Joel Klettke is a Search Engine Optimization specialist at Vovia. Joel's also an experienced writer and local marketing expert.

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How To Outsmart a Robot, or, “The Most Bulletproof SEO Strategy Ever”

smartbotA lot of people believe that SEO is all about outsmarting Google – finding some loophole in the algorithm to exploit. If you spend any time researching SEO, you’ll read all sorts of theories about how – if you think like a robot – you can discover ways to boost your rankings.

It started innocently enough. First, people thought you could trick robots into thinking your site was more relevant if you had your keywords spammed throughout your content and your meta-keywords. It worked – for a time. Search engines caught on, algorithms changed, the technique stopped working.

Next came insipid tactics like content cloaking – hiding content by using methods like black text on a black background, building doorway pages, sketchy 301 redirects, massive footers.  These methods all worked – for a time. Search engines caught on, algorithms changed, the techniques stopped working.

Along came the content farms. Content farms produced massive amounts of content, often useless and spammy. For a time, they could dominate search results. Once again, search engines caught on, algorithms changed, the technique stopped working.

As soon as people figured out that links were important for ranking, all kinds of schemes erupted: affiliate linking networks, paid links, dummy sites, blog spamming, spammy directory submissions. If you haven’t noticed a trend here, I’ll spell it out for you: soon (if they haven’t already) search engines will catch on, algorithms will change and these techniques will stop working. Are you seeing a trend here?!

So what’s the secret? The ultimate strategy? The silver bullet to “outsmarting” Google and the rest of the bunch? How can you have long-term SEO success?

Stop thinking like a robot. Start thinking like a human.

Search engines have a history of crushing any schemes that desperate SEO’s come up with to boost rankings. Why? Because the goal of their search bots is to return the most relevant content possible. Relevant, unique content that helps searchers is what Google is trying to reward. While you’re busy thinking like a robot, Google is trying to tap into how they can display the results real live people find helpful.

What does that all mean, practically?

  • First and foremost: write great, unique content. Be creative. Write content people want to share with others.
  • Build your website in a way humans find it easy to navigate.
  • Get links from relevant websites where other humans would actually find them valuable. When viewing a potential linking opportunity, think, “If I found this, would I be delighted, or confused?”
  • Use your analytics data to find out not only which keywords are driving traffic – but also those that are driving loyalty & conversions. Keep in mind that the average query is over 4 keywords long now…tap into the psychology of search!
  • Encourage the posting of reviews, testimonials and other information people can use to make a buying decision.
  • Find & engage with your customers online – think about where and how social media might be appropriate for your business.
  • Build relationships with other people that might pay online dividends. Can you sponsor an event? Can you guest blog? Can you give feedback or assistance to others? Can you track what’s going on in your niche?

It’s time to stop trying to think like a robot and get back to business basics. Yes, it helps to know the technical side of things: how search engines crawl your pages, how they treat the elements of your site, what they consider a good link. Knowing those things and how to analyze the data that comes back is what keeps me employed! But never forget that those same robots valuate those elements the way they do because somewhere, somehow it benefits human visitors.

Unlike the immortal words of Ken Jennings, we don’t need to “Welcome our new computer overlords” just yet.