The Single Best Actionable SEO Advice There is
Recently an online buddy of mine asked me to contribute to a group interview. The question was a very good one, to paraphrase it:
what’s the single best actionable SEO advice there is?
Wow! What can I say. At first I thought: there is so much to explain about SEO and so many techniques to use. SEO success consists of a plenitude of small steps to reach your goal.
The Most Valuable Links
Looking at the actual most valuable links in Open Site Explorer I noticed they had something in common.
Not the links on Search Engine Land or Hubspot I’ve got are my most important ones it seems. The best links come from my friends.
So I put up a short answer and explained how it’s crucial to socialize with your peers as long as they are on the same level as you. One day they might move on to other greener pastures, or they might fail and give up on your niche altogether for that reason.
Some of your friends will move on up to cite Curtis Mayfield and become large scale influencers who won’t have the time anymore to socialize with you and read your content.
Today, right now, your friends are the people who provide support and that’s the only thing that matters.
Translated into links it might work for years to come. Some of my most valuable links on OSE are from online friends I helped 5 years ago. Others are pretty new, both newer links and from newer friends. Some of the newer links are from old friends too. Some old friends have linked to me from several publications over the years.
So what is the single best actionable SEO advice there is actually?
It’s getting out there, whether in real life or virtually and making friends! How do you make friends? By helping other people. Of course in case you just help to reap the benefits these people will notice. You have really follow the lead of Lao Tzu and “act without expectation”.
Mutual Aid is not Link Exchange
This mutual aid approach works that good exactly because the help is selfless and not part of a barter system like in early SEO where it was link to me so I link to you. People don’t feel obliged to link back they do because they respect you enough to look up your blog and find out whether there is something valuable. In case they find it they will share and link it.
You have to abandon the link exchange mindset you grew over the years.
In the group interview answer I mentioned three of my friends I had socialized online with a lot in the past:
because their links were among the highest rated according to the Moz toolsuite. Then I felt bad about not mentioning none of the others. I just didn’t have enough time again. I had a cold, a considerable backlog of tasks to accomplish by yesterday. So I had to find a compromise.
Today I want to show the other people who were involved in my success over the years and still are apparently.
I was always preaching that you don’t compete with your peers online. Especially other bloggers are not your competitors! They are your colleagues. They are your potential partners.
Who Are Your Friends Online?
Your peers are your best supporters. SEO is like sports reflecting the original idea of the Olympics: “The most important thing is not to win but to take part!”. You can’t always be number one but being part of the “competition” is already the biggest reward in itself.
Personally I don’t care whether I rank for a particular phrase or someone else I know who rocks.
I am beyond rankings by now. I don’t have to rank on Google anymore. People know who I am and approach me. Many people contact me because they know me from blogging or have socialized with me in the past.
Even so called strangers know who I am and what I think even though they haven’t met me yet. I don’t say rankings are useless or you shouldn’t pursue them, I did for years so now I don’t have to anymore.
It’s truly liberating to be well known enough not to have to deal with Google every day.
I am here because of numerous people from the SEO industry and beyond who have helped me along the way. Not that I made it difficult to help me.
- I have written exceptional content for others to share back when it wasn’t commonplace yet.
- I have used social networking actively to promote others so they could reciprocate.
- I have been a vocal spokesperson for a reform of what SEO was so people could join in.
Given today’s standards I’d like to believe that some lines of thought that have been introduced by me found a way into the mainstream.
Many People Help Along the Way
So who are some of the other people who have helped me along the way?
- Philipp Lenssen
- Brian Wallace
- Gab Goldenberg
- Sebastian X
- Lee Odden
- Tamar Weinberg
- Larry Kim
- Gabriella Sannino
Some of them may even wonder why I might consider them friends. They just have included me in a list for example. Lee Odden and Larry Kim haven’t done a lot to become my friends but the little they did had a lasting impact. Lee has added me to his BIGLIST of blogs by TopRank and I got links from there for three consecutive years. Larry Kim has featured me along many other people in a group interview. According to OSE these two links are among the most important ones.
BTW. Lee has always been an exception when it comes to the hierarchy of peers vs industry leaders. He didn’t feel too important to connect with like minded bloggers of lesser influence while being already on top when I started out.
Can these same people help you too? Yes, probably. On the other hand you should search for your own peers, even in case you are in the exact same niche as I am (SEO blogging). For all the other people: use Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and even Klout to find out who your peers are.
Simply search for your favorite keywords there and on Google blog search to find out who’s already covering your topics.
Be friendly. Use your favorite feed reader to collect their feeds, read them and share them when you feel genuinely interested. Appreciation is a wonderful tool, it works both ways.
Finding Friends or Approaching Influencers
Of course you could argue that when helping, dozens, hundreds of thousands of people there will always be just a few who help you in return.
So that’s not an efficient technique because you are wasting countless hours on helping everybody instead of finding a few people who can help you right away. Well, you can try that, that’s the overhyped “influencers” approach.
Influencer ass kissing may work for you but over the years I have found out that the better influencers are the little people like me and you who are the connectors between even more slightly important people.
In a way in this post I am not practicing what I preach because most of the people mentioned above are to influential to read this probably.
That’s why I’d like to feature some more people who aren’t yet in my most valuable linker list but who are active supporters. It’s not just to say thank you again but to show how and how good such mutual aid works.
Examples of Friendly People to Follow
Here are some of my more recent friends who aren’t yet superstars despite deserving it and their shares of my blog over at SEO 2.0. All three of them are excellent content curators and guarantee a well sorted reading list almost each day.
Each one of them has a track record of dozen shares of my content, retweets and reshares of my messages etc. Take note that I have used a screen shot of the oldest tweets for Anthony and Wayne while the screen shot by Jim shows tweets based on relevance because we have hooked up just a few months ago on Twitter.
Of course I notice such friendly people and follow their updates closer.
On Twitter they end up in my secret “best friends” list I read first and foremost. I’d like to show off all people inside it but this post has to be finished within a reasonable timeframe.
In case there is just one thing to learn from this article always remember this: websites do not link, people link!
* Creative Commons image by Milivoy Sherrington