What is the best way to boost a page’s rankings for a given search term?

The traditional (dated) approach

Keyword saturation

The first part of the traditional approach to boosting a page’s rankings in Google is ensuring that textual content is well saturated with the target keyphrase as a whole as well as its component keywords individually (not always in the same keyphrase). Including long-tail keyterms to show depth of topic, and synonyms to show natural language. The challenge here is to ensure that keywords are built into the content in a non-spammy way, rather than appearing like “keyword stuffing”. The benefit of this approach is that the content is relevant to the target keywords, and the downside is that the content comes across as somewhat artificial – it hasn’t been made for the user, it’s been made for search engines, and these days this will be reflected in higher bounce rates which can be devastating to rankings!

Linkbuilding

Aside from on-site SEO work like keyword targeted landing page creation; the other half of traditional SEO is focused on off-site strategy, that is linkbuilding. Traditionally, you’d build links to your landing pages to boost link equity, and you’d tailor the keyword-rich anchor text of these links in order to boost the targeting of your landing page for your target keywords. Search engines are getting ever better at detecting (and penalising you for) link schemes, which technically all proactive linkbuilding campaigns are – some spammier than others; and search engines are also getting ever better at recognising more promising quality signals thus making linkbuilding evermore a reduntant effort (it’s not dead yet, but is losing weight at a rate of knots).

The modern (ethical) approach

The modern approach to SEO is all about improving user experience; and endorsing a holistic marketing approach where SEO is just one piece of a bigger puzzle, and every aspect of that puzzle helps and is helped by SEO.

Modern off-site SEO

In this modern approach, the off-site aspect is all about sewing seeds for reputation building, without specifically constructing or negotiating for links, thus being proactive but in the most organic way, inline with Google’s ethos. The modern approach to off-site SEO is basically a type of digital PR involving plenty of social media to increase presence and profile in a way that would be described more as ‘inbound marketing’ than outbound, because it entails attracting people – and consequentially links – rather than pushing explicitly to get the links.

Modern on-site SEO

From an on-site perspective, the modern approach to boosting rankings focuses on solving the searcher’s need by giving them everything they want from their search. Provide them with all the answers, products, etc – whatever they are looking for, by getting inside their mind and giving them exactly what they want in abundance, thus minimising the rate at which they bounce back to search results (which Google monitors to determine how satisfied those searchers were by your site after searching with such a query).

The upside of this strategy is that you’ll have a natural pattern of growth, least likely to be penalised, and you’ll have so much genuine quality based momentum that you’ll stand the best chance of success in the long run, providing you ever get off the ground in the first place.

The downside of this modern method, is that it can take a long time for Google and the world to clock on to how good your page is because it takes some exposure to get recognised and ignite the viral growth pattern that you’re expecting. During this time, your entire business could fail. So don’t underestimate the value of traditional methods at least in the early stagesĀ of campaigning within a competitive niche from a startpoint of minimal resources where time is also of the essence.

Hyper-specialisation

If you’re a big site, you already have the basic exposure necessary to create great content and get rewarded for it fast; but if you’re just starting out, you’ll need a little help to get the ball rolling. You could turn to proactive linkbuilding, or you could turn to hyper-specialisation.

This tactic to help you get the ball rolling within the modern, ethical (non-spammy) method; is to focus on a niche that’s less competitive than the one you’re struggling with. Keep refining your focus while generally improving your offering, to develop a USP that interests someone even if it’s only a very small target market, just to get the ball rolling with rank growth for longtail terms. Google will then come to appreciate your quality signals and gradually expose you to higher rankings for more competitive terms. The more exposure you get, the more your quality is recognised, and so begins the viral effect. This is viral marketing within on-site SEO, as opposed to the more commonly heard of off-site version like on social media.