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The Most Effective SEO Strategy of All Time

About 3 years ago, a client pointed out to me that my website seriously lacked SEO. He appeared to know a lot more about the subject than me (which at that time definitely wasn’t saying a lot), so I thought it best to listen. We did lunch. He talked a lot. I nodded a lot. When I was a kid, my parents made me go to this school where they spoke Hebrew. My first SEO lesson felt a bit like that.

SEO tag cloud

That level of ignorance didn’t set well with me.  I knew this was important stuff and the longer I allowed my head to remain buried in the sand, assuming Google would remain master of the world, the shorter I’d stay in business as a copywriter.

So I went to the bookstore. One title promised I’d master SEO in an hour a day and another claimed it’d catapult me to the top of the rankings. I bought them both. I dug into one, but didn’t dig it. I tried the other one. Same story.

You know what happens when you read books about SEO? You get overwhelmed. You get frustrated. You feel stupid. You get sleeeeeeeeeeeepy.

SEO is boring.

We both know it’s true. It’s technical and complicated and you can rack your brain all you want, but you’re never going to come up with a reason why anyone should care for such a monster.

I don’t even like the name:  SEO, search engine optimization. When you get the hang of it, whatever it actually is, you don’t get to optimize the search engine, do you? 

And I’ve saved the most loathsome of all its traits for last. SEO can’t be mastered. Don’t believe me? Ask the masters. They’ll tell you SEO’s deepest, darkest, not-so-secret secret. Its one and only truth is it never rests. It’s ever changing. You can’t catch on to something that can’t be caught. You might as well try and catch the wind (thanks, Donovan).


We can all understand one simple thing.

Read 10 stories on SEO and you get, well, 10 different stories. No one agrees on anything. Or should I say everyone agrees on nothing?

I lied.

Everyone seems to agree on one eensie-weensie word of wisdom. The word is relevance. While 1,001 SEO schmoes may have 1,001 different fail-safe, white hat, field-proven tactics, everyone agrees the one thing all search engines are after is relevance. So come what may, scholars and simpletons can once and for all agree: the most effective SEO strategy of all time is to produce relevant content.

I wish I could be more helpful.

400-plus words into this article… the big build-up… the word play… the lame jokes and all you get is this big honkin’ no-duh revelation? Sorry about that.

But wait. Maybe I can offer some pointers to help route your way to relevance. I put in the time, so I’d like to try to save some of yours. I’ll tell you what appears to be the best of what I’ve gathered and share some of the sources from which I did the gathering.

You start with keywords. Search is a word business. Carefully select keywords and use them with care—not too much, not too little. Your keywords must relate to your niche and the content you create aims to establish your authority in it.

Jeff Quipp of Search Engine People Inc. unravels methods for identifying keyword opportunities in HubSpot’s “Learning SEO from the Experts” free guide.

Get your website right. Please understand the days of gaming Google have gone by. So nix the tricks and sack the shortcuts. They’re for rank amateurs, not top rankers. That said, you need to get a handle on the SEO basics, which allow your site to be properly indexed. Most importantly, you have page titles, description meta tags, headings, site maps, properly structured URLs and “alt” attributes for your images.

It’s not as complicated or overwhelming as you may think. Google offers a “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.” Trust me, it’s best to learn the rules of the road from the ones who mapped it. Even if you’re going to outsource your on-site SEO, read this.

Build links. Notice the use of the word “build” and the absence of  “buy.” Inbound links, often called backlinks, influence your authority and relevance, hence, your rankings, more than anything. This most important of all search-related tasks takes time, commitment, and perseverance. It also calls for some knowledge, so allow some smart, stand-up content marketers to clue you in on this subject.

Kuno Creative gives you need-to-know definitions, rationale, and a good grounding on right and wrong in its concise “2012 Marketer’s SEO Guide to Link Building.”

Author Jon Wuebben spells out techniques in “Writing Link Friendly Content,” a good read from a good writer.

Write well. Let’s get real now. Over time SEO gets you ranked. Getting ranked high gets searchers to visit. But getting visitors gets you nothing unless readers find what they’re after in the form of informative and engaging content. So get a professional website copywriter on your team. Get a professional blogger. Get a content marketing consultant to help forge a smart plan and execute.

While I don’t agree the term “SEO copywriter” amounts to much, I will tell you your website copywriter should understand SEO principles, offer sound advice for helping you achieve the relevance you seek, and above all, know how to appeal to the living, breathing humans who consumer your content. Robots have no buying power.

Allow me to point out one great young writer, Jeff Goins, who writes extensively on SEO for humans, in a fun article series as well as an email course.  Much like yours truly, Jeff aims to help you understand how SEO and copywriting work together.

Oh, so you’re starting to like this stuff?

I take it all back. SEO’s not so bad. The trick is to keep it in its proper perspective. When it becomes an obsession, your work gets calculated, less credible, and less compelling.

If you’d like to dig in even deeper, I recommend:

SEOmoz — This company knows the turf. Check out their site and blog and help yourself to their free “Beginners Guide to SEO.”

QuickSprout — Neil Patel claims to be “kind of a big deal.” His site’s quite frank and a good source of SEO wisdom.

WordTracker — Great site offering great tools and a whopper of a deep-diving freebie in a 99-page guide called “SEO Made Simple.” I think that may be the most oxymoronic title I’ve seen anywhere. By now, I imagine you know why I say that.

What say you?


Join The Conversation

  • Feb 20 Posted 4 years ago timsaekoo

    Awesome post Barry, great points you bring up!

    I wanted to share some additional tips our team has employed to optimize our SEO via simple social media techniques.

    Hope this helps you and your readers!

  • Feb 13 Posted 4 years ago taran

    I also feel seo is boring and its really hard to be on the top of seo.Google keep on making difficult for the website owners and that means its really difficult to make effective strategy.I am running a blog and to get top of google its important to have dofollow links, but finding dofollow is really hard.Can you tell me how to get effective links.

  • DavinaKBrewer's picture
    Mar 2 Posted 5 years ago DavinaKBrewer

    If only it were a 'no duh revelation.' Too many business owners and marketing managers think a list of features, of tech terms or sales blather = content; they don't. Certainly nothing that is relevant to the customers or worthy of links ('build, not buy' - TY!). Only thing I'd argue is you have to produce relevant content that is findable; you can have the quippiest web copy and cleverest blog posts, but if no one finds/reads it, it won't matter. Like you said, you have to get your website right in the first place and make SEO part of the plan, not an afterthought. FWIW.

  • LenSipes's picture
    Mar 1 Posted 5 years ago LenSipes

    Hi Barry: Good read. Thanks.

  • Don Mitchell's picture
    Feb 29 Posted 5 years ago Don Mitchell

    Barry, thanks for posting. It is a gentle reminder that to rank high in organic traffic one must be consistant and ready to evolve.

    I think the goal of the relevant search engines are to screen out the scams and the spammers, one day they will get it right and the most relevant content will be the stuff at the top of the search. But then the spammers will figure out how to scam the system and the cycle will repeat.

  • FeldmanCreative's picture
    Feb 29 Posted 5 years ago FeldmanCreative

    The beat goes on. Outspoken Media reports on SEO from SMX...

    Lots of this same theme--and then some. 


  • Jocelyn Wilhelm's picture
    Feb 27 Posted 5 years ago Jocelyn Wilhelm

    Very valuable information.  Thanks for putting it together in a easy to read/understand manner.  I like what you said,  "offer sound advice for helping you achieve the relevance you seek, and above all, know how to appeal to the living, breathing humans who consumer your content. Robots have no buying power."  Relevance is key.  

  • JohnMcTigue's picture
    Feb 27 Posted 5 years ago JohnMcTigue

    I say thanks for the kind referral Barry. An often overlooked aspect of SEO is the "juice" you get from referral links like the one you gave to our Link Building Cheatsheet. Not only do links like that provide traffic to your site, they also provide qualified sales leads, because the article embedding the link is relevant to the reader as is the target site. This connection at the (topic) hip is more powerful than SEO and shows you the power of blogging and social media engagement. Thanks again!

    John McTigue

    EVP and Co-owner, Kuno Creative

  • Feb 27 Posted 5 years ago ´JEM


    Great article!!! But I think you missed a thing. SEO is a daily longterm job!!!. It doesn´t consist just in doing things well, providing relevant content and building backlinks. One thing I´ve noticed after spending a year in this job is that you are the first one who should search your own website.

    Do DIY SEO proffesionals search for their own websites? I don´t think so. One year ago I wasn´t able to find my own website unless I introduced a very long query. After spending one year searching it daily from monday to friday, I have managed to have my website listed on first position for various keywords shorter than the first I used, although these keywords aren´t still the ones I want to rank in first position. Maybe in one year I´ll manage to rank in the top 20 for those I want to rank.

    I hope you understand what I mean as I´m not English, but I tried to do my best.

  • Feb 27 Posted 5 years ago Keith Hawn Headline has no payoff (strategy of all time blah blah). This article, rambling as it is, ends up like most SEO posts = tactics. Congrats, tho, as you did discover there is no "strategy" for SEO. It's just tactics. And no new ones in the past 3 years...
  • FeldmanCreative's picture
    Feb 27 Posted 5 years ago FeldmanCreative

    I like what you've added. And I suppose relevant and valuable aren't necessarily the same thing, but I'd submit content can only be perceived as valuable if it's relevant. Query intent works for me. Thanks AJ. Your "definition" post is amazing. 

  • local seo's picture
    Feb 26 Posted 5 years ago local seo

    All good points here, how about valuable content, if it doesn't give the searcher value, it does no good.

    When someone land on the page, did they find what they were looking for? Are you helping them solve a problem, or offering them a solution?


  • Feb 26 Posted 5 years ago hattonhall

    As i don't have the time to host my own website I would want look to an SEO specialist to get me ranked so high that Google cant lower me on the rungs of accessibility no matter how they might try to re-optimize and re-rank me.

    Problem is..........Who is the best SEO .org or .net to choose and where do I find them in this ever-changing minefield that is the HINDERNET ?



  • Feb 26 Posted 5 years ago Steve Ryan

    Nicely written article.  I found it on my LinkedIn updates.  Thanks for sharing it.

  • Feb 26 Posted 5 years ago AJ Kohn

    This is a well intentioned post and has a lot of good insight. However, I think relevance is only 50% of the way there. 

    You could get away with just grinding out relevant content up until about a year ago. Even then, long-term SEO success didn't rely on that in isolation. 

    Today SEO is about matching query intent with relevance and value. Just being relevant isn't enough, just ask the folks at eHow. It's important but in the end you need to satisfy query intent by delivering relevant and valuable content. 

    I wrote about this new definition of SEO recently. I include a quick example around the search for a specific type of vaccum manual. Hopefully that helps illustrates my case. 

  • Colin Williams's picture
    Feb 26 Posted 5 years ago Colin Williams


    To expand a little further, we all know practice does make perfect. By sticking at something you get a little wiser each time, you get to know your audience that much better and they get to know you. Therefore I see timely as being regular with your update and also keep it relevant (relevant to what's going on in the world of your clients/readers).

    As for my background, I have held various roles in the Financial Planning industry for over 25 years and now I have a website, which targets everyday people looking to save. I have commenced a services for financial planners who wish to do more on the web and social media Financial planners can access tips, tactics, content etc through my services and with time, we will bring the regular readers into contact with the financial planners

  • FeldmanCreative's picture
    Feb 26 Posted 5 years ago FeldmanCreative

    Colin. Thank you for that. I did indeed consider getting into "timely," but thought I'd save that for another article. I'm glad you added it though. Thanks again for the read and thoughtful comment. Feel free to expand on your point or direct my readers to a resource you like.

  • Colin Williams's picture
    Feb 26 Posted 5 years ago Colin Williams

    I agree with most of your comments, especially go and check out Google's own guide. You can read 1,000's of SEO guides but the first should be Google's after all they created the road map for everyone else to follow. 

    The relevance factor is very true but add in 'timely'. You need content that is updated regularly. Maybe you assumed your readers do that, however, there are a few things about being timely. The more you write the better you get. The more likely you are at being seen as authoritative which goes a long way towards more links. 





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