It seems that everyone is struggling with SEO right now. No one quite knows what to do for the best.
Google tells us if we do anything at all that breaks with their Terms of Service, they will downgrade our page, or worse, remove our sites from their search engine.
The crazy thing is, it’s always been like this. The last thing Google wants is crappy, spammy, duplicated, boring or just useless content.
Stuff like that sends people away from our sites, and away from Google. And that hurts everyone’s income stream, but it also means Google will eventually fail, so there’s no way they’re going to let it happen.
Now you may be wondering why anyone would release low grade content on the internet in the first place. Well, here’s why (and how) they do it.
1. Private Blog Networks (PBN): Some people create a string of related websites on different servers that, one way or another, link back to their main site. The idea is to add as much artificially created link juice as they can. This directly breaks Google’s Terms of Service. If a PBN is deteced Google will ignore it and the whole exercise will have been a waste of effort.
2. Web 2.0 Sites: Much the same as PBNs, only this time, free publishing platforms are used to create backlinks to a main site. Typical platforms include blogger.com, weebly.com and tumblr.com (you can find a list of what is often called web 2.0 sites here)
3. Tiered Backlinking: Another way people game the system is by building tiers of sites rippling outwards from their main site. The first ring may consist of web 2.0 sites (each one pointing back to the main site as well as each other). The second ring may be a PBN with links pointing to the first ring as well as each other. The idea is to try to make the links look natural. But Google really gets this now and is easily able to detect artificial constructs like this. Don’t do this. It will waste your time and money.
4. Multi-silo Rings: A silo in web terms means creating a single so called pillar post (something very authoritative on one particular topic), then linking a number of other articles to it to support it). These ‘silos’ can then be linked to by more silos using tiered backlinking and PBNs. The idea of a silo is fine, but unless it really helps the reader, it becomes obvious it’s a construction designed to boost a page, so the same set of rules applies – don’t go down this path unless it really will help searchers in their quest for answers.
There are numerous other patterns, but they all revolve around the same concept of gaming the system by creating a series of artificial backlinks. The content of all the articles may be of the highest quality, but ultimately, backlinks are created because someone found something relevant to link to rather than created articles that could be linked together.
WordPress SEO Plugins
Popular WordPress Plugins such as YoastSEO are fine, but they promote the idea that web pages are based on single keyword phrases. And that’s a problem because pages that rank for the right reasons, tend to rank for hundreds of keywords and phrases (and the top traffic pages can rank for thousands) – and remember that’s for a single page (not multiple pages).
So if you decide to base the focus of a page on a single keyphrase, and use any SEO plugin to tell if what you’ve written has a chance of ranking, you will be very disappointed in the results.
First off, no one except Google knows precisely why some pages rank and others don’t. Secondly, ranking has little to do with keywords anyway – Google has been saying this for years, but with their new AI technology, it is even less likely to have any relevance. It’s all about intent and semantics.
Every one of these tactics breaks Google terms of service. If you’re using a company who uses these techniques promising you a lift in traffic, whilst that may happen short term, there is no guarantee whatsoever that it will stick, and worse, there is every chance Google will eventually pick up the pattern and crush your rankings (or worse).
The Real SEO Solution
I’ve been saying this for years, and every serious SEO expert has said the same thing. Basing your articles on keywords and backlinks alone will bring some traffic, but at the potential cost of your page or site being struck off (and it could happen overnight).
Basing an article on some arbitrary number of words won’t get you ranked either. Word count is nothing without the intent and semantics your article promises to the people who are most likely to be searching for it.
It’s certainly true that long articles tend to rank higher than shorter ones, but that’s purely because the semantics of an article can be artificially heightened by a longer article.
However, Google understands patterns extremely well now. It also understands the difference between duplicate content, citations, quotes, snippets, mashups and a whole host of other constructs.
One way to discover the semantics of a particular article you’re thinking of writing is to search for that article before you’ve written it on Google. Only Google knows what words are semantically linked together in meaning (because they are the gatekeepers to most people’s searches).
You can listen to experts talk about keywords and search engine results for months, but at the end of the day only Google holds the keys.
The only thing that really matters from an SEO perspective is your meta description tag, because that’s what usually shows up as the description in search, and it’s the reason why people decide to click or not. Make it good.