Manipulating organic rankings on Google has become much harder in the last 10 years. And, I’m glad it did. It used to be that all you had to do to rank #1 on Google was to put a bunch of keywords at the bottom of your pages and in your meta keywords tag. As people figure out ways to game the system, Google figures out ways to avoid falling in these traps. And again, I’m glad they do, because otherwise Google’s results wouldn’t be relevant. Now, let’s be realistic: black-hat techniques do work. But for a short period of time. I have a lot of websites myself that I use for experiments, but I’d never do anything risky for any of my clients or my main websites. You have to know when it makes sense to use black-hat techniques, when to use white-hat techniques and when to be somewhere in the middle. My advice for 99.9% of you is: provide exceptional value to your users and Google will reward you for that. You’ll get a lot of organic links, social shares and Google +1s, which are crucial things you need to rank #1 on Google. The Most Important Question You Should Ask Yourself You know you’re doing things right when you can answer “yes” to this question, “if someone at Google saw this, would they think it’s a good thing?” Do all your SEO with that question in mind. Google +1 and Social Signals In 2011 Google used tweets as a ranking factor, meaning that if you had a lot of tweets pointing to a page on your site, that was helping you rank better. Now tweets and Facebook likes/shares don’t seem to have a direct impact on rankings but they do help you a lot with your rankings. This is because when people share your content, more people see it and more people link to it. In addition to this, I strongly believe that social shares will be playing a major role in SEO rankings in the future. Another huge thing is getting +1s. Google launched their +1 button in 2011. You can see it on Google SERPs and on websites where people install the button: So, what should you do about this? Install social sharing buttons on your website (I highly recommend ShareThis). Promote your content on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus. Make sure you have a lot of Twitter followers, Facebook friends/fans, LinkedIn connections and Google Plus circles so a lot of people share your content. You can do Facebook ads to get fans. You can strategically follow the right people on Twitter to get a lot of followers. Growing your circles on Google Plus is very easy. Just make sure you’re actually building connections and not just adding people for the sake of having more followers. Also, keep in mind that people love free stuff, so giveaways and contests are great ways to get more followers. Make sure your content is amazing! Nobody likes sharing low-quality content. Link Building Here are some link building tips for 2012: Don’t keyword-stuff your anchor texts. Make sure that at least 70% of your links’ anchor texts are “click here”, “learn more”, “www. yoursite.com”, “your company make”, “check this out”, etc. This makes your links look much more natural. Direct 70% of your links to your home page and 30% of your links to internal pages. Quality is much more important than quantity. Do great PR and hire great writers so you get editorial links from influential websites. Panda Update Here are a few tips to make sure your content ranks well: Decrease the ad-to-content ratio as much as possible. Create useful, unique content that adds value to the web. Don’t just say what everyone else is saying using different words. There are many ways to create great content. Here are a few examples: this website created a list of the best Internet marketing posts of 2011. It’s not unique content but it’s extremely useful. Rand Fishkin created Whiteboard Fridays over at SEOmoz blog, which is a unique way to present information in a world where everyone blogs but very few people use whiteboards to get their points across. Design matters. Having a professional website makes all the difference. This is mostly because people tend to share content from beautiful websites much more than content from ugly ones. Questions? What questions do you have about doing SEO in 2012? I’ll be happy to answer them for you.