Every time Google pushes out an update to its search engine algorithm, which is a lot, your rankings can fluctuate — sometimes for the better, sometimes sending you into a panic. This is understandable, considering that Google dominates the search engine landscape, driving 86% of all search engine traffic. The higher your website shows up in Google’s search results, the more likely it is for people to visit your site. And that extra traffic can translate into more sales.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in owning an SEO company for 14 years, it’s that you should stop getting distracted by new, shiny SEO strategies.

“But SEO is always changing,” I hear. Not really though. If you think about “new” things that have impacted SEO in the past, they all back into core SEO fundamentals:

1. Value-Added Content

  • Fresh, unique content
  • Not copied and pasted from other websites

2. Good User Experience

  • Fast-loading website
  • Mobile-friendly design

3. External Credibility

  • “Backlinks” (more on this in a moment)

Let’s look at Google’s 2015-16 “Mobilegeddon” update. Some SEOs and online businesses thought the sky was falling. But if you take a step back, Google was simply asking websites to have fast, mobile-friendly websites — a core SEO fundamental of good user experience.

“But what about voice search?”

I’m glad you asked.

With the growing popularity of digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant, demand for voice-initiated searches is at an all-time high. Yet no SEO or webmaster is on the other side of the search request outputting voice recordings. Where do answers to voice search queries come from then? Regular ol’ websites. The ones that have the freshest, most unique content that Google can fetch the fastest and is a trusted website. Again, core SEO fundamentals.

Since a lot of money is up for grabs at the top of search engine results, some bad SEO companies try to game the system. To minimize that manipulation, Google continually updates its algorithm.

It doesn’t matter if you are handling your own SEO or have a qualified, good SEO company do it for you; it is important to know SEO basics to understand why you’re ranked the way you are.

SEO Basics

Let’s explore ways that you can tackle some of these core SEO fundamentals on your own.

Value-Added Content

Google released an algorithm update in 2011 called Panda. Its goal? To stop content spamming. No longer would ripping off content from Wikipedia or a competitor’s website work.

To see if old content is doing damage on your website, use a tool like Copyscape.com. Copyscape will check your website’s content against others to make sure you don’t have content sourced from other websites, or it will help you identify websites that may have stolen yours.

Copyscape’s sister website, Siteliner.com, is another content checking tool. The difference? Siteliner checks your site against itself to make sure you don’t have mass-produced, duplicate style pages hidden throughout your website, diluting the value of your website.

Good User Experience

Google basically wants you to treat it like a regular customer. Regular customers don’t like slow websites, and I’d be willing to bet you don’t either, so Google rewards faster loading websites. The same goes for websites that are easy to use on smaller, mobile devices. Desktops have a lot more viewing space on the screen, but not so much on mobile. Make sure you use the screen area well so your customers can easily navigate your pages.

To help you, Google has two free tools to address page speed and mobile-friendliness: Google’s PageSpeed Insights and its Mobile-Friendly Test.

External Credibility

Ah, backlinks — SEO’s schoolgirl crush. A backlink is when another website hyperlinks to yours. However, all backlinks are not equal.

Since Google rolled out its Penguin algorithm update in 2012, spammy backlinks or backlinks from irrelevant websites can actually hurt your visibility. Quality over quantity. Google puts a high value on quality backlinks because it indicates that you are trusted and well-known enough that other websites find you worth discussing.

How do you get backlinks? Let’s start with how not to get backlinks.

  • Not via Fiverr
  • Not by spamming forums
  • Not by spamming social bookmarking websites

Fiverr is great for some things, but backlinks are not one of them. The logistics behind what it takes to acquire a good backlink puts the value way beyond $5. And the other types of backlinks may have worked in the past but are long dead since that Penguin algorithm. In fact, the wrong kind of backlinks can do you more harm than good.

The cleanest way to get good backlinks is –drumroll– by having a good website that loads quickly and provides value-added content. Gah, yes, a bit anticlimactic. But it’s true. So true that for many of my clients, we lean entirely on content for backlink building. That’s correct — no intentional backlink-only strategy. Good content attracts good engagement, which encourages sharing and linking, taking care of backlinks itself and with no worry of a penalty.

There is no shortage of tips that sound too good to be true to boost your rankings quickly and effortlessly. Be wary. Watch out for these SEO myths. The problem with historically well-written SEO content is that it was optimized, causing it to still show well in search engines. However, the content may be outdated by now. And some of these old strategies that used to work then may get you penalized now.

Quality search engine optimization takes time. Avoid shiny objects. SEO is a marathon — not a sprint. As the tortoise taught us, slow and steady wins the race.