THE BLOG

The Changing Face of Search Engine Optimization

08/21/2013 08:49 am ET | Updated Oct 21, 2013
  • Don Dodds Managing Partner and Chief Strategist, M16 Marketing
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The changing world of SEO presents a constant challenge to Internet marketers, but one that they cannot afford to ignore. With a multitude of different tactics out there for driving traffic to a website, it can be hard to decide which ones are worthwhile and which ones simply take too much time to offer a satisfactory return on investment. Another fact which cannot be forgotten is that there are countless dubious SEO tactics which must be avoided or your entire Internet marketing campaign can end up suffering in the longer term. Even more confusing to newbies in the world of SEO is the fact that many methods, some of which worked well for many years, no longer work, and in some cases, can actually end up having the opposite effect than what you intended.

The following guide takes a look into the various areas of search engine optimization and compares some of the methods which may once have carried some weight to the ones that you should be employing now.

1 - Targeted Keywords

Keyword usage has long been one of the most integral parts of on-page optimization. It has also been one of the most abused. Until fairly recently, the done thing was to target specific keywords based primarily on the number of search queries that they received per month. Today, the way to do it is to diversify your keywords and target a wider range of them. Long-tail keywords are also much more valuable than those consisting of one or two words, because they are more suitable for targeting exactly the right sort of traffic and there is less competition to deal with.

2 - Keyword Density

Not so long ago, many people would harp on about the importance of keyword density. Today, however, keyword density is a complete myth and it is even questionable as to whether or not it ever carried any weight with the search engines anyway. In reality, paying too much attention to keyword density tends to leave content looking repetitive and spam-like. While some usage of keywords certainly won't do any harm, thinking that you have to use them a minimum number of times in a body of text is not productive.

3 - User Experience

There was a time when websites were often designed primarily for the search engines with user experience being given only a second thought. Additionally, there was minimal focus on users of mobile devices and the search engines did not place any emphasis on the importance of performance either. Nowadays, a site which stands up in terms of performance and usability is one which does better in the search engines. Responsive Web design and quick loading times are just two of the main factors that make a website succeed.

4 - Website Content

Content is king, and up to a point, the more content you have on the Web, the better. However, thin content is worthless and will not help your business in the longer term no matter how much of it you have. This is why, in recent years, most of the article directories and content mills have been severely penalized by the search engines. Today, writing for people is the key to success rather than publishing mass-produced rubbish all over the Web. Content should be engaging, original and targeted towards human readers lest it join the piles of spam in the last pages of the search results.

5 - Content Diversity

Until a few years ago, the search engines only paid attention to text content. Nowadays, however, they are rather more sophisticated. Where webmasters once placed almost all of their focus on text content, today content is much more diverse. The Internet is just as much about things like streaming video, presentations, infographics and pictures as it is about the written word. Today, webmasters need to be prepared to diversify their content and take advantage of the full range of mediums. This will make both your visitors and the search engines happier.

6 - Outsourcing Work

If you are busy running an online business, then you probably don't have much free time for things like content writing, Web design and search engine marketing. Most likely, you will outsource a lot of your work. Though there is nothing wrong with outsourcing, paying next to nothing to hire teams of writers and programmers who may not even communicate well in your native language is no longer a satisfactory way to build your online empire. If outsourcing work, you should be prepared to pay more to get work done to a professional standard by people who know what they are doing.

7 - Anchor Text

Anchor text refers to the visible text accompanying a hyperlink. Anchor text used to be an important element of on-page optimization. However, with the launch of the latest Google Penguin update in 2013, sites containing anchor text with exact-match keywords have started to suffer. Instead, it is important to diversify both your links and the keyword used in your anchor text. Both internal and external linking are still important, but be sure that the anchor text fits in naturally with the content and is useful to your readers.

8 - Link Building

The number of links leading back to your website from elsewhere on the Internet once had a major influence on how your own site ranked in the search engines. Because of this, and even though it was always against Google's webmaster guidelines, some people would even buy links. Today, however, the emphasis is not on how many links you have, but where they appear. Your backlinks should appear on relevant websites which are also an authority on their niche. By contrast, having backlinks on poor quality sites, such as article directories, will hurt your business.

9 - Content Submissions

As mentioned previously, having your content and links appearing on low quality sites will do absolutely nothing for your credibility in the longer term. In recent years, most SEO experts have called into question the usefulness of online resources such as article and press release directories. Automated submissions of low quality content to low quality directories was once a popular link building and content marketing tactic. Nowadays, it is one of the most efficient ways to waste time and effort. Instead, try guest posting on quality blogs and other respected websites.

10 - Social Commenting

Although still used by some clueless search engine marketers, automated software once provided a popular way to post comments in places such as online forums, blogs and Facebook groups. This was, is and always will be spam regardless of whether or not it once improved search engine rankings. Instead, you should be spending your time connecting with other people by manually posting on blogs, forums and social networks when you have something constructive to say. Building real relationships is the way to earn respect and give your business a human face.