September 20th, 2012 Add Your Comments Bookmark and Share

Just a quick recap for those that don’t know. I’ve basically made 99% of all the money I make online by positioning content to attract traffic in the natural search results. It’s all I’ve done and it’s all I’ve been doing since…well for as long as I can remember. The ability to have good search rankings is absolutely vital to me and my business. Now that’s out of the way, this is how I see the current state of the SEO nation, what is and isn’t working and what I’m doing to see it through these tough times…

Why Does On-The-Page SEO Matter More Now?

I could go all nerd on your ass now, offering up theories about Google’s algorithm changes since Panda and Penguin but I’d be hiding the truth. The whole reason why I think that On-The-Page has become a competitive market again is because getting backlinks has become more difficult. Or to put it another way, optimising your pages is MUCH easier than sourcing valuable backlinks that have a long term benefit. I don’t see it that OTP SEO has become any more important in Google’s algorithms, just that with the massive discounting of so many links around the web (as a whole) doing just that “little bit extra” can make all the difference. I don’t mean keyword stuffing, quite the opposite in fact. Content should be well written, spell-checked (I’m just as guilty as anybody of not doing this) and original. Make sure all your header tags are in place and even more importantly, unique for each page of content. This is all stuff that Google has been telling us for years but it was advice we could choose to ignore because we could go out and blast a few thousand backlinks to our pages. Those days are over.

Backlinks Are Still The Most Important Ranking Factor

Everything has changed and yet nothing has changed. Backlinks are still the most important factor in ranking well with the search engines, that’s my experience anyway. I’ve written several times about how I’ve had websites punished and various ways of dragging them back from the dead. All this has meant that I’ve had the chance to start plenty of new websites in the past 6-8 months and it’s because of this that I still rate backlinks so highly. Yes you can get a site moving along on social signals alone but IF you can source a reasonable number of HIGH QUALITY (the type that Google doesn’t discount after a week) traditional backlinks then things can really take off. The trouble is that getting these links is more difficult than ever. You want to know what I’ve done? Basically I’ve gone back old school, no automated systems, no thousands of article submissions, just plain and simple asking for a link where I see relevance, being active on forums/blogs and the use of web 2.0 websites in a totally legit way. Oh and of course I try to write content that people want to link to, this is the real key to success. Quality content as linkbait is where the future is at as far as getting good links is involved. Yes you can still buy links, but I’ve not seen much evidence of “systems” being able to avoid Google’s gaze for long (with one exception). I’m now a big fan of slow and steady.

What About Twitter, Pinterest, Stumbleupon etc etc?

Twitter is full of spam, Pinterest can deliver good traffic and Stumbleupon must now have more fake accounts than real ones, next! I’m joking!!! Of course all these sites and services are useful, Google openly admits to using social signals in their ranking algo and I wouldn’t build a website today without including the AddThis button as a minimum. Facebook likes, Google +1’s etc are all valuable indicators of good content. The problem with them is that in some ways they have become the new “automated backlink systems”. Before automated back linking having 50-100 real backlinks to a single page was seen as being very good in most markets! Before automated stumbles getting 20-30 real ones could be enough to get the ball rolling and produce massive amounts of traffic and traction. Do you see what I mean? In order to compete these days it is almost impossible to rely on the natural system. If everybody else is using automated tools then you’ve got to be in it to win it. Google has got a firm handle on the link building tools and services out there but something they will struggle to have any control over is the rapidly expanding world of social signals and bookmarking. What is real, what is fake, what is valuable, what is junk? Unless you have access to the inner workings of these services then Google is limited in how much it can do but at the same time is desperate to include them as a factor in their rankings. How easy is it to get 500 Facebook likes? About $20 easy!

Overall then what am I doing? I’m trying to write good content and making sure everything else on the page is right, I’m doing as little link building as I possibly can to get a website up and running and then relying 80%-90% on the links coming in naturally. Am I scared of over optimisation? You bet I am! I am taking advantage of the social tools that “everybody else” is using to elevate my contents importance via social signals. And that’s just about it. Most of my websites are now at about 75% of the traffic levels of the old penalised websites that they replaced and even with Google’s never ending list of minor tweaks and changes I do see month on month growth, frankly I’d bloody hope so too! There’s is no doubt at all that it’s a lot harder to get started, I do sort of miss the days when I could have an idea, knock up a quick site with some outsourced content and then LinxBoss/Build My Rank its way to the front page of Google in a number of weeks. On the other hand I don’t miss having to worry about when Google is going to discount all my work and make the services I’ve been paying for worthless!