Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most fruitful digital marketing strategies. This is the practice of improving the position your website is displayed in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for certain keyword terms. There is a lot to learn about SEO but if you’re creating quality content and getting quality backlinks you can do a whole lot wrong—and still get things right!

Learn More: How to Start a Blog: Strategies for Success & Scalability

Quality Content

There’s a popular saying among SEOs that if your make sure to build quality content you’ll get many natural backlinks. That’s not always true in practice, though quality content never hurt anyone. The troublesome reality is that a website can have tremendous content and still be outranked by sites with better backlink profiles. As a good rule of thumb, you want your content to be 90% as good as it can be. This degree of quality can offer readers within a niche something they’ve been missing, has a long shelf life, and helps build a tremendous amount of relevancy for your site. That last 10% might consist of interactive design elements, high quality custom 3d animations, or maybe even full-scale video developments. These are expensive assets to develop and rarely needed to be competitive within a niche on an SEO level. Going the extra mile in a salaried job might earn you a bit more on your Christmas bonus but in SEO it’s typically just going to hold things up.

Quick Tip: There are a lot of technical considerations for SEO, but if you create quality content and reach out to other quality websites you can still rank really well without messing around with anything else!

Building from the Ground Up

One of the most-popular ways of organizing websites, with regards to SEO, was called silos. This involved organizing sites in such a way that home pages would pass Page Rank to category pages, and category sub-categories would pass Page Rank back up to the main category page. The idea behind this arrangement is that by interlinking these types of pages one can better leverage incoming Page Rank to help boost the Page Rank of several pages of a website rather than just the one being linked to. For example, if a link points to a homepage and that homepage has a link to a top-level category page, that category page will receive some of that Page Rank. This approach on harnessing Page Rank has become a bit more casual in how it’s deployed on many sites but still works well fundamentally. It’s not a hack of any type and it’s not black hat SEO; this method simply makes better use of existing resources (backlinks).

An effective way to carve out a niche in semi-competitive keyword groups but needs broader external SEO support as well

Another way to deploy this Page Rank-capturing technique is to create similar internal linking structures. For example, you might have one major piece of content developed to target a set of commercial keywords. To better support this content in both terms of Page Rank, and in terms of keyword relevancy, add links from other related content on your website. This sends a couple of important signals to search engines like Google, letting them know that your main content deserves a bit more consideration. One of the first ways this can help boost rankings is by adding a lot of keyword relevancy to your content. If your main article is a review of the top 10 wire cutters on the market—linking from a DIY article on how to install a new power outlet would help build your site’s relevancy in Google’s eyes. This is an effective way to carve out a niche in semi-competitive keyword groups but needs broader external SEO support as well.

Deep Dive: For a more in-depth discussion on types of backlinks check out our article Link building 101: Different Types of Backlinks

Backlinks are a topic that we discuss often, in many ways, and constantly acknowledge different schools of thought for. Many SEOs are very vocal about the avoidance of any less-than-scrupulous means of getting backlinks while others are almost fanatic about it. It’s the Black Hat vs. White Hat argument that keeps SEOs speaking in circles more times than not. There is a strong argument to be made that a handful of super high-quality backlinks will outperform a boatload of crappy links. In many examples this holds true but, as with nearly everything else in the world, the truth can be found somewhere in the middle. That’s to say; it can pay to know how and when to cut some corners when building backlinks.

The days of ranking websites by blindly throwing thousands of exact-match backlinks from such sources as profiles, forum posts, article comments, and directory links are gone. These links are largely ignored by Google now and offer little overall boost to SEO efforts. However, there are still many ways in which automated link building can be used to effectively rank websites. What worked yesterday doesn’t work today and what works now won’t work tomorrow. Automated link building can be very valuable to boost the page Authority of existing backlinks but is often considered high-risk to use directly with primary websites.

Manual Outreach

The pinnacle of quality SEO are backlinks from other high-quality websites that are related to yours. This typically involves manually contacting websites to negotiate a type of partnership or to promote your content. This would be like getting a link for your cooking blog from the Martha Stewart or HGTV websites. These links carry a tremendous amount of weight and can help propel decent websites to the top of the SERPs.

Unfortunately, these links are also very hard to get and out of reach for most affiliate websites. To get high-quality links you often need highly-linkable content. Most super-authoritative websites aren’t going to slice off a piece of editorial space to link to your roundup of the best soup strainers on the market. Quality links for affiliate websites are often found in other niche-related websites of low-medium overall authority. There are a lot of different approaches for getting these types of links ranging from requests for free links to offering money for editorial features.

In addition to automated link building and manual outreach, there are many other types of backlink strategies that deserve mention. This article isn’t meant to afford the necessary amount of attention to such topics, but a quick overview can help get a sense of the landscape. Web 2.0 links from sites such as WordPress.com, Livejournal.com, Medium.com, and Blogger.com are all powerful ways to support a larger SEO strategy. These links siphon off some power from the overall authority of the domains they’re hosted on (affiliate-pumper.blogspot.com, for example) though that effect is less than in the past. Still, these websites serve a great value in how they give total control over content and backlinks.

Profile links, press releases, wiki links, and every other type of ‘free’ backlinks can serve a unique role in effective SEO strategies but should be used sparingly and with strong intent. Lastly, links from Private Blog Networks (PBN) can offer a tremendous amount of ranking power put also come with a lot of risk. When done correctly, PBN links are able to empower nearly any SEO campaign but, when done poorly, can also destroy even the best of rankings.

Reality Check: Spending a day creating an incredible piece of content and another day finding and contacting sites in your niche to share it with will do more for your SEO than most $1500/mo. agencies.

Minimum Effective Dose

Affiliate marketing isn’t as glamorous as many would-be gurus purport it to be. Very few websites will reach millions of monthly visitors or millions in revenue. Most affiliate websites, when properly developed, typically attract thousands of visitors and thousands of dollars. Still, when reduced to an effective, scalable formula, a handful of successful affiliate websites can create a very reasonable source of income. The principles of affiliate websites are nothing incredible and no feats of strength are involved in setting them up. A focus on keywords and some quality backlinks can get you affiliate website into the SERP time and time again. It’s important to remember that nothing happens fast in SEO, and that adhering to a proven-strategy starting out can help better capitalize on your initial efforts while you’re learning your own style.