SEO is such a huge topic it’s often difficult to know where to start. For most businesses, however, it’s crucial to digital marketing success. Here are the top five things you need to know for a successful SEO strategy.
1. Backlinks Are Still Important
Over recent years Google has played down the importance of backlinks. This is because Google is in a never-ending battle against spam. Google now deals with the backlink spam problem with two main strategies.
The first is technical – Google is now very good (and is getting better) at detecting low-quality, likely paid-for links, acquired in high volumes from shady sources, which often bear no relevance to the topic of the website which is included in the SEO project.
In fact, as an SEO strategy, a ‘blackhat’ strategy (SEO that bends/breaks the rules), paying for or acquiring low quality links from low-authority sources is, at best, worthless.
At worst, it can damage your position in search and even get your site pushed to the bottom of the pile, i.e. your site will appear on a page somewhere in the hundreds, rather than in the first few pages of search findings.
The second strategy Google has adopted to stop backlink spam is to play down the significance of backlinks as a ranking factor, while increasing the significance of things like site speed, better user experience and quality content.
While this is understandable, it’s important to remember, why Google started using backlinks in the first place?
When ranking pages for search queries, Google looks at relevance and quality. One of the best ways to judge quality (in a non-spam utopian world) is to look at backlinks. Backlinks are like votes, i.e. someone thinks your web page is good and relevant enough to link to it.
This situation hasn’t changed, so it’s reasonable to say that while Google constantly reinforces the message that website owners should focus on user experience, backlinks are still important.
This is clear in the real world of SEO. It’s possible to rank a website or page without a backlink strategy when the niche is non-competitive, the keyword is non-converting, and/or the keyword search volume is low.
If you’re in a niche with competition and want to target high-converting keywords with high search volumes, you’ll need a backlink strategy.
2. Cheap, Quick Fixes Are Never the Answer
Even though backlinks are still important, any SEO agency promising a guaranteed number one spot on Google for less than the cost of a good pair of headphones, should never be allowed anywhere near your website!
Here are some things to remember when appointing an SEO agency:
- Nobody can promise you the number one spot on Google
Unless it is a PPC advertising campaign, nobody can promise you the number one spot in Google for a competitive keyword. Reputable SEO agencies will never make this promise.
- There is no such thing as a “secret sauce”
There are lots of less than reputable SEO agencies who won’t tell you their SEO strategies, but claim they have a secret method. This is not true and usually means they’re using ‘blackhat’ techniques which are likely to harm your website in the long-run. A reputable SEO agency will always clearly outline how it plans to implement its strategy.
- SEO constantly changes
Google adjusts and updates its search algorithm all the time. Trustworthy SEO experts stay on top of these changes and update their strategies accordingly.
3. Quality Content is Still Crucial to Success
There’s simply no getting away from this one. If you produce quality content, it will look better and be more useful to users than low quality content. Good quality content will also attract more backlinks, and attract more shares on social media. Not least of all, Google’s algorithms will treat it accordingly and give your site preference over sites with content that ticks fewer boxes.
It’s hugely important to focus on the user when thinking about producing content. Unique content and pages with significant amounts of text on them are both important, but ensuring you answer your user’s queries is the most critical factor to consider when planning your content.
As a result, any good SEO strategy means investing in content. This includes investing in the conversion pages of your website – the homepage, product pages, landing pages, etc. It also means investing in content you can publish on a regular basis, such as a blog.
4. Never Neglect On-Page SEO
There are lots of things about SEO you have only limited control over – backlinks are one of the best examples. On-page SEO, however, is completely within your control, so you’re missing several easy wins if you neglect it.
Essential on-page SEO actions include:
- Optimising content for relevant keywords
- Including relevant keywords in URLs while keeping them focused on better user experience
- Including unique title tags on your pages
- Including meta descriptions for each page
- Including heading tags like H1, H2, and H3
- Redirecting removed URLs
- Optimising the navigation of your website – a good goal to aim for is ensuring every page on your website is accessible within three clicks
- Ensuring your pages load quickly
5. Social Media is Important, But It’s 5th On this List for a Reason
One of the things that causes the most confusion in SEO is the influence or impact of social media. For example, does having lots of shares and comments on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the other social channels improve your website’s ranking?
The answer is, there tends to be a correlation between the number and quality of social media signals for pages with relevant, high-quality content. However, so far, social media signals have not been proven to directly influence position of webpages in organic search results. As a result, you should not place too much emphasis on using social media to improve SEO.
Social media offers lots of other benefits to your business including creating a better connection with customers and increasing brand recognition. Helping your SEO efforts is a welcome side effect of a good social media strategy, but it should not be your main objective when using social media. Find out more on how social media helps SEO in this article by Search Engine Journal.