Penguin. Panda. Hummingbird. Google’s algorithm updates over the last few years have turned the world upside down for many SEOs & website owners. Everyone always speaks of Google as being a moving target. If you are indeed trying to beat or outsmart the algorithm, then yes, it is a moving target, one that’s very hard to keep up with at times. Ultimately, you should not being trying to ‘beat’ the algorithm (whatever that means) because you never will.
In light of today’s revelation from Matt Cutts about the Decay & Fall of Guest Blogging, it appears as though the moving target will continue to move, and one tool that many SEOs have kept handy in their arsenal may be lost.
This brings me to the subject of this blog post – The Golden Rule of SEO. If you follow this rule, you shouldn’t have to worry about what Google’s next move will be. I could tell you to just follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, but that would be too simple & boring. What the webmaster guidelines basically boil down to is publish great quality, original content, and build your site for the user, giving them a great experience.
So with that in mind, here’s the Golden Rule of SEO.
“Anything you do which may help increase your organic search rankings must have an equal or greater benefit to you which has nothing to do with increasing your organic ranking.”
So let’s look at how this Golden Rule applies to a few ‘SEO tactics’.
In 2013 Google cracked down on press release sites, and now, with a site like PRWeb, all links (not just your keyword-rich anchor text links) are no follow links. Many businesses issuing press releases didn’t care about the distribution of the release (because they knew their release wasn’t newsworthy). For these businesses, a press release basically meant buying a link from a DA 94 site for $200 – it seemed like a good deal. But this breaks my golden rule of SEO because this was done entirely to increase your website’s domain authority & organic ranking – that’s it. Obviously you could issue a press release for legitimate purposes and have more to gain from the distribution of the release than what that single link did, but there were too many people doing it for the wrong reasons, so everyone loses out.
Similar to press releases, some people would do a guest blog entirely for the purpose of getting that link in the byline, or even worse, to get that keyword-rich anchor text link. In order to pass the Golden Rule test, you would have to be doing this blog post because of the great exposure you’d be getting on this site, and the qualified traffic that it would be sending your way because you authored such a compelling piece of original content.
Now let’s look at a couple legitimate practices that will generally have a greater benefit to a business than just SEO.
Businesses may donate to a charity for a variety of reasons including minimizing taxes, because it makes them feel good, or because of the exposure & goodwill that will come their way as a result. Most businesses won’t make $10,000 charitable donation for the sake of getting a link, but oftentimes when you make sizeable donations, you will get a link. In this case, the value of the link is a very small part of the total value a business will derive from this activity. Something like this is an example of what Wil Reynolds would call “Real Company Stuff”. Well, let’s just say Wil didn’t use the word ‘stuff’ originally.
Blogging… On Your Own Site…
Why am I writing this blog post right now? What do I stand to benefit from this? I’m not writing this post for the sake of getting a link. I might get a link because of this post, and if I do get a link because someone thought this was an intriguing piece, it’ll probably be relatively valuable for me from an SEO standpoint, but odds are, I won’t get a link from this. The goal of a post like this is to help develop my own level of authority. The greater level of authority that I have, the more likely prospective clients or strategic business partners will trust me, and be likely to do business with my company. I’m not even blogging right now for the purpose of getting longtail search traffic. Odds are if someone arrived at this post after doing a search for ‘golden rule of seo’, they wouldn’t become a client, and it turns out there’s no real search volume for that phrase anyway. So as long as you’re authoring quality, original content like this, you’ll always follow the Golden Rule.