If you know some of the history of Google, you will know that it developed off the back of a PhD project at Stanford. When you write a PhD paper (typically you write four papers, but I am sure this varies a lot) or a Masters thesis you need to cite your references. A reference is when you say “Mr Smith says the best semi-conductor is the FPG2000, and here is the scientific paper/journal where he says that” and you write in the bottom of the page (footnote), or end of your paper (bibliography/references/citations) where you got that information from.
[Sidenote: Use the Chicago referencing system, it’s the easiest to do, and best reading experience – and don’t let some silly lecturer tell you otherwise!]
Your supervisor can then go look that up and see if what you are saying is true, or that it’s just a lot of malarky. If they’re any good in their field, you’d think that they’d go “Oh, Mr Smith, yeah he knows his stuff, I am sure that is about right” and you impress your supervisor and they carry on reading with that in their mind.
SEO is not really that different. In fact, I am pretty sure SEO relies on these self same types of referencing/citing other sources on the web precisely because it was how things were done academically – that is just a guess…. a hunch I will never bother to explore, because it’s just so convincing and simple, so I don’t feel like finding out I am wrong.
When your website, or a page on your website talks about “the best way to tile a roof with solar panels” and on it you link externally to other websites, and webpages that are expressly about that concept you are giving Google (the birthed in academia search engine, remember) an indication that you are citing your site (nice play on words, hey) with authoritative sources, proving that you know what you are talking about.
So, when clients ask me: what are the main ranking factors I always tell them a long story, with the summarised version being:
Backlinks from high-quality websites
Now that you’ve read this far, the context is a little clearer, and you want good quality content – content that talks about a subject in a way that it is convincing that you know what you are writing on, and that links out to authorities on the subject matter.
Additionally, and ideally, you not only link out to these sources, but even better (and this is SEO gold) they link back to you. To do that is a mission, a nightmare, and tonnes of work that often pays zero dividends, so if your journey into that proves fruitless, then do the best you can, and link out to those sources as a bare minimum. Google will thank you, your site visitors will thank you, those end sources will thank you, and I will personally thank you for making the internet a better place to use.
I try and get every client to write amazing content, and truly hope that the internet diminishes in quantity, and grows in quality. There are far too many (like 95% of the web) websites out there with just utter rubbish, and for every 1,000 webpages about one topic, there is one webpage that does it right and it should stay while the rest get deprecated.
The problem: if you’re like 80% of my clients, it’s a big cost, a lot of time, and it’s very hard to want to be motivated for long-term results. Most people want instant gratification, and need more revenue, traffic, (insert whatever) today! It’s the curse of our age. However, if you want to partner with me, and be in an incredible place SEO wise in a year, and an even better place in two years, then do the hard work up front and cement your place on the internet as an authority by producing world-class content, and doing it properly.
A nice benefit? If you do that, you will find that people may just cite you (link back to you) and provide those “SEO gold” backlinks you have dreamed about.