SEO Mindset Reminder #9

2 x 70% > 1 x 100%

I have to admit, this is my favorite mindset reminder. It involves both math and humor, two of my favorite things — the others are, um, well, nevermind.

About 70% of what it takes to rank is easy. It’s just three factors: title tag, link text and PageRank. The rest of those (supposedly) 200 factors account for the minority of ranking impact, not the majority. If you get really good at the three factors that make the most difference, you can ignore the multitude of factors that contribute much less.

Hence the reminder: twice as good at 70% beats 100%.

We know the three biggest factors do work. Work these as smart and as hard as you can, and you will outwork the parts that we don’t know and matter much less.

That’s one of the reasons “the algorithm” no longer matters as much as it once did. Rather than being highly skilled in the nuance of ranking, top positioning today is more about how hard you work. It’s Mr. Busy that wins, not Mr. Smarty.

Which leads to a corollary for our rule: twice as good at 30% is less than 70%.

This is another reason Mr Smarty loses. There is no money in studying SEO to the point you can figure out what all 200 factors are (if there actually are that many) because no matter how precisely you can measure and control that 30%, you still have to work the 70% that matters most.

Work the parts you know and work them harder than your competition. That’s the secret of ranking. It’s dead simple. It’s just hard work.


  1. This perfectionist needs to remember that 70% equation! Thanks Leslie!

    What would you say are the ‘main’ things that influence PageRank that we should focus on?

  2. Refreshing post – no magic, no special seo tools just hard work!

  3. Beat to its bare essentials the rules of PageRank number just two.
    (1) Pages create PageRank, so the more pages you have, the more total PageRank you have to push around; and
    (2) Links concentrate and distribute PageRank, but they do not create it or destroy it.

    To create more total PageRank requires getting good at generating content, and this is what Dan Thies and I teach in our Link Liberation and Endless Content series in The SEO BrainTrust (we’ll be promoting a Link Liberation special this week as it happens).

    To conserve and concentrate PageRank where it will make you the most money, follow the strategies and tactics in my (free) ebook Dynamic Linking

    Of course, the 70% solution applies to both of these rules as well — don’t obsess over the content and don’t be a perfectionist about link structure. Do both of them moderately well but in big volume.

  4. Michelle – PageRank is affected by two primary things: 1) adding more pages to your site 2) diverting PageRank from other pages (including your own internal pages) via links

    To your point Leslie, I’m not the most technical of SEO’s, but I’ve learned by trying and failing. Looking for profitable, less competitive markets helps too, especially when starting a new site. After that it’s just elbow grease.

  5. Speaking of learning from my mistakes, I spent the past few months adding content and links on my WordPress blog (, thinking I could simply add a WP compatible ecommerce plugin. Unfortunately it didn’t workout so I decided to use the Volusion shopping cart. By this time I’d earned a page 2 ranking for my money keywords. My plan was to really push my site to page one after my shopping cart was set up.

    I was freaking out because I knew I had to point my domain name from my current host to Volusion. I just didn’t know if the ranking and links I built would stick. I asked people on Google Webmaster Forums, Webmaster World, and a few other forums and never got a straight answer. Eventually I just did it… and thankfully my rankings stuck. Now I have a proper ecommerce site on page 2 of Google. A final link building push should get me right where I want.

    It’s a bloody mess, but I continue to learn simply by doing.

  6. Thanks for breaking down PageRank to bare bones Leslie. I appreciate getting to the heart of the matter and knowing what I can do to make the biggest impact.

    Thanks again!

    PS The links in your reply didn’t work but I found them other ways. 🙂

  7. Trevor Bayliss says:

    What would anyone suggest with regards to the “Tag cloud” that comes with WordPress. To me it would seem that it is classic bruising which is sending PR away from the page thanks to the 15 links in the tag cloud. Or maybe it is good onsite linking? Which one is right? Thanks

  8. Trevor Bayliss says:

    What do you suggest Leslie? I see you have a tag cloud on this site but you maybe hiding the links from the search engine via php so it is impossible to know. Thanks!

  9. Trevor Bayliss says:

    Hi someone be kind enough to answer this please- are tag clouds good for google or not Thank You

  10. Trevor Bayliss says:

    Matt Cutts says don’t use them.
    Thanks for the answers guys 🙂
    Flashbacks of when I used to be an seobraintrust member wait forever for a reply 🙂

  11. Hi Leslie,

    loved the bonus video on the stick from the conference in London. This particular rule almost seems like an extension to Pareto’s law.

    80/20 means we can identify effective activities etc. But by working twice as hard on the (in this case 70%) it actually does some weird mathematical economical formula and ends up at 110%.

    PS Yes I know you told me to kick the webname, but I thought I’d hang onto it for kicks. But im moving my marketing to a new domain.


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