The Continual Evolution of SEO

The ‘Keyword Not Provided’ incident is another example of Google making ranking in organic listings HARDER – a change for ‘users’ that seems to have the most impact on ‘marketers’ outside of Google’s ecosystem – yes – search engine optimisers.

Now, consultants need to be page-centric (abstract, I know), instead of just keyword centric when optimising a web page for Google. There are now plenty of third party tools that help when researching keywords but most of us miss the kind of keyword intelligence we used to have access to.

Proper keyword research is important because getting a site to the top of Google eventually comes down to your text content on a page and keywords in external & internal links. Altogether, Google uses these signals to determine where you rank if you rank at all.

There’s no magic bullet, to this.

At any one time, your site is probably feeling the influence of some algorithmic filter (for example, Google Panda or Google Penguin) designed to keep spam sites under control and deliver relevant, high-quality results to human visitors.

One filter may be kicking in keeping a page down in the SERPs while another filter is pushing another page up. You might have poor content but excellent incoming links, or vice versa. You might have very good content, but a very poor technical organisation of it.

Try and identify the reasons Google doesn’t ‘rate’ a particular page higher than the competition – the answer is usually on the page or in backlinks pointing to the page.

  • Do you have too few quality inbound links?
  • Do you have too many low quality backlinks?
  • Does your page lack descriptive keyword rich text?
  • Are you keyword stuffing your text?
  • Do you link out to unrelated sites?
  • Do you have too many advertisements above the fold?
  • Do you have affiliate links on every page of your site, and text found on other websites?
  • Do you have broken links and missing images on the page?

Whatever they are, identify issues and fix them.

Get on the wrong side of Google and your site might well be selected for MANUAL review – so optimise your site as if, one day, you will get that website review from a Google Web Spam reviewer.

The key to a successful campaign, I think, is persuading Google that your page is most relevant to any given search query. You do this by good unique keyword rich text content and getting “quality” links to that page.

The latter is far easier to say these days than actually do!

Next time you are developing a page, consider what looks spammy to you is probably spammy to Google. Ask yourself which pages on your site are really necessary. Which links are necessary? Which pages on the site are emphasised in the site architecture? Which pages would you ignore?

You can help a site along in any number of ways (including making sure your page titles and meta tags are unique) but be careful. Obvious evidence of ‘rank modifying’ is dangerous.

I prefer simple SEO techniques and ones that can be measured in some way. I have never just wanted to rank for competitive terms; I have always wanted to understand at least some of the reasons why a page ranked for these key phrases. I try to create a good user experience for humans AND search engines. If you make high-quality text content relevant and suitable for both these audiences, you’ll more than likely find success in organic listings and you might not ever need to get into the technical side of things, like redirects and search engine friendly URLs.

To beat the competition in an industry where it’s difficult to attract quality links, you have to get more “technical” sometimes – and in some industries – you’ve traditionally needed to be 100% black hat to even get in the top 100 results of competitive, transactional searches.

There are no hard and fast rules to long term ranking success, other than developing quality websites with quality content and quality links pointing to it. The less domain authority you have, the more text you’re going to need. The aim is to build a satisfying website and build real authority!

You need to mix it up and learn from experience. Make mistakes and learn from them by observation. I’ve found getting penalised is a very good way to learn what not to do.

Remember there are exceptions to nearly every rule, and in an ever fluctuating landscape, and you probably have little chance determining exactly why you rank in search engines these days. I’ve been doing it for over 15 years and every day I’m trying to better understand Google, to learn more and learn from others’ experiences.

It’s important not to obsess about granular ranking specifics that have little return on your investment unless you really have the time to do so! THERE IS USUALLY SOMETHING MORE VALUABLE TO SPEND THAT TIME ON.

That’s usually either good backlinks or great content.

Fundamentals

The fundamentals of successful optimisation while refined have not changed much over the years – although Google does seem a LOT better than it was at rewarding pages with some reputation signals and satisfying content / usability.

Google isn’t lying about rewarding legitimate effort – despite what some claim. If they were, I would be a black hat full time. So would everybody else trying to rank in Google.

The majority of small to medium businesses do not need advanced strategies because their direct competition has not employed these tactics either.

I took a medium sized business to the top of Google recently for very competitive terms doing nothing but ensuring page titles were optimised, the home page text was re-written, one or two earned links from trusted sites.

This site was a couple of years old, a clean record in Google, and a couple of organic links already from trusted sites.

This domain had the authority and capability to rank for some valuable terms, and all we had to do was to make a few changes on the site, improve the depth and focus of website content, monitor keyword performance and tweak page titles.

There was a little duplicate content needing sorting out and a bit of canonicalisation of thin content to resolve, but none of the measures I implemented I’d call advanced.

A lot of businesses can get more converting visitors from Google simply by following basic principles and best practices:

  1. Always making sure that every page in the site links out to at least one other page in the site
  2. Link to your important pages often
  3. Link not only from your navigation, but from keyword rich text links in text content – keep this natural and for visitors
  4. Try to keep each page element and content unique as possible
  5. Build a site for visitors to get visitors and you just might convert some to actual sales too
  6. Create keyword considered content on the site people will link to
  7. Watch which sites you link to and from what pages, but do link out!
  8. Go and find some places on relatively trusted sites to try and get some anchor text rich inbound links
  9. Monitor trends, check stats
  10. Minimise duplicate or thin content
  11. Bend a rule or two without breaking them and you’ll probably be ok

Once this is complete it’s time to … add more, and better content to your site and tell more people about it, if you want more Google love.

OK, so you might have to implement the odd 301, but again, it’s hardly advanced.

I’ve seen simple SEO marketing techniques working for years.

You are better off doing simple stuff better and faster than worrying about some of the more ‘advanced’ techniques you read on some blogs I think – it’s more productive, cost effective for businesses and safer, for most.

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