As Netvantage creeps up towards its tenth birthday in 2018 I had to laugh this past week when I had multiple opportunities to rattle off a bunch of old, though still valid, SEO cliches. As much as this business has changed it’s amazing how many things that I learned years and years ago are still true today. So, while cliches tend to be seen in a negative light I’m here today to say that in the world of SEO a couple of them are still well worth paying attention to.
“Content is King”
I’ve heard and read this statement so many times that it’s almost comical. It’s so ubiquitous that I’ve heard this statement from potential clients who had never even heard the term “SEO.” But they knew for damned sure that content was king. I used to get annoyed at the prevalence of this phrase but I’ve come to accept it and almost appreciate that it’s so well-known so I can talk to clients and prospective clients about how important it is to make sure the “stuff” on your website is good. The days are so far gone where you can throw a few bucks at some SEO and have them sprinkle their magic SEO dust on your site to make it rank highly (with black hat links historically being the dust in question). Now I can ask a potential client, “Is your content better than your competitors?” If the answer is no, I can refer them back to this cliche. Why would I as a user, and Google who is trying to serve the best content to users, want your less appealing and informative content? The answer is that I don’t want your shitty content, and neither does Google.
As time’s gone by, this cliche has taken on new meaning as well. In the past, people would worry about having the best content on their home page and service or product pages. That’s still important of course, but savvy SEOs began chasing long tail content and realizing that creating an ongoing content strategy allowed you to pull in prospective customers by answering their questions or educating them about your products and services.
Another twist on this is that how your content is presented matters. If you have great “stuff” but it’s packaged in a way that’s difficult to use or hard to find on your site, users are going to prefer a site that’s easier to use. Google’s focus now is on mobile web use, and if your site doesn’t work on mobile you’re likely not going to be treated kindly by Google if your competitors all have sites that work seamlessly on mobile. At a more minute level, Google’s certainly taking a look at site architecture to make sure key information is easy to find. Making sure that your awesome content is accessible is a big part of making sure that your content is king.
“You Need Link Building”
Link building as a term has kind of gone out of style in recent years. Many SEOs turned their back on this term due to the negative connotations that got saddled onto it by black hat practitioners who got their clients’ sites murdered as Google began penalizing their shady tactics (see a decent list of such tactics here). Some companies started using terms like “link earning” or just went away from link building altogether because, quite honestly, it’s hard work.
While Google’s algorithm has expanded to include all kinds of different factors, SEOs agree that links are still a huge deal. This includes local businesses all the way to international companies. If your SEO fundamentals are in order, and so are your competitors, you can still set yourself apart and increase your rankings dramatically by having better links. The key here is that I said “better” links. I didn’t say “more” links. Many SEO companies and misinformed clients get too caught up in a numbers game of trying to get more links with no regard for the quality of that link, which is the whole reason Google has been updating and refining their algorithm all these years. Links should be in places that real people can find them and might want to click on them. You have a blog with recipes? Great. Getting links from five other prominent food bloggers will earn you a lot more juice with Google than getting 200 user profile links on sites that you’ve never heard of.
The reason I like the term link “building” is that it comes with the connotation of doing some real work. Anyone can go on Fiverr and hire some numskull to use an automated tool to spam the shit out of blog comments or build user profiles to get you a bunch of links that no real person would ever find. That’s the equivalent of duct taping together some cardboard and saying you’ve built a house. Going out and landing links on legitimate sites that drive you traffic is like rolling up your sleeves, grabbing the bricks and mortar and building a real damn house. So, yeah, it’s almost 2018 and yes, you need link building.