Google Advises SEOs: “Stick to the Basics” [2021 Update]

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Two years ago, we wrote a post about Gary Illyes—Google’s “Chief of Sunshine and Happiness”, as he calls himself—and his advice to SEOs. In an AMA on Reddit, he warned that most SEOs focus on the wrong things. Rather than thinking about the big picture, they’re worried about the latest trick, the buzziest buzzword, the secret sauce that they think will catapult them to the top of Google. Illyes’ suggestion?

Stick to the basics.

At the time, this was music to our ears. It affirmed everything we were doing for our clients, and it proved that our approach works. Let’s look at what Gary’s advice means for us today, and whether the “basics” have changed in 2021.

What Are the Basics of SEO?

SEO consists of two elements:

  1. On-page SEO
  2. Off-page SEO

On-page SEO is all the stuff that goes into the writing, design, and layout of a Web page. It includes content, headers, keyword frequency, and internal links, among others.

Off-page SEO is all the technical bits. Site architecture, title tags, URLs, backlinks—it’s what goes on in the background of your website to make it easier to crawl and navigate.

So what are the basics then?

For off-page SEO, Gary was clear:


There’s so much jargon in blogosphere. Gary’s advice is: forget it. Forget the “silly updates and made-up terms by the rank trackers”. Forget trying to game the system. All you need to do is simple: make your website crawlable.

Google’s also been clear about on-page SEO: If you create better, fuller content, you will rank better. Is content the only thing they look at? No, they consider several factors—such as bounce rate and click-through rate—when evaluating a page’s quality.

But focusing on those metrics—rather than the content you put out—is like putting the cart before the horse. You have no direct control over how long visitors stay on your site and what they click on. But you do have control over your content.

Instead of focusing on performance metrics, focus on the content you create. Put out better, fuller content and those metrics will naturally improve in tandem. Simple as that.

Have the Basics of SEO Changed in 2021?

The basics of SEO haven’t changed. When looking to the future of SEO, it’s important to remember that Google is always trying to give the highest rankings to the pages that offer the most comprehensive, reliable information. Their most-recent algorithm updates only confirm that fact. As Google’s engine evolves, it will keep narrowing the gap between what searchers want and what they offer.

Ultimately, the more you stick to the basics, the better prepared you’ll be for any shifts or algorithm updated. Produce good content, and make that damn site crawlable.

Key Takeaways:

  • Stick to the basics—they’re as important now as they were in 2019
  • Create quality web pages that fully answer user’s search queries
  • Improve crawlability by updating site architecture, title tags, etc.

Need More SEO Magic? Turn to LinkNow’s Web Wizards!

With over 10,000 clients, LinkNow Media is one of North America’s premier Web design and SEO firms. Since 2009, we’ve provided cost-effective marketing solutions that help businesses thrive.

For help with your marketing, give us a call at 1-888-667-7186, email us at, or drop us a comment below.


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