SEO in 2019: Discover 5 SEO Tactics That Worked For 20+ Years… Because What’s ‘New’ Is Just The Same Old Search Engine Optimization From 1997 – Only Smarter!
“A week is a long time in politics” said British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. He might just as well be speaking about search engine optimization (SEO).
Twenty years ago, I was (a kind of) expert at SEO.
Of course, back then it was far easier to get a website ranked on Yahoo or Excite or Alta Vista. There were loopholes galore. I once exploited one of them to get any page to rank on the top of Yahoo – in just 24 hours!
Of course, even back then, the geniuses behind these search engines were very quick to plug those loopholes. They kept constantly improving their ranking algorithms. And when Google entered the picture, this process speeded up.
Soon, it became really tough to find and deploy effective ‘tricks’ to get thin, content-poor websites ranked high on search results. The only way past these filters was to give the search engines what they wanted – value for their users.
For a few more years, one could game the system and sneak in a few sites past the spam cops… but it took powerful tools, complex planning and great determination. Plus, it was risky – because search engines now banned violators.
Somewhere along the line, most people (including me) chose to stop trying to bend the rules and figure out how to play within them… to win great rankings for our websites.
Fast forward to 2019…
For a while, I had stayed away from SEO. Other than reading the occasional report on what was the state of art and best practice, I barely did any formal SEO on my main websites.
The momentum from past optimization lasted a good 4 or 5 years before dwindling. By early 2017, however, traffic had slowed to a trickle. Websites that had once ranked at or near the top on a Google search were now only found on page 3 or 4 or beyond.
And so I decided to get to work and fix things.
With a vengeance, I hunted out the best resources on SEO in 2019 and studied them eagerly. You see, I was looking for something new. The secret sauce that worked like magic in 2017 – and would continue to work for at least a few years more.
But although I covered most of the current and updated guides, reports and ebooks, it was disappointing… because there was nothing new in them.
In fact, the more I learned about what’s effective in SEO today, the stronger was my realization – that what the experts say works best now is almost exactly what I had done 20 years ago!
- Before the ‘tricks’ and ‘loopholes’ – that search engines fixed.
- Before the gimmicks and shenanigans – that they caught on to.
- Before anyone had even heard about me or my passionate purpose.
Right back when I first got started online – with just 8 visitors a month, and gradually grew to over 8,000 per day!
History Repeats Itself
Back in the day, I had no idea what SEO was. Heck, I had little idea what ANYTHING online was.
With the aim of sharing something of value with others, I built a website on Geocities.com (and later bought my first domain names). Added content to it. Tried different methods to inform people about it. And by time consuming trial-and-error, hit upon ways that worked (and many that didn’t!)
And it was somewhat startling to realize that the methods that were successful in getting my website ranked well in 1997 are the very same ones that specialists in SEO recommend even today!
So it seems as if the more things change, the more they remain the same!
Let’s talk about these broad principles that, surprisingly, continue to be effective even two decades later.
- Deliver value
- Get recognized for that value
- Do it strategically to keep growing in value
What Works for SEO in 2019
… And Things to Avoid for SEO in 2019
Be THE Expert
It’s the backbone of all effective SEO – yet nobody talks much about it. Just think about this for a moment…
If you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, why should other people listen?
SEO aims to get your website and content ranked well on Google and other search engines, so that many more people will see it. Unless you deliver superior quality and value, why would they want to?
That’s why you should be an expert.
It’s the foundation of all good SEO strategy. When I built my first website on heart disease, I had already been studying the subject for over ten years.
I was a specialist. My website shared that expertise. So SEO was easy.
My content was top class. It offered great value. Many people liked it. They linked back to it. Search engines noticed, and ranked it higher. Easy-peasy!
Be THE expert.
Sadly, There Are No Shortcuts
What’s that I hear you say?
You: “But that takes time.”
Me: Of course it does. So get started right away.
You: “Can’t I just fake it till I make it?”
Me: Sure. But today, Google’s memory is getting better. If you try sneaky tricks and get caught, it’s infinitely harder to get a second shot. The barely spoken of (but widely acknowledged) “people rank” algorithm is rating YOU on several factors.
And if YOU qualify for the label of “bad neighbor”, everything linked to you gets tarnished.
You: “But I don’t want to wait for years and years!”
Me: Begin with something you already know about. And keep improving your skills, knowledge and experience. That’s the only reliable way to get great results with SEO in 2019 – and beyond.
Backlinks Rule… But HOW You Get Them Matters
Getting links to your website is just as important in 2019 as it was in 1997. And the best backlinks are the ones you EARN.
Back in the “good old days”, there weren’t that many websites around. Surfing the Web was a favorite pastime. Finding gems in the rough was exciting. If I thought a website was fun, inspiring, or taught me something new, I’d link to it from my site – and shoot the owner a quick email to say so.
The guy or gal who built the site would be so curious to see who was the cool, smart, classy person who recognized their true genius, that many would pop over to my site to take a look. If they liked it, too, they’d link back to me – and tell me about it.
A backlink was a vote for quality.
Better websites got more backlinks. Search engines rewarded this by ranking them higher. It was a virtuous, self-propelling upward spiral.
Sneaky, Shitty SEO
And then, a new era in SEO dawned. It was ushered in by sneaky thinkers. They owned shitty websites, but wanted to rank them higher on search results. So they came up with a devious plan.
They contacted webmasters of other shitty websites. Offered to link to them, in exchange for a link back from them.
They got lucky. Often. Y’see, there were always many owners of shitty websites who wanted more traffic.
Soon, a backlink was no longer a vote for quality. It was just pay back for a link the other way.
And Google caught on quickly. Reciprocal backlinks were downgraded first, then frowned upon, and later punished. Folks tried twists on the scam.
- Triangular linking.
- Link chains.
- Web rings.
- And later, entire PBNs (private blog networks).
Each was uncovered, busted and slapped by the big G. Today, an “I’ll link to you if you’ll link back to me” strategy is almost SEO suicide!
Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the WWW, once called hyperlinks the “lifeblood of the World Wide Web”. Sneaky thinking to cheat shitty websites into top ranks on SEs wrecked one of the most powerful elements of the Internet.
But guess what…
Earned Editorial Backlinks STILL Work
What has changed over the last 20 years (out of necessity) is that certain kinds of backlinks have been devalued.
- links that are bought for a price
- spammed links from irrelevant sites
- links from low quality sites
- links that are exchanged
- over-optimized links that are clearly artificially acquired
If you pay for a backlink, or create them (even in bulk using automation software) on properties you own or rent, swap them with fellow webmasters or engineer them to include specific keyword terms and phrases, Google WILL find you out – and either downgrade the impact/value of those links, or even punish your efforts to game their system.
But the pristine beauty of a once innocent Web is still retained.
When you publish a stellar piece of content that other people want to link to (like this one you’re reading now!), Google will reward you richly with a higher ranking on SERPs (search engine results pages).
Your challenge, then, is to
- create great content
- spread word about it (marketing)
- make sure people link to it and tell others about it
Once you master this skill (and it is an art form, one worth learning), you’ve cracked the secret code of effective SEO in 2018 and beyond.
You’ve earned those links – by delivering value.
That value is recognized by the search giant – as worth sharing with its users.
You’re rewarded with a higher search ranking.
How can Google tell that a backlink is earned?
Apart from the fact that Google’s tentacles extend “everywhere” online and can monitor almost anything you say, write, do (and maybe even think!) online, it relies on some common sense patterns and rules to help make the decision.
Earned backlinks are, in general:
- from relevant, related websites – why would a sports news website link to your article about ancient Roman architecture?
- from resources it considers “Authority sites”, based on past performance (which Google has been monitoring for years – remember ‘People Rank‘!)
- from actual websites with visitors and regularly updated content, not merely “set up for backlinking” profiles or pages
- diversified in anchor text – I mean, it isn’t natural for 100 websites to all link to your article with the same word string, is it?
- from “good neighborhoods” – not the slimy, shady, smelly corners of the Web where dirty deals are closed
Now, before you say: “Ha! So if THAT’s how Google decides, I think I can figure out a way to…”
STOP Trying to Game Google
Google knows. Everything.
Just ask any kid or teenager. They’ll tell you. Whenever they have a doubt or question, they don’t run to Mom or Dad or Coach or teacher for the answers any longer…
They pull out their smartphone and pull up Google to ask.
Because Google KNOWS.
You think just because you can hide your PBN domains on different Class C IPs hosted on a slew of SEO-hosting accounts across geographies and use unique themes, proxies, writing styles and languages to “eliminate your digital footprint”, you’ll now be able to load up your high PR network with powerful backlinks to rocket your website to the top of Google?
Bzzz…. WRONG answer.
Ain’t gonna work no more.
Listen, I’ve tried these tricks before. But that was over ten years ago. Even then, they only worked for a while.
It’s growing increasingly harder – and costlier – to maintain a truly anonymous private blog network. And risker, too. When your network is busted, all your hard work goes down the drain.
If you still want to go with that plan, good luck.
You’re going to need it!
The wiser heads reading this will realize that party’s long been over – and that it’s time to buckle down and focus on REAL SEO in 2019.
Oh, and while we’re talking about stuff that’s no longer worth trying to fool Google (and other search engines like Bing), here’s a few more:
- do follow blog comments, especially when they’re from spammy/spammed blogs with massive numbers of OBLs (out-bound links), all with keyword anchor-text
- links in blog footers and sidebars
- automated backlinks generated using any kind of software
All these tactics had their heyday. Back in the 90’s and early 00’s. They’re over now.
Feel a tinge of nostalgia about them, if you like. But then, move on. It’s not worth lingering over those memories any longer!
Relevance Matters – a LOT
An important twist (but one that’s not really surprising) is how valuable Google considers “relevance” of a site from which you acquire backlinks.
Remember your website on ancient Roman architecture?
While you won’t get much credit for a link to it from a sports news portal, what will earn you brownie points from the Big G is a link from History.com or Architecture.com or the Ancient History Encyclopaedia – sites that Google already considers respected authorities on the subject.
Here’s what’s even more interesting.
A link back to your Roman architecture website from even a lower ranked and relatively unknown site on architecture – such as Alan Reed’s painting blog at alanreed.com or Legends & Chronicles at legendsandchronicles.com – would be worth MORE than a similar backlink from ESPN.com or SkySports.com
How can a link from a page with DA (domain authority) and/or PR (page rank) so high up in the stratosphere be worth less than one from such an insignificant one?
The magic key is RELEVANCE.
Even a casual hobbyist fascinated with the times of Caesar, Spartacus and Hadrian will be a better judge of “value” when it comes to Roman architecture – than the world’s best sports site editor.
It’s common sense. And that’s the secret sauce of Google’s ranking algorithm, too.
What’s more, it’s also natural for a website on a theme to link out to other quality sites on the same (or related) theme.
Don’t Sacrifice Caution For Relevance
Getting relevant backlinks is the cat’s whiskers for SEO in 2018.
But don’t throw caution to the winds and rush in blindly. There are still pitfalls to high ranking. And some popular SEO tactics fall into the “risky, even if they work” category.
One of them is buying expired domains with relevant topical Trust Flow – and redirecting them to your site. Finding them is tough. But if you’re watchful (and lucky!), you might catch a break.
Building themed properties on Web 2.0 sites like Tumblr, WordPress.com, HubPages, Weebly and RebelMouse for the specific purpose of linking back to your domain on the same theme was once smart – but today opens you up to the possibility of a manual penalty.
SEO practices that fall under the heading of Gray Hat Backlinking are all somewhat risky in 2018. They work, but no one can tell for how long. And they all expose you to the danger of being judged a “bad neighbor”.
Is that a chance you’re ready to take?
SEO Stuff That Still Works – 20 Years Later
Amazing as it sounds, there are things I did two decades before that are still recommended as SEO best practices in 2019 today.
Just let that sink in slowly.
These SEO techniques have worked well for twenty years!
They’ve stood the test of time – and passed with flying colors.
Isn’t it likely that they’ll continue to be of value well into the future?
I believe so.
Which is why these are the only SEO tactics I’m focusing on exclusively today.
We’re going to explore each of them in some depth and detail – because I’m going to recommend them to you also, as a near-permanently effective strategy for SEO in 2019 … and beyond.
We’ve already covered the importance of being (or becoming) an expert so that you can craft high value content.
Here’s what to do next…
- Build Relationships
- Participate on Niche Forums
- Follow and Comment on Niche Blogs
- Guest Blogging
- Create Resource Pages
1. Build Relationships
What’s that got to do with SEO in 2019, you wonder.
Nothing… and everything!
You see, if you’re involved in a niche – any niche – for the long haul, you need to start developing assets. Among them are human assets. Others in the same area.
Yes, even your competition.
It opens the door for collaboration, cross-promotions, support systems, mastermind brainstorming and more. Think of it like having colleagues in an office. You can be friendly with them, and create a pleasant work environment.
Even back in 1997, from India I’d actively engage in conversations on email discussion lists with experts in various countries and of diverse levels of expertise.
I talked about logo design with a German artist who had Fortune 500 clients. I’d chat about web design with a guy who was creating the Microsoft.com website. I learned about how to upsell products from one of Amazon’s product managers.
It was incredible!
And I made hundreds of friends, many of whom still keep in touch to this day.
Social media makes it terribly easy, wherever you live. You only have to make the commitment to reach out in friendship – and invest some time and effort into building relationships.
Soon, you’ll see why this is so important… even for SEO in 2019 and beyond.
2. Participate on Niche Forums
To many people, hanging out on forums counts as a waste of time. But done right, forums can bring you several SEO advantages – including high value backlinks.
On one industry-leading forum, I posted more than 1,000 times over a 7 year period – and estimate the value of connections developed, backlinks earned and traffic referred from that forum alone in the mid 6-figure range. That’s how powerful it can be.
So what to do for effective “Forum SEO”?
- Identify popular online discussion forums in your niche. There’s bound to be one for every theme, topic or interest. Just run a Google search using the terms: forum + NICHE
- Register as a member and fill up your profile. Include a photograph and link back to your website. Post an attention-grabbing description of your business or site, with your keyword in it.
- Follow a few discussions. Don’t rush to post anything. Observe how other members behave. Do they promote their content, website or offers? Is self-promotion welcome or not? Who are the popular members? Which topics get the most interest?
- Jump in to offer your comments, advice or feedback after you have a fair idea of the mood and tone of the place. Ask questions. Share your experiences. Interact with other members. Make friends.
This isn’t just to feel good or be popular.
Each input you make on a forum will link back to your profile, making it stronger in SEO terms. Over time, I had 1000+ internal links from one popular forum pointing to my profile page – turning it into a PR5 resource that I could then use to pass on link juice to my other websites!
- Start discussion threads once you’ve established yourself as an active member. If it’s popular, each comment on your thread will generate a link back to your profile page – so it grows in authority even as you gain the respect and credibility of fellow members through the content of your posts.
- Leverage your newly developed relationships with others in your niche to- get guest posts published on their website and blog
- promote your content and offers to their email lists
- partner in selling your products and services
- co-create multi-author content that all of your cross promote
- amplify your content on their social media platforms
- get reviews and testimonials
3. Follow And Comment On Niche Blogs
After explaining that blog commenting for backlinks is a stupid idea, it might seem strange to now list niche blog comments as a viable link building tactic that’s evergreen and effective.
But wait before you judge me!
There’s a difference or two that sets this apart from the other.
When you follow blogs in your niche, there are several other benefits in addition to gaining some backlinks from your comments. You can:
- develop a relationship with the blogger
- learn about trends and developments in your niche
- get ideas about content to create on your site
- open the door to contributing your own content in the future
In addition, virtual communities often grow up around commentary on popular blogs. By participating respectfully and meaningfully in this network, you get to enjoy all its benefits. When you add value through your comments on a blog post, you win credibility just as with forum discussions.
You’ll also meet and get to know other vocal individuals who are passionate about the same things you are – and some of them will come over to your blog, consume your content, and even share it with their networks.
And you’ll get backlinks from a relevant niche blog as well!
So… there’s a big difference between tossing a drive-by 2-line comment with your keyword on a high PR (and higher OBL) blog in an unrelated niche.
One is worse than useless. The other is pure gold!
4. Guest Blogging
Like many other SEO tactics, guest blogging has had a wild ride over the years.
When I started doing it (before it even was called ‘guest blogging’), it was just a logical extension of the way I tried to share valuable content with a steadily growing audience.
Later, as more people noticed how effectively it worked as an SEO tool, guest blogging was ‘abused’ (or used less ethically) as a way to stuff backlinks into content hosted on a relevant niche website or blog.
Value took a backseat to link generation.
And that’s when search engines started paying attention – because their SERPs were being taken over by lower quality websites that successfully gamed the ‘guest blogging’ loophole.
To no one’s surprise, they fixed it. Shortly afterwards, all the ‘slash and burn’ SEO hucksters jumped ship to hop aboard a new fad – leaving those who did guest blogging the old fashioned way, for the old fashioned reasons, to carry on without much competition or fuss.
Is it still effective?
Let’s look at what most experts agree is the MOST effective backlink for SEO in 2018…
Editorial Backlinks on Authority Websites.
To be considered ‘editorial’, you aren’t allowed to have access to the site. In other words, the link from an authority site to yours should appear unbiased, and earned on the basis of merit alone.
A well-crafted guest blog post that focuses on delivering value to a reader instead of serving as a contextual text link back to the author’s website fits all the criteria of an editorial backlink.
The challenge, then, is getting such a guest blog post on a high authority website in your niche. Because “relevance” matters, remember?
Now do you see why I emphasize the importance of building relationships within your niche as an SEO strategy?
Top bloggers and experts in your niche have websites and online resources that Google considers “authority sites”. By establishing contact with these ‘niche celebrities’, and offering them top notch content written in editorial style, you can have guest blogging opportunities at will – and rocket your link building success.
It’s exactly what I did in the first five years of my online growth.
In fact, by writing so much content for other websites – for free – I was invited to contribute to several more, including sites that went on to become the highest traffic and largest reputation resources online.
- Like About.com – where I was the Heart Disease Guide for 2 years.
- Like Sitepoint.com – where I was a guest contributor for a year.
These opportunities not only give you a high value editorial backlink that stays relevant for years and years, it also boosts your reputation among people in your niche – and those people are your ideal prospects, potential customers, future cheerleaders and fans.
As your tribe grows through guest blogging connections, you have more voices
- to amplify your content on social media
- to share your website among their friends and followers
- to publish backlinks to your site from their blogs
- to send you referral traffic that keeps everything spiralling upwards
All this stems from guest blogging – the right way, for the right reasons.
NOT for a backlink, but to deliver value to a fresh audience that you couldn’t otherwise reach!
How to find guest blogging opportunities?
In my opinion, most people make a mistake by going to established website and blogs that already have a huge following.
These are always the toughest, most selective and harshly critical ones – because they have a reputation to protect.
It’s far easier to reach out to smaller blogs of good quality – ones that will, over time, grow bigger because they have what it takes to succeed.
Your guest blog post on their upcoming resource will gain value over time as the site itself grows more influential. It’s like being on a boat when the tide rises – you’ll just go on rising up, even if you do nothing!
So go to Google and type this into the search box:
NICHE + “guest post”
NICHE + “write for us”
NICHE + “guest post guidelines”
NICHE + “contribute”
Don’t just rush to submit your post to the first one on the list.
- Take time to study the blog.
- Judge its potential and current audience.
- Assess its fit to your own website and content.
- Pick only the best aligned with your goals and plans.
- Then approach the blogger with an offer to write for their blog.
Don’t be disappointed if one (or even many) turn you down.
Remember that the value, over time, of even a few such guest blog posts and the links back to your site can be so high, it’s worth pushing past a few rejections.
What if you can’t write well or create compelling content?
Hire someone to do it for you.
I charge $500 to write a 1,000 word article for entrepreneurs – who then get them published on industry-leading PR7 websites… and later tell me that it brings them several thousand dollars worth of business!
So don’t be “penny wise, pound foolish”.
Guest blogging is powerful for SEO in 2019. It will continue being powerful for SEO even 10 years from now.
If buying a link on a high PR website costs money, then surely it’s worth more money to get a high value editorial backlink on a similar site?!
5. Resource Pages
It’s remarkable how easily we tend to forget things that were once routine.
All of my early websites from 1995 to 2005 had resource pages. They listed the best online resources that I curated and handpicked. They were neatly categorized and ordered by topic. And these resource collections were often the most popular sections on my websites.
So it’s surprising how, gradually, many webmasters and content creators forget about resource pages. They let them age without maintenance or updates.
And in a fast-moving medium like the Internet, that’s a deadly mistake.
Links keep going bust. A resource page loses value when it lists sites that throw up a 404 error (‘file not found’) or redirect to an irrelevant website (or worse, to a scam, malware or objectionable content).
With so many websites flooding the Internet daily and search engines listing them purely on the basis of an automated algorithm, there’s clearly room for a list that’s handpicked by an expert.
Why shouldn’t you be the one to create it?
Inherently, there are some SEO advantages to creating resource pages.
- For one, you can inform the owner of a site you’re including on it, and can count on many of them choosing to link back to your directory – if only to show off that they are featured on it!
- If you build an outstanding collection of resources, which are nicely annotated and grouped for convenience, most other websites in your niche will feel compelled to link out to it… because it adds such value to their visitors!
- As your resource page gather steam and grow powerful, being included becomes a mark of accomplishment and recognition – which further enhances your name and brand in the niche you’re involved with.
That’s a good reason to collate and curate a resource page for your niche.
Or even ten resource pages, for different categories, topics or sections of your niche, if you can manage it!
Unreal Tactics That Ignore Human Nature
In the course of my research into what still works for SEO in 2019, I came across many innovative and creative ideas. Some, however, seemed to ignore human nature. One of them has to do with resource pages.
It goes this way.
- Find a resource page that isn’t maintained well.
- Check the links featured on it.
- If one of them is broken, create content that might be a good replacement for it.
- Then contact the owner/webmaster asking to have the link redirected to your new content source.
This sounds nice. So I even tried it a few times. Doesn’t work!
As the logic goes, the resource page owner will be so happy and grateful to hear about the broken link, he’s going to jump at the chance to fix it – and the easy way is to replace whatever page is gone with your replacement.
Nice… except why would a busy person even bother?
Or one who no longer cares?
It’s simpler to just delete the broken link – or even totally ignore your email!
And you’re out the time it took to craft a “replacement resource”!
Quit looking for shortcuts. Clearly, they aren’t very effective for the future. If you want to get featured on a resource page, create one yourself – and maintain it well.
As we’ve already seen, there’s a lot to say in favor of this route.
So get going!
What Else Has Changed About SEO in 2019
- A greater emphasis on site structure and architecture, with faster-loading, well organized and logically designed user interfaces adding SEO points
- Locally relevant results drive SERP rankings because of a growing use of mobile search as people use the Web on the move
- Mobile optimization has become important in parallel for the same reason – more people search on smaller screen devices with wireless access
So what can you do about these trends?
Ensure that your website is
- built on the right platform
- hosted on a fast server
- efficiently coded without bloat
- uses compressed graphics
- optimized to load fast, even on mobile devices
What’s Entirely New About SEO in 2019
Only one thing…
A Focus On User Intent
Gone are the days when SEO was about keywords and optimized content that sprinkles in the right keywords in the right proportion to gain high rankings for those search terms.
Today’s searcher is more discerning and demanding.
And Google has adopted to serving this user well.
To rank your website high on search results, Google expects you to:
- understand or intuit what your user wants
- deliver exactly that content on your website
If you get this magic formula right, Google will send you a flood of traffic. If you mess it up, all you’ll hear is the chirping of crickets!
So prepare to change your focus from keywords, products and your internal priorities – and look outwards to your visitors, prospects and customers for signals.
- What do they want from you?
- What are they searching for?
- Why do they want it?
- Which is their biggest problem?
- How do they want you to help them solve it?
The clues to all answers lie in the keywords they use to find your website and the actions they take on your pages.
- Study the data available in your website analytics.
- Apply your keen insights based on your expertise in the niche.
- Design a solution that helps, guides or informs them.
Then get out of the way as Google deluges your website with a flood of visitors!
Your SEO is now ready for 2019 – and beyond!
Share this with a friend on Twitter… with just one click? Go!
Recommended Reading on SEO in 2019:
- How To Build Backlinks in 2018 – GotchSEO.com
- The Bootstrapper’s Guide to SEO Link Building – SupremacySEO.com
- The Backlinking Strategy That Works – SmartPassiveIncome.com
- How to Become an SEO Freelancer In 48 Hours – LocationRebel.com
- The Definitive Link Building Guide – BackLinko.com
- SEO Tutorial – WebConfs.com