Good SEO extends past Optimizing for just search engines. A better goal to focus on is a good web presence. High pagerank is one of the most important aspects of SEO and it is still important to consider strategies such as targeting keywords, but more and more it is important to focus on the user’s experience and encouraging people to share your content with other people. The biggest contributing factor to good SEO seems to be back links, and the best way to generate back links is to generate content that people want to link to.
When starting an SEO campaign the first step is to establish benchmarks that show the current state of a website. Tools like Moz’s Open Site Explorer and Google analytics can be applied to gather data such as:
- current traffic load
- how people are coming to the site
- bounce rates
- current adwords campaign (if any)
- comparison of current site against competitors (Moz)
- an analysis of the important keywords related to the business of the website
- the impact of social media on a website
The information gathered in the preceding step is crucial to the rest of the SEO campaign. Not only does it allow you to see how Google (and other search engines) view a site, it also allows you to get a better understanding about your target audience (what lead them to the website, where they are visiting from, what pages are most important to them, what pages are being ignored, what search terms are being used to find the website, etc).
It is important to make sure that the information that already exists on the web is correct and up to date. This requires the SEOer to find as many references to the business already on the internet as possible (ideally all of them) and making sure that all information (address, phone number, website, etc.) is correct. Conflicting information will lead to confused customers, and confused customers will move on to a competitor.
I have been stressing the importance of focusing on the audience, but it’s important not to forget search engine crawlers. Important elements to consider for crawlers:
- Keywords (It is important that keywords are not used just for the sake of using keywords, they should always be used in meaningful way)
- Site structure should be as simple as possible.
- Internal navigation should be clear and easy to understand. All pages pages that you want a search engine to consider should be easily accessible through site navigation.
Backlinks are the most important topic in SEO. First, one of the best ways to earn a higher pagerank is by being linked to from a website that already has a high pagerank. This shows search engines that websites that have already been deemed as important think that you are important. Second, if you are being linked to by a site with a high pagerank it is likely that page is being viewed by many users. In essence this is good SEO without the search engine keeping in mind that SEO can be thought of as web presence. Earning backlinks can be approached in different ways:
Listing sites: There are many websites that are devoted to listing businesses that have some common thread (East Austin businesses, advertising agencies, real estate companies in Texas, etc). As part of an SEO campaign SEOers should attempt to find such listing sites and have their website added to them. Part of this process may include researching the listing sites themselves, and focusing on those site with the higher pagerank first. Many listing sites are free, but some discretion is advised. As the old saying goes, “You are known by the company you keep.” If you attract too many links from sites that Google finds unsavory it could negatively affect your own pagerank. Other listing sites may charge to have your site listed. If you intend to pay for listings it is important to research the websites you are considering so that you can focus on the sites that are going to give you the best results.
Other backlinks: Other sources for backlinks take a little more work than just submitting your business to a linking website. These sources include articles, blogs, and other backlinks that are contained within meaningful content. These sorts of backlinks depend more upon human relationships. The best way to attract these sorts of links is by providing good services or products, getting involved in activities, and creating content that make other people want to link to your site. Way to generate backlinks include:
New meaningful content (If you post it, they will come. Well, the more QUALITY content you post the more people will want to share that content. Plus, Google tends to recrawl sites that change frequently more often than those that don’t.)
Word of mouth (Anything that people are talking about will eventually make it’s way to the web)
Get involved (maybe social action isn’t appropriate for whatever business you are helping with their SEO, but any involvement in the community should generate some sort of buzz. You might find your way into a news article.)
Infographics (People love a good infographics. If you can create an infographic that people really like you could go viral).
You can’t discuss SEO without discussing keywords. Keywords will always be an important part of SEO practices, but the way you approach them has changed over time.
In response to keyword density Google has said that there is no exact formula to the “right” amount of keywords being used. Matt Cutts from Google has suggested that you write content with the keywords you want to focus on in a natural way. He suggests that you write your content and then allow someone else to read it, then ask them if any of it sounds unnatural or like there are obvious keywords being targeted.
Tools such as Moz’s Keyword Analysis can help to determine the level competition for any given word or phrase. Of course it is important to target the obvious keywords, especially in the first phase of an SEO campaign. But it may be beneficial to target slightly less relevant keywords or phrases that have less competition. If 50% of users search for your category of business using keyword X, but X is a fiercely competitive keyword you may find it hard to make your way to the top by targeting that word. But, if Y accounts for 25% of searches and Z accounts for the other 25% associated with your category of business you may find it easier to achieve high ranking in association with these keyword and possibly make up for your low ranking with X.
Another topic of interest for SEO is social media. It is questionable as to how much a strong social media presence directly influences a websites pagerank, although it’s safe to say that search engines don’t ignore social media altogether. The real value of social media optimization (SMO) is more apparent when you think of SEO in terms of web presence. Obviously the more buzz being stirred up about a business on social media the more attention that business will attract in general. If the goal of SEO is to increase traffic to a businesses website SMO must be acknowledge for the role it plays in achieving that goal. On top of that, if you can get enough people talking about your business, chances are people are linking to your site and that does affect pagerank. (It is also worth noting that Google Plus is a social network that Google runs. It seems silly to say that Google doesn’t take it’s own social network into account, at least to some degree, when calculating pagerank.)
In conclusion, the most important focus of an SEO campaign should be the audience, which will influence search engines to bring you a larger audience. Un-managed, this positive feedback loop will only go so far. Once the first phase of an SEO campaign is complete it is important to engage in SEO maintenance. This should include many of the same steps as the initial phase. SEO is not an exact science so it’s important to watch how the adjustments affect traffic. Assuming there is an increase in traffic you now have larger audience to analyse, which can be used to guide the next phase of an SEO campaign.
Topics to research: Different SEO strategies for different types of businesses, Adwords
From Adwords study curriculum: “PageRank is the measure of the importance of a page based on the incoming links from other pages. In simple terms, each link from site A to a page on site B adds to site B’s PageRank.”