SEO can seem like an impossible headache at first. I have been there so I know. I’ve always been a writer and I’ve always created websites. In the early days, SEO was alien to me. It seemed like an insurmountable mountain and as I watched those websites fail one by one, I realized I would never climb that mountain
That changed though. I tackled it, I succeeded and I realized that it wasn’t as scary as I had once thought. The way I did this was to simply focus on the basics, the Four Pillars of SEO as I like to call them. These are the rules that got me through, the basics that helped me to succeed with the launch of several websites. Over time, I learned more and continued to grow and you can do the same. But to begin with, you need to keep it simple and these are the rules for doing that.
Google needs to trust your website and it bases this trust on whether or not your website is being linked by other sites that it trusts. This is where backlinks come in. A backlink is basically a link to your website that can be found on another website. It says to Google, “You trust them and they linked to us, so now you can trust us a little more”.
So, you need to get link on sites that have a lot of trust. There are a few ways you can determine this, but the worst way is to simply look at the Domain Authority. This is what many do and it’s a mistake, because those numbers are easy to fudge and they don’t show the truth worth of a site.
Instead, go to majestic.com and look at the scores there. To begin with, you want something that has a Trust Flow of more than 20, but not a Citation Flow of more than 40. You need a good ratio here. The higher the TF is the better, but the same doesn’t apply to CF.
If you have found a site that fits the bill, look for the amount of links. Majestic ranks sites with high TF even if they just have 1 or 2 links. This is no good. You want at least a handful of quality links. After that checks out then use sites like SEMRush to see how many hits are going in and out and how highly the site is ranking.
Too many people focus on on the metrics and not the hits and that’s a mistake. A link on a site with good metrics is okay, but a link on a site with good metrics and a lot of organic traffic is brilliant.
As an example, let’s suppose that you have a site with a 20 Trust Flow, a 30 Citation Flow, but only 100 hits a month. It looks good, but it’s not. The traffic is too low. If the site is new, it means it is likely run by someone who knows what they are doing, the traffic will grow soon and it’s a link you want. In fact, these can be the best links as these sites tend to grow big and if you get in early on you can get a link cheap.
If the site is old—more than a couple of years—then it’s to be avoided. Google clearly doesn’t like it, so neither should you.
In the past, quantity was king. The more links you had, the better. These days you will still see people on Fiverr selling “1,000 Backlinks for $5” but Google has changed and those links wold likely do more harm than good.
So, as well as focusing on the metrics, you should also focus more on quality than quantity. A site that has a Trust Flow of 80 can provide so much more than many sites with a Trust Flow of 30.
Relevance is also important. The site should be is the same category if possible. If not, at least make sure that the article where your link can be seen covers a similar topic.
As an example, I recently asked for some quotes from several SEO firms on what sort of link they could provide me. A link to a site like Forbes was being quoted as 10 to 15 times higher than a link to a personal blog with very low metrics, even though Forbes is probably worth 100 or even 1000 more as a link.
I have personal experience of this. I once worked on a financial site that was growing slowly, but struggling to get strong links. This site had links to decent sites and it had over 30 of them, but nothing special. Then, one day an article on the site was referenced by a site with a top 1,000 Alexa ranking. Within a week the hits had doubled and a month later we were still seeing exponential growth.
Google is constantly changing and adapting, so it’s hard to know it all. In fact, no one does, contrary to what they might claim when they quote you a huge bill. The important thing to remember is that everything is just speculation based on how they think Google works. Majestic, which I will quote below, is a hugely popular SEO tool and it has established its own system that many treat as gospel. But they are basically just making an educated guess about what Google considers to be trustworthy and what they don’t.
So, don’t worry if you get it wrong and definitely don’t worry if you were sure about something and then someone else in the industry offered a different opinion. You might be right, they might be right. No one really knows and they probably never will.
I’m also encountering people who contradict each other. There are others who I will trust 100% and others who I will ignore. They all claim to be experts, but I base my trust on previous success. For instance, I once helped out the review site ChainCutting.com for a client. I was really just a writer who focused on on-page SEO (see this top ranking article as an example) so I needed advice with the off-page stuff.
One person I asked told me that backlinks were useless, that Google no longer cares and that I shouldn’t either. It was a tactic he used himself and one that baffled me. I thought about implementing it when my other friend told me to ignore him and get as many backlinks as possible. I did, and it worked. I now know that the first person was wrong, but I didn’t at the time and it nearly cost me. I assumed that he must know what he was talking about, even though it went against what I had learned.
So, don’t take anyone’s word as gospel unless you know for a fact that they are successful and that their methods work, as is the case with the friend who put me right (someone who also happens to be one of the most successful online entrepreneurs in the US).
I have been trying to keep up with the Google algorithm for years now. It’s not easy and it can be frustrating at times, but there is one rule that always puts me right: good content wins every time. Google wants to create the perfect search engine and that means they are always leaning towards good writing beating everything else.
If you ask Google a question then it wants to provide you with an answer that is truthful, detailed, quotes lots of stats and sources, and is a good length. All of that is down to the writing. Obviously there are other factors involved, including trust (through backlinks). But Google still rewards great writing and as the engine continues to improve, it will reward it more and more. it basically wants to get to a point where the best articles, not the biggest sites, always get to the top of the search results for any given keyword.
So, write well, make it factual, entertaining and to the point and you will always tick those on-page SEO boxes.
As an example, take a look at this page on what to do if you are investigated by the DEA as an example. It uses quotes and stats from official sources, it was written by a legal expert who clearly knew what he was talking about and as a result, it tops the rankings despite it not being a big site.