Over the past 12 years, I’ve watched SEO (search engine optimization) evolve.
People often ask me to do an updated video on SEO to talk about what I do differently now. (My last SEO video was published in 2008.)
I hate to disappoint you, but my SEO strategy really hasn’t changed much over the years — mainly because it hasn’t had to. So I’m not sure I’d have anything new to tell you.
I don’t use numerous SEO plug-ins on my blog. I don’t fuss much over dofollow vs nofollow, nor do I sit and count page keywords, count backlinks, submit to article and regular directories or stress over meta tags. So why does my search engine traffic keep increasing?
The first reason is my site is mature and has a lot of backlinks. That gives me a clear advantage. The second reason is that I continue to earn more voluntary backlinks from people who generously link to my site.
So the engines look at the big picture when deciding how “relevant” a site is for a particular keyword phrase. So it’s not just about content or just about backlinks. It’s a mixed bag of criteria.
SEO in 2010 and Beyond
The present and future of SEO is all about authentic popularity. What do I mean by authentic? I mean getting voluntary links from relevant sites that are credible and popular in the eyes of the search engines.
If your site is about home decor and a popular home decor site decides to feature or link to you in a blog post, that’s the kind of authentic backlink you want. Or perhaps you write a guest post on a popular blog in your niche. Now that’s what I call an authentic, quality backlink.
Too many people are still trying to fake their popularity by haphazardly submitting to worthless sites/directories or going on link exchange hunts. The search engines have caught on to the tricks and ignore many of the backlink schemes people use to falsely inflate their popularity.
There have been many SEO tricks and tactics used over the years. Sooner or later people find a way to exploit and abuse them, so the engines have to adjust their algorithms.
My Pet Peeve
What really irks me is all the bad information out here that confuses and misleads.
One problem is there are too many marketing blogs that talk about SEO, but they are authored by people who don’t have the traffic to back up their information and tutorials. They are just paraphrasing information from other wrong/misleading sites, but have no proof that these tips actually work.
So you have a bunch of people with no SE traffic writing about how to get SE traffic because they read about tips on other blogs that also have no SE traffic. Ugh!!
New webmasters and bloggers read this information, adopt these same strategies, write about them on their blogs and the cycle of bad information continues to infect the Web.
How many blog posts have you seen touting the best SEO plugins that supposedly boost your traffic when the publishing blog has little or no traffic? Hmmm…
For the record, I have nothing against SEO plug-ins. In fact, I use one myself. I’m just not convinced that using 15 SEO plug-ins is any better than using one or two. I think they can be helpful when it comes to getting your pages indexed, but I have absolutely no proof they improve your rankings. And until I have some, you won’t see me writing much about the effectiveness of such plug-ins — at least not from a traffic standpoint.
The Engines Keep Getting Smarter
Any SEO tactic/strategy that involves deceiving the engines in regards to your popularity will have little or no effect on your rankings. For example, anyone can create a bunch of backlinks by going out and submitting to a gazillion directories. The same goes for link exchanges.
So it’s natural for Google to put less emphasis on these links when they calculate a site’s rank. In fact, they even removed the directory submission tip from their SEO guidelines as explained in the video below.
Matt Cutts is very clear that if there is no discretion involved with the sites offering the links (meaning anyone can get listed if they pay/submit) then Google immediately devalues the backlink. That’s important SEO information that too many people ignore.
SEO for the Long Run
If you want to make an impact with SEO, spend time coming up with ways to stand out so people will feature/link to you voluntarily. You’ll be amazed at how many generous people will be when it comes to featuring you on their sites, etc.
Write guest posts for as many relevant, popular blogs as you can. Use social media to network with people in your niche. Be bold and get creative. Dare to be different from your competition. Read up on “pillar content” and make sure your site has plenty of it.
When you become authentically popular, you won’t have to stress over the next PageRank update, meta tags, finding dofollow sites or how high your keyword density is on a page.
They’ll be no need to jump every time the engines make major adjustments. Your rankings will likely remain stable (or even increase) because you’ll have authentic votes (quality backlinks) for your site instead of fake popularity through numerous directory submissions, link exchanges, etc.
I’m not saying you should ignore basic SEO techniques like keyword-rich page names, using major keywords in your domain, keyword-focused content, etc.
Of course you should still create your pages to target certain phrases, interlink your pages with relevant anchor text, create a sitemap, etc.
However, I think it’s a waste of time to spend your days hunting for backlinks and link exchanges. A few relevant exchanges and directory submissions are fine, but no need to get excessive with it.
I’m convinced that if people spend half as much time coming up with creative ways to present their information as they do hunting for worthless backlinks, it would make a world of difference in their SE traffic.
When you focus on quality and are unique with your delivery and presentation, your followers will do a lot of the marketing for you and the search engines will reward you accordingly.
I know what you’re thinking. Sure, Lisa. You’ve been out here forever so you have a mature site that has benefited from good rankings for a long time.
That is certainly true, but how do you explain the people who have gained good rankings for fairly competitive terms in the past few years? Notice that they never credit directory submissions or link exchanges as a top strategy for building traffic to their sites?
I’ve yet to read a book or article from a successful website owner where they credit link exchanges or directory submissions as their primary traffic building strategy. I honestly never have.
Usually they give credit to guest posting, social media strategies, or they are excellent communicators and draw in an audience with their awesome writing skills.
Sure they use and understand basic SEO strategies like using a sitemap, creating keyword-focused pages, etc. but the emphasis is never on chasing a bunch of dofollow links from various sites.
I apologize if this post is too harsh or critical. As I said earlier, I’ve been out here a while so I am looking at this from a different perspective.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to ignore the numerous emails, forum posts, and FB fan page questions about gaining backlinks quickly in order to get traffic. It just reminds me of how much misleading information there is on SEO.
I’m getting a little tired of all the poor, irresponsible tips that leave people spinning their wheels when they could be using that time to do more productive things that will truly impact their SEO in a positive manner.
I’d especially love to hear from those of you who got started within the last few years. If you have decent search engine rankings for competitive terms, what techniques and strategies do you credit for those rankings?
And if you truly believe in using 50 SEO plugins or submitting to countless directories, what proof do you have this truly has helped your rankings?
I’d really love to squash a lot of the SEO myths and hype out here for the newbies who read this blog. Let’s discuss!