The Only SEO Strategy That Works (Cutting Through The Bullsh*t)

The only SEO strategy that works

This is a guest post from Evan Bailyn from First Page Sage.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google with a vision – to organize the web in a truly democratic way, where the collective wisdom of the people determines which websites rise to the top.

In their view, online search results ought to be ordered based on a system of “link popularity,” similar to the way we elect our politicians – the more votes you receive, the higher the likelihood of winning. In the case of websites, “votes” are earned when other websites link to you – a system so intuitive that many webmasters don’t even realize they’re passing info on to Google. The sites with the highest link popularity – in terms of both quantity and quality – pop to the top of the first page of search results.

That is how Google’s algorithm functioned back in 1996 when Larry and Sergey wrote their original research paper at Stanford, creating Google. And that is how Google’s algorithm functions today.

I am always amazed at how “SEO experts” describe the process of Google optimization. Even I get confused when I watch some of the presentations out there. It seems as if there are simply too many factors to consider. Well, I’ve used SEO as the foundation for 5 successful businesses and – without tooting my own horn too much – gotten websites to the top of Google for the keywords “games,” “personal injury lawyer,” and “web design company,” and I can tell you, there really isn’t that much to it.

Here is how SEO works:

Google works kind of like middle school, where popularity is king. Instead of friends though, your website is seeking links from other websites. Like middle school, quantity of friends alone is not the biggest factor in popularity; it’s also how popular each of those friends is. If I have 10 friends, I’m decently popular, but I’m still way behind the guy with 5 friends who are the five most popular kids in school. It’s the same with Google: if your website has links coming from Apple, Microsoft, and Yahoo, its “link popularity” is going to be sky high, way more so than a website with 100 links from small websites.

Ahrefs - Track your link popularity

Link popularity is one of the most important metrics of your website.  Tools like help you determine how many links point to your site.

Now, link popularity is only one of two important factors in SEO. While it basically determines how likely Google is to place your site on the first page of the search results for a given search term, Google still needs to determine what those search terms are.  In other words, what might somebody type into Google’s search box in order to find your site?

Google has several ways of determining this, but the only one that matters is your meta page title. Every page on your site has a meta page title. It is your way of broadcasting to Google what that page is about.  It is also your opportunity to include search phrases that you’d like that web page to show up for.

For example, the meta page title of the home page of this blog is “socialmouths – Kick-ass social media advice for the real entrepreneur.” Francisco, the owner of this site, is essentially telling Google that his home page is about those words. Therefore, if you type in “social media advice for entrepreneurs,” shows up on the first page.

Meta Page Title

The meta page title is so important to Google that Google uses it as the title of its search result listing for that web page.

Of course, if didn’t have good link popularity, it might show up on page 5 or page 10, where nobody would see it.  It would still be in the running, but far behind.

Link popularity and meta page titles are, ultimately, the two factors that Google uses to order their search results. When someone types “example search phrase” into Google, having those three words in the meta page title of one of your site’s pages puts it in the running to show up as a result, and having a high link popularity is what pushes it to the front of the pack.

Now that you know how SEO works, I’ll summarize the only SEO strategy that works today, in 2012:

Create fantastic content as often as possible, share it with other website owners frequently, and try to get as many links as possible. Again, socialmouths is a great case study here. By putting out great content all the time, the site made its way to my friend Tom, who shared it on Facebook. I saw it there, clicked on it, and became a fan. When I reference the site in the future on my own blog, my link will count towards socialmouths’ link popularity. In essence, socialmouths has (without necessarily meaning to), executed the ideal SEO strategy: it has convinced people like me to link to it simply because we like it.  At some point in the future, because of the site’s high link popularity, a Google search for “the only SEO strategy that works” will return this blog entry. This being only one of thousands of pages on the site, you can see how Google would become a top referrer of traffic to socialmouths, bringing fresh readers to the site daily.

There is more to learn, of course – namely, how to effectively ask for links from other websites, how to steer clear of Google penalties, and how to structure your meta page titles so they are friendly to both humans and search engines. But we’ll leave those to a future post. For now, I’ll be content if you feel like you understand SEO just a little bit better.

  • Great post, Evan. I was wondering how important you think anchor text optimization is when it comes to getting those links? I know penguin penalizes over optimization but I’m assuming some optimization is still important.

  • Evan Bailyn

    Hey Matt, you’ve got the right idea. Some anchor text optimization is good, but very little. Penguin will penalize for anything that feels unnatural. Google has gotten very good at detecting what feels natural vs. what feels like a “text link.”

  • Summary: links are good. No kidding…
    Good job on the link bait title but there isn’t really anything of substance here.

  • Are you hearing the same as I am that Google will be changing SEO as we know it because they know the system is being gamed. Seems to me that content will be king and not gaming SEO. Will SEO be dead as we know it?

  • Tyler, maybe you didn’t find anything YOU can learn here, maybe others will so let’s respect that.


  • SMH…What, there’s no Panda or Penguin afoot? Sorry, but I was sorely disappointed in the follow up to the great (MISLEADING) title. This is advice fitting for 2009 or 1999, not 2012 post-Penguin, post-Panda…despite the author’s bragging rights, this is incredibly shallow SEO “advice.”

  • Evan Bailyn

    They’ve been doing that for years. Google’s algorithm hasn’t changed that much in the last few years except for how seriously they’ve combatted poor-quality SEO tactics. (The one exception is integration of social results, but it is even a bit early to consider that a major factor for most businesses trying to get business from organic search.) If you’ve been doing it the right way, you’ll have ranked well on Google for the last 8 years.

  • Interesting. I’ve been stressing about my SEO so much that I’m forgetting about the content and including other links in my posts. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Gabriela

    Great posts!!!!

  • Excellent post. I like the emphasis on the link popularity and title tagging — curious as to your thoughts for description meta and/or page-level content that becomes part of the SERP and also serves as basis for description on social shares. A good title on the SERP increases CTR, but one can’t minimize the impact of a complimentary description to go along with it. Thoughts?

  • James,

    I respect your opinion, the point is that you can come here and express it, whether you agree or not. In fact, it’s a lot more interesting if you disagree. So thank you for that.

    I’m a little uncomfortable but I can live with your “look-at-me-I’m-outrageous-and-I-say-whatever-I-want” attitude because in marketing, turns out it works. For a while. I know you’re here to see if you can pick up a couple of clicks back to your blog and even that is okay with me.

    Just, be a little more classy and don’t do it at somebody else’s expense.

    Good luck.

  • With the new Penguin algorithm thousands of the exact same anchor text links look like spam so variation seems to help. If you do more keyword research and expand the terms you use for in your anchor text links you will minimize the risk of penalization.

  • Francisco –

    I read your blog for social marketing tips, and I RESPECT you tons. Here’s the thing: I don’t need or want the “link” from blog commenting, I’m engaging in the conversation (and I’m glad you posted my comment). What provoked it is the overly simplistic view on SEO here, it behooves your readers that they understand these overly simplified views on SEO CAN hurt them with things like Panda afoot.

    I did an interview with Tim Carter who did NOT build links to his site, in fact you’d say he followed the advice above to a “T.” Yet Panda slapped him off the map – a perfectly white hatter if there ever was one.

    So it chaps my hide when someone (with the caliber of the author of the post no less) gives out “the ONLY SEO Strategy That Works” and boils it down to title tags, posting frequency and social signals. It’s ridiculous.

    Let me ask you: do you care about the advice you give your readers? I posted my earlier comment (and now this one) because frankly I do: if someone comes along a year from now and thinks, “Oh, OK – that’s all I have to do…” but can’t rank after months of trying…that’s the person I think about.

    It’s not done at the author’s expense, but the post is done at your readers’ expense.

  • James,

    Again, we can discuss the topic all day long, I’m happy to do it. I appreciate it (as I’m sure the readers do also) if you come here with a different point of view, I’m sure you’re knowledgeable enough to argue the points made here.

    You say you do it for the reader but, the previous comment doesn’t really add much value to them. If you come in here and say “I disagree because this and this”, as you did on your second comment, then I believe you’re adding value.

    Now, let me explain why I think this post is valuable. I write and publish content for entrepreneurs. Before a blogger, I’m also an entrepreneur. I work to make my business successful online and the approach I take in marketing is as organic as possible. I don’t try to hack the system, search, social or any other aspect of the Internet. Everything is done in a natural way.

    When it comes to SEO, I’m not an expert, I do not spend one minute of my day learning anything about it and I do not outsource any of it. I don’t do keyword research or anything that’s not common sense, I try to think how a person will search for something, add a page title, a meta description that makes sense to me and that is about it.

    That approach has given me enough search traffic (that I’m sure I could improve) for my business goals.

    The points provided here are not intended to be the latest SEO tactics, but to offer an organic approach to search as a concept, perhaps to entrepreneurs that don’t know about SEO, like me.

    To be honest, I’ve had many offers for guest posts that go really deep into the technical stuff and I have refused them, not because I don’t believe they’re right but because I don’t think it will be helpful for my readers (or to me…)

    Anyways, I want you to know I appreciate your points, the disagreement and your clarification, and you’re more than welcome to do so again anytime you want but in the manner I have described.

    Thank you and have a good weekend.

  • Thanks Evan! I think that there will always be folks who will try to game the system.. and to what end, really? Instant gratification, I’d say. I’m glad we’re seeing less of those sites that looked like its hosting a keyword rave party gone wild… have to thank Penguin for that too.

  • Good post Evan. In the post Panda/Penguin, the best advice here is to go with quality content.

  • Great basic primer, Evan. If you put out top notch content in your niche, people will naturally start sharing it, and linking to it. Eventually, the things that Google looks for will turn in your favor . . . and the rankings and traffic will follow. It may not happen overnight, but if you’re consistent, you’ll be on your way.

  • myspalmer

    Hmmmm Lots of discussion on this one Francisco! I too am no expert. BUT SEO has been made out to be superbly complicated to a point where otherwise fantastic writers/bloggers are over thinking every-single-post, because of keyword research this and SEO blah, blah that.

    SEO is highly important but like you, can’t there be a way that just makes sense and that works? I’d say SoucialMouths is a damn good example that there is. Perhaps we each need to approach SEO in ways that don’t complicate our lives and grow our bottom lines. Thanks for the post Evan & for publishing it Francisco. Enjoy the weekend!

  • enquiry 123
  • SEO has moved away from being a technical function and is now a marketing function. It’s about getting quality content in front of target audience members online. If they like what they see, natural links will build over time and traffic will be generated to the site.

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    Wonderful article!Google will be changing SEO as we know it because they know the system is being gamed. Thanks for the reminder.

  • virtual assistant

    Man, quality content have been discuss since the beginning of SEO and it did matter. However for all quality content in the competition what you should do?

  • Libero

    What are, according to you, the ten most important
    factors for the positioning and with which weight they are involved in determining the

  • Ronny James

    Certainly a good post, it will be really helpful.

  • Bernie Martin

    I just have to say how compelling Evan’s Book “Outsmarting Google” is to read! He takes the time to cover all the basics very simply.
    There will always be another person with another approach, but Evan follows the KISS method very well! I have already proven his methods to myself. I have 8 different websites and they are all doing well because I’ve implemented his techniques in them.

    Thanks Evan for helping us all

  • Parmveer Singh Sandhu

    Hi Evan! Great Post. I really liked your style of explaining link popularity using school time example :).

    Now the SEO need more genuine efforts. We all are making internet a clean place with lots of great information (no doubt Google is compelling to do so). Anyways … waiting for next …. in this series

  • Gus Penton

    Hey Evan,

    I find that this article is a wonderful explanation on the macro level for SEO. I’m working my ranks up through the SEO field and it is surely a hard road at that. Though, I truly find passion for this work and greatly respect those who have built themselves up in this industry. Much respect to SocialMouths and all of your guidance.


  • andyzen

    can you tell me if i m using Buy Facebook Fans keyword .then can i use this kind of keyword like i ll add some word to show google diffrent keyword we are posting.Buy More Facebook Fans, Buying Facebook fans, How to Buy More Facebook fans

  • andyzen

    my promotional keyword is buy facebook fans only if i use that keyword then spamming will be to avoid spamming can i use this kind of keywords after evry 20 submissio Buy More Facebook Fans, Buying Facebook fans, How to Buy More Facebook fans .like little bit text i ll add in my promotional keyword.after 20 subsmission i will change my keywod.result will come on my promotnal keyword ( buy facebook fans) or nt

  • Drake Florience

    yeah thanks evan ive been trying seo tatics on and its very interesting

  • Joey Ambrose

    It’s nice you break what amounts to effective link building into a nice simple explanation. Nicely done.

  • Just read this. How relevant is this information today in 2014? I ask as I’ve found the simplest stuff is usually the most relevant and, more importantly, longer lasting. Is that the case with this strategy?

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