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Over the last three years, Google’s seemingly constant search quality updates have succeeded in scaring many SEOs away from using unethical tactics. From poor on-site content to low quality link building, the tactics targeted by Google have gone from ubiquitous (particularly in seedy niches) to extremely undesirable for Search Engine Optimization.

Unfortunately, Google’s updates have had a side effect: scaring many responsible SEOs enough to have them avoid engaging in any type of link building. The result, particularly for the current generation of brand-conscious SEOs, is a generation of websites with no foundation due to limited link building and on-site optimization.

The reality is that despite Google’s aggressive efforts to target black hat SEOs, the same SEO tactics that build the greatest websites of yesteryear remain effective in the post-Penguin era. If you’re struggling to build a strong search presence, try one of these three simple strategies for building a strong SEO foundation.

Develop simple keyword themes

Over the course of 2011 and 2012, Google released a series of updates targeted at websites that abused on-site optimization. The key on-site tactic targeted by these updates was overused keyword inclusion – in simple terms, too many keywords in too little content.

The result of these updates has been a swing at the opposite fence: too few keyword inclusions in far too much content. While it’s never wise to overuse keywords, using your target keyword prominently in page titles, subheadings, and body content is a proven SEO technique that, provided you don’t go overboard, will not hurt you.

Create ‘pillar’ articles and tools

Architects don’t plan their skyscrapers to be dependent on bricks and plaster. At the base of every tall building is a solid foundation, with pillars that rise up and form the structure of the building.

This plan should form the basis of your website. At the bottom, build a foundation of niche-relevant content that’s targeted to your core keywords. Then, build ‘pillars’ to support your website by writing groundbreaking content that attracts natural links.

Pillar articles can be ‘top ten’ lists, iconic pieces of content, or even videos. The best websites on the Internet aren’t consistent in their page popularity – some pages will have a higher PageRank than others. Pillar content gives your website the natural look of a true SEO leader, as well as forming a PageRank foundation for your SEO efforts.

Build high-value inbound links

It sounds silly saying this in 2013 – a year that’s been marked by SEO paranoia – but, at the end of the day, it’s links that will cause you to rank. Without high-value links, a fantastic, ultra-relevant website with brilliant content still won’t be visible.

While Google’s webmaster guidelines expressly forbid buying links or automatically generating inbound links, going out of your way to acquire high-value links is not an unethical SEO technique.

From email outreach to wining and dining the world’s top bloggers, generating high-value links organically is the best way to build a strong PageRank foundation to help your website rank prominently in organic search.

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