10 Ways to Tell Google The Topic of a Page Without Keyword Rich Backlinks

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After Penguin came around and then hit again, everyone became scared to use keyword rich backlinks because they didn’t want to get penalized.  A big question that came up, but was never really asked too often publicly, was how to tell the search engines what your site, post, page, category, etc… is about if you cannot build or get keyword rich backlinks anymore.  Although keyword rich backlinks was the easiest offsite SEO way to let search engines know the topic and to help your site rank, that became an outdated strategy with Pengun.  So what can you do?

Here are 5 off site SEO and 5 on site SEO ways to tell search engines what the topic of a site, part of a site or specific page on a site is about, without having to build keyword rich backlinks.

5 Ways to tell Google what the site, pages or categories on your site are about with off site SEO techniques.

1.  Social triggers from industry and authoritative niche Influencers – If you have a lot of niche and authoritative Influencers talking about you, and they normally only talk about and share indusrty related topics that are relevant to your site, it could help Google to start to categorize you and know what the topics of your pages are.  This one isn’t as heavily weighted for categorization and topics on it’s own though.

2.  The tags, titles and attributes within the links pointing to your site – You can add a ton of attributes to links pointing to your site.   If the site is linking to your site, a somewhat natural way to link is off of your url or trademark and to use your site, page or category’s title tag as the title attribute on the link.  (you include title=”Insert description here or title tag here” within the <a href tag).  This can be a clear and easy way to define the content and topic of the page, category or site without having to use a keyword rich anchor text.  It may not be within their best practices anymore, but neither is doing SEO or building links.

3.  Images on other sites that point back to your site –  If you name your images properly, and with relevant and descriptive keyword phrases, when people take them, upload them and share them, the names, descriptions and other attributes sometimes stay in tact if you did it right.  If you have someone asking to use your images and they are giving you credit, you can try recommending that they use the already including alt tags from your site or similar if you don’t want to compete.  The description of the image and the natural link pointing back to your site will help to define what the image is about.  Also, because the image is sourced to your site, even without a keyword rich text link, it helps the search engines to know what the topic of the page, category or homepage the image that is on is about.

4.  The content around the links – If all of the content around the link is about blue widgets and you have a link to your site in the middle of all of the copy about blue widgets, advanced bots and spiders are supposed to start to pick up the relevance and topic of the site that is being linked to.

5.  The content on the sites linking into your site – This is the most important one.  If you are building links, focus on relevant ones.  Go to your industry and trade publications, find the Bloggers and sites within your niche and make sure you have a lot of relevant sites linking to you.  The association and SEO neighborhood of content relevant sites linking to you will help to tell Google the topic of your site, pages or categories that have the links pointing to them.

The easiest ways to tell Google what the content on your site, page or category is about, is using onsite SEO attributes.

One of the things people forget most about with SEO is that your on site SEO and most obvious things are extremely important and probably your best solutions.  Before you even worry about offsite SEO, backlinks, etc… fix the stuff you have control over.  This is by far the easiest way to tell Google and other search engines what the topics of your pages, categories or what your entire site is about.

6.  The content on the page – This is the most obvious thing and something that I many people missed when they were trying to think of a new way to bring relevance to the engines.  Writer proper content with the right amount of words, a proper keyword density, don’t spam it and make it users friendly.  This is the easiest way to tell the search engines what the topic of a page, category or your entire site is about.  The reason it is the easiest is that it is the actual content on your site.  It you make it easy to navigate, read and understand, the search engines will see that as well and figure out what it is about.  Oddly enough it was missed over when I was listening into a conversation after Penguin hit.

7.  H tags to clearly define the parts of the page – H tags are there to help you define what that section of the page and the copy is about.  You can use them to tell the search engines what specific paragraphs, copy and sections of your pages are about and include long tail keywords to help with the content relevance for SEO.  You need to use them the right way and make sure you use them as headers and not formatting in your CSS in order for them to work.  Many designers, programmers and webmasters will use them to size letters as a short cut and you need to stop them and make them do their job the right way so it doesn’t hurt your SEO.

8.  Image tags – alt, title, caption, etc… – Make sure to fill out everything that is relevant or important with your images.  This helps with image searches and getting links like the off site SEO and social media signals I mentioned above.  Captions are optional and can be very helpful if you have historical sites, need to describe the image, etc… but aren’t always necessary if it takes away from the post if you’re using wordpress.

9.  Internal links – This is actually one of the main reasons that internal linking structures were created.  They help guide the spiders and bots to the pages you want indexed and they also tell the spiders and bots what the topics of the pages are about by linking off of specific keywords.  Because you link off the keywords, the link is supposed to let the end user or visitor know what type of information they will find more information about on the page.  This is one of the ways that search engines like Google use internal linking structures.  Your internal links can also pass authority to help the page rank.  I did a post here about how to build an internal linking structure.

10.  Meta and Title Tags – Meta Tags and Title Tags are another obvious and sometimes forgotten way to define a page, category or site.  Make sure to have content relevant and unique title tags, keyword tags and description tags for every page, category, tag, section or part of your site that you want to help rank.  I wrote this post on how to use title tags.

Helping the search engines to know what your site or specific parts of your site is about is easy.  Just remember to go back to basic SEO.  Look through what you do off of your site and then look at all of your on site SEO strategies.  There are a ton of other things I left off of this post because it is already very long, but if you pull apart your other on and off site SEO strategies and go through each, you should have no problem structuring your site to help Google rediscover what each section, page or category is about if you’re worried about losing relevance because you have to remove keyword rich backlinks.

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3 thoughts on “10 Ways to Tell Google The Topic of a Page Without Keyword Rich Backlinks”

  1. Hi Adam,

    Helpful post. Shema will definitely help with the above. The only issue with it is the vague information available about best practices to implement each type of tag.


  2. @JeffGrill
    What is Shema?
    Great information and very timely as we all start thinking about the New Year and how to transform our fortunes online. Whilst a seasoned web developer myself it always surprises me how often we (and I) need reminding of the basics (on-page SEO) like tags and internal linking and not just header tags and meta descriptions. What i would like to see in the New Year from you is an updated SEO tools post that discusses paid versus free seo tools ad plugins – for example seopressor is being hyped in my email inbox curretly and as a Yoast SEO user I am wondering if a combination of the 2 products would be useful – what do you think?
    Merry Christmas to you Adam and a Great New Year when it comes 🙂

    1. Hi Gail,

      Thank you for the nice words. I’ve had a bunch of SEO tools come to me lately for reviews and giveaways and am going to try a bunch of them out. I should have a post featuring them in a month or whenever I’ve had enough time to really use them. I started using SEOPressor recently with a couple of my sites and love it combined with Yoast. SEOPressor updated as you type and has a lot of the features I wish Yoast has, especially for social media. I love the two of them and definitely recommend them.

      I think Jeff meant Schema.org.

      Thank you again and have an awesome New Years!


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