawl a site, have no duplicate content, and most importantly, load quickly. Organic rankings on Google are now “mobile first”. Therefore, a mobile-optimized site is essential.
Bandholz: Let’s say I’m looking to outsource SEO. What questions should I ask a potential company?
Oxford: Find out how the company builds backlinks. Do you have examples? Can you explain your strategies and expectations? Ask about their content capabilities.
Link building is the most important. It’s hard to get other sites to link to you. Changing the structure or content of a site is relatively easy. Attractive links are not. A newer site with a lower domain authority will not rank well without backlinks.
When it comes to content creation, an SEO company should research keyword opportunities and provide a list of top topics to address. The business should put together a content brief that explains what questions to answer and what keywords to include.
Bandholz: How can merchants generate backlinks themselves?
Oxford: Offering products that people naturally love will attract backlinks. So selling quality products is the first step. Soliciting product reviews from bloggers could also be effective, although Google doesn’t technically allow exchanging reviews for free samples.
Guest posting is another method. Find a relevant site with a good reputation. Write an article that includes links to your product pages. Then approach the publisher for publication. However, be careful about guest posting. People will buy a blog and turn it into a guest post farm, where 100% of the articles are just guest posts.
Podcasts are another strategy. Research notable podcasts in your industry and offer to appear as a guest. Then ask for a backlink when the episode goes live.
Sometimes you can turn discount codes into links. Promote the code on related blogs and websites to attract backlinks.
Bandholz: How can marketers learn SEO to do it themselves?
Oxford – One of my favorite resources for beginners is Backlinko. It provides useful and easy-to-learn SEO information for beginners, all for free. Another great resource is Ahrefs. They have a great blog with actionable content and a good YouTube channel that breaks down the concepts step by step.
Bandholz: How can listeners get in touch with you?
Oxford: Our website is 180marketing.com. I’m on LinkedIn.