With all the changes to Google many Internet gurus have predicted the end of SEO. Well, it's not the end per se, but rather a change from the way we used to market online. The reason Google is making these changes (also known as Penguin and Panda) is to help with authentic search. For years, many of us struggled to battle the black hat Internet marketing people who always seemed to find a way to push their project up in the ranking by using tricks to game the system in their favor. Now this time has passed. It doesn't mean that these marketing people aren't still up to their dirty tricks, but it does mean that the playing field has been leveled and it's becoming harder and harder to "rig" Google in your favor.
Why does this matter to you? Because you want to know how to prevent your site from getting hit by a Google update. If it does it could mean that you rarely, if ever, come up high in search results. Or, you could be banished to page 54 on a Google search and I can almost guarantee you, few people will ever dig through search results past page three. If you're that far back you'll never get noticed or, for that matter, get traffic.
Keywords Still Matter
The things that haven't changed with Google are keywords and backlinks. Both of these are still important though Google is becoming more intuitive, so if you're searching for keywords you may also want to search on a variety of terms for one keyword. As an example, the term "mobile phone" is also cell phone, iPhone, Droid, etc. Google is using a much more human touch to searches and they know that users don't always pop the exact keywords into a Google search. They'll pop in the keywords they are accustomed to using. When you're creating your keyword list, it's not a bad idea to expand the list to include this user terminology.
Content, Content, Content
The next piece of this new SEO world is content. You hear it all the time -- in fact some may think that this piece of website optimization has been a bit belabored. We know that we need to create helpful, unique, insightful content but more often than not, we just don't know how. Or we create a few posts and think, "This is great!" then the idea well runs dry.
Let's face it, when you have to generate content it's often not an easy process. Additionally, we all have other things to do like run a business, write the next book, or just have a life. The payoff however, is huge. Consider this: you wouldn't want to share anything that wasn't helpful, right? Why would you expect your readers to be any different? So incentivize your readers by offering them content they can't wait to share. This will really help to beef up the backlinks to your website. Here are a few ideas to help you generate content:
- Ubersuggest.org: This site is great. Just plug in your keyword and it'll come up with all sorts of topics you can write about. When I plugged in book and marketing, I got about fifty new ideas for article titles, blog topics, or tweets. Often we just need the idea to spark us and this site will really help you do that. Additionally, the whole concept behind Ubersuggest is to give you insight into searches so if you're writing blog posts that key into things that are getting high searches, you'll end up increasing your traffic dramatically. When you see the topic suggestion on Ubersuggest, you don't have to copy it verbatim but you should have the keywords in the title of your blog post and use them (sparingly)throughout the post, too.
- Google Alerts: Perhaps an oldie but goodie. Keep track of trends in your market and write about them. For example when Google Alerts popped up an alert about Penny Marshall's book only selling 7,000 copies (she was paid an advance of $800,000), I decided to write about it.
- Twitter: Here's a great tool I have used to generate content ideas. Go to Twitter's search bar and type in "how" + your keyword, or question and keyword, or why and your keyword. Any of these terms will generate a list of tweets that may help spark some ideas.
- FAQ's: If you get any kind of reader or client feedback, listen to what they are asking. This is a great way to generate ideas that will matter to your end-user. Client feedback, questions asked at the end of a presentation, or emails you get from buyers or potential buyers offer great insights into what their needs are and what you should consider writing about.
Social Media as a Defense Against Google Updates
Another great way to prevent your site from getting hit with a Google update is by pushing your content on social networks. This is a great place to build natural backlinks to your website and "social search" is getting to be a big topic these days. Google tracks links shared on Facebook, Twitter and others. So, in order to gain the benefits from these links be sure and push your marketing to the two top social media sites, meaning Twitter and Facebook. Next, you'll want to be sure and tie your blog into these accounts so that each time you update your blog, you'll be sharing this via social media.
The next piece is the elephant in the room, namely Google+. Though it's seen most of its users from the technology sector, I've seen numerous articles that cite that a solid presence on Google+ helps with search so keep that page updated. Generally I'll get on there once a day on my personal page; our company page is updated more frequently. Also adding a +1 to your website is getting to be a pretty big deal. Having someone +1 your post or blog entry can help increase its visibility in search.
Ideally the traffic to your site should come from both Google searches and social media, though a good balance would be an equal 50/50 split between the two. While getting search traffic is great, you don't want that to be your sole traffic generator. In an age of Google updates (a la Penguin and Panda) you want to reduce your dependence on search-only traffic. Don't believe me? When Google did their Panda update some sites, like quotes and song lyrics sites, lost 94 percent of their traffic because they were solely dependent on search traffic for their exposure.
SEO Tips for your Website
Finally, there are a few things you can do to your site to help beef up the searchability.
- Title tags are always a great bet and often overlooked. Considering they carry some key SEO value, it's amazing how often title tags are forgotten. Title tags tell search engines what your site is about. I recommend using keywords here or relevant phrases. Not sure where your title tags are? If you're looking at a website, it's the top line, above the search bar. That's where title tags come in. Most websites say "home" or something which isn't helpful at all when it comes to search. Also, each page on your site should have a different title tag that represents that page. Title tags should be kept to 66 characters or less. To separate out multiple key word phrases, use a "-" dash.
- Though I always encourage people to use keywords on their site, keep in mind that Google is now really cracking down on things like keyword-stuffing (where a keyword or phrase is used over and over again to rig ranking). So write for your user, not for Google.
- Duplicate content: It's always been frowned upon, but now it can kill your search ranking, too. What this means is that you'll want to avoid duplicating content on your website, meaning using an About You page in different places, or replicating blog posts on other pages of your site, reusing content from a press release that's elsewhere on your website, etc.
- Anchor text: When linking to other internal pages on your website, use anchor text (keywords) instead of just "Click here" or something like that, it'll help you get more keyword buzz.
- When linking into your site, try to not always link to the home page. It's helpful to link to internal pages on your website. For example, when you're linking to blog posts, or items in your media room, etc. you should use internal pages. When you link to these internal pages, try hyperlinking using keywords; again this is called anchor text because you're essentially anchoring your URL via keywords and sending folks back to your website.
- Images on your blog: These days we rarely put up a blog post without images. Just be sure that you name the image using keywords.
- Images on your website: Each of the images on your website should be named. This is called Alt text. Using terms like 00006YT.jpg which is often how images are named by your computer (just a string of random numbers) will not help you in search. If you're not sure if the images on your site have Alt text call it up in Firefox or Chrome. Right click over the image and go to "Inspect Element" generally if there's ALT text it will say ALT= and this indicates ALT text. If you don't have it, make sure to take note of all images on your website and ask your web designer to add these.
It's a new age of SEO and what Google is doing is a really good thing. We all want to be able to find the things we need in search. The rules have changed, and knowing how to play by them will get you a site that's not only ranking, but is Panda and Penguin-proof.