Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Art is beauty.
The beauty of art is in the eye of the beholder.
SEO is art.
And it's also in the eye of the beholder.
Unfortunately, Google is the only eye that's beholding SEO.
How communistic of them.
The rest of us just look like amateur pedants with our analyses, case studies, tutorials, and predictions.
Truth is, when it comes down to SEO, all we are left with is to keep up and react.
“SEO is the worst form of marketing, except for all the others…”
Ian Lurie, the funny guy at Portent.com
Search engine traffic is one of the most coveted, yet the hardest to build traffic sources.
Naturally, the less obtainable it is, the more we want it.
Let's Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
Bashing Google is definitely in vogue.
Especially when we get caught doing something we should've been doing.
Like buying links.
Or littering the web with poorly spun content.
Or inundating other blogs with spam trackbacks hoping to get links back.
And when Google shuts us down, we readily take arms against it.
But let me tell you something: Google is not to blame.
Google's main objective is to cater to their consumers, shareholders, and bottom line.
They are a business.
And they are in business to make money.
Can we blame them for it?
“Sergey and I founded Google because we believed we could provide a great service to the world—instantly delivering relevant information on any topic.
Serving our end users is at the heart of what we do and remains our number one priority.”
Larry Page, in his letter for Google's shareholders
And even though we'll continue to make fun of Google and SEO throughout this post – because we can, let's keep in mind that our ultimate goals are the same:
- Our goal: to craft the most relevant, up-to-date, comprehensive content we can.
- Google's goal: to serve their searchers with the most relevant, up-to-date, comprehensive content they can.
Now let's see how we can help the two to live happily ever after in perfect harmony.
Forget about on-page optimization.
Forget about off-page optimization.
Start with relevance and authority optimization.
What is Relevance Optimization?
“SEO – convincing the search engines you are relevant for keywords you probably aren't.”
Defined by Michael Gray of Wolf-Howl.com
Google's bots are getting more and more sophisticated at discerning intentions of their searchers and serving them the most relevant results.
Here's an insight into what exactly Google defines as “relevant results”:
As a rule, Google tries to find pages that are both reputable and relevant.
If two pages appear to have roughly the same amount of information matching a given query, we’ll usually try to pick the page that more trusted websites have chosen to link to.
Still, we’ll often elevate a page with fewer links or lower PageRank if other signals suggest that the page is more relevant.
For example, a web page dedicated entirely to the civil war is often more useful than an article that mentions the civil war in passing, even if the article is part of a reputable site such as Time.com.
Relevance optimization is not a new concept by any means.
Take a look at these sources that just about sum it up what SEO was, is, and most likely, will be:
- LinkMoses Linking Commandments – by Eric Ward, EricWard.com, originally published in 2003
- Quality Score, Relevance Score and Search Engine Optimization – by Jeffrey Smith, SEODesignSolutions.com, 2008
- Contrarian Perspectives On Link Building – by Eric Ward, SearchEngineLand.com, 2011
- How search engine optimization works – by Michael Martinez, SEO-Theory.com, 2006
Quoting the last source by Michael Martinez:
“On-page optimization is all about making it clear to search engines that your page is relevant for the topic you are targeting.
If you place indexable text on the page, it will be relevant to a large number of topics you don’t target.
But its relevance for the majority of those topics will be relatively weak.
The purpose of on-page optimization is to emphasize relevance for the most important topic.”
How to Be More Relevant
1. Focus your site theme to target a specific niche.
In other words:
DON'T target “travel”, “finances”, or “internet marketing” as your niche.
DO narrow it down to:
“Europe's Hot Spots”
“Smart Living on a Small Budget”
“How to Write the Best Content on Earth”.
DON'T dilute your theme by adding another unrelated topic just because you are passionate about it, like combining “cooking” and “dating”.
Believe me, I've seen sites do that.
The key is not to stray too far off topic from the core theme of your site.
2. Link to and from relevant sources.
If you want to be regarded as a relevant authority source, you need to associate your site with other relevant sites on the subject.
Even though you can't control who links to you and how relevant they are to your niche, when you DO have control (like guest posting let's say), make sure to pick the right sites.
This is where you DO have full control, so make sure you link out to relevant authority sites.
3. Internal linking.
Support your relevancy by inter-linking your own posts accordingly.
What Is Authority Optimization?
“SEO: the practice of making webpages accessible to obstinate, simple-minded robots.”
Defined by Rand Fishkin, SEOMoz.org
What is that one website you always think of when you need an answer to a specific need?
Do you go to Google when you need to find something?
Do you go to Amazon when you need to buy something?
Do you go to Twitter when you just absolutely have to let the entire world know what you had for lunch?
Do you come to Traffic Generation Café when you have a web traffic related question? That's my goal.
The more authority your site gains, the easier it would be for you to acquire and keep search engine rankings for competitive keywords.
In short, the ultimate goal of SEO should be to build authority.
If building relevance is your new on-page optimization, then building authority is your new off-page optimization.
How to Build Authority
To say that writing epic content is the first crucial step to building online authority is a huge understatement.
Epic content is what gets clicks.
Epic content is what gets shared and quoted.
Epic content is what gets links.
Once you get the “epic content” part down, the rest is easy: promote, promote, promote.
If you don't know how to promote your epic content, read this:
- How to REALLY Create a Popular Blog From Scratch
- 202 Bite-Sized Tips To Insanely Increase Your Blog Traffic
- 101 Ways to Promote a New Blog – DailyBlogTips.com
- How to Promote Your Blog With Social Media – SocialMediaExaminer.com
- 13 Ways to Promote Your Next Blog Post – Problogger.net
(By the way, the three blogs above are an excellent example of building the kind of authority that gets you nearly de facto rankings in the blogging niche.)
Or pick up a copy of Kristi Hines' excellent Blog Post Promotion: The Ultimate Guide.
So What Is SEO?
“SEO: Running on a greased treadmill while Matt Cutts tells you you're doing great and link spammers keep butt-kicking you.”
Ian Lurie, the funny guy at Portent.com (again)
If nothing above made any sense to you, let's see if Wikipedia can do a better job at explaining what SEO is:
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's “natural,” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”), search results.
In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine's users.
And there you have it.
Build your relevance and authority, give Google what Google wants, and actually showing up in the search results might be the icing on the cake.
The rules of search engine OPTIMIZATION have not changed since then: You do what the search engines want and they let you play in their indexes. THAT is real-world SEO and it always has been. It’s never going to work any differently from that.
Michael Martinez, Dear SEO Bloggers: Panda and Penguin Do NOT Change The Rules
If you want to dig deeper into the “HOW” of it all, may I suggest you read:
- Thesis SEO – on-page optimization with Thesis or any other WP theme
- 5 Ways to Get Feng Shui Links from Traffic Generation Cafe – for off-page SEO
Or simply get my free SEO report by clicking on this link.
SEO Marketing Takeaway
In every niche, there's always that one site that inevitably pops up in hundreds of niche-related searches.
Of course, it always makes you wonder how on earth they were able to pull it off.
Chances are they simply started writing epic content long before others realized this wondrous and imaginative way to achieve relevance, authority, and high rankings existed.
Even if SEO is still as clear to you as San Francisco Bay area in the morning, the takeaway to ranking higher in search engines is simple:
Write epic content, build relevance and authority in your niche, and give it time.
If you like this post and think this would be valuable to your followers, tweet the ish out of it for me, okay?
All you have to do is click the button below. Thanks!
Improving my SE rankings for the greater good,