An online marketer I know who meticulously studies almost every internet marketing method ever made, came to a realisation over a year ago that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was, or was rapidly approaching becoming, a colossal waste of time. By the time he reached this conclusion, he had kicked the habit of spending an hour a day generating backlinks by using many of the methods you can read about on other parts of this website.
The question to which the first paragraph leads is a very curious “why?”. What information causes an experienced, knowledgeable and more than slightly sceptical internet marketer to decide to drop all traditional SEO tactics? He was going against the grain of all the advice and consensus out there. It’s all about backlinks! Do whatever you can to get them. Be sure to place your keywords in exactly the right positions and frequencies. Use related terms but only just enough so as not to arouse suspicion of SEO from the search engines as they don’t like it when you obviously try to optimise them. All this mainstream advice simply didn’t make sense to him and for good reasons. Read on.
My friend was from an old-school marketing background. That is a relative term but pre-internet marketing was much closer to certain fundamentals than the maelstrom we see, hear and experience today. He fell back to those fundamental marketing principles and was able to cut through the “fog of war”.
One of the fundamental tenets of marketing that appeared to be getting overlooked by the hyping, frothing masses is to know and understand the marketplace at the deepest possible levels. The internet search market has but a handful of major players with one of them massively overshadowing all others. Part of knowing your marketplace is to understand it from the point of view of these major players. How will they regard all the hype and screaming about backlinks, blog comments and articles?
The point that a lot of internet marketers and SEO gurus miss is that the search engines, such as Google, make the rules and program the algorithms. Heck, the SE’s can even manually place their chosen website at the top of any search term that they choose. There seems to be a mentality that if my mediocre website has enough links pointing to it, by absolutely any means whatsoever, then I will “win” in the rankings. Following that was the rise of link buying, blog spamming, link building and a host of other artificial, borderline black hat SEO strategies.
My friend began to see that the entire backlinking marketplace had become a murky area full of spam and misinformation. It would seem obvious that Google, Bing and Yahoo! did not actually have a preference for a website simply because the site owner had the time and resources to thrash around the internet placing backlinks to their own site. It is just illogical to think that way. This goes the same for buying links. The search engines are looking for good quality relevant content first and foremost. All the links in and out are mere indicators of the usefulness of the content.
What is important to the giants of internet search, is to deliver the best, most relevant and useful to the user web sites for a particular search term . It is only a matter of time before a mediocre or sub standard website is exposed by one which has superior content no matter how much artificial link building, blog spamming, site scraping and extreme SEO-ing anyone does. Would Google prefer to rank a great relevant website with no backlinks lower than a bad one with thousands of backlinks in blog comments everywhere? I for one think not.
With these ideas in mind, my friend started up two new web sites with a completely different approach to SEO. That approach was to completely disregard almost all touted SEO methods altogether. He is a writer and a good one at that, and so would put all his focus on doing what he was best at. He was going to provide the search engines with exactly what they wanted; original and unique content that is totally relevant to what the search terms that people entered into their search bar. Title and description tags were kept in place and filled in well, but the rest of the content was written in a pure writing style. There was no thought to keyword density, latent semantic indexing or sprinkling the keywords correctly throughout the text. He would simply write as he always had done without using any tools or methods to check keyword optimisation.
The niche of self improvement is highly competitive and chock full of very established businesses and personalities with massive budgets . This is the very niche that my friend went into purely on a wing and a prayer (and a very good writing style). He thought he would be placed in the Google sandbox for a while, which seemed to be the case, but he wasn’t deterred and just kept churning out quality, relevant content. The Google sandbox is a theoretical waiting period for a website before it is included fully in the ranking algorithms.
After around twelve months of writing and waiting, Google had an update named after some obscure animal. Right after that his self improvement website was appearing on front page, high ranking positions, with a few keywords having his pages at the number one spot. It seemed that after Google had noticed his website and thrown him to the top spot, the other search engines followed suit. Personally I have found that Bing and Yahoo! are quite independent of Google’s ideas and often have good sites ranked before Google.
So by doing the absolute bare minimum of deliberate on-page SEO, just adding title and description tags, and really nothing else other than write good content, he was able to outrank all the other cut-throat competitive web masters who will sell their grandmothers for a backlink. This fact gave him and those of us who followed his progression the idea that SEO is actually incredibly simple and has been massively overcomplicated by people looking for a shortcut to the front page of Google.
After quite a long time of having his head buried in the creation of his site’s content, he came up to the surface to look around and see what the situation was regarding SEO. He was happy with the results he had thus far achieved but knew that there was a lot more that could be done to refine the discoverability of his website. The main thing he then did was to add CSS to all his sites, as this is more efficient for the crawlers and combined with the rich content, simply magnified the value.
Many SEO gurus will say that it’s all well and good, congratulations and everything but you could have achieved those results even faster by adding backlink building, blog commenting article marketing and probably some fancy scraping software as well into the mix. While that may in fact be true, those murky off-page methods are highly susceptible to changes in the ranking algorithm, policy decisions and technological whims. The core of high quality, relevant content will always be undeniably the best metric for search engines to rank websites and this is all the protection any website needs.