Note: This one of one of the chapters of Secret Sauce: A step-by-step growth hacking guide. Secret Sauce breaks down every channel just like this one, so if you think this is valuable check it out. It’s for sale now.
SEO In One Day
SEO is simply not as hard as people pretend like it is; you can get 95% of the effort with 5% of the work, and you absolutely do not need to hire a professional SEO to do it, nor will it be hard to start ranking for well-picked key terms.
Of all the channels we’ll be discussing, SEO is the one that there is the most misinformation about. Some of it is subtle, but some of it is widely spread and believed by so-called SEO consultants who actually don’t know what they’re doing.
SEO is very simple, and unless you’re a very large company it’s probably not worth hiring somebody else to do.
How Google Works
In order to understand what we need to do for SEO let’s look back at how Google started, how it’s evolving today, and develop a groundwork from which we can understand how to get ranked on Google.
The Early Days of Google
The idea for PageRank — Google’s early ranking algorithm — stemmed from Einstein. Larry Page and Sergei Brin were students at Stanford, and they noticed how often scientific studies referred to famous papers, such as the theory of relativity. These references acted almost like a vote — the more your work was referenced the more important it must be. If they downloaded every scientific paper and looked at the references, they could theoretically decide which papers were the most important, and rank them.
They realized that because of links, the Internet could be analyzed and ranked in a similar way, except instead of using references they could use links. So they set about attempting to “download” (or crawl) the entire Internet, figuring out which sites were linked to the most. The sites with the most links were, theoretically, the best sites. And if you did a search for “university,” they could look at the pages that talked about “university” and rank them.
Google works largely the same way today, although with much more sophistication and nuance. For example, not all links carry the same weight. A link from an authoritative site (as seen by how many links a site has pointing at it) is much more valuable than a link from a non-authoritative site. A link from the New York Times is probably worth about 10,000 links from sites that don’t have much authority.
At the end of the day the purpose of Google is to find the “best” (or most popular) web page for the words you type into the search bar.
All this means is we need to make it clear to google what our page is about, and then make it clear that we’re popular. If we do that we win. In order to do that, we’ll follow a very simple process that works every single time with less effort than you probably think is required.
Gaming the System
Google is a very smart company. The sophistication of the algorithms they write is incredible; bear in mind that there are currently cars driving themselves around Silicon Valley powered by Google’s algorithms.
If you get too far into the SEO rabbit hole you’ll start stumbling upon spammy ways to attempt to speed up this process. Automated software like RankerX, GSA SER, and Scrapebox, instructions to create spam or spin content, linkwheels, PBNs, hacking domains, etc.
Some of that stuff works very short term, but Google is smart and it is getting smarter. It gets harder to beat Google every day, and Google gets faster at shutting down spammy sites every day. Most don’t even last a week before everything you’ve done disappears and your work evaporates. That’s not the way you should do things.
Instead of Internet-based churn and burn we’ll be focusing on building equity in the Internet. So if you see some highly-paid SEO consultant telling you to use software and spun content to generate links, or when you see some blackhatter beating the system, just know that it’s not worth it. We’re going to build authority and get traffic fast, but we’re going to do it in a way that doesn’t disappear or cripple your site in the future.
The first step in getting our site ready to rank is making it clear to Google what our site is about.
For now we’re going to focus our home page (our landing page) on ranking for one keyword that isn’t our brand or company name. Once we do that and get that ranking we can branch out into other keywords and start to dominate the search landscape, but for now we’ll stay laser focused.
The first thing we need to do is to figure out what that keyword is. Depending on how popular our site is and how long it’s been around, the level of traffic and difficulty we’ll get from this effort may vary.