The Internet is complicated. If you think about the innumerable calculations that go into every Google search just to bring you the perfect information for your request, it can almost be overwhelming. Trying to appeal to every line of code in Google’s core algorithm to rank higher would be virtually impossible, even for the most advanced programmer.
Fortunately, you’re not a Google engineer, and you don’t need to be in order to rank higher in search engines. Because the early days of SEO leaned on backend coding tactics and deceptive tricks to get sites ranking higher, there’s a modern-day misconception that SEO success can only be achieved through a combination of technical proficiency and extensive experience. This simply isn’t true.
While there are some architectural strategies and coding tactics that you should employ as part of your strategy, for the most part, modern SEO can be implemented without any prior experience, and without any technical knowledge of how websites — or Google’s algorithm — work.
As an illustration of why technical expertise is no longer an absolute necessity, consider this: Google’s search algorithm is completely undisclosed. No search marketer, now or ever (save for a handful of former Google engineers, perhaps), has ever had access to the actual lines of code that determine which businesses rank where.
All our combined knowledge of SEO, from offsite to onsite and from 2000 until now, has come either as the result of an experiment or as a result of Google telling us what its algorithm looks for. These are non-technical inferences, and are often boiled down to generalities, such as “write quality content” or “reduce your bounce rate.”
Ultimately, there’s only one motivation that drives Google: the experience of its users. It wants its users to be happy so they’ll keep coming back to Google. So Google favors sites that make their visitors happy in turn. Ignore all the technical terms, all the details of execution and all your preconceived notions for a moment and focus on this: the happier your users are when they visit your site, the higher you’re going to rank.
Modern SEO really is that simple. That being said, there are a few key ways you’ll need to make your users happy.
1. Offering a good onsite experience
This includes a number of different factors, but none of them require much familiarity with web design or development. Make your purpose known. Make your site aesthetically pleasing. Make it easy for your users to find exactly what they’re looking for. Make your site fast, and optimized for any device (this one you may need a coder’s help for, admittedly). Make your navigation simple.
These principles are basic, and if you follow them, your users will have a better time.
2. Writing good content
Content has been a major pillar for SEO for the past decade or so, but you no longer need to pay attention to the keyword phrases you include or how often you include them, nor do you need to present your content in a specific way. You just need to make sure you’re choosing interesting, relevant topics, and writing about them in an original, informative way (free from error, of course).
An English degree might help you write more eloquently, but as long as you’re writing high-quality material that’s relevant for your industry and adds significant value for your readers, you’ll be in good shape.
3. Getting others to acknowledge you as an authority
Google looks to outside sources to determine how much of an authority you are in your respective space. In the old days, taking advantage of this meant sneaking in links to as many sources as possible. Today, there’s no need for such tactics.
Instead, it’s about building relationships, person to person, which anybody can do with enough time and patience. Build relationships with outside blogs and other publishers, and eventually they’ll help you get published. Write enough quality content, and other sites will link to yours naturally.
Make your site a magnet for inbound links, which Google sees as “votes” for your site’s credibility, trust and authority.
4. Rising in social popularity
Your popularity on social media also plays a role in how you rank in organic search results. For example, correlation studies have consistently shown that if you have 1,000 highly active followers on Twitter, you’ll rank higher than if you have no Twitter account at all. While correlation doesn’t equal causation, there’s certainly no harm that can come from building your brand in social media channels. In fact, there are only major benefits.
Social media marketing is a bit of a science, but the fundamentals are clear and easy to understand: establish a presence, engage with people often and syndicate great content whenever you can. Eventually, the audience will come to you naturally. For more insights on social media marketing, grab my ebook, The Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing.
5. Earning local relevance
It’s also important to be reviewed well on third-party sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, especially if you’re shooting to build your relevance as a local business. But this, too, requires little to no technical expertise.
Claim your profile on as many of these sites as you can (the setup process is relatively simple), then let your customers do the rest of the work for you. Make your presence on these sites known, and people will start filling out reviews on their own. All you have to do is give them the greatest in-person experience you can and learn from any constructive criticism you receive in the meantime.
Modern CMS platforms
It’s also worth mentioning that most modern content management systems (CMS) have been created or modified with the intention to streamline the SEO process.
Most important backend configurations are automatic, and most other code-specific entries are presented in an interface that’s easy to understand and even easier to update. As long as you’re following a modern system of web development (like, say, WordPress), the technical side of SEO is easier to understand than ever before.
Ultimately, modern-day SEO can be boiled down to one principle: make your users happy. If users come to your site, get what they’re looking for and have a good time doing it, Google will take notice, you’ll rise in rank, and if more users have the same experience, the whole process will continue.
Technical proficiency helps, but the common-sense style approach to content marketing and user experience optimization often performs just as well in increasing your overall rank.