It seems like every month there’s a new story about Google releasing yet another algorithm update that alters search engine rankings. If you don’t follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) closely, it can be especially confusing when you hear code words like Penguin and Panda, Pirate and Payday thrown out to describe any of these changes.
It may also make you wonder how your company can possibly even begin to capture rankings when the very foundation of the search engines seems to be in constant flux. The good news is that even though search engines have come a long way in the past decade, the fundamentals to successfully ranking for high-value keyword phrases has actually changed very little. That said, here are three things that will never change when it comes to ranking:
1. Backlinks will continue to be a cornerstone to ranking
The billions of intertwined links that search engines use to decide rankings will always be a primary reason why you do or do not rank for keyword phrases you’re targeting. Links are at the very core of how search engines deduce overall authority at a keyword level and will always be the cornerstone to ranking well. Even with the advent of gigantic social networks that create millions upon millions of links to varying sites on a daily basis, a small amount of highly authoritative backlinks will always do more for your overall SEO efforts than a million low-quality links from Yahoo Answers or online directories.
More importantly, link building as we in the SEO space have known it will continue to make a shift to link earning, with content strategy replacing churn and burn efforts to secure low- to mid-value links.
2. Content is, and will always be, king
“Content is king” is something that goes backto the very early days of SEO, when the Google Adwords platform was still in its infancy and search engines like Lycos and Ask Jeeves were still relevant competitors to Google and Yahoo. Content is the fundamental item that search engines use to decide what pages and websites to rank, and which to ignore.
Content is inextricably linked to link earning, with search engines understanding that high-authority links to a website must be related to the content on said website. The best example of this in action on a large scale is Wikipedia, with practically any non-commercial search having a Wikipedia URL on the first page of search results.
What this means to businesses as a whole is that SEO must be viewed with the same discipline as building a company: It takes consistent time, effort, and resources to see fantastic growth and results.
3. Not every business will succeed with SEO
Many times when we discuss SEO with clients, one of the first things covered is what keyword phrase a business wishes to rank number one for. While it’s completely understandable for any business to want to rank for keyword phrases that can generate a huge amount of revenue, the missing piece is that some clients will simply never be able to rank in the top three positions for a keyword phrase.
A great real-world example would be in the airline industry. If the CEO of Delta Air Lines asked what it would take to rank in a top position for “cheap flights,” the honest answer would be “you can’t.” Travel aggregator sites such as Expedia, Travelocity, or Orbitz not only carry cheap Delta Air Lines flights, but also those of all of their competitors. Even with all of the best-earned links in the world, the user experience of showing one airline over an aggregator would never be able to work out in the eyes of the search engines.
While that one specific example shows that even a multibillion-dollar company can’t simply buy its way into a specific keyword ranking, it doesn’t mean that companies large and small can’t be successful with SEO; rather, it shows that a custom strategy and tactical approach will need to be crafted with an eye on the long term in order to achieve success.