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The inbound link is a powerful piece of optimization. So much so that some bloggers and businesses don't care how they get these links. That's why you so often see deliberately contentious headlines like the perennial SEO is DEAD!!! rant.
Ultimately, however, it's the quality of your content that builds long-term SEO success. Here's how to create great content without causing too much controversy.
Tips, Lists & Guides
If you really know what you're talking about, help other people to understand it too. How-to guides, collections of top tips, and even simple lists of useful information all perform well in building inbound links.
Lists help to break up body text – bullet points and subheadings are two ways to do this – and make long, search-visible pages easier to read for human visitors. And if you're particularly good at making a difficult topic easy to understand in plain English, you're already halfway to creating some compelling content.
It can be tempting to try and cover a broad range of topics – the more subjects you mention, the more chance of gaining inbound links, right? Well, that isn't always the case.
Readers care about authoritative websites, and to build authority you need to have a clear specialty. Consider running a series of different blog posts around a central theme, or a regular weekly or monthly feature, to show that you're building a library of content rather than a scattershot assortment of random single articles.
OK, so this guide started by saying “without courting controversy,” but sometimes a bit of controversy is just what the SEO guru ordered. Opinions add a new element to a page – particularly on a blog, where it's less usual to be entirely objective about things – and can lead to more people linking to your content and joining in the debate in your comments section.
Don't be deliberately objectionable – and be careful about which debates you get involved in – but where appropriate, if it's certain not to harm your business, see if you can spark a bit of discussion from the visitors to your blog. It's the kind of bland, inoffensive content many companies are half-heartedly investing in that risks turning your blog into a graveyard where tired copy goes to die.
Keep Pace With Updates
As Google updates its search algorithms, so you need to tweak your SEO approach. Many of the articles that declare that "SEO is dead!" are based on old-school ways of thinking.
It's no longer the case that simply spamming your website with the phrase “cheap car insurance” will get you a front-page listing. But there are trends you can jump on board with that will give you a better chance of ranking highly in the current search climate.
Local search is a continuing trend, so claim your Google Places page for your business, add regional key terms to your website content, and use maps to guide people from online search results to your brick-and-mortar location.
Long-tail keywords are also increasingly important – these are longer phrases that fewer people will search for, but that should get you some highly relevant traffic when they do come up. Keep a close eye on your analytics performance, and work out where your long-tail niches are.
The Eternal Optimist
The search engines – Google in particular – are trying hard to eliminate the practice of purchasing inbound links, where one webmaster pays another to link to their site using certain keywords. It's a slightly dodgy SEO technique that was popular in the early years of search.
You can't really get away with it any more; however, there are alternatives. PPC campaigns allow you to associate certain key terms with your website through a legitimate paid model, and if you have a blog hosted by Blogger or WordPress, or any other external blogging site, there's nothing to stop you linking back to your homepage using whichever words you want.