The only two legitimate SEO tactics

In reality, there are only four ways of doing SEO. First two are black-hat SEO tactic (or borderline black-hat) and you probably receive daily email offers for this type of SEO services. The other two are legitimate, sustainable ways that will effectively promote your business online. This article will help understand how things really work.

1. Fast and Furious

This is a black-hat SEO. Most of the email offers you get every day are for this type of SEO. Its goal is to find loopholes in search engine algorithms, and cheat Google, to get you the top positions fast. Techniques of Fast and Furious SEO include cloaking, doorway pages, hidden content, spamming discussions on forums and blogs. Sooner or later you’ll get a penalty and all the time and money you have spent will be wasted. No reputable SEO agency would suggest this approach.

2. Opportunistic SEO

Here, you also look for loopholes in the search algorithm but you do it carefully without risking a penalty. Basically, you over-optimize your website with keywords, create incoming links from online directories, free PR article sites or link farms. Many SEO providers create a system of websites that link to each other and strengthen each site. The problem is that this does not work anymore simply because Google can tell that if you are in the construction business and all your links are coming from a hair salon website it’s probably fake.

Another tactic of the Opportunistic SEO is what I call a forced content marketing. You keep hearing things like “content is the king”, “you have write valuable content” until you give in and hire an offshore copywriter who will write you a keyword-rich content for $10/page. Then you set up your accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest etc. and post all the articles your copywriter sends you.

With this approach, you are not risking a penalty but you are not achieving real business results either because let’s be honest, your content is more keyword-rich than it is user-centric, and your social media activity is not exactly genuine.

Avoid Opportunistic SEO for your company website, but consider it for less important micro-sites that have a limited lifespan. For example, if you need to promote a one-time event.

3. Systematic SEO

Most SEO agencies work this way. There is not much to risk involved and you will see results though not as fast as you may wish. Basically, your success will depend on the amount of time and money you invest into it.

How it works: Before you start, you make sure that the web system is well optimized. This is called on-site SEO and includes optimization of the website system, information architecture, website copy (both the message and structural aspects such as headings and keyword placement), optimization of page titles, meta tags and more. Doing any kind of SEO without optimized your web system is like paddling against the current – you are moving but not really getting anywhere.

Once you optimize the system you continue updating your website with new articles. You post them on social media and get a few re-tweets and likes. Occasionally, you write an article and submit it to free article directories and PR websites in an effort to build links to your site.  Eventually you try to submit your website to Wikipedia. Without success.

Now, this is what most SEO books will tell you to do but going by the book doesn't work. The problem is that most companies who do their own SEO take it literary – they write ‘valuable’ content, post it on all of the social media they can currently handle to maintain and hope the phone won’t stop ringing. It won’t.

Systematic SEO works only when you apply common sense and don’t expect instant results. If you are passionate about your work but aren’t a good writer, hire a good copywriter. Use only those social media channels that your target audiences use. If you can afford it, hire a social media strategist to help you decide which social media to use and how.

Systematic SEO is not risky and it’s financially feasible because you can do a lot of work yourself. This is the way to go for most businesses.

4. SEO as Branding and PR

This type of SEO requires a complete change of mindset. Here, your goal is not to achieve high positions fast but to build a strong and successful brand for your business. The problem with this approach is the investment of time and money. You will need an experienced, creative consultant with strong business sense on your side. This person will become your trusted partner and you will both equally committed to the success of company’s online efforts. She basically becomes your Web Ambassador who has deep understanding of your target audience as well as your long-term and short-term goals.  

Your Web Ambassador will recommend what kind of content you want to post and where it should be posted. The main advantage is that your Web Ambassador will help you stay on the right track and avoid short-lived tactics that may cost you time, money and Google penalties.

When you look at SEO as branding you realize that your goal is not to please search engines but to build a community of people who are loyal to your brand and who will (naturally) promote it for you.
So what do I suggest? Start with the Systematic SEO with every intention to move towards SEO as Branding and PR. You will not achieve top positions instantly, but you will set up a foundation of your web presence that will grow stronger each year.

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