How to Not Suck at Organic SEO

How to Not Suck at Organic SEO


The first page of Google -- it’s the Holy Grail of search engine optimization. The prize is so tempting, in fact, that I have seen people go to some pretty outrageous lengths to reach that coveted spot.

But the thing I’ve come to realize about SEO (organic SEO, in particular) is that it’s a lot like your traditional superhero movie (yes, really). For the first half of the film, it might seem like the villain’s devious, under-handed tactics are helping him take the lead over the hero, but ultimately the "good guy" regains the upper-hand using his honest and ethical approach.

SEO isn’t all that different. The quick "wins" from black hat SEO might be tempting at first, but those practices will ultimately backfire, costing you time, money, and, worst of all, your reputation. Black hat SEO practices include things like keyword stuffing and content spamming. Google is wise to these tactics and will not hesitate to slap you or even blacklist you entirely.

The good news is that SEO doesn’t have to be shady! There are a multitude of tools and tactics that you can start implementing today that will produce the results you’re looking for without compromising your ethics.

We’ve put together a list of four of the suckiest SEO practices and paired them each with tips to help you become an SEO hero and save the day improve your rankings.

Sucky Practice #1: Go Backlink Crazy

Yes, it’s true -- link building is an important part of any solid organic SEO strategy, but the key is to keep your focus and be a mindful link builder.

Remember earlier when I mentioned that Google doesn’t take kindly to being played? Link farms, hidden links and comment spamming are sure-fire ways to get yourself on Google’s naughty list. Take it from James Norquay, an SEO consultant who was called in by a client to clean up the mess an SEO company left by using what he calls "less than impressive SEO tactics and methodologies" -- resulting in lost revenue for the client.

Instead of going backlink crazy and paying the price for it later, the trick is to keep calm and build good links over time.

One of the best ways to do that is with a solid guest posting strategy. Google gives more weight to links that come from reputable outlets, so take the time to seek out relevant, quality sites to post your content on. Borrow their credibility!

A great trick to increase your guest posting ROI is to publish on sites that syndicate to other reliable websites. The next step is to create high-quality content. Don’t write a post for the sake of getting a backlink, write a post to offer your readers valuable information. That said, don’t forget to optimize your posts by embedding a few links back to your website -- as long as it makes sense. Be reasonable, be logical and don’t get greedy!

Bonus Tip: A great way to build your links is to help others build theirs! Link to other relevant, quality sites in your posts provided they present value to your audience. Remember the vanity factor… people love sharing things that they have been featured in!

Sucky Practice #2: Treat SEO Like a One-Time Project

Leave it up to Marshall Simmonds, former Chief Search Strategist for the New York Times, to hit the nail on the head when it comes to launching -- and sustaining -- a successful organic SEO strategy.

Quick wins = fleeting success. One of the worst things you can do when it comes to SEO is to treat it like a one-time project or investment. Search engine optimization done well requires a long-term commitment and a holistic approach that brings together all the different elements of your business (sales, marketing, product, design, etc.)

To be successful with organic SEO, it needs to become embedded into your organization’s thinking across different projects and across different teams. It needs to be regularly monitored, revisited and optimized.

"You can't be half pregnant with SEO. You are either all in or you're not." Click To Tweet

Organic SEO is not just a box on your to-do list, it’s a long-term strategy game. If you’re playing the short game, you’ve already lost.

Sucky Practice #3: Write With the Google Gods in Mind

Since Google is the ultimate decider of your SEO fate, it might seem logical to write with the Google gods in mind. But the truth is that the Google gods really want you to write with your human readers in mind.

Using keywords for the sake of using keywords is not only frowned upon by Google, it also interferes with your user experience. Your readers are smart people, and they can tell when your focus has drifted from their enjoyment to maximizing your keyword count. You’re not fooling the robots or the humans!

Organic SEO is all about writing valuable content that appeals to your human readers -- using the language that they use, the keywords that they use and creating content that they find helpful. When you focus on creating content that will be both useful for your audience and easy to find, the keywords will start naturally building themselves in a way that is organic and unobtrusive.

As a general rule, you should be writing for your readers and optimizing for the Google gods. Don’t confuse the two!

Bonus Tip: SEO goes beyond headers and body text to include everything before and after the post. We’re talking meta tags, titles, page tags, descriptions and even the structure of your website. At Onboardly, we use the Yoast plugin for WordPress to give our SEO efforts an extra boost.

Sucky Practice #4: Blogging Tunnel Vision

While blogging should be a major part of any inbound strategy, don’t forget to explore the many other types of content that can benefit your SEO efforts.

From infographics to case studies to podcast interviews to SlideShare decks, the Onboardly team produces and participates in the creation of a wide variety of content for ourselves and our clients. Variety really is the spice of life (and SEO).

The reality is that different content reaches different audiences, which makes diversifying your content a great way to grow your reach and build your links!

Take a cue from these two companies that are absolutely killing it with creative content.

Warby Parker

Forget bland product shots and lame contests, Warby Parker has taken their corporate Instagram game to a whole new level. The company known for its stylish and affordable eyewear is also a master of creating attractive, highly-shareable visual content. From the Warby Parker Class Trip to Instagram walks, there seems to be no limit to their creativity.

Luxy Hair

From the get-go, Luxy Hair knew that their clients weren’t simply looking to buy hair extensions... they were looking to buy beauty and perfectly-styled hair. So instead of focusing on guest posting on beauty blogs or Facebook advertising, the Luxy team went to work creating YouTube tutorials that showed viewers how to create the looks they craved. These videos became immensely popular and have significantly contributed to the growth of the company.

If you’re still hungry for more, check out this great list of 32 ways to build links from Corey Northcutt via HubSpot. Despite popular belief, variety and creativity do have a place in SEO.

Patience Pays Off

As much as we love to hustle and get things done fast, the old saying is true: good things take time.

When it comes to creating and developing an organic SEO strategy that will get you the lasting results you’re after, consistent, deliberate action is key. You may not see results overnight, but trust that good practices will be rewarded over time. Remember, the hero always wins out in the end!

Photo Credit: Flickr

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