Today, I’m going to answer the super high-level question what is SEO? We’re going to highlight some of the most important best practices and pieces of SEO advice to help you get started today.

If you’re brand new to SEO, or if you’ve done a little bit of it before in the past but you are missing a few pieces here and there, then this is the blog post for you.

Read till the end because I’m going to go through the exact mental model you need to be successful in search engine optimization.

I’ve been doing SEO for almost 10 years and I’m excited to take you through the entire process, so let’s get going.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization is, very simply, the act of acquiring traffic from search engines to any of the digital assets that you own.

Most commonly the asset is your website, but I’m going to talk about a couple of other digital assets that you can drive traffic to as well.

If I only had 30 seconds to tell you how SEO works, I would tell you it’s these three things:

  1. Document relevancy: all the stuff we do on our pages to make them more relevant for users and search engines.
  2. Increasing authority: all the things we do outside of our page in order to let search engines know we’re trustworthy and useful to users.
    Things like links, views, sales, favorites. We’ll talk a little bit more about those—they’re kind of dependent on the platform.
  3. Technical optimization: all the behind-the-scenes engineering that SEO pros do to make it easier for search engines to find a website.

What is SEO not?

There are a lot of misconceptions out there so I always like to also touch a bit on what SEO is NOT.

  • SEO is not paying for traffic. This type of strategy is considered “black hat” today and it is highly recommended to not follow it in any way.
    You might read or hear about “paid traffic”, as opposed to organic search traffic—but in that situation, paid traffic refers to traffic that has been attracted through non-organic methods—such as PPC (Pay-per-Click) advertising, for example.
  • SEO is not a scam. It’s is not shady or against Google’s terms of service. SEO is completely acceptable and normal if done in a “white hat” way. Lots of companies rely and depend on it. SEO works.
  • SEO is not that fast. A lot of people jump into this the wrong way—they expect to see SEO results right away and that’s usually not the case.
  • SEO is not just for Google anymore. There’s a number of different platforms that you should be doing Search Engine Optimization on, depending on your business.
  • And, most importantly, SEO is not that hard. Actually, my favorite aspect of Search Engine Optimization is that once you understand it, it’s really not that difficult.

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How does SEO work?

If you are planning to learn and work in SEO, you will be doing work in three fundamental areas—many SEOs specialize exclusively in a single one of these:

Document Relevancy

The easy way to understand document relevancy is by looking at both sides of the SEO equation:

  • It’s the search engine’s job to give users exactly what they’re looking for and then eventually monetize that behavior.
  • On the other hand, SEOs need to understand what our customers are searching for and then create awesome, relevant, quality content for them.

While the search engines try and deliver the right answer to their user, it is our job as SEOs to understand what that user is looking for and deliver that answer for them via the search engine.

That’s what document relevancy is all about.

Increasing Authority

In a broad sense, increasing authority is a synonym for popularity.

This usually depends on the platform you’re optimizing for, but, for most search engines, authority is measured through links, clicks, or any other types of engagement.

For instance, if you’re a video platform like YouTube, and increase authority is measured through video views or length of video view. If you’re an eCommerce platform like Amazon, it might be measured through the number of sales.

It really depends on the platform, but, in general, search engines have to understand what of the most popular documents are and then show those at the top.

Technical Optimization

The last piece of SEO is technical optimization.

There are more than a billion websites out there (with hundreds, thousands, or millions of pages each), which makes indexing and organizing all them an incredibly difficult problem for Google and other search engines.

Technical optimization consists of all the things that SEOs do to make it easier for search engines to find a website.

Why SEO is about more than just Google

Search is no longer just Google on your desktop anymore.

There’s a ton of different places where search exists: YouTube, Amazon, Pinterest. There are mobile search queries, Google Places, the App Store, Yelp, Quora, LinkedIn, eBay, and so on.

Anything that has a search box and has a large number of documents it needs to sort through to show users the most relevant results has a document relevancy problem.

  • Airbnb has this problem with rental listings.
  • Yelp has this problem with brick-and-mortar business listings.
  • LinkedIn has this problem with user profiles.
  • eBay has this problem with the millions of products on sale in its platform.

When someone types in “used VCR” or “vacation rental Miami”, or “coffee shop San Francisco”, how do these web applications decide what documents should go on the top?

It’s actually a very similar problem to that of Google.

Obviously, Google is much more comprehensive, it has many more ranking signals, and therefore, it has a much more difficult kind of task at hand, but in general the problem is document relevancy.

What do you show at the top for your users?

To solve this problem, every platform has to ask themselves two questions:

  1. “What’s best for our users?”
  2. “What’s best for our business?”

If your content—i.e. the document you put on that platform—is the answer to one or both of these questions, it will be qualified as a relevant document.

Always keep this in mind when you’re doing SEO.

In general, what you want to be doing is being helpful and useful to the end user and also helpful and useful to that platform’s business.

If you do both of these, you’re going to do very, very well in Search Engine Optimization.

How Google changed everything

Google hasn’t always been the dominant method to find documents online. In fact, in the late 90’s, it was the only the 11th or 13th largest search engine.

There were many, many other search engines prior to Google—but the reason why Google won the market is because of their ability to find more relevant documents than other search engines.

Back in the late 90’s, pre-Google era, it was very, very common to do a search, not find what you were looking for, go to page two, go to page three, go to page four, and maybe even change search engines and start the search process all over again.

Generally, you’d end up being very disappointed by not finding what you were looking for.

You would go to AltaVista, HotBot, Lycos, or MetaCrawler (getting a little nostalgic, right?) There were a lot of search engines that sucked.

Then Google arrived and changed everything.

What happened was that Google became so good at finding the most relevant documents, that our behavior as users changed with it.

Below is a click-through rate chart from Advanced Web Ranking that shows how much user behavior has changed since the beginning of Google.

clickthrough rates distribution in search engines

Can you figure out the implications of this?

Users have stopped going to page two, page three, and page four.

What they’re broadly doing now is sifting through the top five results and if they don’t find what they’re looking for, they’re doing what’s called “query refinement”—which means they go back to Google and they change their search: they add a word, they remove a word, they pluralize it, or change their search query.

In general, about 75% of clicks go to the top five results. What this means is is if you’re not in the top 5 results, you are effectively invisible.

Users are really only sifting through the top five results and then they’re doing another search.

This is why SEO is so important, because it’s not good enough to be in the top 10. It’s not good enough to be in the top 20. You need to be in the top 5—and there’s a power law distribution through this: the spoils go to the victor.

Whoever’s #1 is going to get the vast majority of clicks, right? This is why, in general, the rule of thumb here is that, in order to “win SEO”, you want to rank #1 for all of your keywords.

This isn’t possible, though. No matter what your business is, it’s impossible to rank #1 for everything. If you’ve done it, please email me. I’d love to take a look at what you’re doing.

Leaving that aside, this is why SEO is so important: because 75% of clicks go to the top 5 results.

I’ll say it again because it’s so important:

If you’re not in the top 5, your are effectively invisible.

The ClickMinded Search Framework: An SEO tutorial for 2018

If you want to get started with SEO, it can be very intimidating and overwhelming to try to digest all of the concepts out there—that’s why we created simple framework that will help you get results as quickly as possible.

The search framework is applied to every step of your sales funnel, so do keep in mind as we go through.

If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a sales funnel, check out this quick sales funnel overview video before you dig any deeper.

The Search Framework

1. Persona and Funnel

Starting at the top, we have the persona and the funnel.

The basic idea here is you want to figure out who you’re targeting and in which stage of the funnel they’re in:

  • At the top of the sales funnel, you have people who are at least a little interested in the topic of your business, and the most interested users are at the bottom of the funnel.
  • Then, you have to add another layer to this. You’ll need to figure out who your customer avatar is, what their wants and desires are and where in the funnel they are.

Let’s go over an example and look at a local real estate website in order to do that.

So let’s say we had a site (awesomenhrealty.com) that’s dedicated to selling real estate in New Hampshire.

Let’s identify our persona and our funnel for this website.

My little sister recently got married, we’re going to go ahead and use her as an example.

  • We have Johnny and Liz (my brother-in-law and my sister.) They’re 26 years old and recently married.
  • They want to buy a home.
  • They’ve just started looking.
  • They’re looking for a place in New Hampshire.
  • They haven’t heard about my site so they are currently at the top of the funnel.

What I’d do next is do some keyword research.

Let’s assume I have a number of keywords and the monthly search volume for them, and I can actually break these down in terms of where they are in the funnel.

For example, let’s say I have keywords like “best cities for newlyweds”, “best millennial cities in 2017-2018”. Those might be top of the funnel queries.

As Lizzie and Johnny start to do some research, they might move closer to the middle and the bottom of the funnel and are ready to convert.

So keywords like “best cities Newlyweds New Hampshire” and “Newlyweds NH Cities” might be middle, and then “Real Estate Agents Portsmouth NH” or “Realtors New Hampshire, November 2017” would be keywords used towards the bottom of the funnel.

keyword research mapped to buyer intent

This is an example of how different queries can represent different phases of the funnel.

So I’ve identified our persona in our funnel. It’s Johnny and Liz. They’re 26-years-old, they’re recently married, they’re at the very top of the funnel. They’re just kind of starting their search for a home.

2. The Digital Asset

Now let’s talk about the digital asset that will help capture them. This is just a fancy way to say the content the user will consume.

The vast majority of the time this is just going to be a post or a page on your site, but it doesn’t have to be just that, and that’s kind of the point here: the digital asset you use to capture users could be a bunch of different things:

  • It could be a form response, a product review, a social media post, a video image, or a podcast.
  • Maybe it’s a digital tool that you create or a product demo that you could create as well.

In this particular example, I’m just going to do a blog post.

It’s going to be a blog post called “Newlywed Advice: The Best Cities To Build A Love Nest”.

This post is designed to capture a 26-year-old, recently married, who is looking for a home in New Hampshire.

Next, I have to think about are the medium and the channel. These translate as “where the content lives” and “how it will be distributed”.

3. Medium

There are a bunch of different mediums.

In general the most common one will be your own website, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, we have a video on the same topic as this blog post “What Is SEO” posted in YouTube. In that case, we’d be using YouTube is our medium.

Your medium could be on other places as well: Google Places, Yelp, Amazon, Core, Pinterest, maybe The App Store, and so on.

For my blog post targeting newlyweds in New Hampshire, the medium will be my website: awesomenhrealty.com

4. Channel

The channel could be a bunch of different things: SEO, paid search, email marketing, content marketing, etc.

These are the different methods you can use to drive traffic to your digital asset.

In my example today, my channel is going to be Google/SEO.

5. Optimization

This is, very simply, just doing everything you need to do to maximize the number of users that get my asset through the channel I picked.

Because I choose Google/SEO as my channel, I’m going to need to do all the things we need to do from a Search Engine Optimization perspective.

So I’ll make sure the page title‘s there, make sure the meta description is there. I’ll include my target keyword in the copy a couple of times. I’ll make sure my site is fast. I’ll optimize my images. I’ll use LSI keywords.

You get the point.

Basically, I’m going to go through all the things you do for SEO to maximize the total number of users that get my asset.

6. The Nudge

Finally, I’m going to work on the nudge. This is the most important aspect of the framework.

In simple terms, “the nudge” is understanding where the user is in the buyer’s journey, and then taking them to the next logical step down the funnel.

When I’ve optimized our site and it’s generating organic traffic, I have not yet committed the nudge. Getting the traffic is not the nudge. Moving the user to the middle of the funnel is the nudge.

In my example, our next logical step for a user that has found my blog post via Google is getting their email so I can nurture them further.

The moment when my target persona enters her email address, she moves to the middle of the funnel.

Once she moves to the next stage of the funnel, we go back through the search framework and do the whole thing over again.

The search framework is applied to every step of the funnel

Now, let’s say she’s in the middle of the funnel and I want to go through the same process all over again.

What’s the persona and the funnel? What’s the asset, what’s the medium, what’s the optimization?

You do this for each step of the funnel until you have converted your user.

That’s an example of the high level stuff in the search framework and everything that you do and where you apply it in each step of the funnel.

Now, let’s talk about those SEO pillars that we talked about earlier.

Optimizing your assets for search engines

As a quick reminder, it’s the search engine’s job to show users relevant content based on what they’re searching for, and it’s our job as SEOs to understand what those users are looking for and create awesome, relevant content for them.

Before I get started on this, there are a couple of things I want to mention.

First (and a lot of people kind of mess this up) is the “pages vs. domains” topic.

Google ranks pages, not domains.

You want to use this document relevancy concept on a page basis. A lot of people mess this up because they just optimize their homepage. They do a bunch of keyword research, they say, “Okay, I have 50 keywords I want to optimize for.” and then they jam all 50 keywords in their homepage.

That’s not the way to think about it.

Yes, the domain you’re on is important. Yes, you want a high-quality domain. Yes, the total number of kind of links and authority to your domain can be helpful, but in general all these concepts I’m about to talk about are at a URL by URL, or a page-by-page basis.

Do keep that in mind. Just optimizing your homepage generally doesn’t help your deeper pages get ranked.

The other thing to think about before you go deeper into the optimization is that, in general, I’m going to be doing all this on a one keyword = one page basis.

My rule of thumb is you only want to pick one primary keyword that you’re optimizing a URL for.

Of course, URL’s can rank for many different keywords, but when you’re first getting starting, the best way to think about this is taking a core keyword that you want to optimize for, and kind of do that one keyword for one URL.

It makes things much cleaner and easier when you’re just getting started.

Keyword Research

Before you start optimizing your page, there’s one thing you need to do: keyword research.

Keyword research is one of the most important aspects of SEO.

Most SEOs use third-party tools to figure out what people are searching for, how users are looking for things, and use that to optimize their content.

The rule of thumb here is: you’re going to do your keyword research, figure out your primary keyword, but once you know your primary keyword you only want to use that exact keyword up to a point.

You don’t want this to sound too spammy.

Keep in mind that Google really understand synonyms. They understand the relationships between words, so unnecessarily stuffing your content with keywords won’t help you.

You want to be writing for humans, not for robots, so make it sound natural

I messed this up a lot when I was first getting into Search Engine Optimization. I would look up my core keyword, and I would just jam it into the copy as much as possible.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say I am optimizing an e-commerce shoe store and I want to rank #1 for the term “Discount Nike Shoes” because it’s searched for 4400 times a month.

Some different synonyms that might be thematically related to “Nike shoes” might be “sneakers”, “running shoes”, or “footwear”.

You can use thesaurus.com to find synonyms. Or just Google whatever your keyword and add “synonym” after it, is a great way to do that as well.

On top of all of this this, keep in mind the concept of Latent Semantic Indexing. This is very important for the post-Google-Hummingbird world (a Google update that has come to be really important these days).

LSI, or Latent Semantic Indexing, is just a fancy way to say “related keywords”.

What’s important here is how Google and other search engines are approaching this. If you think about the entire web and all of the different relationships that are happening on the web, you want a lot of those kind of relationships that are naturally happening out in the wild to be also happening on your site.

Here’s an example: let’s say was trying to optimize a page and rank #1 for the term “Empire State Building.”

  • Some synonyms for Empire State Building might be “building”, “tower”, “skyscraper”, and so on.

Latent Semantic Indexing keywords are other terms that are constantly showing up on documents that mention the “Empire State Building”—and they might not be synonyms.

Google finds a pattern of every website that’s out there and mentions the Empire State Building.

  • As it turns out, many of these pages also mention keywords like “New York City”, “Guinnnes Book of World Records”, “sightseeing”, and so on. These keywords are thematically-related, but they are not synonyms.

LSI is very important in terms of the document relevancy equation today. Do keep this in mind.

My favorite resource for this is LSIGraph.com. All you have to do is input your primary keyword and it will give you a ton of the latent semantic indexing keywords for you.

Title Tags

title tag example

Title tags are one of most important elements of on-page optimization.

Not only are they a huge ranking factor, but they’re massively important to your click-through rate.

There are a couple of things you have to keep in mind when it comes to title tags:

Truncation limits

In general, you are going to want to keep your title tags within the truncation limits—that’s about 65 characters on Google.

If you’re working on a large enterprise, there are a couple of situations where it may be worth it to get more keywords in there, even if you’ll see the title truncated in the search results, but overall, you want to keep them within the 65 characters limit.

Click-through rate

When you are writing the title tag, keep your click-through rate in mind—it’s massively important.

You don’t want to just stuff your title tag with keywords, you want to make it attractive and interesting, so that you drive users to click them.

Uniqueness

Your title tags should be unique for every page of your website.

Make sure that your titles are not duplicated across all several pages. This is often a problem with some content management systems, they duplicate a lot of their titles over a lot of different pages.

Meta Descriptions

meta description example

Meta descriptions don’t impact your search engine rankings, but they will impact your click-through rates.

Meta description are in a similar boat with title tags.

  • Meta description should be about 160 characters long.
  • You usually want to use your primary keyword in here because it gets bolded.

Sometimes (and this is what’s really annoying about about meta descriptions), you will find yourself spending a lot of time writing your meta description and working on it to be really good from a marketing point of view—but Google will reserve the right not to use it.

Basically, if Google thinks there’s a snippet of text on your site that’s better, they’ll replace your hard-worked meta description with that.

Even so, the main point about meta descriptions is that you should write them, then read them out loud and make sure they’re great. They should be compelling, interesting, and worthy of a click when users find them in Google search results.

There may be times when Google won’t use your meta descriptions, but there’s not much you can really do about that.

URLs

The rule of thumb here is:

  • When you are starting a new site and you have done your primary keyword research, it is perfectly OK to get that keyword into your URL.
  • If you have an old site and you have just started to figure out SEO and it just struck you that “OMG, none of the keywords I’ve researched are in any of my URLs”, you should skip the whole URL changing process.

Getting your keyword in your URL is helpful, but changing URLs can have severe consequences. Page migrations can be tricky, so when in doubt, it’s just better that you don’t do it.

The more traffic your page attracts already, the riskier changing the URL is.

There are things you can do to mitigate the impact of URL migrations. For example, you can use a 301-redirect from the old URL to the new URL but, in general, you often see a small traffic loss for a little bit of time when you do this.

Finally, an important rule to keep in mind here is that the closest to the root domain your URLs is, the better it will be from an SEO point of view.

As an example, “website.com/page” is better than “website.com/folder/folder/folder/page”.

Again, this is probably not worth re-architecting your entire site over, but if you’re starting from scratch, it can be generally helpful.

Some people might say “Hey, I had bunch of blog post categories and they’re one sub-folder level deep (e.g. website.com/digitalmarketing/page), should I re-architect everything and kind of place the blog posts one folder closer to the domain”?

In general, I would say “no”.

That’s not worth it. In my book, that’s a “small potatoes” situation: the downsides outweigh the upsides because there are too many ways to mess this up.

Let’s take “PayPal” as an example. They are optimizing a page for “send money online”:

page optimization url 1

In general, it would be better for that page to be a bit closer to the root domain:

page url closer to root domain

But moving that URL is associated with a lot of difficult problems around enterprise and office politics—it would probably take months or quarters to achieve this.

Given that this URL even has the primary keyword in it, it’s fine to leave it as it is.

Headers

Headers are what we do to logically lay out a webpage. In general, these are the H1, H2, H3 tags.

The rule I follow here is getting the primary keyword in the H1 tag and then just move on—you should be good to go.

There’s a lot of debate about whether or not you should put your primary keyword in your sub-header tags. Again, I think this is sort of small and the upsides of doing it don’t outweigh the downsides.

Here’s an example for this.

Let’s say I have this WordPress site and I’m posting an article called “15 of the Best Email Marketing Campaign Examples You’ve Ever Seen”, where “email marketing campaign examples” is my primary keyword.

keyword title example

As you can see, the title is wrapped in the H1 tag.

Body Copy

This is really just a fancy way to say “the rest of the text on your page”).

You should try to get your primary keyword in the body copy at least two or three times.

There’s a lot of discussion about how long your content should be to rank in Google, but the reality is that there is no real minimum magic number here—I think that, generally, your pages should have at least 100 words.

The more text you have on a page, the better off you are, but you don’t want to hurt user experience. This really depends a lot on what your business is:

  • If you’re a text-heavy website, getting your keywords in the body will be easy.
  • If you’re an image-heavy website, however, and you don’t have a lot of text, it’s going to be much more difficult for you to rank.

Let’s say I’m optimizing a page for “Coffee Shop San Francisco”. I have the word “coffee” in there a couple of different times and I’m good to go.

body copy keyword optimization

Image Alt Text and Filename

When doing on-page SEO, you want to take the images on your site in consideration as well.

Search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) aren’t human—so they can’t see images the way we can.

We help search engines understand images by naming them correctly and by populating what’s called the “Alt Tag”.

Basically, the Alt Tag is a way to describe the content of an image to search engines and other tools.

This part of SEO very prone to over-optimization, so watch out.

What a lot of people do is they generally get really excited about SEO, and then kind of name their images like this: “Nike-Shoes-Buy-Nike-Shoes-Online-Discount-Nike-Shoes-Online-for-Sale.png”

Don’t do that.

The opposite of that is a very un-optimized filename, like “Home-Page-Graphic-6.png”.

Instead, a good one might be “Red-Nike-Shoes.png”.

Just be descriptive about it. Think about your primary keyword. Think about synonyms and Latent Semantic Indexing keywords. Get it in there and then move on.

Some people might say “Oh, do I really have to rename all of my images? It’s going to take months, and we have to ask for this engineering support”.

In general, I put image optimization pretty low on my priority list. If you can do it, great—it’s helpful in general, but everything else we’ve talked about prior to this would definitely be more helpful than image renaming and optimization.

Here’s an example from Zappos, let’s say they have a picture of a shoe on their site, and it’s called “mens-boat-shoe.jpg” and the Alt tag is “Mens Boat Shoe”. That is fine.

alt text and file name

Internal Links and Anchor Text

TL;DR: Links from other pages on my site are important, and the text used in those links are important as well.

Linking to other assets on your site helps users and search engines discover more of your content.

Plus, search engines use the text used in links (also known as “anchor text”) to understand what the linked page is about.

  • That’s why “click here”, “learn more”, “this website” are all examples of terrible anchor text.
  • However, “men’s boat shoes”, “brown shoes”, “black Reebok shoes” would be great examples of good, descriptive anchor text.

In general, it’s helpful for users and search engines to understand what a document is if you name it properly, so remember this when linking to any of your documents.

Finally, the location of the link is very important as well.

Google’s getting a better idea of what the value of the links is based on where they are in the document.

Google understands what elements on the page belong to the top navigation is, the sidebar blogroll navigation, the footer navigation, etc.

For example, when an editor or author at The New York Times writes a piece and link to your site in the first paragraph, that link much more valuable to Google than a link in the 75th blog comment on that page.

In general, you want to get your links as close to the top as you can, where it’s also still useful for users—but not in the top navigation, not in the footer, and not on the sidebar.

A really good example of internal linking is Wikipedia.

wikipedia internal linking example

Wikipedia does some phenomenal internal linking. Every word or term that has its own Wikipedia article seems to be linked. Think like Wikipedia when you’re linking out all of your documents.

Link Neighborhoods

Creating a great resource for users is important, but you can also signal to Google and other search engines that you’re creating a valuable resource by linking up to stuff they already trust.

This is very controversial, but I love doing it.

This involves linking out to competitors. What I do is to look at my primary keywords and Google them. I’ll look at the top 4 or top 10 results, and I’ll often find reasonable ways to link to my competitors from my own content.

When I do this, I’m signaling to Google that I have a high-quality resource, and that I want to be embedded along with this high-quality neighborhood.

This lets Google know kind of who you’re associated with. It generally seems to help.

Freshness and Recency

In 2011, Google announced that fresh content would generally rank higher than stale content.

However, this doesn’t mean that your older content is useless or that you have to constantly create new assets for the same keywords.

What I find is a great way to get around this is to update old content that’s performed well in the past. This will usually give it a nice boost in results.

So, fix broken links, change dates, clean up your content a little bit, and add something to it. Fix it up—but don’t change the URL!

Let’s say you have a new client or start a new job and you just want to reboot the entire business. Going through your content and sorting it by search engine traffic, starting at the top, and just refreshing everything from there, you can often see a really nice boost in traffic.

These are pretty much all the things that we want to do to make sure our documents are optimized for Google and other search engines.

Now let’s move on to the last element of this SEO tutorial.

Link Building and Authority

When I first got into SEO, it was because of something I heard of on the news.

George Bush was running for re-election and I heard on NPR that a bunch of activist bloggers started to link George Bush’s whitehouse.gov site with the term “miserable failure”, and it got him ranking #1 for that term.

In response, a conservative blogger started doing the same thing to Michael Moore’s website and got him ranking #2 for the term “miserable failure”.

I was fascinated by this, although I didn’t understand it. George Bush’s site and Michael Moore’s site weren’t trying to rank for the term “miserable failure”—but other people were able to do that.

What happened to George Bush and Michael Moore is called “Google bombing”. Google has updated their search engine algorithm since then, so it’s much more difficult to do it now—but this example is a really interesting way to think about link building.

The idea is that links from other sites are like votes.

Let’s take as an example, a cookie recipe site.

Link Quantity

In general, I want to go out into the universe and get a ton links from other websites and point them back to my site. It’s an authority signal that tells Google and other search engines that I’m popular.

In the example below, the sites are exactly the same, even the same links—but the one with most links will win.

link neighborhood

However, there’s a massive caveat here: the quality (or authority) of the links.

Link Quality

If you have a site and it has a ton of links, but they’re all from low-quality, spammy sites. And I have another site that is exactly the same, but only has two links—one’s from stanford.edu and the other one’s from nytimes.com.

link quality

Generally, the second site is going to win, precisely because of those quality links.

Link Relevance

The last piece in the Link Building cake is relevance.

If I have a ton of inbound links that come from low to medium quality sites, but they are very relevant, they might actually be more valuable than nytimes.com and stanford.edu.

link relevance

The main idea here is that the quantity, the authority of the site, and the relevance are all extremely relevant.

That’s it! We covered the fundamentals of SEO, you learned a framework to generate business results using SEO, and I gave you the basics you need to get started with on-page and off-page optimization.

 

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