It’s hard to imagine a time before Google, a time when the internet was in its infancy, and most of our research was still done at the library.

Fast forward to today – most of the world sees “Google” and “The Internet” as synonyms for each other. You can’t have a functioning worldwide network of websites without a powerful tool to help sort through it all.

The artificial intelligence system behind Google’s search results is arguably one of the most advanced in the world. The process of manipulating those search results is called SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and it’s a thriving business for people who can do it effectively.

How SEO Works

The majority of people don’t even question why or how Google works, they just know they can type something into the search bar, and they’ll get an answer.

It’s Google’s job to show people the most relevant and authoritative source for the answer to their question. Put simply, SEO is the process of making your website the most authoritative and relevant source of information.

That all sounds great in theory, but how do you go about accomplishing that?

There always has to be someone who ranks #1 for a keyword, so the best way to do effective SEO is to reverse engineer what that #1 website did, and create a plan to do what they do, but better.

Why the Reverse Engineering Approach Works


Since each search results page is different, there isn’t one recipe that will work for all situations. Reverse engineering isn’t just the best way to create an effective SEO campaign; it is the only way to create an effective SEO campaign.

The fact is, Google shows you exactly what they want to see every time you do a search. They show you what websites they view as the best sources for that query, which gives you a list of website to analyze in order to compete.

At its core, two things need to be bolstered to effect change in SEO – a website’s relevance to a search term, and its overall authority. To find out exactly what to do, you reverse engineer your successful competitors.

Relevance

To reverse engineer a website’s relevance for a keyword, you look at their content. You look at how many pages the website has, what they are writing about and how they structure their pages.

Generally speaking, the more content a website has on a topic, the more relevant they are seen for that topic. If you want to rank for a keyword, the first step is to look at how many pages the #1 website has on a topic and plan on creating more.

It not just about creating more content, however, you also need to take note of how the content is organized and what supporting pages help bolster the main topic.

For example, if you want to rank for “Orlando dentist,” it’s not enough to write 100 pages about how great of a dentist you are. To establish relevance as a dentist, you have to have content on your website that supports the fact that you’re a dentist. This means you’re going to have to write supporting pages for things like teeth cleaning, dental procedures, tooth pain, etc. Having all of these pages on your site helps give Google confidence that you’re a dentist, and you’re knowledgeable about all the topics you would expect a dentist to be knowledgeable about. You’re not just telling Google you’re a dentist, you’re proving it.

Authority


Establishing relevance is easy, establishing authority, not so much. On the internet, the main way a website proves it is an authoritative source is by having other websites linking to it. When a website links to you, it’s seen as a vote of confidence. The more votes you have, the more of an authority on your topic you must be, and if those votes come from other authoritative sources, even better.

To reverse engineer authority, you have to look at all of the links pointing back to a website and how authoritative those links are. From there, you get a clear picture of how many links you have to build and how high of quality they have to be.

Quantity of links plays a role, but quality of links is more important. Think of link quality like social status. If you’re trying to get a job, you don’t give your potential employer a list of everyone you know as a reference; you give them a short list of important people who matter for the position you’re applying for. The same can be said for links. If you want to rank, the quality of links matters more than the quantity. It’s about getting votes from other authoritative websites in your niche. By doing this, you prove that you’re also an authority.

The process of building links is complicated and time-consuming. However, it’s a critical part of SEO that has been around since the beginning, and it isn’t going away any time soon.

Why You Should Reverse Engineer Your SEO

There are hundreds of thousands of known variables that make up Google’s main algorithm, but there are still variations to it for every single search term. If you’re not reverse engineering what’s working, all you’re doing is guessing.

Since so much of the Google algorithm is kept secret, the only way to figure out how to manipulate it is to look at the websites the algorithm likes. With this approach, you take the guesswork out of the equation and build an SEO campaign based on proven tactics to produce results.