It seems like a lot of the materials for beginners that I’m finding out there are very stale, and do not necessarily apply to the web world in which we find ourselves in 2015.
Of course there are endless variations and details to much of these over-arching concepts, but this should be a good starter guide for anyone wanting to do some keyword or search engine optimization for a website. These four key concepts should help you tighten up your website optimization strategy and deployment.
1. A Good Keyword Strategy is Essential
Let’s take a look at a basic example from a recent project we just completed. The client was wanting to be at the top of the search engines for “real estate”, “homes for sale”, “homes for rent” and a few others. Now, while being at the top of search engines for the keywords “real estate” would indeed drive traffic to the site, there are several problems to consider.
First, there are probably tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people competing to get the top results on generic terms like “real estate” and “homes for sale”, so you will throw endless time and energy into this endeavor. But even worse, generic keywords tend to drive the wrong kind of traffic and generate the wrong kind of results for users.
For example, most of us would not search for “homes for sale”, unless we are already anticipating Google or another search engine accounting for our location and trying to cull the list to something more manageable. Most of us would search “Fort Collins homes for sale” or “colorado foreclosed homes for sale”. That’s because most search engine users are savvy enough to know they need to be specific to get what they want.
It’s the same for your keyword strategy. If what you really do is sell REO foreclosures in Salt Lake City, Utah, you will have an uphill climb to say the least, if your keyword strategy does not get that specific.
2. White Hat Only!
It’s important to take a moment here and make sure we realize how much power there is in a top search ranking. Depending on the topic and the players involved, millions or billions of dollars are at stake.
So it’s no mystery why many, many people try to “game” the system. One dishonest, but effective technique can generate HUGE numbers and lead to very happy clients. But make no mistake: Google, Bing, and all the other search engines have a lot of time and energy spent trying to identify and thwart these shady techniques.
Link farming or link spamming where a website suddenly shows up on hundreds or thousands of other websites can temporarily “fool” a search engine’s algorithm, but again, this type of behavior can catch up to you, and if your website is penalized by a search engine, it could cost you far more than you may have gained short-term from a shady practice.
These shady practices are collectively known as “black hat SEO” and will eventually lead to penalization. Try and use only “white hat SEO” techniques to ensure a more stable growth and maintenance of your search engine rankings.
So, what is white hat SEO, you ask?
“White hat” techniques focus more on creating a better experience for both search engines AND humans. If many related websites have links back to your site, Google will treat this with much higher regard than if 1000 quasi-related sites are linking back.
If you have 4 clear paragraphs on your page, each with an H1 title using valuable keywords, and paragraph text that uses keywords and synonyms of your keywords, in natural, flowing language, then two things happen:
First, Google regards this page as having more authority on those keywords, as you have constructed meaningful content.
Second, human visitors to that page will also have useful content, well-organized and titled, so that when targeted traffic gets to your new page, great things can happen.
3. Social Sharing “votes” gaining traction on traditional inbound links
Instead, we are going to talk about how the trend seems to be that search engines are de-emphasizing links from third party sites back to you, and placing more and more emphasis on signals from Social Media sources.
The “new” path to authority or perceived authority online, includes Facebook shares and likes, Twitter re-tweets referencing you or your site, Google + influences, as well as the old, reliable 3rd party links.
Please don’t think I’m saying that we are eliminating 3rd party link building as an important form of SEO. Until someone comes up with a better idea, external linkage will remain a very important signal to search engine ranking. But the days of web dominance through the exploits of 3rd party link farms and the like will soon come to an end, as it’s much harder to game Social Media systems (though not impossible) than it is to game the 2005 Google algorithm.
Better yet, find ways to engage the humans in your Social Media circle and grow your circles using PR Daily’s terrific list of tried and true social marketing basics. The point again being, if we built the web for humans and if we cultivate content for humans, much smarter search engines will reward our efforts if our social circles do.
4. You cannot “Set and Forget” when it comes to SEO
Unfortunately, SEO is a living breathing phenomenon. There are several reasons for this. First, search engines are always changing their algorithms to thwart black hat efforts, as well as generally trying to improve the logic of results. The previous evolution toward Social Media signals is the most recent obvious example. There are countless examples of unintended consequences when it comes to a search engine provider changing their strategy. Suddenly, historically popular websites disappear from results. Other websites show up unexpectedly.
More importantly, the websites are people! You and your competitors are researching, experimenting, and otherwise changing the search engine landscape independent of specific actions you might be taking. That’s why hobbyists tend to struggle a lot more than marketing firms when it comes to identifying and optimizing your web presence for the current competitive landscape. Without a finger on the pulse of your competitors, do you have a plan for assessing competitive landscape?
The web is changing. Every day. Your competitors are changing along with the web.
If you do a one and done SEO campaign, build your site, and then walk away and forget about it, your competitors will eventually figure out whatever successful process you used and match – or even beat – your effort. This happens all the time, and can lead to very frustrating, long-term poor search results.
The bottom line is that we all must be vigilant, monitoring our websites, monitoring our competition, and thinking first and foremost about the human users visiting our creations, while never ignoring the importance of search engine bots and how they may be evaluating your content as well.
Bill lives and plays in Fort Collins, Colorado.
After a fulfilling career for a Fortune 50 company, Bill founded Colorado Web Design in 2012 with a passion for creative digital solutions for business.
Bill likes to manage a wide variety of projects and tasks for his clients in the digital space. The creative elements of website design, application design, and marketing are enough to keep anyone busy and engaged, but wiping the slate clean over and over at the start of new projects comes with its own challenges.
"I like to start with really good client communication sessions. The rest is easy if you get started in the right way."
He plays tennis, bikes, and hikes and then undoes all of that with too much delicious food and TV watching.
We've been building websites for Colorado businesses since 2002. We are a small team of dedicated individuals who love the challenge of each new marketing project. We live and play in northern Colorado.