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The Work of a SEO Professional Goes far Beyond Backlinks and Metadata

Hi Maxim! Please tell us about yourself. What are you working on?  How many projects are you currently promoting? I'm SEO Team Lead at Promodo, a digital marketing agency that has been providing opti...

Hi Maxim! Please tell us about yourself. What are you working on?  How many projects are you currently promoting?

I'm SEO Team Lead at Promodo, a digital marketing agency that has been providing optimization services for more than 5 years. Basically, I oversee projects and help professionals in solving unconventional problems. The team is currently handling more than 20 projects.

Generally speaking, has promoting websites become more difficult?

Of course, the work of a SEO professional goes far beyond backlinks and metadata. Although these things are still playing a significant role, the number of factors that SEO professionals need to pay attention to and interact with has increased many times, maybe even dozens of times. Today, SEO experts should analyze projects in more detail, not only in terms of classic SEO requirements, but also with an understanding of the niche, in order to create high-quality content, dive into UX/UI, and convert traffic, while at the same time thinking through the ways to combine SEO efforts with other marketing activities. 

It’s become increasingly difficult to produce quality results while using only one traffic acquisition channel, be it organic search or anything else. Well, of course, the ideal solution would be a single unified marketing strategy for all channels, where each professional responsible for each channel has a clear understanding of the mutual influences across the channels and the expected outcomes.

Is it possible to promote a website without backlinks, purely due to internal optimization and content?

More likely no than yes. Of course, there are content projects or complex niches in which links aren’t particularly important. In such cases, the maximum focus is made on the quality and optimization of content. However, if we're to speak about eCommerce or other niches where competition is high and all the players are actively working on creating good backlink profiles, it's almost impossible to get to the top search results without backlinks.

The only way to get your way into a highly competitive niche without backlinks is the large amount of brand traffic that can be obtained through global marketing campaigns. Such campaigns are meant to leverage the synergy of online and offline marketing. However, this would mean a very different budget than single players can afford. Still, I recommend using link building to market your business even under such conditions. It always makes for an extra bonus to drive ranking and an opportunity to maximize the effect from your efforts.

In practice, how do search engines treat backlinks nowadays? We know they say poor-quality links are not taken into account and encourage marketers to put effort into the website and content, not link building. But in reality, you can’t get enough organic traffic without backlinks.  What can you say about this?

Speaking of Google, it's now impossible to get penalties for backlinks, which is what many are very happy about. We see a resurgence of “backlink lists”, cheap rental backlinks, and so on. In fact, there is little sense in doing all this. Even if after a link-driven “explosion” in traffic a page manages to get the top, Google will crawl through everything and push it back in just a couple of weeks, while the money will have already been spent. Moreover, in such cases, even buying quality links to such pages won’t do any help. Google will keep them ranked low in its search results, so you’ll need to re-create a page and start all over again.

As we can see, backlinks still work on Google and still are an important ranking factor, but their importance diminishes year by year. Even high-quality links won’t yield positive results if you don’t optimize the content and technical elements of your website.

As for Yandex, indeed, there's every chance you'll be able to take over the top search results without using backlinks. But using them will make this process much faster and more efficient. Mind that you need to take extra care when trying to improve your website’s ranks in Yandex search, since “explosions” in traffic and buying backlinks without discretion may have adverse consequences for your website.

In today's SEO world, does one need more backlinks than before to get to the Top search results? What other factors can you name that, in your opinion, affect high rankings?

Not at all. It all depends on the referring website and the niche. It may happen that a single link from the right website brings your webpage to the TOP 1 place in search results, while sometimes even a dozen links won't be enough. 

Ranking factors:

  1. The quality of content
  2. Technical optimization of the website
  3. Competitive backlink profile
  4. Website usability

A visitor who lands on a website through search queries semantically related to your content should be able to get their questions answered in the most comprehensive way possible. Users shouldn’t have to go back to search results and leave the website for competitors.

In your experience, what types of content attract more organic links?

It’s complicated. The practice of sharing links outside of the social media is gradually dying out. In practice, there are only two ways to get natural backlinks. This may be either very cool and complex content (some analysis, research, description of certain processes) requiring a lot of resources and knowledge, or a hype topic for you to share before others so that news and aggregator websites copy it all from you.

What should one do if there are backlinks but the search ranks don’t get better and the amount of traffic doesn’t increase?

You need to dig deeper. There may be a lot of reasons, ranging from trivial technical errors (copies or poor metadata) to project or business as a whole losing to the competition in other marketing channels or in the quality of the product, service, or content they’re offering.

Do you work alone or with a team?  How many people do you need to successfully promote a website?

It all depends on the scale of the project and its goals. Some projects can be carried out by one person who would also maintain another 2-3 projects, while some other project would require more than a team of 5 people working full time.

Can you share your personal checklist for driving traffic growth and search rankings?

Let me highlight the following factors:

  • A competitive and user-friendly product.
  • A well-structured, properly functioning, responsive website.
  • All types of content pages having as many relevant keywords as possible without being spammy.
  • Technical optimization meeting the latest search engine requirements.
  • High page loading speed on both desktop and mobile types of devices.
  • A diverse, high-quality backlink profile.

Are backlinks only needed for ranking?  How important do you think they are for direct visits? Is it possible to get direct traffic by placing links on relevant websites?

As regards direct traffic, I kindly doubt that. As for referral traffic though, that's totally doable. If you submit a competent press release describing the benefits of a product or project, and place it in a prominent section of a website with a lot of real traffic and a relevant audience, you may get an influx of new users or customers on top of the inbound link.

Does the quality of the content matter? 

It all depends on your goals. If you’re buying relatively cheap backlinks on websites with a small amount of organic traffic, then you can save on content creation. The main thing is that the subject is relevant to the backlink, and the text is more or less useful to the user.

If you’re buying expensive backlinks from websites with good organic traffic, this means you can naturally attract more traffic to the referring page which in turn will make the backlink more valuable for your own website. Plus, such content may regularly bring you visits, if you map the subject and the content to the problem that your website helps solve.

How not to waste advertising budget when working with backlinks? How do you assess the potential for placing backlinks? What helps you understand which referring website will have a good effect on improving website ranking, and which won’t ? Is this some kind of instinct, experience or analytics insights? 

Of course, there are certain insights one can only gain through experience, but it’s still very important to monitor the performance indicators of the referring websites where you’re going to place backlinks.

I would suggest paying attention to the referring website’s traffic, the topics it covers, indexing and SEO metrics (each optimization service, including Ahrefs, Moz and Majestic, has its own indicators of backlink quality). When buying inbound links, one should run regular checks and see which referring websites had poorly indexed links and whether there was a noticeable increase in traffic. Next, create black/white lists. To do thisPsychology Articles, one should regularly scan the website’s rankings and keep an accurate backlog of the project.


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Maxim Kopylchenko, Web Project Marketing Promotion Team Lead,  Promodo Digital Marketing Agency.

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