A Lesson on SEO Best Practices From a Personal Finance Class

My husband and I are currently attending a Dave Ramsey class. Over the course of 9 weeks, Ramsey offers insight and advice on how to take control of your personal finances. In a recent session, Ramsey discussed the concept of best practices, an idea that often gets thrown around in the world of SEO. Although he was obviously discussing finances, his perspective on best practices applies to SEOs as well.

Dave’s Take on Best Practices

According to Ramsey, following best practices means studying the people or companies within your industry that are enjoying immense success and trying to figure out what they’re doing right. Once you’ve figured out what they’re doing that works, steal the idea in an attempt to boost your own company’s success. As Dave Ramsey says about best practices, “You emulate successful people. It’s a nice way of saying you steal the idea.”

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Even if the thought of “stealing” ideas might sound nefarious, the point is good. Since best practices are based on people who are actually succeeding in your industry, why not try to imitate their successes? By following their example, you might be able to avoid some bad practices as well.

The State of SEO Best Practices

In the world of SEO, best practices have changed dramatically over the years. Thanks to a myriad of Google updates, SEOs have learned to continually adapt their strategies to avoid making mistakes that come with dire penalties. However, the concept of best practices goes far beyond a simple desire to avoid black hat practices. Instead of weeding out bad practices, the concept of best practices suggests that you institute an approach to SEO based on reliable, long-term habits, even if it takes time for those practices to pay off.

Currently, SEO best practices revolve around one simple concept – quality is everything. The recent Google updates have been focused on spurring SEOs to focus on quality rather than immediate results. Any tactics that aren’t based on high quality content and approaches are going to trigger heavy penalties. For instance, consider some of the following best practices:

  • Quality link building. In the wake of the recent Penguin updates, it’s more important than ever to only focus on relevant, high quality links. Any link building tactics that seem like an underhanded scheme will get hit with a Penguin penalty, so SEOs need to build links one at a time.
  • Quality content. There are so many “don’t” rules for this one that it’s pointless to try to discuss all of them: don’t use too many keywords, don’t spit out content without substance, don’t misuse anchor text, and the list goes on. Great content should be based on a coherent content strategy and must focus on contributing something new, interesting, and relevant to the conversation within your industry.
  • Building authority…based on quality. If there’s one buzzword that can possibly compete with “quality” right now in the SEO world, it has to be authority. Authority is golden for SEOs, but it has to be based on an overall commitment to best practices and quality in order to offer benefits such as improved rankings and greater exposure.

How to Identify Best Practices

Clearly, there are plenty of other best practices that every SEO should be following, but it’s more important to understand how to identify those best practices rather than simply compile a list of the current best practices. To get your SEO campaign on track with the current best practices, try adopting the following approaches:

  • Identify industry influencers. The growth of influencer marketing is a reflection of the importance of quality and authority in the world of SEO. Influencers are the people who hold the greatest authority in your industry, so they are likely to have a great understanding of industry best practices. Build relationships with influencers where possible and be sure to follow anything they might publish in order to stay in tune with the industry. For SEOs, that might mean improving your SEO education by regularly visiting leading industry sites.
  • Study successful SEO campaigns. Although you may learn a lot from industry influencers, the best way to identify best practices is to simply study great SEO campaigns yourself. When you spot an SEO campaign enjoying great success, examine the tactics that are contributing to that success and try to emulate them in your next campaign.
  • Ban black hat practices. They simply aren’t worth the risk. To make sure that you aren’t accidentally engaged in black hat practices, conduct an audit of your SEO practices and overhaul any areas that don’t rely solely on industry best practices.

One of the most important things to remember with best practices is that these tactics are usually going to require patience. Initially, many best practices will seem frustrating because they don’t produce many immediate results, which can be especially challenging if you see other SEOs resorting to black hat practices and experiencing instant success.

However, committing to best practices allows you to establish long-term goals for success that are more sustainable because you will ultimately avoid the devastating penalties that come with black hat practices. Best practices and black hat SEO are like the mythical tortoise and hare – like the tortoise, best practices will allow you to win in the long run, even if you don’t have the immediate speedy success of black hat hares.

The tortoise and the hare

Do you intentionally follow best practices with your SEO campaigns? What are some of the best practices that you’ve identified within the SEO industry for 2014?

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Sarah Beth

Sarah Beth Wiltse earned her BA in English at Boston University. Though she currently lives in Dallas, TX, she spent a year in Paris, France after college, cultivating her love of the French language and a passion for travelling. She has spent much of her life developing her skills in the arts, primarily as a ballerina, violinist, and pianist - and now, a writer! Follow her on Twitter!

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