Over the past seven years, I’ve read and watched over 50 SEO courses.
Some were great.
Some were good.
While most didn’t live up to my expectation.
I discovered almost every effective SEO tactic under the sun.
I implemented them all:
And black hats.
After learning and implementing almost everything, I believe I can help a beginner save years of time learning SEO.
Why waste time buying SEO courses, or reading the free ones when the most important things you need to know are on this page?
Save yourself the time, money and stress.
Relax and sit back as you read, because after reading this article, you’ll automatically become an SEO pro.
Maybe you haven’t ranked a website at the top of Google just yet, but who would dare say you can’t after you discover the revelations I’m about to make?
Forget everything you’ve been told about SEO.
These are the 21 things you need to know:
#1: Link building is the most important part of SEO
For years, Google has been telling marketers to stop focusing on link building. If link building isn’t that important, then Google should stop going after link builders.
The truth is, even if your web page has the best design, and the best content, it won’t rank on Google (and other search engines). That’s why marketers build links.
Marketers have no choice but to build links. And Google knows it too.
The Google search engine would be severely flawed if they stopped relying on backlinks.
Moz did a study to find out if links are still important to rank on Google.
Moz’s study examined the top 50 Google search results for approximately 15,000 keywords. This allowed Moz to examine not only what factors correlate with higher search rankings, but also how frequently those characteristics are seen.
“When we look at what the study found about links, we find a strong relationship.
The correlation between higher rankings and the number of linking websites (root domains) sits at .30. This number seems small, but it’s actually one of the highest correlations the study found. (Smaller correlations are also not surprising—with over 200 ranking signals, Google specifically designed their algorithm so that one factor doesn’t dominate the others.)
Even more telling is the number of websites we found in the top results that had external backlinks, or rather, the lack thereof.
Out of the top results, a full 99.2% of all websites had at least one external link. (The remaining .8% is well within the margin of error expected between Mozscape and Google’s own link index.) The study found almost no websites ranking for competitive search phrases that didn’t have at least a single external link pointing at them, and most had significantly more links.” — Cyrus Shepard
So if you’re looking to rank without links, you should be prepared to wait for a very long time, and maybe forever.
#2: You need nofollow links as much as you need dofollow links
There are two kinds of links:
A dofollow link serves as a vote or point.
When you give a dofollow link, you tell Google that you give that site or page a vote of confidence.
Getting a dofollow link from the New York Times or BBC is pure gold!
The bigger or more authoritative where the dofollow links are coming from, the higher and quicker your website will rank on search engines. In addition to that, the more dofollow links your site gets, the higher it’ll rank versus competitors.
You also have to take into account the numbers of dofollow links in your competitors’ link profiles.
On the other hand is the nofollow link.
A nofollow link is a link that doesn’t count as a point or vote.
A nofollow link is created with the nofollow link HTML tag, which looks like this:
<a href=”http://www.website.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Link Text</a>
The nofollow tag is a notice sign for search engines saying “don’t count this.”
The nofollow links won’t help you rank on search engines.
Are nofollow links really useless?
This is a question many internet marketing beginners ask.
Search engines didn’t introduce the nofollow link until January 2005.
Why did they introduce the nofollow link?
Once links were discovered by SEO black-hats as the most important ranking factor, suddenly it became all about links. SEOs were determined to get as many links as possible, even if it meant spamming everyone on the web to get them.
Blog comments were a joke, filled with self-promotional nonsense – all about links:
Wikipedia got messy too, as people tried to add their sites as references on hundreds of Wikipedia pages all because of links.
Danny Sullivan was the first person to break the nofollow bad news to the SEO world:
“In the first cooperative move for nearly ten years, the major search engines have unveiled a new indexing command for web authors that they all recognize, one that they hope will help reduce the link and comment spam that plagues many web sites, especially those run by bloggers.
The new “nofollow” attribute that can be associated with links was originated as an idea by Google several weeks ago and pitched past MSN and Yahoo, as well as major blogging vendors, gaining support.
The new attribute is called “nofollow” with rel=”nofollow” being the format inserted within an anchor tag. When added to any link, it will serve as a flag that the link has not been explicitly approved by the site owner.” – Danny Sullivan
So, is a nofollow link worthless?
My answer is no!
Nofollow links are still useful.
A reasonable percentage of nofollow links help you keep your backlink profile balanced and natural. It tells search engines that you’re not actively building links.
Nofollow links help you build awareness about your product or service. Nofollow links can lead to profit.
For example, a web user might discover your website through a nofollow link and go on to buy your product.
A nofollow link can lead to more links.
For example, Joshua Unseth wrote a post for YouMoz explaining how a single nofollow link earned him a second link that was followed, increased his traffic, and boosted his article to the top of the SERPs for a specific phrase.
“…as a direct or indirect result of the nofollow, ~1% made a comment on the article itself, and ~2% blogged about it – actually, if you count this article, then the results were blogged about by 3% of the visitors.
While I don’t think that these numbers would hold on a site with more viewers, I think that they represent the way in which content ends up going viral. In the end, ALL IT TAKES IS ONE LINK, and its follow status doesn’t seem to make a difference.” — Joshua Unseth
#3: There are four types of keywords
If you’ve been reading about SEO for some weeks, months, or years now, I’m sure you often hear SEOs mention “keywords.”
Keywords are those phrases web users type into the search box on Google. SEOs call those phrases keywords because they mean a lot to them.
We find keywords through keyword research.
Why is keyword research an important part of the SEO process?
Getting attention online is not like buying a piece of real estate and putting up a great sign.
People won’t just wander and stumble on your site, and you have far more competition online than you ever would in your own area.
The primary way people find your website is by searching on a search engine like Google. If you don’t have the right keywords, you won’t rank well for anything related to your website, and people won’t find you. So that’s why you need keywords.
But you don’t just need any keyword. You need the right keywords that will help you achieve your marketing goals.
There are four types of keywords SEOs use:
- Commercial intent keyword
- Transactional keyword
- Informational keyword
- Navigational keyword
Commercial-intent keyword brings real customers into your website.
For example, a search user who enters the keyword “tour packages” is your ideal customer if your business is a tour travel agency.
Then we have transactional keywords.
Transactional keywords contain the words and phrases like “buy,” “buy now,” “for sale,” “discount,” etc.
Visitors from transactional keywords are ready to buy.
Informational keyword generates visitors who are looking for more information. Most of these visitors want to learn something. They are not ready or thinking of buying anything just yet.
For example, a search user who came across your website through the keyword “travel guide” isn’t ready to buy your tour packages.
Navigational keyword is the last.
What does it mean?
When a web user types in a company or brand name, it means they are performing a navigational search. They already know about the company or product. They just want to find the correct web address to get to the site.
Knowing these keywords types is important. It helps you optimize your website for the right keywords that will generate highly-targeted visitors.
#4: Search engines are very smart, but they need a lot of help
Search engines are getting smarter every passing year, but they still need a lot of help.
Implementing the right SEO tactic can net you thousands of more visitors with increased attention. The wrong SEO tactic can bury your website deep down in search results where visibility is minimal.
Don’t leave anything to chance. You should ensure that your website is better optimized than your competitors.
How do you ensure that your SEO is spot on?
- Doing keyword research.
- Publishing the best and most engaging content.
- Targeting long tail keywords.
- Optimizing your site for conversions.
- Using relevant keywords.
- Building and earning backlinks from authority websites.
- Improving your site’s load speed.
- Writing captivating titles and descriptions.
- Using proper headings.
- Internal linking etc.
By getting your on-page and off-page SEO right, your website will enjoy high visibility on search engine result pages (SERPs).
#5: Ranking on the first page depends on the competition
The SEO industry is known for its bad reputation.
The SEO industry is filled with gurus who don’t know how SEO works.
Most of these people are the black hats and the gray hats.
They always seem confident in getting positive results for any client in any industry. They set expectations too high that it’s too easy to fail.
Some of them may succeed in achieving results, but a few weeks or months later, all the rankings are gone, and their victims are back to square one.
For some, they promise to do too much for a small budget.
Here’s the truth about SEO:
A good SEO specialist won’t guarantee anyone a first page or #1 ranking position for any keyword.
Yes, good SEOs would promise to deliver positive results for their clients. The results are what their customers care about.
But here’s the truth:
Whether you rank on the first page, or the second page is highly determined by how strong the competition is.
If the results on the first page for your target keyword have an average of 10,000 backlinks each, then it’s almost impossible to rank on that first page if you can only afford to build 1,000 backlinks.
For example, I did a search for the keyword “SEO training.”
This is a keyword that receives 4,400 average monthly searches according to the Google Keyword Planner.
Here’s how the result looks like on Google:
As you can see in the above screenshot, SEO Book currently ranks #1 for this keyword.
Ahrefs shows that this page has 6,220 backlinks coming from 962 domains.
With the high number of backlinks this page has, it will be totally impossible to take the #1 position for the keyword “SEO training” just with 50 backlinks.
So outranking your competitors depend on the number of high-quality links they have.
There are some keywords you can rank for with a low number of links like 5, 10, or 20, but not for a keyword like this.
Now, imagine that I’m willing to get 10,000 backlinks. Then during the process of building those links, this SEO book web page suddenly gained 10,000 new links.
Even if I build 10,000 links, I might still fail to achieve that #1 ranking position.
Except your competitors are sleeping and resting on their laurels, you may not be able to outrank them in SERPs.
#6: SEO is the best long-term marketing strategy that generates regular customers
An investment in SEO today can reward you for many months to come. That is why SEO is better than PPC (pay-per-click) advertising. PPC stops generating results the moment your budget is exhausted.
#7: Good design, user-experience, and content is half the battle won
Your website design and content are an important aspect of SEO, but they are only half the battle won.
Good design and content will:
- Lower bounce rate
- Increase page views
- Increase time on site
- Earn more links
- Establish trust
… All which could help earn higher rankings on search engines.
But good design and content are just the starting point of a good SEO.
You need a solid promotion strategy in place to rank higher on search engines.
Just yesterday, I’m still promoting an article I wrote four months ago. I’m still building backlinks to that article.
I’m still asking people to share the article on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I’m still updating the article.
SEO isn’t something you do today and forget about. You have to keep investing in it to see better long-term results.
#8: A single piece of content can rank for thousands of keywords
Internet marketing beginners tend to believe that each content on their website should be optimized for a single keyword.
A piece of high-quality content can rank for over 10,000 keywords. Yes, it’s very possible.
For example, let’s assume you run a dog training website, do you have to create different articles that target each of these keywords?
As you can see in the above screenshot, each of these keywords receives thousands of searches per month, according to the Google Keyword Planner.
Targeting these keywords with different content is outright spam.
You can save yourself the stress and time by creating an epic content that could rank for all these keywords. I mean all of them, including every related keyword you won’t see in the Google Keyword Planner.
These related keywords I’m talking about could be more than 10,000.
The content you create must be epic, in-depth and high-quality.
When Moz launched their Google Algorithm Change History page, they explored the whole keyword theme rather than just a keyword.
Today, that page ranks for thousands of keywords and receives thousands of visits from search engines.
#9: A proficient SEO should know how to do copywriting
An SEO’s job is now more than just getting to the first pages of search engines. SEOs must now ensure that those visitors really stick to the page, or they’ve failed.
SEO and copywriting have merged. Digital marketers now call it SEO copywriting.
What SEO copywriting does is, it makes your content 10x more compelling than your competitors.
Your web page bounce rate will be so low that search engines would have no choice but to rank it #1 for your target keywords.
The content on your web page should resonate with search users that they are happy to share it on every social platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+).
#10: Use short and readable URL
There’s a lot of linking happening on the web these days.
Web users are becoming more tech-savvy.
They recognize the anchor text when they see one. (Though, they may not know its name is anchor text).
They hover over the link to check the URL in their browser.
URL readability is the key to finally getting them to click the link.
A readable URL tells web users what to expect, so they click if they’re interested.
The URL of every page on your site should be clean, short, and readable.
Keywords in the URL are a good thing, but the URL should still be readable.
#11: SEO is a never-ending battle
Let’s assume set a goal to rank #1 for a major keyword in your niche. So, you’ve created an epic content that targets that keyword.
So, you’ve created an epic content that targets that keyword.
Then you realized that you’d need 500 backlinks from at least 100 domains to achieve your goal.
Six months later, you’ve got over 500 links, and you’re now ranking #1 for that keyword.
It’s time to celebrate and pop Champagne!
Now, you believe it’s time to move on to another major keyword.
Six months later, you may not be ranking #1 for the first keyword.
In fact, you could be knocked out of the first page entirely.
It’s because you got complacent.
You thought SEO is something you do once and forget about.
Your competitors aren’t sleeping or folding their hands. They need that #1 ranking position as much as you do, except you’re targeting a keyword where competition is almost zero.
There’s always someone wanting to knock you out of that position.
That’s why you must continue to earn links.
That’s why you must continue to improve your page.
That’s why you must continue to have the best design.
As long as you continue to do all these, you may continue to rank #1.
But there’s no guarantee because there may be someone who’s willing to do it better than you.
#12: SEO begins with keyword research
When I started learning and implementing SEO, everything first looked complicated.
After reading so much and applying, and failing too many times, I discovered the starting point of SEO:
It’s called keyword research.
Keyword research is the first most important task in SEO.
Get it wrong, and you may spend the whole year failing to land a single customer from search engines.
Get it right, and you may see many customers even in your first month in business.
When I started out online, I chose the wrong keyword. It was after eight months I realized that there’s no way on earth I could compete for that keyword.
My competitors have over tens of thousands of high-quality backlinks, and I don’t see myself achieving 5% of that.
I recommend you target low-competitive keywords when you’re just starting out. That way, you can compete.
#13: A competitor backlink profile could be misleading (further research is always needed).
I always use some SEO tools to check my competitor’s backlink profile. I’m a big fan of
I’m a big fan of Ahrefs because they have the biggest and most accurate database of live backlinks.
Let’s assume I want to rank #1 for the keyword “how to train a puppy” which receives 27,100 average monthly searches according to the Google Keyword Planner.
Let’s go to Google and see who’s ranking #1 at the moment.
Here’s how the page looks like:
So I copied the URL of this page and pasted it into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.
Here’s the backlink report of the page:
As you can see above, according to Ahrefs, this page has:
- 139 backlinks
- coming from 56 domains
- ranks for 6,100 keywords
- and got 23,000 visitors from search engines in the last month.
Going back to the backlink profile again, Ahrefs shows that the page has 139 backlinks.
Looking at the numbers of that backlinks is misleading.
I don’t think I need up to 139 backlinks to displace this page and become the new #1.
By clicking on “Backlinks” in Ahrefs, I can see that most of those backlinks are from low-quality pages like Yahoo Answers, Blogspot blogs, Ask.com discussions, forums, and relevant but low authority blogs.
I can easily outrank this page if I can get, at least, 100 high-quality backlinks from authority websites.
#14: Always eyeball the SERPs
We SEOs are spoilt with the number of tools available at our disposal.
There’s always an automated tool to give you the data that you need.
Keyword difficulty is an important data SEOs always look at before deciding to compete for any keyword. Both Moz and Ahrefs provide this data.
If a keyword is difficult and out of our reach, we simply move on to the next low competition keyword. But this data can be misleading at times.
It tells us that a keyword is very competitive when it’s not really competitive and vice versa.
There’s nothing better than eyeballing the SERPs yourself to see if there’s stiff competition for your chosen keyword.
Run a search for your chosen keyword, and visit each result that shows up on the first page.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are the first few results optimized for the keyword?
- Is the keyword in the title tag? In the URL? On the page?
- What’s the Page and/or Domain Authority of the URL?
- Are the first few results authorities on the keyword subject?
- What’s the inbound anchor text?
- Can you deliver a higher quality resource for this keyword?
You don’t have to rank #1 for any of your chosen keywords to get traffic, but you should be comfortable cracking the top five.
#15: The easiest way to quickly dominate SERPs is to create a center hub
Very few successful websites consist of a single page. You also don’t have to create tens or hundreds of web pages before you can be considered an authority on a subject.
While it’s good to publish new content on a regular basis, you should have one or two web pages you want to rank on search engines.
These pages I’m talking about are called pillar content or content hubs.
Every new content you publish should link or be connected to a content hub on your website.
It’s far easier to rank a content hub than trying to rank every new web page you create on your website.
The content hub is your money page. It’s one of the most important pages on your website. Your business depends on this page.
For great examples of Hubs, check out:
- CopyBlogger’s Magnetic Headlines
- QuickSprout’s Online Marketing Guide
- Wellness Mama’s 101 Uses For Coconut Oil
#16: Diversifying your anchor text is very, very important
I’ve mentioned anchor text a few times already in this article. Kindly forgive me if you don’t know what it means.
Anchor Text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink.
For example, here’s an anchor text to my home page.
Those texts that appear in your anchor text can make or break the page you’re linking to.
It could have a big positive impact on the page’s ranking on search engines, and vice versa.
Search engines pay a lot of attention to anchor texts.
For example, if you’ve created a web page about the benefits of honey, and you frequently use the keyword “benefits of honey,” the page has a better chance of ranking for that keyword on search engines.
But when you have a web page about “baby toys,” and most of your anchor texts to that page contain “adult shoes,” then that anchor text will hurt the visibility of that web page on search engines.
You should use the keyword you’re trying to rank for in your anchor texts to that particular page.
But there’s something you should know about anchor text:
You should avoid using your target keyword too much in your anchor texts.
How many is too much?
It’s highly recommended you use your target keyword 5% of the time. That puts your website on the safe side.
When you use your target keyword too much in your anchor texts, it tells search engines that your links aren’t natural, and that puts your website at risk of an algorithm penalty.
#17: The best backlinks come from relationships
I can’t recall how many times I’ve earned high-quality backlinks just because of the relationships I’d built.
The best links come from relationships because it’s hard for your competitors to replicate them.
People talk about link building strategies such as guest blogging, broken link building, getting interviewed, creating a web tool, etc.
All these link building strategies are effective, but your competitor can just try to do the same thing. They are not special as long as your competitors can afford to do them.
The links that beat all are the ones you earn because of the relationship you have with someone or an organization.
For example, a friend of yours can link to your website without you even asking for it. It will be almost impossible for a competitor of yours to go to your friends and ask them to link to their sites because they linked to you.
Your friends are your true fans. They are loyal to you as long as you stay loyal to them.
Here’s an example of a backlink as a result of a relationship built:
#18: The best backlinks have backlinks
Link building never ends.
You build links to your web pages for the purpose of ranking high on search engines.
For most SEOs, this is where their link building stops.
If this is how you build links, then you’re doing it wrong.
The best backlinks have backlinks.
The more links your backlinks have, the more powerful the backlinks become.
The page where your backlink is coming from should have some social shares from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
If your backlink doesn’t have anyone talking about it, then something is wrong, and such backlink shouldn’t be relied upon to raise your rankings.
#19: The easiest way to gain the highest-quality backlinks is to….
As I said above, “the best backlinks have backlinks.”
I can sense that you have this question in mind:
“How can you get the kind of backlinks that have backlinks?”
There’s one way to do it:
Hack the press.
Think about something cool the press would love to write about.
If you can get an interesting story about you in the press, other authority websites will pick it up, linking to the original article.
Small websites will pick it up too and link to the original article and even link to you.
That is not so easy to do, but it’s the fastest way to get over 5,000 high-quality backlinks and get the world talking about you and your business.
For example, this is an interesting story that got a lot of backlinks and built a business that is now worth tens of millions of dollars:
Here’s another example on Entrepreneur.com:
The press is always searching for new interesting stories to publish.
Think about something interesting you can do.
Do it and tell the press about it.
That’s how to get the whole world linking to your website.
#20: Search engines care a lot about your site speed
Neil Patel increased Quick Sprout traffic from 121,311 to 244,923 within 30 days.
How was Neil able to achieve that?
The answer is speed!
Here’s what he did:
- Rebuilt his site code
- Used generic fonts
- Removed unnecessary plugins
- Installed W3 Total Cache
- Used a content delivery network (CDN) service
That was it.
#21: Every SEO is an entrepreneur
If you’re still reading, I’ll like to say a big congratulation to you.
You’re now an SEO pro.
There are many ways you can start using SEO to enrich your life and the lives of those around you.
You can reach out to the local businesses in your community and ask if they want to increase their customers from search engines.
Mike Ramsey built a multi-million dollar Internet marketing agency starting from zero.
You can find a profitable, low competition keyword and start making money from that niche.
You can apply what you just learn to your current business or startup.
You can start a marketing blog and do an SEO case study for the world to see. That could lead to lucrative job offers from big and small brands.
You can create an SEO course on Udemy and make tens of thousands of dollars.
The possibilities are endless!