If you’ve been investigating for the past ten years, then you’ll know the importance of making sure you have a solid presence online. But just because you have a Google Places spot or a website up and running doesn’t mean that people will be calling you. Sure, you have the fancy gadgetry that the profession requires, but can people find you if they are searching online?
You have to get found; it’s as simple as that.
The problem comes when all of your competitors are vying for the top web spots (Google, Bing, Yahoo, Bing Page 1) too. Many statistics show that if you’re not on Page One of Google, for instance, you do not exist in Google’s eyes because rarely do people go beyond page 1 in their searches. You may have the best PI business in your area, but if you don’t show up on Page 1 close to the top, many will never know how good you really are.
However, I’m here to tell you that you can change that. It will take some effort on your part, but below are three practical things you can do to help change that. But before that, let me define some basic terminology.
Backlinking 101. First you should realize that the web is all about relationships, i.e., how one site is related to another. If a webmaster wants to tell you about a great new site that it discovered, she will link to it somewhere on her site. The site being linked to gets a backlink from the webmaster and its status in the search engine’s eyes goes up. As more and more sites link to a site, the site will raise is stature. It’s more complicated than that, but that’s the essence of it.
Unfortunately, not all sites have the same “authority,” so the key is to get a link from a site that has a higher authority. This authority is called PageRank or PR. All pages within a website have PageRank. The higher the number, the better and easier it will be for your site to rank. Whew! The illustration should help to explain it. So, the question remains, how to get backlinks to your site?
1. Write articles and publish them on one of the top article directories: thefreelibrary.com (PR7), selfgrowth.com (PR6), ezinearticles.com (PR6), netymon.com (PR6), articlecity.com (PR6), articlesbase.com (PR6). Writing and submitting articles serves two purposes. First, you get a backlink from a high PR site, and secondly it sets you up as an authority in the industry if the article is informative and interesting. The articles do not need to be long (400-600 words) but they should capture the interest of the reader.
2. Create videos of you talking about your industry. Since Google bought YouTube, it is highly favored by Google and helps you increase your ranking because you can include a backlink to your website in the description area. Check out the Private Investigator Magazine Youtube Channel to get a feel what Pursuit Magazine is doing (and subscribe while you’re there). Plus there are dozens of video directories you can submit your video to and create a lot of “buzz” about your business. The more people are talking about your business, the more the phone will ring. The videos do not need to be an elaborate production, just you talking for 1-5 minutes for each video. Believe it or not, people are fascinated about the life of a private investigator. They want to know what you do and how you do it. Of course, you don’t need to reveal trade secrets, but it doesn’t hurt to tease every now and again.
3. Create a Squidoo lens. The search engines like Squidoo.com because they provide fresh content for the web. Having one or two links back to your site from Squidoo is huge. After you create the lens, you can continue to add articles, videos, photos, and a whole host of other content to each Squidoo lens you make, thus strengthening each lens, which in turn strengthens the backlink to your site.
So, as you can see these are three drop dead easy ways to get backlinks to your site. There are dozens of other ways such as linkwheels, link pyramids, blog posts, forum posts, forum profiles, Web 2.0 properties, link blasts, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google Places, business directories, and many many more. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. You will also need to consider competition strengths and weaknesses, on-page optimization of your site, and other outside factors. Some cost a lot of money to implement; others are merely time consuming. The business owner who has a solid methodical strategy to rank his website in the search engines will probably get his phone ringing more often than one who has only a hit or miss strategy.
David Miller is an expert in the Search Engine Optimization (a.k.a. getting-the-phone-to-ring) field for private investigators and detectives. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org