There seems always to be a rush to crown some single strategy as “king” when it comes to anything in online marketing. Email marketing is king at least until Facebook marketing started showing some seriously positive results and then they were “king.” The same is especially true when it comes to search engine optimization. Anyone who is an old hand at SEO has heard these arguments take vicious turns as one side fights with another, but what works?

When it comes to search engine optimization after the massive Google shake-ups known as Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird, there are three main “areas” that are contending for being the most important factor or “king” when it comes to SEO.

These factors competing for the title of “King” are:
– Content
– Backlinks
– Context

The truth is that all three of these need to be executed correctly for any website in a competitive field, and each has basic rules or caveats that govern how to properly harness its power to get the best possible ranking results for your main website (or websites). SEO has advanced enough (with over 200 ranking factors and counting) that it’s safe to say no one thing is “king” when it comes to optimizing a website anymore – but these three factors are certainly among the most important to focus on when running a ranking or optimization campaign.

Is Content King?

“Content is king” is a saying that has been around the SEO world for years, and in many ways, it is still true. More than ever before, Google wants (and rewards) excellent content on websites. Having high-quality original content in related posts is seen as an exceptionally strong ranking signal to the major search engines.

Ranking with poor content is challenging while having good content will help speed up the process and make your website stand out from the competition. There’s no denying that decent content is more important than it has ever been.

So what makes content good?
– Original content
– Native level of language proficiency
– It is well-written
– It is authoritative
– The author is seen as a trustworthy source
– Longer content is better than shorter

Are Backlinks King?

Backlinks are perhaps the most controversial factor that affects overall search engine rankings. For a long time, backlinks were seen as being the single most important factor in ranking a website. For years people could just spam keyword anchored backlinks, and that was enough just by pure numbers to get a site to the top of the rankings. Even as spam filters for this type of manipulation became stronger, having quality backlinks and a large number of them was still the most important factor in getting positive attention from Bing, Yahoo, and Google.

Backlinks are still vital, and having a proper balance of links from related websites, or even just a few authority sites, is still one of the most dominant factors in getting to the top of page one on Google – especially with good content in place.

Why Is Context King?

Context is a relatively new concept from Google, but it is one of the most important. Backlinks are more powerful than ever, but that can go for punishing a website as well as rewarding it. Most backlinks are no longer useful. Outside of social media, which is essential for trust but does very little actually to build the rankings, you want backlinks from websites that are in the same field as yours or a closely related one. The context of where those links come from tells Google whether or not to give it a lot of weight and whether those links should count as a mark of trust and authority to your site – which is both nebulous ideas that are still important for modern SEO.

What Does It All Mean For Modern SEO?
Going with just one of these strategies is a surefire way to fall behind. However, the same is true with ignoring them, as well. Using all three of these strategies together in conjunction is how you can effectively execute SEO not only this year but for future updates to come.