SEO, or search engine optimization, is a huge concept that has changed over the past couple of decades. Entire businesses have been built because of the need for higher placement in the search engines—companies have rushed in to fill a void because most businesses had neither the time or knowledge to competently do their own SEO.
In the past, SEO was really all about links. Backlinks—and lots of them.
Now, not so much.
Google built a lot of its current algorithm based in large part on the link profile a website had under its belt. SEO firms became very good at building massive quantities of links.
No longer were massive amounts of links being rewarded. In fact, for the first time in history, Google admitted that some backlinks could actually hurt you. In the past, it was rumored that “bad backlinks” just didn't count. Now, they count against you.
So it's very important that you build sane, rational links. In fact, SEO is easier now than it used to be.
The focus on quantity of backlinks has been supplanted by a focus on quality. And diversity of backlinks trumps specificity.
What do I mean by that last sentence? Before, when you wanted to optimize a page for a keyword (KW), you would simply write content around that KW and get as many links as necessary (often, hundreds, if not thousands) using the specific anchor text, “KW” or “KW blank blank…”
Example: If I wanted to rank high for “dog training,” I'd go for backlinks that had anchor text “dog training” or “dog training for newbies.”
Now, it's important more than ever that your links look as natural as possible. Google knows that when somebody links back to you, they may not use the same anchor text as you'd like them to. In the example above, they may use one or more of the following:
- Dog training
- Click here
- Your URL (e.g., http://dogtraining.com/how-to-train-your-dog)
See? Google knows that if all of your incoming links are “dog training” that you have probably been gaming their system, so they begin discounting (or not counting at all) any backlinks you may have gotten.
So along with quality comes diversity.
3 Pillars of Link Building
There are 3 pillars of link building today:
In the old days of SEO (2-3 years or more ago), all you had to do was get a ton of backlinks from any sources, with your specifically-targeted keyword as your anchor text. It didn't matter that your links came from sites that had nothing to do with dog training.
Now, it's more important than ever that your links are related to your niche or industry. A backlink from a dog breeding site is better than a link from a home appliance site, for example (all other things equal).
It's better, too, to get backlinks from “high authority” sites than “low authority” sites. Example: It's far better to get a backlink from CNN than “Joe down on the corner,” especially if they're both in relevant niches.
You may ask, “What determines authority?” and I would have to answer, as in nearly everything in life, “It depends.”
I have a firm belief that Google has varying criteria based upon scads of variables. But I will say this: Traffic, PageRank, and search rankings make up the bulk of how Google ranks a website's authority.
Get yourself a few backlinks from authority sites and watch your traffic and rankings surge.
“Social Signals” Matter, Too
Of course, you don't just want links from related websites. Google is placing tremendous importance on what is called “social signals” when applying its search engine ranking algorithm to websites and pages. (Side note: Google used to solely rank web pages; now they are ranking websites and pages. There is a distinction.)
Again, all other things equal, a web page that gets more likes and shares will be ranked more highly than a page with less.
You may wonder how Google characterizes the backllinks from these sites, since most are unrelated to any given niche. Take, for example, dog training: A backlink from Facebook for “dog training” isn't very relevant to dog training specifically.
However, note that Google differentiates between the backlink and the “social signal.” In other words, it's far more important to get likes and shares on Facebook than getting the backlink from Facebook.
Because of “personalized search,” the relavancy of a like or share is taken into consideration, as well as the authority. A like or share from a well-known dog training expert's Facebook page is a very valuable social signal to get; a like or share from a friend will get good play, too. But a like or share from “Joe on the corner” (who isn't an expert nor is a friend) doesn't carry as much weight when Google ranks a web page or site.
Get some influential people sharing on social sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ and see your site move up in the ranks and get more traffic.
So What Does One Do for “SEO” in 2013?
I have long said that traffic begets higher search rankings, which gets you more traffic because most people don't stray past the first page of the search results.
Interestingly, the rest of the industry is coming around to this view. The hard truth about SEO in 2013 is that you should rely on direct traffic rather than search engine traffic. Doing so will result in higher search engine rankings.
THAT will get you more overall traffic.
Can you get this direct traffic through paid search? Yes! And that's what Google wants. If you “follow the money,” you will see that Google's primary revenue source is paid traffic. They want—no, need—you to buy adwords from them.
But paid traffic is merely “rented.” Once your campaign is over and you're out of money, the traffic dries up. However, the traffic you did get while spending on adwords did benefit your site and pages in the search engine rankings.
I cannot prove this. But there is a definite correlation between ad spend on adwords and search engine rankings.
But there are ways other than flat out giving Google money to place your website and pages on the first page of the Google results.
3 Main Ways to Score Direct Traffic
The 3 methods I'm about to share with you aren't new. In fact, they are mainstays in the field of media. You can drive a lot of traffic to your website using the following 3 methods. And in so doing, you will increase your search engine rankings.
- Press releases and white papers. Not your typical “eBook.” But rather publications you make that establish your authority and build buzz.
- Video, especially YouTube. YouTube is the world's second biggest search engine and arguably the go-to website when it comes to finding out “how to” do stuff.
- Images like so-called “infographics.” People love linking to these and sharing them on sites like Pinterest and Facebook.
You can use press releases to publicize newsworthy content on your site or about your company. Many online news organizations pick up PRs and before you know it, your press release may be on dozens or even hundreds of news sites. And the really neat thing? Those syndicated PRs stick and the links last forever; nobody takes news stories down–they stay online forever.
YouTube videos have a good chance of getting a fair number of views; the more views the better. Other signals that Google looks at are the number of shares on various social sites, embeds on other websites, and likes within YouTube itself.
Finally, images are great vectors into your website–lots of image searches are performed every day on Google and at Pinterest. Those images link back to your website. With Pinterest, you can even link back to specific posts or pages on your site (i.e., not just back to the image itself).
Search Engine Optimization in 2013
And I won't here, either 🙂 At least not yet. That's another post.
But I think I have left you some really good hints (press releases & white papers, videos, and interesting images). And I actually think that you're better off devising your own system rather than copy mine.
If you really want to know what I'm doing in 2013, stay tuned for an epic post coming up in the next week or two.