There has been so much talk and speculation on how to properly do SEO for 2012, and more importantly for 2013 and beyond, or if it should even be done at all. There are the old school white hatters that are cheering and saying we told you so, our time has come. Then there are the old school black hatters showing how they can still manipulate SERP’s at will and saying nothing has changed. Then there are the gray hatters in between, which is really where the majority fall.
So who is right? And more importantly, what works in SEO today?
First and foremost, I want to point out a very important distinction that must be understood before we go any further. SEO and linkbuilding are NOT the same thing. Although the vast majority of people are asking questions about what works in SEO today, what most are really asking is what works in Linkbuilding today. Because the entire SEO picture is a whole “nother” beast. And also, as is typical in human nature, we want what is easy, and linkbuilding is the easiest form of SEO.
SEO on the other hand, encompasses organic traffic generation, syndication and integration as a whole. SEO is content marketing, social media marketing, on page SEO and off-page SEO such as linkbuilding, as well as user engagement and conversion. Linkbuilding is only a piece of it, although it has been the most easily manipulated for years. In reality SEO is more SEM than SEO.
The reality is, what Google has hunted down for 2012 is NOT SEO, but SERP manipulation by spammy linkbuilding, which was the easiest and most efficient way of manipulating the SERP’s.
So that being said, what the hell are we as SEO’s/Linkbuilders/Content Marketers/Inbound Marketers/Business folks and any other catchy name we missed, supposed to do to rank in Google now? (I have some definitive steps towards the end of this post about things that are working today for linkbuilding, don’t worry, but you will have to sit through my post to get to it.)
Ignore Google. Yes Forget Google
Just like when you liked that girl in 9th grade, and you would incessantly call her, or try to talk to her and she constantly dismissed you. She’s Google. Then your buddy, he played it cool, he ignored her, and acted like he didn’t care, and she liked him instead. Wait, was this just me?
Seriously though, you know what Google is ranking? Authority sites, right? Now, don’t worry, I’m not gonna go into a big Authority Site dissertation right now, as we have covered that topic a lot already. But you know what Amazon, and Wikipedia, and Facebook, and all the other sites that are all over Google SERP’s have in common? Simple. They don’t need Google. In fact Google needs them.
I never Google for Amazon, I just go to Amazon.com. But we as regular folks, well we can’t compete with that, we aren’t going to build an Amazon, nor do we even want too, we just want a slice. But that is just an extreme example.
First and foremost forget Google, build your website for users first. Focus on as many ways to get traffic without Google as you can and you will actually end up getting Google traffic as well.
The reason why? Because as Google sees that you’re getting traffic from other sources they will naturally increase your rankings. The fact is that diversified traffic is a very strong indicator of your site’s Authority, so while the premise of “ignoring Google” seems odd, it actually makes a lot of sense. As you ignore Google and show it that you’re bringing traffic from a variety of other sources, it takes notice and begins to say “that site must be good ‘cuz a lot of people are finding it – maybe we should review its rankings”. Now I’m not saying that this is a manual process, but it is what the algorithm effectively does by looking at all of these other indicators that affect your rankings. It’s very simple. If your traffic increases your rankings will as well.
Below are my 10 Traffic Strategies that are cleverly cloaked SEO Strategies as well for 2013. Building links through traffic generation is the way of the future.
- Get Social – now I have to be careful when I say this, as Troy and I are not the most social marketers in the world. In fact we spent years saying how much it sucked. Truthfully, I still believe that socializing on social networks is a time suck, and it can be a huge waste of time. But it is necessary, and if you can afford it, you should just hire a social media manager to do it for you. Or better yet, if you have teenage son or daughter, make it their job for you. But the long and short is, if you have any sort of website that you are attempting to glean organic traffic from, you should have a social presence integrated with the site. A Facebook page, Twitter page, Linked In, Google + etc. They just need to exist. You do not need to be married to them, but you should be socializing your content to some extent. The greatest form of content syndication today is social syndication via tweets, shares, and likes +’s. Yes I said it. You need to make this a priority, without making it a time suck. We syndicate important posts out on Facebook manually to generate the likes and shares, we automatically syndicate the rest via RSS to Facebook and Twitter. There are tools such as hootsuite that can be used to help you manage multiple social channels. Now what I outlined here is for people who absolutely positively are not social. If you are already social and socialize, you are way ahead of our curve and just keep on sharing your content. This strategy will not only get you syndication and backlinks from social properties, it brings you traffic as well, and that is why it works. And more importantly, it builds relationships and community, which is what shows your authority. With Google placing much more emphasis on Author Rankin the future, you need to embrace this now rather than later.
- Fresh Content– Adding fresh content to your site is like inviting the Google spiders over for dinner. Google has a huge predisposition for “fresh” content now. Have you noticed in the SERP’s how much stuff that is ranking is recent and fresh (Yes I know there is a lot of crappy content and empty pages floating around as well, but for the most part fresh is winning). If your site is trusted and has some authority, your posts may very well show up high for topics you didn’t think you would rank for, just because the content is fresh. This may only last a week or two, but if your content gets socialized, and shared and liked and commented on it may stay there too, Google is really giving lots of “new” pages a chance to show they deserve page 1. If you show them you deserve to be there, you may stay on page 1 even with new fresh stuff taken #1, if not you may drop back to page 2 or lower. But more and more we are seeing this on many of our affiliate and client sites, we put out fresh content and we socialize it, and then we rank, we get a burst of traffic for some time. Sometimes it can last 1 week, some for 4-12 weeks or more. But as we keep placing fresh content out, we see traffic bursts to the new content. Furthermore, as you keep adding fresh content you are adding more chances of picking up odd longtail traffic. I have read that as much 80% of Google searches are unique one time searches, you can’t build links for those. But you can create natural content that may very well match some of those longtails. Our longtail traffic has exploded for 2012, and you can’t really take that away from someone unless you get your whole site penalized. When you gain all of your traffic from a few keywords, the slightest changes can hurt your organic presence significantly. When it comes from 1000’s of sources you are more immune to change. Keep posting the fresh content as this is a traffic strategy that can also provide links from others linking to you as long as you are posting worthwhile content. It is also important to note, that you should not post content just for the sake of posting content, because you want the engagement from your users, not just spiders. You can gain backlinks from socialization of your content, and from others linking to you, as well as your own internal linkbuilding within your site.
- Content Curation– I know it doesn’t seem fair to have content take up two spots, but they are two different topics. Creating fresh content also can get you great authority links when content is curated correctly. If you are running a blog, and you curate content from high authority posts on other blogs, some of them will accept your linking to them as a trackback, which will in turn post a link back to your post from their post. Now that can be a High PR, High Trust, High Relevance link back to you – and that is what creates great links and that is what creates authority. Additionally these trackbacks can bring you some traffic. We have received trackbacks from many PR6, PR5 high authority sites in this way, and besides the great link, we see traffic from these links almost daily, even if its 1 click a day, its 30 a month, multiplied by however many trackbacks on high authority sites you can get a link from. It all adds up. Content curation is not just for links, or to find interesting content for your readers, it is also a traffic strategy and that is important to note.
- Guest Posts– ok, so content is now taking 3 spots, maybe that’s why content marketing is called the new SEO. We have done guest posts on a few different niches now, and some work better than others. Obviously some types of niches don’t lend themselves well to this model. But in many niches guest posting works like gangbusters, not only do you get a great, highly relevant backlink from a trusted source, you also get traffic, and on the right website you can get a lot of traffic. We have some guest posts that have brought us over 1000 clicks in the first few days, and then still continue to send 5-10 clicks on a daily basis 60 days later. It is astounding actually. It’s kind of like the old article marketing, when people would say go put lots of articles on article directories and get a little traffic from each, only now you are doing it with guest posting – which is seen as much more credible and relevant. Now don’t get me wrong, the majority of the guest posts won’t bring you a flood of traffic, in fact most will only generate a little, but some will be home runs, and others will just bring you a link. This is both a traffic mechanism as well as linkbuilding mechanism, and that is why it works well.
- Author Rank– We have covered Google Authorship before, and now more than ever it is becoming important that you start taking ownership over your content. Setting up Google Authorship is NOT hard, and not only will it prepare you for Author Rank – which is coming – it also helps you in the SERP’s. When someone sees your picture in the SERP’s they are more likely to click on your post then a competing one. This is not only a traffic seeking strategy as your posts will get more clicks by having Authorship, it is a SEO strategy as well, as Google will be including Author Rank in their algorithm very, very, soon, and some say they already do a little. This will be extremely important to establishing trust with Google, as well as them seeing how well syndicated and liked your content is out on the web via multi channels – which ties into the Social aspects as stated in item #1.
- Site Speed and Performance– Your site speed plays an important role in your SEO today. If your site is extremely slow to load it will be downgraded in its SERP Position, you don’t want to do everything right and mess up on something as simple as selecting a better host. Today’s websites need to not only be hosted by a performance driven webhost, they need to be cached and use CDN technology and all of the latest bells and whistles to make sites faster. This is why we have moved our WordPress sites over to WPEngine for hosting, while the hosting price is more expensive than others, their performance for WordPress is unmatched, and they handled the caching and CDN and security and backups and everything for you – so you don’t have to worry about anything. Get a great host, get the right host, and if you are using WordPress get WPEngine. If you are not planning on shopping for a new host then at the minimum use a service such a CloudFlare for CDN and security along with the W3TotalCache plugin. The very cheap shared hosting plans may seem like a bargain, but in the end, if you are building a serious business you need to act serious about all aspects of it including your site performance.
- Video Marketing– yes, nothing really new here as Video Marketing has been around for a long time now. But, it is still growing with no end in site. People have built entire business models focused entirely on their Youtube channel. We are not saying that you should become the next YouTube sensation, but creating videos, and syndicating them via Youtube and other video distribution channels is an amazing way of attracting traffic, subscribers, views, clients, customers, clicks – you name it – it’s all part of the same puzzle. And you know what else you get with Video Syndication marketing – yup, you guessed it, backlinks. And these are backlinks from high authority sites. But again, as stated earlier. Don’t just create these videos for the sake of creating a videos, create them to build trust and rapport with your audience as well as to attract traffic and leads.
- User engagement– We have seen sites rank well across the board for many keywords, when the traffic starts coming in. It’s like a flood gate opens up and it starts the momentum for the rest. So if your site starts ranking well for a certain keyword, and the bounce rate is low, and the comments are occurring, and the socialization such as tweets and G+ and shares are occurring, the post starts ranking for many keywords, naturally. But what this also does, is uplift the rest of your site by raising your sites trust and authority index up. Keeping users on your site, and engaged raises the authority of your site, not just that one specific post or page they are on. We have also seen that by bringing a steady stream of paid traffic to some sites, and keeping them engaged longer by watching a video, as opposed to just opting in, raises the general traffic to our site from organic searches as well. As if you are seen as being a quality site, so you should be shown in the search engines as well. It is important to keep your visitors engaged and wanting to come back.
- Linkbuilding– Contrary to popular conspiracy theories, linkbulding still works. It does not work the same way as it used to but it still works very well. Many of the old world tools, and some new tools work just the same to raise rankings. Unlike in the past when we used to proclaim everything we are doing to rank highly to the world, we are now keeping things tighter lipped, however if you check out our recent webinar on What SEO is working today – we are going to show you 100% of everything we have been doing all year-long to rank many of our websites, as well as for 100’s of our client sites as well.
- EMD Exact Match Domains – This is a traffic and linkbuilding technique. Much has been said about the Google EMD updates, however we have seen almost all positive effects from it. We have been able to take a few dozen EMD domains and rank them for their respective keyword within 4-6 weeks within very minimal linkbuilding. The key is to not be overtly spammy. We will be discussing these techniques as well in our what SEO is working today as well as showing everything we are using.