Over the last few years we’ve seen a sea of change in the way search engines (primarily Google) rank websites. Until recently, the most effective technique for ranking on page one for any given term was simple brute force: use your primary keyword regularly throughout your content, and build as many links as possible back to your site using that keyword as the anchor text.
As you’d expect, this technique was open to all sorts of manipulation. Those with enough money could simply buy links, and while the algorithms used by the search engines weren’t quite simple enough to be fooled every time, it was common to see poor quality sites at the top of the SERPS (search engine result pages).
Today, though, reaching the front page has become a much more complex task. As the algorithms used by the search engines become more advanced, they’re learning how to identify manipulation, and with each update millions of poor quality sites are bumped from their lofty perches to be replaced by sites with clean, organic SEO.
So how can you adjust to this new landscape? How can you optimize your SEO so that it looks as if your site has grown organically? Well, you have to walk a fine line but it’s certainly possible, and the rewards for getting it right can be enormous.
Content is King
Rather than trying to throw up dozens of three page mini-sites you should build something truly great. SEO techniques come and go but interesting, informative, high-quality content will never go out of style. Think about the websites you visit on a daily basis. Are they thin? No. The most successful sites are almost always vast and sprawling, packed full of useful content.
Your SEO plan needs to begin with a solid foundation, so you need to concentrate on creating as much useful content as possible before you even start thinking about gaining strong rankings. Don’t employ keyword stuffing. Don’t use awkward phrasing in order to appeal to search engines.
In fact, try not to even think about the search engines. Use a range of primary and secondary keywords in a natural way, but write for human readers.
Don’t Ignore the Basics
Far too many people leave money on the table by failing to optimize the nuts and bolts of their site. You should make sure that page titles, URLs, image and alt tags all point towards the theme of your site. Search engine spiders crawl text, and they’ll have no idea of the content of your images unless you tell them.
You should also build a sitemap to help spiders efficiently crawl your site. All the SEO in the world won’t help if they’re not aware a page exists.
Use Only Original Content
While the occasional Amazon product description copied onto your site probably won’t do a great deal of harm, it’s always worthwhile to create your own original content for every page. Laziness is not a useful quality in the SEO business, so you need to make sure you don’t drop the ball with duplicate content.
Add Sharing Buttons
While nobody is sure exactly how much weight is given to social signals in the search algorithms, it’s clear that Google looks kindly on sites that are shared heavily throughout social media, and social signals will only play a greater role in the future as the Internet leans further into the social space.
The easiest way to organically build your social presence is to simply ask your readers to share your content. Make it easy for them with sharing buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Once again, when it comes to social presence, content is king. You need to provide material that readers would actually want to share: recipes, jokes, breaking news and opinion are all great for sharing.
Extend Your Social Presence
Finally, you should be extending the reach of your own site into the world of social media. Open a Facebook page, a Twitter account, build a Pinterest board, and make your presence known on Google+ and LinkedIn.
Most importantly, though, you should participate. Simply building a venue on social sites isn’t enough. You also need to engage with your readers. Run contests. Offer exclusive content. Build polls, and do everything you can to encourage your fans to take part and strengthen the links back to your site.
The future is fast approaching, and as it does the search engines are becoming ever smarter. To succeed in the coming years you’ll need to understand that the old SEO techniques no longer work. It isn’t as simple as building backlinks any more.
Those who understand that – who learn to build quality content and develop a social media presence that truly engages with their readers – will be the ones who succeed in the coming years. You need to start now.