Nine Ways to be a Competitive SEO

by rishil on September 21, 2011

This post has been inspired and adapted from one of my favourite non-SEO bloggers, James Altucher. He recently wrote: 9 Ways to break all the rules.

As an SEO, regardless to the fact we proscribe or prescribe the definition, our jobs are to get our content high up enough in SERPs to attract searchers into our sites. Simply put, it’s the art of making something findable. However, in order to do that, we need to try and follow a set of rules; rules that have been set for us by search engines to get that content up there.  Of course, these rules are different for different people, but don’t let that stop you.

Sometimes rules are meant to be broken. Some need to be tested and bent to withhold the test of time and their stability. I mean, if everyone followed the rules to letter “T”, would probably mean that not everyone will rank, after all, there is only one No. 1 spot and only 10 spots on the first page of the SERPs (I am ignoring all the other stuff like images, maps, etc excuse the exclusion).

Part of being a good SEO is to understand what these rules are, but part of being a GREAT SEO is to know how far you can stretch these rules, how to cleverly interpret them, and when you can break them.

A few of these are going to be shocking, a few outrageous. And maybe a few not even worth doing, but worth knowing about. Most of this happens, but the “clean” world of competitive SEO doesn’t talk about it.  Others are simple, well thought out risks that you should probably try.

I don’t endorse, nor condemn any.

rules in SEO

rules in SEO

===> Do the opposite.

On any given day, there are hundreds of theories on what the right strategy is. Some from leading SEO sites, others from Google themselves.

Don’t follow blindly – sometimes try the opposite of what is being suggested, just to see what happens.  Google Suggest can’t be manipulated by anything else than search volume, right?

Try something that is totally out of sync with what the leading theories are saying. You may just find something new.

===> Surprise

Surprise yourself, surprise your colleagues, surprise your clients. Are your normal reports about keywords that the site ranks for? Why not suddenly submit a set of keywords that you DON’T rank for? (but could).

Is the strategy to look at volume of links? Instead, why don’t you suggest something totally different?

Like mining the top 5000 long tail keywords in the niche, and then proposing to dedicate budget to developing content around each? That’s how Demand became one of the most powerful companies in the content space right?

===> Change one thing

So you have gone hard and fast acquiring exact anchors. Ever thought of shifting tract for a little while to target long tails instead? What are the effects?  

Reputation Issue? Instead of trying to outrank a site with your own content, find other content that matches the query. Buy and build links to it.

You can’t get your site penalised for buying links to someone else’s site right?

===> Steal

Take the top 50 results for your target keyword. Grab all their content.  Give it to an editor / copy writer to rewrite it to work seamlessly.  What do you have there? Probably the longest, best researched, well written  piece of content on that subject. Thats Content Spinning on a majestic level.

Don’t start from scratch.

What are your competitors highest value backlinks? Buy that site. Remove those links and replace over time with yours. Learn destructive SEO.

===> Combine

SEO does not work in silo. It a marketing discipline that should be treated like one. Combine your strategy with another.

For example, does your business end out marketing emails? Why not try link opportunity mining there? Send out one email to the whole database to ask customers to submit their own sites for an “award”.  Mine these to select which are ideal for grabbing links. Build a True Value Link Network.

Or combine two clients’ link building strategies.  Is one a Car insurance client, while the other Lawyer? What about a series of articles that have a bent on legal issues around Car Insurance? Get that out to the press. Two clients, one subject, good links.

===> Question Everything

The worst SEO in my opinion is one that follows Google guidelines blindly.

They are nothing but a financial organisation, despite whatever they say. They often dont follow their own rules. Nor do they have the best track record of honesty.  Question everything.

Why is Google Plus so important? Why do they want to give you free analytics? Why did they buy a bunch of verticals? Why are they suggesting you put more ads on your site? Why are paid links bad?

As James says in his article:

There’s always a “good reason” and the “real reason”


Self explanatory.  If I need to explain this any further, then you haven’t read the post right so far.

===> Honesty

Contradiction or what? On one hand I am asking you to steal, the other asking you to be honest?

Honesty is the only one thing that sets you apart from any other SEO company.

Be Honest to your clients. If you are going to try something risky, tell them what and why.  Don’t screw them over – your own business will end quick enough if you do.

Don’t make up answers, if you DON’T know why the site tanked, then say so. Be 100% honest to your clients.  And dont suggest anything that could be potentially illegal.

They will respect you for it. If they don’t, maybe they aren’t the right client for you. You would be surprised what clients let you risk if only you explain it to them.

===> Persistence

Keep testing. Keep bending the rules. Keep trying. Keep developing new theories. Don’t give up. Keep going.

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Rishi Lakhani is an independent Online Marketing Consultant specialising in SEO, PPC, Affiliate Marketing and Social Media. Explicitly.Me is his Blog. Google Profile

{ 3 trackbacks }

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September 27, 2011 at 9:05 am
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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Moosa Hemani September 21, 2011 at 11:49 am

Great Article Rishi… from the 1st advice till end it seems like you are throwing tasks to the fellow SEOs and your fans about testing new theories… you article is a motivation to me and I am sure for most of the people who feel themselves in the state of learning at the moment!

There’s always a “good reason” and the “real reason”

Very true! And Google is sort of a company where what they say and what they do can be different (at least at times…)


Sean² September 21, 2011 at 12:00 pm

“Part of being a good SEO is to understand what these rules are, but part of being a GREAT SEO is to know how far you can stretch these rules, how to cleverly interpret them, and when you can break them.”

Mate this is gold. Another awesome post :-)


Jeremy Anderson September 21, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Love the creativity and chutzpah of the ideas!

And humour of the post – think that this has made my day :)


Alan Charnock September 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Dont re-invent the wheel, article spinning and rewriting content works 99% of the time, although you may fall lucky with the odd piece of well thought out, fresh unique content. Break the mold.


Gianluca September 21, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Great post Rishi (as always)… just to give more credit to your words… just think to all the real geniuses that meant something: Einstein, Mozart, Freud, Galileo… (even the same Steve Jobs, if you think well), they all are remembered because of things they have discovered/invented going against the book and not following the established rules.
Great reminder to the honesty factor… that is hugely important.


Eric September 21, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Love the article and the bad*ss attitude. One should work with google and/or despite them but not for them. Lots of golden nuggets here, thanks.


Minchala September 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Summary – A effective SEO is a smart marketer & business person. I think the point about stealing made here is truly only (ethically) applicable when the risk is 100% yours but many SEOs have a client service delivery mechanism that relies on a lot of trust and shared risk. So i can’t get totally behind stealing in that context. Having said that, folks should consider trying this stuff on their own sites anyway :-)

Regarding trusting and following Google, a healthy skepticism is absolutely necessary – I very much agree. I did a case study on why their data may actually mislead you into doing piss poor keyword research/selection. Would love your thoughts:

Good read, sir.


Salvatore September 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Great advice and well written. I love your notions and challenges and it’s great advice for someone that is looking for new opportunities, learning new strategies, or that just wants to buck the trend and see what happens. SEO is what works today. It’s always evolving and changing and most of the changes come from people following this advice and trying new things, not listening to can’ts and don’ts, and likes to research the data to see what conclusions can be drawn from it.


Seogold September 27, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Nice, especially popular are “Steal” tactics)


Andy October 2, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Excellent post but the idea of stealing content and rewriting it: totally underhand but sooooo tempting ;)


Craig Voros October 2, 2011 at 4:45 pm

I wasn’t sure if you were kidding about the “stealing” idea – Rewrite ALL the content on 50 sites?!? That could take years…


Andy October 2, 2011 at 7:04 pm

@Craig I think a more realistic approach would be to take the top ranking content that has links, rewrite it then start touting for links.


CMSBuffet October 5, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Great post.
i especially loved the There’s always a “good reason” and the “real reason”

i would not try all, but you gave me some good ideas


Palwasha October 12, 2011 at 6:06 am

This article let me to think out of box. person should know all ways of his route same for seo.


Arnold October 19, 2011 at 11:38 am

Honestly, this is a really amazing article. I loved the part where you said “Theres always a good reason”. You gave me some brilliant ideas, thank you for that.

Best regards,


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