No one wants their webpage to be stuck on page 15 of a Google search, especially when 75% of internet users will never go past the first page of their search. If you want your content to be found by the right audience, you need to do something to boost your search rankings. There are tips and tricks that can help you reach the first page of Google, even if you’re a new business with a very small following. Backlinking, plugged keywords, and certain formatting and image choices call all help move you up the search until you reach the first page. But should you really worry about that while creating your content?

In recent years, Google has taken steps to stop black hat SEO, a form of SEO that attempts to cheat the algorithm and boost your search rankings. You can be penalized for creating spam in attempts to build links for your website, using clickbait titles or links, or keyword stuffing. The thing is, when you attempt to cheat Google’s algorithms, you also usually end up cheating your target audience, as well. Stuffing your content with forced keyword insertions and buying embedded ads for audiences to accidentally click will leave them frustrated and uninterested in what you have to offer.

But that still leaves you with that page 15 problem. So, what should you do?

Focus on Good Content First, Then Worry About Search Rankings

With all of the advances and tricks that have presented themselves in the world of SEO, the best SEO strategy is still high-quality content. When creating content, you should be focused on how useful this could be to your audience. It should be helpful, engaging, and creative, not something they can already find fifty times throughout the internet. And if you create content with your audience in mind, good SEO boosts like keywords may organically occur. Just focus on writing the content, and you can add some natural SEO trims on for the finishing touches.

Build Links in a Legitimate, Organic Way

Google is cracking down on spam as well as businesses who buy links. Don’t bother with the black hat tactics. Instead, try to build links in a legitimate way, with established sources. You may not be able to build editorial links right away, but you can write a guest post for a relevant blog or leave comments on moderated blogs or forums. Answering questions or hosting an AMA can all help you to create backlinks to your content in a way that’s not questionable or spammy at all, but in fact engages the audience’s interest and provides them with helpful information.

Find Your Audience

Rather than throwing links out into the dark and hoping something sticks, know who your audience is and know how to reach them. Find the forums and social media platforms they’re most likely to frequent and engage in conversation. This doesn’t mean start sending out your pitch with a link to your webpage to anyone who uses a particular hashtag, but rather to take part in the conversation and form connections. When the connection is organic and the audience is the right audience for your business, you can easily share links to your content and they’ll probably be interested. They may even share it themselves.

Playing Google’s algorithm to boost your search rankings may move you higher up the search, but ultimately, it’s a lot of effort that will lead to few useful leads. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t use good SEO practices to attempt to boost your search rankings–it’s vital that you do. But your SEO should always be shaped around your content, not your content shaped around your SEO.

This is a guest post by Josh Elkin, founder of Best Coast Marketing, a marketing agency that helps increase our clients’ traffic through organic link building. Josh enjoys writing about entrepreneurship, marketing, productivity and self-improvement.

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