Be Neutral
A Publication of the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution


This is the second in a series of marketing articles that will explain SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on the Internet in layman’s terms.  This information is provided to help you modify your website so that it goes to the top of the search engine rankings.

The Most Important Thing You Can Do to Take Your Website to #1  

There are many factors that Google and the other search engines use when determining the ranking of your website.  The biggest secret of SEO (search engine optimization) is that only 40% of the ranking algorithm result is based on something that is done on your website!  The companies that charge thousands of dollars to optimize your site are loathe for you to understand this, but it is important for you to know so you can take advantage of it through your own efforts.

Friends in Wide Places       
Do you have friends who have websites?  Perhaps they own websites that have been in existence longer or have more traffic than yours does?  Is their business complementary to yours?  If so, then your two sites need to link to each other because fully 60% of your search engine rankings are based on the number of pages that link to yoursBefore you race off to contact all your friends to exchange links, let’s look at some of the subtleties involved in reciprocal links.

Good Links vs. Bad Links    
First of all, sites that link to yours must be trusted by the search engines.  You can tell a site is trusted when you see a green check mark next to it in the Google rankings such as this one:

However, just because the site is trusted doesn’t necessarily make it a “good” link.  The site needs to be complementary to yours.  In other words, it needs to offer products and services that are of value to your site visitors.  For example, you don’t need a lingerie website linking to your mediation website.  However, if you are an attorney and have a website for your legal practice that is separate from your mediation website, then the two of them should automatically be linked to each other.       

The Most Bang for Your Buck           
How a “good” link appears on the website is just as important as the fact that it exists at all.   There are typically four different link methods:

You can include the full domain name of the website (e.g., but if the domain name does not include a keyword (e.g. mediation, dispute, etc.) it won’t be as valuable a link as it could be.
  B.   Some people like to list the company name and embed a link (e.g. Digital Smart Tools), but again if there isn’t a keyword included in the company name, then it isn’t as valuable as it could be.   
In some instances, people include a brief description of the company they are linking to and then use an image with an embedded link such as those below.  Again, some of the value is lost if a keyword isn’t part of the link.         



  D.      Finally, you can write a brief description of the link or just use keywords and embed the hyperlink in those.  For example: Website Design.  In this instance the site that is linked to is now tied to the keywords, and when the search engines rank the site it will be ranked based on these keywords rather than just on the firm name.       

How Many Links Do I Need?
There is no optimal number on links.   After a decade in the e-marketing business, we have literally thousands of websites that link to ours (in part because of the rich content on our site – something we’ll discuss next month).  Every month the number of links grows and so should yours because the more trusted sites that link to yours, the higher you will rank in the search engines.            

Next Steps           
The very first thing you need to do is go to every site where you are listed (e.g. GODR, the Bar Association, your alumni associations, Chamber of Commerce, etc.) and make sure your listing includes your web address.         

After that, make sure you are listed in the free online directories such as Kudzu; you don’t have to use the paid services as the aim here is just to get your website listed online as many times as possible.               

Lastly, start contacting those friends whose websites are not direct competitors to yours but who offer products or services that might be of value to your clients.  These could include office equipment companies, mediators whose practice area is different from yours (either geographically or by topic), or someone who offers a complementary service such as psychotherapy, etc.  Discuss with them the value of linking your websites.  Remember, it will do as much for them as for you! 

How Well Are You Doing?
It is important to measure the effect of your efforts.  Take time to have an SEO analysis done before you start this project and do it again every 3-6 months.  Unlike the actual search engine optimization work, an SEO analysis is fairly cost efficient and will give you a good snapshot of what you’ve done right and where you need improvement.  We offer those services to our clients (SEO Analysis) and many other firms do too.  Regardless of whom you use, take the time to do one so you have a baseline to measure the improvement from your future efforts.

Coming next month: Why Content Counts - Building a Destination Website


Michele Gibson is a Georgia-registered neutral and a certified emerging media consultant.  She is the president of Digital Smart Tools, LLC – an e-marketing firm offering website design, SEO, electronic newsletters, social media coaching, and marketing training seminars including the upcoming:  Marketing Your Mediation Practice in the 21st Century.


Phone: 404-592-3367  E-mail: