SEO is boring. It is complicated, filled with scumbags and scamsters, laborious, and ultimately, essential to a startup’s success. Startups not sitting on millions of marketing dollars in funding need SEO to drive traffic organically. It won’t be a short and happy journey by any means, but it can be a very prosperous one.
If you know the new rules, that is.
1. Article Marketing, Spinning, RSS Submission, Blah and Blah? All Irrelevant.
There was a time, not long ago, when you could rank a low competition page with a short article marketing campaign on eZineArticles and a few RSS feed submissions. Any link was a good link. Writing great content, creating excellent products – these were irrelevant when you could simply pay $5 per article and spam hundreds of article directories with automated software.
All that is ineffective and irrelevant now. That’s better for startups, and better for the internet as a whole.
Want backlinks? Then be prepared to build relationships with other bloggers and webmasters in your niche. Make press contacts and pitch them your startup ideas. Create something so incredible that people can’t help but write about it. Flood the internet with quality content, and the links will come naturally.
Article marketing, RSS feed submissions, directory submissions are all old hat, easy ways to escape the back breaking effort required to succeed at SEO. I’m glad they are ineffective; it means more for the people willing to work hard, and a cleaner internet.
New Rule: Stay away from anything that smells remotely automated or artificial. If it comes with a 3,000 word sales page with screaming red headlines, it is probably not worth your time or your money.
2. Social Media is Not Just Another Buzzword
For a very long time, I treated social media as a hyped-up buzzword that would eventually fade from the zeitgeist. Years later, it is clear that social media is here to stay, and any SEO can ignore it only at his own peril.
The demarcation between social media and SEO has never been more obfuscated. The diktat from Mountain View is to focus as much on social media as you would on SEO. This merely makes as much sense for businesses as it does for Google. Social media can land you more traffic than SEO and at a lower cost.
The trick to working with social media is to engage. To listen more than talking, to converse and propagate. Social media demands active participation, which is quite different from the largely passive create-deploy world of SEO. Any successful startup must straddle these two worlds.
New Rule: Engage on social media. Make it the cornerstone of your traffic strategy. Build as strong a presence on the major social media services – Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and even Google+ – and converse with your target demographic.
3. “Be More Real”
This is probably the best piece of advice you’ll ever hear on internet marketing, now that Penguin and Panda are into full effect and social media has wrapped its tentacles around the SEO world. The Google ‘Over-optimization penalty’ was in effect a ‘artificiality’ penalty. Sites meant solely for making money, sites with unnatural linking patterns, sites with keyword anchor texts – anything that comes across as forced or ‘not real’ is being penalized.
The antidote is to be real, be natural. Your anchor text should appear real, like how you would link to a friend’s site. Your on-page optimization must never be 100 percent perfect. If you have exact 2 percent keyword density, use all the requisite heading tags, and bold all keywords in your articles, you are going to trigger Google’s suspicions.
The same applies for your social media engagement as well. If you come across as too ‘markety’, you are probably going to alienate your users. If your tweets are more buzzwords than substance, you’ll get hit with an unfollow. Be genuine, be nice, be natural, and you’ll reap rewards.
If this sounds a little alien to you, I recommend running a personal blog for some time and just observe how you go about linking and referencing things without any motivations for making money or even gathering an audience.
If all this sounds like pretentious pap, there’s always the option to be a dick about SEO.
This is just a beginning. I’m a follow-up post, I’ll write about specific things you can do to improve SEO (increasing engagement, increasing page speed, incorporating social signals, etc.)
Image credit: Helen Cassidy