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Since that time 5 years ago there has been no SEO done to the site. No link development, no onpage stuff, nothing. And guess how it's rankings are doing?
Well, 5 years later, it's still front page on Google for the competitive terms we targetted originally. Through all the ups and downs, all the algo tweaks, that site has parked on the front page and sat there, year after year, generating traffic...and sales, with not a further penny spent on SEO. The site is owned by an individual practitioner who earns a very good living completely off of his site. We speak once or twice a year, and yes, he's happy. It beats sites that do directory links and press releases. It beats sites that sponsor wordpress themes. It beats sites that do paid blogging. It beats a lot of sites that do SEO.
I'm still considering what I should charge to let out the techniques I used that have managed to keep this site on the front page for 5 years, or even if I should discuss it publicly at all.
Sites in more competitive markets have to continue to generate links, publish updated content, and not show "cobwebs" in order to maintain rankings.
You are lucky that some businesses simply do not have the time to make sure their website is optimized to rank properly. If you can charge a physician $5k for work they probably could have done themselves, more power to you. The average small business entrepreneur in a competitive market doesnt have that kind of cash to spend on basic optimization.
Further, my experience proves you wrong when you talk about cobwebs. Sites in competitive markets do not have to continue to generate links or publish content in order to maintain rankings. If you are selling this as a requirement to SEO clients, you are selling snake oil. I just clearly stated that I have a site that hasn't been touched in 5 years, and it still ranks, despite many people in the last 5 years trying to beat that ranking. The rankings wikipedia has on old content disprove this.
I was approached at a pubcon and asked to name my price to rank on a search term. I declined and referred him elsewhere, but he didn't flinch when I told him to be prepared to pay $10k to $15k per month on SEO. When people are willing to pay that kind of money to rank on a search term, it's a competitive market.
That same search term the guy was prepared to drop $15k a month on? One of my sites ranks #14, another one ranks #29 right now. I worked on those sites and got them ranked on page two about three years ago, using the very same technique (I sold the sites at about that time, before I got any higher ranking). For the most part they have not been touched since. See how the rankings are still there? They float up and down a bit, but are always in the range of 10 to 25 or so, where I put them in the first place. The site at #29 is liable to be #11 next update - it floats in that range. Both continue to generate business. No further work required. It's not an isolated example I've got. It's repeatable.
I just searched on mortgage rates, google shows 31 million results, so roughly comparable. If you worked for 3 months (part time, maybe a day or two a week) then ranked on 'mortgage rates' for the next 5 years without doing anything else, would you be a happy mortgage broker?
Ok smartypants aside, I work in a very competitive niche which might relate to a topic similar to yours competition wise and I still find sites in the top rankings that are old school with no new content to speak of. A couple of them use some really old techniques like keyword stuffing, etc., but their really good links from other really old sites give them top rankings every time.
Here's to a job well done Wheel!
That ranking is just the measure of their ability to rank. The site(s) also have plenty of stuff to make sure they rank on the long tail as well.
I spread my bets across the long tail and multiple sites as well. Just because my technique ranks on short tail doesn't prevent my sites from being diverse.
And people repeatedly don't like the answers from the experts - to forget the glitter and develop proper backlinks. We want a quick technical answer. We don't want to hear what basically means 'try working hard yourself'. The experts actually aren't holding back some big secret or the latest trick. They ARE telling you directly and specifically what to do. Hard work marketing your website is what gives high long term rankings, not some technical gimmick.
I do a a three step thing. It's what I did on my first site, it's what I did 5 years ago, 3 years ago, 2 years ago. It's what I do today.
1) Put up some good quality content. In the case of the first site I did, it was simply a price comparison service - one that is now commonly used across hundred/thousands of sites. That content, and other stuff I've used since isn't crazy inventive, it's just good quality. $5 articles BTW isn't 'good content'. there are lots of ideas in this forum alone on how to generate good content. No secrets - just do a good job.
2) I went looking for RELEVANT AND AUTHORITATIVE websites to give me backlinks. No secrets. I use standard techniques to find places to get links from. I check competitors backlinks for sites, bookmarked sites, top ranking sites for related searches, all techniques that have been detailed on this site for the last five years.
But how do I define relevant and authoritative? I do a bit, but really - you know what the words mean. Look at the site - you can tell as well as I can or Google can. If the site is clearly relevant and authoritative, seek a link. If it's lacking in either of those then it better by high in one. If it's got neither, move on.
3) I review those sites by hand to determine if they might give me a link. If so, I send them a personalized email that answers the question 'why would you link to me'.
And repeat. over and over and over. Find new
websites. Review. Send emails.
The first website I SEO'ed, I looked at thousands and thousands of sites. And I sent many emails, all of them typed individually. I didn't pay anyone and I didn't use any secret trick. I worked. Hard. And I got a ton of relevant and authoritative links.
that's why if you read this forum going back the last 5 years you see over and over people asking 'does this work? Does that work? Should I submit to yahoo? Recips? Directories? press releases?'. And the experts here repeatedly say 'stick to developing top quality backlinks. If it's quality, do it. If it's not, don't'. It was true 5 years ago. It's true today - my sites show this to be true. Through all the algo tweaks, these sites may float up or down a place or two but they don't move far - and they're as likely to bounce up again after an algo tweak as they are to drop a spot.
My entry into link dev. was at my first pubcon. Jim Boykin (who at the time was just an unshaven boarder guy wearing a BOTW hoodie to me, turns out he was speaking at the pubcon) gave me a couple hour pep talk on how to develop quality links. It boiled down to being #3 - email people a good reason why they would link to you. I then read every post in this link dev forum going back two years - every single one. And I wasn't overly stimulated. Seemed like lots of questions about what worked and what didn't - and I didn't know how to differentiate. So I hired Sugarrae (a former mod here) for a bit of phone consulting. A few hours of her machine gun data transfer and I had pages of notes. that session answered #2, how to find sites and do a gut check on relevant and authoritative.
The advice I got at my first pubcon, and the notes I took from the consulting are still relevant today. every single bit of it worked then, works now, and has worked over the last 5 years. It sticks.
If you look at the posts in this section of the forum, and hold it to the filter of 'does it build relevant and authoritative backlinks', you'll have your answer to the questions being asked in the thread - you'll also see it's what the experts are recommending,in one form or another. If it's quality, do it. How do you judge quality? Use your gut, it's not automated.
All else is either different applications of one of those three steps, or is likely only a temporary solution.
Google shows 40 million results for the main term. I suggest that's a competitive term.
Please stop. The amount of results in google has nothing to do with a term being competitive. (When will some learn?). Even though you are in right direction with getting authoritative link, but that by itself has nothing to do with ranking well anymore.
Your client may be well positioned now, but organic SEO is not the future. A successful business will have to think outside SE more and more to have a long term viable business. Charge them all you can, until they realize that.
People who realized that, have already moved on to SEM 2-3 years back.
Nope, no self reinforcing links. They rank because of what I did 2,3,5 years ago not because of organic link growth.
Are we trying to guess how I do this now? Is that it :)?
I'm fairly picky who I link out to, and the result is a lower rate of dead links. There's no doubt in my mind that high quality websites are likely to last a lot longer. But when I Xenu, there are always some surprises.
But the question is: Is it good that search engines put so much emphasis on link building? Wouldn't it be better for the Internet and for your users if you spent your time actually creating or improving great content?
After reading this thread I think I'll just forget about adding any new content and in the next couple of years I will focus on begging for links. If that makes Google and other SE happy I'm fine with that (I feel a little sorry for my visitors though).
And, yes, I know people don't believe this works :)
I would certainly agree that SEO / Link development will help kick start a site.
My links ARE natural. They'll pass a hand check. Link building does not prevent people from linking to me without being asked in the same volumes as they do to sites that don't link build (I just got a link from some blogger who decided to do a faux expose on my industry....because I have top rankings). Link building does not mean I somehow don't have top quality content on my site. Link building does not mean that I can't expand into other SEM areas.
Link building means I can stop at any point and enjoy top rankings, and the associated business, without spending any more effort or $. My content is as good or better than any of my competitors. If you're taking the natural approach, I've surpassed you years ago. You missed the .gov links I specifically asked for and got for example. You're getting them one at a time, and I'm getting them 10 at a time. And because I focus on it and determine who's going to link to me, my links are of higher quality than the folks who take the 'hope someone links to me' approach. And when I do my next 3 month push on link building, I'll get another few hundred natural links.
And for the folks who take the 'SEO is bigger than top ranking approach', my link building approach beats those folks too. You know how many people call me with opportunities because I rank? Lots. They don't call the people that rank below me, the call me. Aggressive link building alone provides the opportunity to a lot of other things.
None of what I've described here is anywhere near as thin as what is being described by detractors, nor does it mean that folks that link build like this are without enough common sense to broaden their approach.
What the hopeful rankers and 'big tent' SEM folks should concern themselves with is people who do this for 2,3,4,5 sites and hog the whole serps for the next decade. That's where I'm headed as time permits.
Never mind that if I was to sell SEO services - and I don't - who do you think a client is going to buy from. Someone who talks 'big picture' or someone who walks in and says "I did a 3 month contract on this site 5 years ago, and it hasn't been touched since. Check the rankings for yourself".
None of this is news. It's hardly 'my' approach. As far as I can tell, it's what the experts and the mods here do. It's what the over the top world class SEO firms do to a great extent. Heck, if you do some sniffing around, it's what the hardcore affiliates and even the blackhatters do to varying degrees. And ultimately, it's not 'link building' that I'm doing. It's sales and marketing.
That's part of the reason why if you're looking for good SEO firms you've got to pay, and pay hard. You can't get someone to find the sites by hand then send out good quality link requests paying someone $10 an hour.
If you have some golden hen which is not public knowledge, I would be interested in what field you work in, or what research you have done that sets your work apart to that degree.
It comes off kinda conceded and not to offend but ranking top 10 for a mildly competitive term that shows 40 million results just isn't that hot.
So I'm going to assume this thread isn't about self advertising, but rather ramming home the points of:
1- Quality Content
2- Quality Links manually done
There are a few others. But the problem is... anyone that has read more than a few hours of SEO advice and isn't technologically challenged will understand these basic points of SEO.
So what happens is, there are 1000s of guys doing what you do. But the few top SEOs do what you do, and more. And using more automation (not full automation, since that is spam... but certain levels of automation can improve the time you 'manually write out each email' with templates that are modifiable and scripts to auto insert certain information/gather information).
I honestly don't think 15 guys doing your secret sauce could achieve a top 10 ranking for the super ultra competitive top paying niches that tend to have more spam (we all know what they are). In fact, if 15 guys doing what you are doing could get top ten for the most lucrative niche keywords then the $75k you would charge is nothing, given that a good affiliate site alone, top ten for certain phrases can bring that in per month in commission revenue.
You know, just last month I got a clients site to rank top 10 for a phrase with 220 million competitive pages, and the site is less than two months old. And while I consider myself good, I don't consider myself that great.
P.S Regarding cobwebs/new content argument. That would depend on the search phrase/site. The thing is, rumors and google patents have shown that google does not treat all niches/search queries equally. And it makes sense, why would google use the same factors to determine ranking for 'latest widget trends' and 'widget history'. Obviously on one, constantly updated content will be preferred where as the other, 'stale content' will fair better.