Digital marketing is like playing the drums; everyone thinks they can do it.
Inevitably, the layman writes content stuffed to the brim with a target keyword and cannibalizes his/her own webpages by using the same five keywords across all of their webpages.
As infallible as we sometimes think we are, even the best of our industry can make some pretty hairbrained mistakes.
Sometimes the best way to move forward is to take a step back and go back to SEO basics.
As Google and Bing’s algorithms continue to evolve and incorporate new technologies for search, so do our strategies.
Between optimizing our content for voice search, desktop visitors, mobile swipers, and our social media followers, the task can feel impossible and overwhelming.
Breathe a little, you’re not alone.
As much as the medium may change, the same principles still remain in place and so too do the same basic errors.
Here are eight common SEO mistakes that even the experts still make.
1. Presenting a Poor Internal Link Structure
As your website balloons in size with all of your awesome content, you’re bound to encounter some pretty basic internal linking errors. This includes everything from producing mass duplicate content to 404 page errors cropping up.
Internal links provide five valuable functions for your website:
- Providing clear pathways to conversion pages.
- Spreading authority to webpages hidden deep on your site.
- Providing additional reading or interactive material for users to consume on your site.
- Organizing webpages categorically by keyword-optimized anchor text.
- Communicating your most important webpages to search engine crawlers.
Resubmitting an XML sitemap to search engines is a great way to open up crawl paths for search engines to unlinked webpages.
Along the same lines, it’s important to use your robots.txt file and noindex tag wisely so that you don’t accidentally block important webpages on your site or a client’s.
As a general rule of thumb, no webpage should be more than two clicks away from the homepage or a call-to-action landing page.
Reassess your website architecture using fresh keyword research to begin organizing webpages by topicality.
HubSpot provides a great guide for creating topic clusters on your website that arrange webpages by topic, using semantic keywords, and hierarchy to their shared thesis.
2. Creating Content for Content’s Sake
Best practices dictate that you should produce content consistently to increase your brand’s exposure and authority, as well as increase your website’s indexation rate.
But as your website grows to hundreds of pages or more, it becomes difficult to find unique keywords for each page and stick to a cohesive strategy.
Sometimes we fall for the fallacy that we must produce content just to have more of it. That’s simply untrue and leads to thin and useless content, which amounts to wasted resources.
Don’t write content without completing strategic keyword research beforehand.
Make sure the content is relevant to the target keyword and utilizes closely associated keywords in H2 tags and body paragraphs.
This will convey full context of your content to search engines and meet user intent on multiple levels.
Take the time to invest in long-form content that is actionable and evergreen. Remember, we are content marketers and SEO specialists, not journalists.
Optimized content can take months to reach page one results; make sure it remains relevant and unique to its industry when it does.
3. Not Investing in Link-Worthy Content
As we understand it, the quantity and quality of unique referring domains to a webpage is one of Google’s three most important ranking factors.
The best way to acquire links is naturally, leveraging stellar content that people just want to link to.
Instead of investing time in manual research and creating hundreds of guest posts a year, why not invest in a piece of content that can acquire all of those links in one day of writing?
Again, I bring up HubSpot, which provides a great example of this. Every year, they provide a list of industry statistics they scour from the internet, such as “The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics”, which serves as an invaluable resource for anyone in the digital marketing industry.
As previously stated, invest the time in crafting long-form content that adds value to the industry.
Here, you can experiment with different forms of content, whether it’s a resource page, infographic, interactive quiz, or evergreen guide.
Dedicate some of your manual outreach strategy to promote a piece of content published on your own website and not someone else’s.
4. Failing to Reach Customers with Your Content
Continuing this discussion, you need to have a strategy in place to actually get people to view your content.
I believe that much of the industry and many businesses don’t invest as many resources into content promotion as they do production.
Sure, you share your content over social media, but how much reach does it actually acquire without paid advertising?
Simply posting your latest article on your blog, social media channel, and e-newsletter limits its reach to a small percentage of your existing audience.
If you’re looking to acquire new leads for your business, then you’ll need to invest more resources into promotional tactics. Some strategies include.
While it’s rather chicken and egg, you need to promote content to get links to it. Only then can you begin to acquire more links organically.
5. Optimizing for the Wrong Keywords
So you invested the time in crafting a piece of long-form content, but it’s not driving large-scale traffic to your website.
Just as bad, your visitors have low time on page and are not converting.
More than likely, you’re optimizing for the wrong keywords.
While most of us understand the importance of long-tail keywords for informational queries, sometimes we run into some common mistakes:
- Failing to segment search volumes and competition by geography.
- Relying too much on high volume phrases that don’t convert.
- Focusing too many resources on broad keywords (external links, internal link anchor text, etc.).
- Ignoring click-through rates.
- Trying to insert awkward exact match phrases into content.
- Ignoring AdWords value.
- Allocating target keywords to irrelevant content.
- Choosing keywords irrelevant to your audience.
It’s important to actually research the search phrases that appear in top results for both national and local searches.
Talk to your customers to see what search phrases they use to describe different elements of your industry. From here, you can segment your keyword list to make it more relevant to your customers.
Use keyword tools like Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush’s keyword generator for relevant keyword ideas.
Don’t forget to optimize for informational and commercial search queries.
6. Not Consulting Paid Media
As the industry currently stands, SEO focuses on acquiring and nurturing leads, while paid media focuses on acquiring and converting leads.
But what if we broke down those silos to create a cohesive message that targeted the buyer at every step of the journey?
As an SEO provider, do you even know what your client’s advertising message is or the keywords they use? Are you promoting the same products/service pages with the same keywords as the paid media department?
There is a lot of insight that SEO consultants can learn from PPC keyword research and landing page performances that can aid them in their own campaign.
Beyond this, Facebook and Twitter’s advertising platform offer robust audience analysis tools that SEO consultants can use to better understand their client’s customers.
By focusing on a unified message and sharing in each other’s research, SEO consultants can discover keywords that convert the highest and drive the most clicks in the search results.
7. Forgetting About Local
Google’s Pigeon update completely opened up an entirely new field of local SEO.
Between local directory reviews, customizing a Google My Business page, and the local three-pack, local SEO is highly targeted and high converting.
Consider some of the statistics:
- 50 percent of searches over a mobile device result in an in-store visit that day.
- Half of local, mobile searches are for local business information.
- Anywhere between 80-90 percent of people read an online review before making a purchase.
- 85 percent of people trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.
It’s important to segment your keyword research for both local and national intent.
If you provide local services, be sure to create content that reflects local intent, such as including city names next to target keywords and in the body of content.
While most of us focus on growing business at the national scale, the importance of local SEO should not be ignored.
8. Not Regularly Auditing Your Own Website
One of the biggest mistakes we all make is not continuing to optimize our own site and fix mistakes that crop up over time.
A site audit is especially important after a site migration or implementation of any new tools or plugins.
Common technical mistakes that occur over time include:
- Duplicate content.
- Broken links.
- Unoptimized meta tags.
Duplicate content can occur for a number of reasons, whether through pagination or session IDs.
Resolve any URL parameter errors or duplicate content from your cookies by inserting canonicals on source webpages. This allows all signals from duplicate pages to point back to the source page.
Broken links are inevitable as you move content around your site, so it’s important to insert 301 redirects to a relevant webpage on any content you remove. Be sure to resolve 302 redirects, as these only serve as a temporary redirect.
Auditing your website is paramount for mobile search. Simply having a responsive web design or AMP is not enough.
Be sure to minify your CSS and JS on your mobile design, as well as shrink images, to provide a fast and responsive design.
Finally, one part of the audit that is often overlooked is reevaluating your onsite content strategy. Most industries are dynamic, meaning that new innovations crop up and certain services become obsolete overtime.
Remodel your website to reflect any new product offerings you have. Create content around that topic to showcase its importance to your hierarchy to both search engines and users.
Continually refresh your keyword research and audience research to find new opportunities to scale and stay relevant.
Everyone is susceptible to mistakes in their craft and one of the best ways to rectify them is to consult the best practices.
My best bit of advice: Keep your mind nimble and always take a step back here and there to evaluate whether you are doing the best to scale your or a client’s business.
Is paying for AdWords worth it? Well, yes and no.
To someone unfamiliar with pay-per-click (PPC), opening the Google AdWords dashboard might look like a seven-headed monster that no entrepreneur can slay. I saw this time and time again during my time at Google. It’s a big reason why my co-founder and I decided to start AdHawk in the first place.
AdWords is complicated and can be overwhelming, which means there is a lot of misinformation floating out there and plenty of myths that call for some debunking.
We at Adhawk have had thousands of conversations with clients and potential clients about these myths, so I’m going to put the most common ones to rest today. Let’s get debunkin’.
Myth No. 1: The top ad position is always the best.
It’s automatically assumed that the first results are going to give you the most return for your money, but that’s not necessarily true.
A study by Hallam Digital found that while the top position drove the most clicks, the second and third positions drove three to four times more conversions, respectively. They conclude that providing useful information, optimizing your landing page, adding extensions, using relevant copy and improving your overall quality score should always be a higher priority than anything else.
They further suggest that the second and third results receive more high-quality clicks because the first position draws in a mass audience, many of whom are not qualified to drive that coveted conversion.
If your ad is not in the first position and you’re still driving conversions, budgeting correctly and turning a profit, then so be it. This brings me to the next myth.
Myth No. 2: Every business needs to double down on PPC advertising.
PPC is more effective for some businesses more than others, but what it really boils down to is budgeting. Brett Farmiloebreaks it down into these three easy formulas:
- (Revenue / Sales Period) / Average Sale = Number of Customers
- Number of Customers / Conversion Rate = Number of Leads
- Number of Leads / Conversion Rate on Traffic = Amount of Traffic
What this means is that if the price to acquire a customer is greater than the customer’s lifetime value, PPC is not worth it for you.
This might be the case for low-traffic and high-competition industries, where PPC advertising may cut margins and not scale.
Myth No. 3: You don’t need PPC if you have high-ranking organic content.
Organic strategies like SEO, social and email go hand in hand with PPC strategies. If you have the bandwidth and resources to execute, do all of them.
Building organic traffic is a great strategy that will pay off in the long run. That being said, managing and updating your SEO efforts after every Google algorithm update can start to feel like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. The advantage of PPC advertising is how quickly it can be spun up to scale your business, and the relative stability it brings to the table.
The numbers speak for themselves. Paid search results drive 1.5 times more clicks than organic traffic, primarily because paid spots drive traffic to customized landing pages. Organic content is a great way to generate an audience, but if you want a predictable and direct method of acquiring customers or driving conversions, PPC is the way to go.
If you already have high-ranking content, you can double-rank on Google by creating paid ads for the same keywords your organic content ranks for. That’s double the real estate and double the chances for conversions.Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?
Myth No. 4: Google is far superior to Bing.
For the record, no search engine is going to beat out Google in the near future. But Bing is in second place in terms of market share and it’s starting to gain significant traction.
Bing has its shortcomings (like less-advanced ad options), but it provides options that Google doesn’t, like being able to share budgets among all your campaigns.
Bing’s future is entertained by the fact that more than 50% of all search queries are now done through mobile. With Bing powering AOL, Yahoo, Amazon and Siri, things are looking bright.
This means Bing has a different user base than Google, which can provide a profitable opportunity to reach a new audience. For Search Engine Watch, driving conversions on Bing proved to be 63.23% cheaper than on Google.
The next time you hear one of these myths, share your newfound myth-busting knowledge with a friend, or tweet at me @AdHawk.
Having an online presence in the present digital world is very important for any business. This is because the internet is currently considered as one of the reliable sources of income for businesses, individuals and organizations across the world. SEO is actually an aspect of business that is quite popular since brands are working harder to get ranked higher by search engine. It is therefore crucial to understand what exactly is involved so as to boost the ranking of your business in search engine listings.
The following 8 points will help you get a better understanding about SEO and how it can help you to promote your business brand.
1. SEO is not an expense, but an investment
There is a common misconception that SEO is an expense that needs a huge chunk of money to get started. This is however not the case. Provided you stick by search engine rules and do the right thing, you will be realized that SEO is not that expensive. Nevertheless, the returns on investing in SEO are so encouraging that you need to think about SEO as an expense.
In short, SEO means delivering the best quality content to your target audience using the right keywords that are searched frequently among several other digital marketing strategies.
SEO helps in creating brand awareness through enhanced brand presence and visibility as your website gets ranked better by search engines. In this case, more traffic is experienced when your website appears on the top three spots of the first page, which can be converted into loyal customers in the long run. This way, you will be able to make more sales. The long term returns from investing in SEO is much greater than the onetime expense incurred in getting your business website search engine optimized.
2. The keywords you choose make a huge difference: prioritize long-tail keywords
In order to achieve success in your SEO endeavors, choice of keywords is one of the most crucial considerations to make. Apart from using single words as keywords, it is now advisable to use three to four keyword phrases that are specific to whatever you are talking about.
Using these long-tail keywords will guarantee faster and more access by the target audience to your brand based on the exact value you provide to them. many brands are now keen on personalizing their search engine experience using these types of keywords. A good example is where one brand uses a keyword phrase like “New York Doctor” and another uses “New York Orthopedic Surgeon”; in the phrases, the second phrase tends to be more specific and for that reason can guarantee generation of more quality leads unlike the first one which puts the doctor in direct competition with other doctors in the area.
Learn more on how to build your business through content marketing and how to improve your content marketing strategy to always stay ahead of your competition.
3. On-site optimization: so that the website receives acceptance from both viewers and Google
Onsite optimization is not quite known by many people. However it is quite essential as it ensures a specific websites achieves acceptance by both viewers and search engines.
In order to achieve this, right keywords, website pages’ tags and key phrases need to be considered. These are necessary for search engines like Google to determine how to rank various websites. According to the 2015 Business Buyer’s Guide to SEO, a majority of business leads come from internet sources; referral traffic, direct advertising or online searches. In the case of online searches, search engines need to know the subject matter of your website for it to be recognized using the various web pages finding the topics covered and keywords used.
4. Social media is an essential part of any SEO campaign
Many business brands today are taking advantage of various social media platforms to promote their content. Such platforms as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are commonly use to create a profile for brands.
It is crucial to consider using such platforms to boost online presence and promoting the content on your website. This way, you will not only be able to boost access to your brand products and services from your target audience, but also will boost search engine rankings. Use of a social media channel that is relevant or appropriate in your industry or niche will boost your business a great deal.
5. Fresh content is important: Content is the King
Long are gone days when quality of web content never mattered. Today, it is practically impossible to move your website to the top of search engine results without considering the quality of content published and the keywords used. Search engine algorithms are now smarter than before and you have to stick by the demands to get a better ranking. The quality of content is today considered as the ultimate and most crucial driving factor for top search engine listing.
You need to offer compelling content that even other websites will want to link with which also boosts further the performance of your website.
6. Off-site optimization: getting external links from other quality sites is key
This is basically the opposite of on-site SEO whereby you work on boosting search engine ranking by use of external methods. The more your website is considered as being “most authoritative” or “most important” the better it gets ranked.
The secret to achieving this is by enhancing the quality of content shared and keywords used. This way, other websites in the same industry or niche will tend to link to your website thus qualifying your site as an authoritative site. The more the links you get to your website, the higher it will get ranked by Google.
7. PPC has no effect on SEO
Many businesses are today inclined on to pay-per-click advertising because it is considered as one of the crucial parts of online marketing campaigns. However, this strategy has no direct effect on SEO listings! This is simply because SEO is concerned more by organic search results rather than the paid advertisements.
PPC is however worth the consideration especially during the launch of a website to attract more visitors to a website but not influencing search engines for better ranking.
8. Be aware of not indulging in black hat SEO
Due to a stiff competition in any industry, several businesses turn to various illegal techniques trying to get better search engine rankings. Though such techniques worked previously to some, it is no longer the case since search engine algorithms have become smarter over time. Using the techniques today amounts to breaking of Google’s rules of achieving top organic ranking.
You need to keep off from such techniques as;
· Using invisible texts
· Keyword stuffing
· Creating fake pages with the aim to get more back links
· Page swapping and
· Using doorway pages
Despite the fact that some websites used these illegal techniques some years ago, today, Google can easily get your website banned from organic ranking and this will be detrimental to your digital marketing campaign. Some people may boast of achieving higher ranking using the same techniques but the truth remains that the disadvantages of black hat SEO are too harsh you don’t wish to be associated with.
Any decision you make regarding SEO is crucial in determining the success or failure of your business. Employing the right techniques will enable you to achieve top rankings and enjoy the various advantages that come with it. Modern SEO is characterized by top quality content, quality back links and personalized long tail keyword phrases that are not spammed. This way, search engines are likely to find your content easily and ranking it higher than your competitors.
SEO is a complex topic that sounds simple, so let’s clarify what it means before we get into the meat of the issue. SEO stands for search engine optimization. Search engine optimization refers to how search engines determine which links are shown first to users.
This determination centers around certain factors in the case of the results stemming from an organic search (non-paid). That’s not all. The benefits and profitability of SEO are even increasing with respect to mobile platforms. SEO refers to the set of factors that determine the search ranking of your landing page and other links in relation to many factors.
Framing the issue is important before getting into the question of why SEO is so important in the first place. Most people intuitively understand that the higher their site’s landing page shows at the top of a search engine’s results page, the more traffic they will receive. In reality, the influence that search engines have over the results you see and the frequency at which search engines are used may surprise you.
The fact of the matter is that search engines generally dictate what gets shown and what doesn’t get shown. Nowadays, search engines appear to have taken on a referencing role based on website relevance in addition to a simple search function. Interestingly, search sites like Google act as both gateways and gatekeepers to the rest of the Internet.
Google controls seven out of every ten searches. Because of this, Google is a gateway that most people use to find other sites that they need. On the other hand, Google is also a gatekeeper based on how it organizes and ranks the links of various websites.
This article will go over five ranking factors used by Google to shed insight into the details of that ranking process. In other words, by reviewing the features of the gatekeeping process, we can implement more robust and effective SEO measures.
1. Provide Useful Content
The more accurate, helpful, and reputable your content is, the better SEO results you’ll get. Simple, right? In theory, good content leads to higher rankings. The problem here is that machines are sorting through and making judgments on what’s good or bad. So you’re really trying to hit a number of things that mimic or approximate good content in your SEO quest. Making small, impactful, and targeted changes is key to creating the type of content attractive to search engines.
2. Write Suitable and Attractive Anchor Text
What’s anchor text? It’s basically the blue underlined stuff that you click on when you browse the Internet that takes you to another related site. Essentially, the HTML code specifies a section of text and associates it with a link to create the hyperlink that we are all familiar with.
So how do you add a bit of flair to your anchor text beyond its depressingly default color of blue? Moz gives a number of suggestions, but in general you just want to want your anchor texts to be pithy, unique, simple, and relevant to the linked page.
Backlines are exactly what they sound like, but like all important SEO features on your site there are both good and excellent ways to use backlinks. The concept behind a backlink is incredibly simple. It refers to the sites that link to your site, or any other site. Let’s say the Wall Street Journal made a link to your website. That’s a backlink.
There’s a number of key things to do when considering backlink quality. These tips relate to making your backlinks more useful to site visitors. You can accomplish this by evaluating a site’s link relevancy through a number of factors like content and online tools. Focusing on real websites, or websites that experience a lot of traffic along with using authority sites will also boost your rankings.
4. Make Your Site Easier to Navigate
This one’s pretty easy to grasp too. Just don’t fill your site up with a much of unnecessary clutter. Clean simplicity is one of the reasons that Google was so successful as a search engine in its earlier stages. You want your site to get to the point. You want to capture your users and have them understand the purpose of your site within seconds. Finally, you’ll need to arrange buttons and widgets around a theme or style that appeals to the visitors for maximum ranking results.
Even Google itself thinks organization and navigation clarity are important in its SEO guide. It emphasizes things like the relationship between clean navigation and search engines and makes suggestions like planning your site around your homepage in order to make visitor browsing more convenient.
5. Consider RankBrain’s Algorithms
The significance of technology appears to have subtly increased to a great degree over the years. Google’s RankBrain is an example of an algorithm has been making waves on the issue of search traffic and rankings.
So how does Google do it? The larger category of technology is called artificial intelligence, coding computer to perform tasks that only humans normally handle. But with the arrival of a type of artificial learning called machine learning, RankBrain has certain elements that are capable of rewriting their own software to get better at ranking the most relevant sites.
The real impact of RankBrain manifests in its ability to interpret human meaning (in searches) to an extent: “RankBrain is designed to better understand the meaning behind the words a person uses and types into his or her search engine because 15% of queries per day had never been seen by Google” (Broadbent, 2017).
With the powerful machine learning technologies guiding SEO and the calculations behind the rankings of site relevance, focusing and studying up on the latest SEO trends across popular platforms has never been more important.
Pay-per-click advertising is just one aspect of the wide range of digital marketing tools available to you, but—in the right hands—it can certainly be one of the most powerful. Unfortunately, PPC marketing can also be one of the most expensive, especially if you make costly mistakes that impact your return on investment.
Because PPC is such a powerful tool, many want to jump right in and reap the benefits right away. Google makes starting an AdWords account super easy, which might lead users to believe that creating campaigns will be easy, too. Before you attempt pay-per-click advertising, there are a few things you should know.
The Bidding Process
Ensuring that your company shows up in Google searches requires knowledge of search engine optimization. Remember: your competitors already have AdWords accounts and have been bidding on the keywords associated with your business. If you want to beat them in the bidding war, you have to be thorough. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying top dollar for some keywords when others could bring similar results at a much lower price.
First, consider any trademarked words and phrases, as well as any other terms you’ve branded. You’re less likely to experience competition for these terms, but you’ll only receive traffic from searchers who are already familiar with your brand.
Next, consider industry-related terms. These are the words and phrases that you’ll compete the most for, so be creative. Long-tail searches are less likely to be bid on by competitors, and they’re also more likely to bring you buyers who are ready to convert. For instance, if you sell shoes, and someone searches for “red patent leather pumps,” that buyer already knows exactly what she’s looking for and probably has her credit card at the ready for when she finds what she needs.
Finally, bid on competitor keywords. This is where you’re likely to find some customers who weren’t already familiar with your brand, and then you can win them over with your unique selling proposition. This is a trickier process, so wait until you’re more familiar with PPC before you attempt it.
You can set your PPC ads apart from competitors with this tool, which is just an easy-to-add extension for Google AdWords. This is a cost-efficient way to clarify and narrow down your ads for anyone who’s searching for the products you sell.
Let’s take a look at the red shoes search from earlier. A query through Google for “women’s red shoes” brings back two ads. The first, from ModCloth, shows four additional links at the bottom, giving the searcher the chance to further refine the search.
This is Sitelinks at work.
A/B Test Your Campaigns
Not even the most seasoned PPC marketing experts can predict exactly what will catch a buyer’s eye. What works with one campaign could achieve dismal results with the next. This is because buyers’ needs change, and so do the trends.
To always get the best possible results, create two versions of your campaign. They should be identical except for one piece, such as the headline. Run those two ads at the same time for two weeks, and then examine which had better results. If headline B worked better, then use that headline and then change something else, such as the image used or the copy in the body of the ad.
You’ll never achieve perfections because, as we said earlier, buyers’ needs are always changing. What you can do is ensure that you’re always presenting the best possible option at that time to your buyers.
“So what actually is SEO?”
“How do you get started in SEO?”
As the owner of a Search Engine Optimization company, I get asked these questions everyday, and the answer is always changing! Search Engines make algorithm changes constantly and at Guardian Owl Digital we help our clients experience ROI from, keep up with, and understand how changes impact their business. From the above Pie Chart by Moz, you can see just how much goes into actually optimizing a website for online visibility.
So how do you get started? I always advise trying to accomplish these 7 tips first. If you can accomplish all 7, GREAT! You saved yourself around $600 of work and can let the experts take over!
In most cases, clients don’t have the time or expertise to even get the fundamentals in place because they are running their own business! That’s why were here:)
In addition to managing SEO and consulting for our clients, we provide additional services like Paid Ad’s on Google & social networks, Google Analytics data mining, link building and strategy, and content recommendations. All of these services are needed to help our clients gain visibility and continue to rank high on search engines!
If you got this far and your head is spinning, give us a shout! We can provide a free visibility report to help you get started! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 502-822-6695.
Get started learning all about SEO from the industry’s most trusted source, Search Engine Land. Review basics of search engine optimization, ranking factors & more.
All major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo have primary search results, where web pages and other content such as videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users. Payment isn’t involved, as it is with paid search ads.
VIDEO: SEO Explained
New to SEO? Start with this quick and easy to understand video about search engine optimization. It’ll quickly cover the basics:
More SEO Advice For Beginners
For more basic but also in-depth advice, our Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors, shown below, introduces you to all the key concepts you need to know:
You can click on the table to view a larger version of it. You can download a copy to print for easy reference!
Search Engine Land’s Guide To SEO
As a companion to the table, Search Engine Land’s Guide To SEO explains the ranking factors in more depth, in a tutorial providing tips and advice on implementing them.
Links to the entire guide are shown below (start at the beginning, and each page will take you to the next):
- Chapter 1: Types Of Search Engine Success Factors
- Chapter 2: Content & Search Engine Success Factors
- Chapter 3: Site Architecture & Search Engine Success Factors
- Chapter 4: HTML Code & Search Engine Success Factors
- Chapter 5: Trust, Authority, Identity & Search Rankings
- Chapter 6: Link Building & Ranking In Search Engines
- Chapter 7: Personalization & Search Engine Rankings
- Chapter 8: Social Media & Ranking In Search Results
- Chapter 9: Violations & Search Engine Spam Penalties
More SEO Guides & Books
Another excellent guide is Google’s “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.” This is a free PDF download that covers basic tips that Google provides to its own employees on how to get listed. You’ll find it here. Also well worth checking out is Moz’s “Beginner’s Guide To SEO,” which you’ll findhere, and the SEO Success Pyramid from Small Business Search Marketing.
Daily SEO News & Expert SEO Advice
In addition to daily news stories from our editorial staff, Search Engine Land publishes daily articles from expert contributors that cover SEO issues mainly from an in-the-trenches perspective. Browse the SEO Channel for the most recent SEO news stories and expert columns, or sign up to receive all of our SEO related content via email.
Search Engine Land’s SEO Library
The SEO Library is an area within Search Engine Land that provides a collection of all stories we’ve written on the topic of SEO. We also have sub-categories, including:
- SEO: Blogs & Feeds
- SEO: Cloaking & Doorway Pages
- SEO: Content and Writing
- SEO: Crawling and Robots
- SEO: Domains & URLs
- SEO: Duplicate Content
- SEO: Flash
- SEO: General
- SEO: Image Search
- SEO: Local
- SEO: Mobile Search
- SEO: Redirects & Moving Sites
- SEO: Spamming
- SEO: Submitting & Sitemaps
- SEO: Tagging
- SEO: Titles & Descriptions
- SEO: Video Search
Also see our related Link Building category and these sub-categories:
In addition to covering SEO generally, Search Engine Land also has search engine optimization areas specifically for each of the major search engines:
Also within our library is the How To: SEO section, which is devoted to practical tips and tactics about search engine optimization.
Get SEO News & Advice Delivered To Your Inbox
Subscribe to our weekly SEO and daily SearchCap newsletters for a recap of all the latest SEO related news, tips and tactics from Search Engine Land and other sources all over the Web.
Google regularly makes major updates to it algorithms, and its SEO ranking factors have changed dramatically during the past years. A group of SEO experts and search pros share insights on how SEO rank has evolved and offer advice on how to keep up.
Are links on other websites that point to your site an important Google-search ranking factor?
The answer used to be blatantly obvious, and for some, it still is. Google, however, made major changes to its search engine algorithm during the past few years. The company also changed the way it displays search results. Then there are mobile search results, which can be different from desktop results, the possible impact (or not) of social media shares, the emergence of Google’s RankBrain artificial intelligence (AI), and many other factors that come into play.
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It’s all enough to cause confusion and lead to questions about today’s most important search engine ranking factors. We interviewed a set of SEO experts for their takes on the most important ranking factors. They’re not listed in order of importance, because not all of the experts agreed on the degrees of importance for factors. However, the consensus is all digital marketers, SEO experts and other search pros should focus on the following six SEO ranking factors.
6 key search-ranking factors
1. Content relevance and SEO rank
Google ultimately became the dominant search engine because it is adept at displaying, on the first page of search results, the most relevant content that matches a keyword query. Eventually, users came to assume the search engine only shows the most relevant results first, a behavior that web-usability consultant Jakob Nielsen dubs, “Google Gullibility.”
Content relevance is often assumed or overlooked in studies of ranking factors, but it’s still the most important factor, according to Eric Enge, CEO of Stone Temple Consulting, which offers content marketing, SEO, social media, and Google-penalty recovery services.
Relevance is often presumed to be “on” or “off,” so content is either relevant or irrelevant to a query. “But that’s not really the right view in my opinion,” Enge says. “You can’t assume that relevance is a binary factor, where you assign a zero score if it’s not relevant and a 1 score if it is relevant. True relevance scoring would be on a sliding scale, ranging from 0 to 1, with any possible value in-between. The content with the lower score would need to score somewhat higher on other metrics to outrank the [higher score].”
2. Inbound links and SEO
Google made a number of tweaks during the past year, including the rollout of RankBrain and a second mobile-friendly update, but the core ranking factors remain much the same, according to Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, a content- and social-media marketing firm. “The quality of inbound links pointing to your domain or page is still the most important ranking indicator.”
Links have always been key to high Google ranks. During its early days, Google touted its PageRank technology as an important competitive differentiator. PageRank is Google’s “numeric rating of how important it considers pages to be,” according to Search Engine Land. Google said in 2011 that PageRank “works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.” As of earlier this year, Google no longer shares PageRank scores publicly, but it still uses them in ranking calculations, Search Engine Land says.
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Stone Temple Consulting recently performed a research study to answer the question: “Are links still a powerful ranking factor?” All of the details are available in the company’s related blog post, but the gist is that provided the content is relevant and a site doesn’t have technical problems or quality issues, links are still highly important. And “authority” is Enge’s No. 2 most important ranking factor after content relevance, though it’s primarily driven by the quality and diversity of backlinks, he says.
SEO consultancy Backlinko recently posted the results of its search engine ranking factors study, based on a million Google search results. Backlinko found that “the number of domains linking to a page correlated with rankings more than any other factor.” Backlinko also concluded that a site’s overall link authority, as measured by Ahrefs Domain Ratings, “strongly correlates with higher [search] rankings.”
Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, which offers SEO and other software tools as a service, says page-level link features are the No. 1 search engine-ranking factor today, assuming a site’s content is relevant. These features include Google’s PageRank, the quantity of linked root domains, quality of the link sources, and trust metrics. Every other year, Moz releases its own search engine ranking factors survey, and in the last survey for 2015, page-level link features were the No. 2 ranking factor, just slightly below domain-level link features.
3. Content quality and SEO rank
Google wants to deliver not only the most relevant content, but also the highest-quality search results. And quality can be measured in a variety of ways, according to Enge, including proper grammar and spelling, reading level, comprehensiveness — how well the content covers the spectrum of user needs related to the query — uniqueness, and a lack of negative signals, such as excessive keyword repetition. (The Content Marketing Institute’s blog offers more information in, “How Google judges quality and what you should do about it,” and, “What quality content is, and how to help your clients create it.”)
“Marketers and SEO professionals should still focus on developing the best content they can to attract quality inbound links to their content, and that usually means executing a solid content marketing strategy,” says DeMers. “It’s harder to stand out these days due to increasing competition in the content sphere, so if there’s one change I can recommend … it’s investing more to make sure your content is truly remarkable, even if that means creating less content overall.”
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Backlinko’s survey results found that “publishing focused content that covers a single topic may help with rankings,” and that “longer content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results. The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.” And a separate study from BuzzSumo and Moz found that long-form content “of over 1,000 words consistently receives more (social media) shares and links than shorter form content.”
Searchmetrics, an enterprise SEO and content marketing service provider, ranked content quality as the third most important element in its 2015 study of search ranking factors and rank correlations. Among the factors that can influence such ranking are keywords, in the body of the copy, in internal and external links, and in meta-descriptions; word count; and relevant terms.
4. Technical issues and SEO
Like content relevancy, technical issues are sometimes overlooked in SEO ranking factor studies. Technical issues, however, can prevent a site’s content from ranking as highly as it could for relevant keyword queries — or keep it from ranking at all.
Common technical issues include duplicate content, dubious inbound links, poor navigation, and improper redirects. Google’s goal is to deliver a positive user experience, so content on sites with architecture problems won’t likely earn high ranking. “You have to solve those problems if you want to play the SEO game,” Enge says.
In fact, technical issues ranked as the No. 1 most important factor to mitigate in Searchmetrics’ study. Technical issues aren’t just about problems in a website’s structure, however. Technical on-page factors that can play a role in rank include whether or not content has a strong meta-description, if it uses H1 and H2 tags, and whether a site is encrypted via HTTPS. “HTTPS is becoming more relevant and even a ranking signal for Google — but it is not necessary for every site,” the Searchmetrics report says. “Encryption is primarily important for sites with purchasing processes or sensitive client information to increase trust and conversion rates.”
5. User engagement and SEO rank
Does your content truly engage website visitors? If so, Google may reward you with a higher search ranking. Unfortunately, it’s unclear how exactly Google measures user engagement. “I don’t think anyone in the industry has a good handle on what user engagement measurements might be,” Enge says, adding that he doesn’t think click-through rates are a direct ranking factor.
For some pages, high bounce rates are a positive signal, according to Enge. When visitors land on contact pages in search of phone numbers and then click away, for example, that’s a satisfactory user engagement. “But I do believe Google is looking at user engagement in some ways,” Enge says. Google software engineer Paul Haahr confirmed as much in a March 2016 presentation, in which he said Google leverages user engagement to evaluate the quality of its ranking algorithms.
Moz’s Fishkin says user interaction and engagement, along with usage-data signals, are among the top SEO ranking factors. Such signals include clickstream analysis, which collects, analyzes and reports aggregate data on the pages site visitors see and in what order, and visitor traffic. In its beginner’s guide to SEO, Moz outlines some user engagement metrics, and provides an explanation of how usability and user experience impact search rankings.
Searchmetrics lists user experience as its No. 2 ranking factor, based on elements such as the number of internal links and images, responsive design — when a website adjusts to both mobile and desktop screens — and time spent on site.
6. RankBrain and SEO
In March 2016, a Google search executive said RankBrain, links and content are the three top ranking factors, according to Search Engine Land. RankBrain uses AI to help Google “interpret the searches that people submit to find pages that might not have the exact words that were researched for,” Search Engine Land says.
But some SEO professionals aren’t convinced RankBrain is such an important factor. Google has said many times that RankBrain has a larger impact on long-tail queries, according to Enge. (Long-tail queries are highly specific search phrases with multiple words.) RankBrain runs on all queries, he says, but it doesn’t impact broad or generic keyword search terms at all. Instead, it impacts keywords terms that are a bit more complex “infrequently,” and RankBrain affects long-tail keyword phrases “fairly often,” Enge says.
SEO tips and best practices for 2016
1. Don’t overemphasize social media shares
After Google+’s fall from grace, social signals lost a lot of search sway, especially for personalized results, according to Moz’s Fishkin. And Enge points out, “social media sources can be shut off at any time, so Google doesn’t want to make it part of their core algorithm.”
2. Ranking factors are intertwined
Some misconceptions about ranking factors come from the idea that site owners can make a handful of changes or tweaks to pages and quickly see them rank, according to Holly Miller, a Searchmetrics SEO expert and professional services manager. “There are a lot of factors at play,” she says. “A lot of the technical and content elements have to work together in concert to provide a superior user experience. It’s ultimately about asking yourself, ‘Does this content help the user accomplish X?’ Or ,’Does this content answer their question?'”
3. Always keep user experience in mind
Usability, user experience, speed, and the ability to deliver unique value are crucial to SEO, according to Fishkin. “These were often the domains of other marketing and website professionals in the past, and SEOs merely helped with more technical and keyword-based on-page and off-page signals,” he says. “But today, to succeed long-term in search, you need these elements of stickiness and remarkability.”
Source: Rankin factors of 2016 | CIO
If they find your brand, it is because they want to, not because they were lead there by advertising or flashy marketing tactics.
As a content marketer, I am a huge fan of letting new customers find your company naturally.
It’s basically “permission marketing.”
If they find your brand, it is because they want to, not because they were lead there by advertising or flashy marketing tactics.
But there is a problem.
The competition has risen so much in recent years that the odds of you being heard through the noise without some sort of paid marketing are slim to none.
I know that outbound marketing is thought of as a four letter word.
But here’s the thing.ADVERTISING
Most consumers do not hate outbound marketing.
They hate irrelevant and pushy outbound marketing.
So how can you create paid marketing campaigns that engage potential customers and generate positive feedback?
Let me show you.
1. Improve Your Ads Quality Score
It doesn’t matter how amazing your landing page is, how well optimized your home is, or how kickass your product it.
If users are ignoring your advertisements, all of that effort is in vain.
You have to create engaging and high quality ads if you hope to compete in the crowded online business world.
So how do you measure and improve the quality of your ads?
By analyzing the quality/relevance score.
There are five major ways that Google determines the quality and relevance of your ad.
You need to understand and master all of them.
The quality of your ad will determine how much you pay per click, your maximum bid, and your rank in auctions.
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I hope so.
Anyways, here are the five things that Google uses to determine your quality score.
- The past performance of your account
- Relevance of your keywords based off of the advertisement
- The relevance of your ad’s copy
- The click through rate
- The quality of your landing page.
Optimizing all 5 of these metrics is extremely important if you want to stand any chance at succeeding with Google Adwords.
So do your research and improve that quality score!
The way that Facebook ranks ads is a little bit different from Google.
Instead of focusing on the quality and relevance of your ads, Facebook predominantly cares about relevance.
What this means is that you can have a mediocre ad perfectly targeting a selected demographic and Facebook will love you for it.
If you want to maximize your Facebook relevance score, you first have to understand whoyou are marketing to and then build your ads accordingly.
Have you ever heard that Jack Johnson song “3 R’s”?
Reduce, reuse, recycle.
Well, with Twitter ads, they determine your quality score based off of another 3 R’s.
Except this time, they are resonance, relevance, and recency.
These three metrics can be summed up quite easily.
Resonance: Is your audience resonating with your content? Are they retweeting and sharing on a regular basis?
Relevance: Does your audience care about your content?
Recency: Is your content new?
If you can master those three R’s, then you can master Twitter ads.
2. Utilize the Power of Emotion in Your Advertising
Most ads suck.
Like they really suck.
Don’t let this be you.
If you want to have any hope of standing out in the overcrowded marketing of social media and PPC advertising then you have to learn how to create great ads.
The key to a great ad is to spark emotion within your audience. The two emotions that generate the most conversions among advertisements are awe and laughter.
If you can create a sense of awe among viewers or make them fall out of their chair laughing then conversions are all but guaranteed.
While the exact methods for doing this will vary based off of your target market, a good place to get started is by watching Super Bowl Ads from years past.
Analyze the ads that evoke emotion — ads that made you laugh and the ads that made you sit back in awe.
Take note of how the ads accomplished this and then learn to replicate the effects in your own campaigns.
3. Master Demographic Targeting
One of the most important things that you can do when you are trying to create successful PPC advertising campaigns is to target the right demographic.
If you are not targeting your ideal audience than you are wasting precious time, money, and ad impressions.
Nearly every advertising platform allows you to specifically select your target demographic for your ad.
You want to make sure that you are as specific as possible.
Not only will a well targeted ad improve your overall ad quality/relevance score, but it will lead to more conversions because you are targeting people who actually want to buy.
The world of paid advertising is not an easy one.
There is a steep learning curve and you will probably lose money before you make it. But in the modern market, it is an absolute necessity.
Equipped with these three tips, you are off to a good start.
So do your research, get in the trenches, and start mastering paid ads now so that you can sit back and enjoy the rewards later.
What is your best paid-marketing secret?
Google’s I/O developer conference brought several huge announcements about Google’s future direction and projects, including two new technologies which demonstrate just how importantvoice search and natural language processing are to the company’s future development.
The first, Google Assistant, is a voice-activated digital assistant which builds on “all [Google’s] years of investment in deeply understanding users’ questions”, as Google’s blog declared. It takes Google’s voice search and natural language capabilities to the next level, while also allowing users to carry out everyday tasks like booking cinema tickets or restaurant reservations.
The second is Google Home, Google’s long-awaited smart home hub to rival the Amazon Echo, which comes with Assistant built in. Google Home – which will be “unmatched in far-field voice recognition”, according to VP of Product Management Mario Quieroz – will give users access to Google’s powerful search capabilities in answering their questions as well as linking together smart devices all over their home.
It’s no surprise that Google is focusing heavily on voice search and natural language going forward when you consider that in 2015 alone, voice search rose from “statistical zero” to make up 10% of all searches globally, according to Timothy Tuttle of the voice interface specialist MindMeld. That’s an estimated 50 billion searches per month.
Indeed, Google CEO Sundar Pichai revealed in his keynote speech at I/O that 1 in every 5 searches made with the Google Android app in the US is a voice query. Bing produced a similar statistic earlier this month when it announced that a quarter of all searches on the Windows 10 taskbar using Bing are voice searches. And statistics like these are only like to increase further as search engines, apps and developers respond to this trend.
Digital assistants: The agents of voice search
Siri. Cortana. Google Now. Alexa. Google Assistant. These are only the names of the most well-known digital assistants from the major technology companies; a search for “digital assistant” on the iOS or Android app store shows just how many different varieties of these voice-controlled AIs there are.
Digital assistants are overwhelmingly the medium through which we interact with voice search and carry out natural language queries, so it makes sense that they, too, are on the rise as companies compete for the biggest share of this rapidly expanding market.
The figures show just how recent much of this uptake of voice search is. Late last year, MindMeld published a study of smartphone users in the U.S. and their use of voice search and voice commands. It found that 60% of smartphone users who used voice search had begun using it within the past year, with 41% of survey respondents having only begun to use voice search in the past 6 months.
With that said, digital assistants are not just confined to smartphones any more, increasingly integrated into devices like smart home hubs and game consoles. And the more that we speak to and interact with assistants, pushing the limits of what they’re capable of, the more sophisticated they become.
The newest generation of digital assistants, including Google Assistant and Viv, a new AI from the creators of Siri, are capable of interpreting and responding to long, multi-part and highly specific queries. For example, during a public demonstration in New York, Viv showed off its ability to accurately respond to queries like, “Was it raining in Seattle three Thursdays ago?” and “Will it be warmer than 70 degrees near the Golden Gate Bridge after 5PM the day after tomorrow?”
At the demonstration of Google Assistant at Google’s I/O conference, Sundar Pichai made much of the fact that you can pose follow-up queries to Assistant without needing to restate context. That is, you can ask a question like, “Who directed the Revenant?” and then follow up by saying, “Show me his awards,” and Assistant will know that you are still referring to director Alejandro Iñárritu in the second query. (It’s worth noting, though, that Bing’s web search has been able to do this for a while).
How voice queries are changing search
So how is this upswing in voice queries and technology’s increasing ability to respond to them changing the way that users search?
We don’t search with voice the same way that we search with a keyboard. Computer users have evolved a specific set of habits and expectations for web search based on its limitations and capabilities. So we would start off by typing a quite generalised, keyword-based search query like “SEO tips”, see what comes back, and progressively narrow down through trial and error with longer search terms like “SEO tips for m-commerce” or “SEO tips for beginners”.
Or if we were looking to buy a pair of red shoes, we might search for “red shoes” and then navigate to a specific website, browse through their shoes and use the site interface to narrow down by style, size and designer.
Whereas now, with the advanced capabilities of search engines to understand longer, more specialised searches and the advent of voice search making natural language queries more common, we might start off by searching, “Quick SEO tips for complete beginners”, or, “Show me wide-fit ladies’ red shoes for under £50.”
We search differently with a keyboard to the way we search with voice
The increasing rise of voice search brings with it a wealth of new data on user intent, habits and preferences. From the first query about SEO, a site owner can see that the searcher is not just a novice but a complete novice, and is not looking to spend a lot of time researching in-depth SEO guides; they want a list that’s easy to digest and quick to implement.
From the second query, a shop owner can tell exactly what type of shoes the consumer is looking for, down to the fit and colour. The price range indicates a budget and an intent to buy.
When mobile users are conducting voice search with location enabled, site owners and business owners can also gain valuable location data. Often, the voice query will contain the important phrase “near me”, which shows that the searcher is looking for local businesses. Mobile voice searches are three times more likely to be local than text, so optimising for local search and mobile will also help you to rank for many voice searches.
With the growth of voice search, we can expect to see more and more long-tail search keywords and natural language queries, which give increasing amounts of contextual information and useful data about searcher intent. The addition of voice assistants to smart home hubs like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home (Apple is also reported to be developing its own smart hub with Siri built in) will also give the companies behind them access to untold amounts of data on users’ daily life and habits, purchases, interests and more, opening up new avenues for marketing.
How can you capitalise on voice search?
With all of that in mind, what practical things can website owners do to take advantage of this new search frontier?
Look out for natural language queries in your site analytics
At the moment, there’s no way to tell outright which users are reaching your site through voice search, though Google is rumoured to be developing this feature for Google Analytics. But by looking out for natural language queries in your search traffic reports, you can start to get a feel for what users might be asking to find your site, learn from it and use it to inform your SEO strategy.
Think about how people are likely to phrase queries aloud
We need to start moving our approach from thinking of endless variations on different keywords to thinking about different types of questions and phrases that users might search. Ask yourself which questions might bring a user to your site, and how they will speak them aloud. What are the extra words, the ones that wouldn’t appear in a regular keyword search, and what information do they give you about the user’s intent on your site?
Make sure your site is set up to answer searchers’ questions
Once you’ve considered the types of questions a user might be asking, consider whether your site will satisfy those queries. Rob Kerry, in a presentation on the future of search at Ayima Insights, advised website owners to start integrating Q&A-style content into their sites in order to rank better for natural language searches and better satisfy the needs of users who are asking those questions.
Q&A-style content can also be excellent material for featured snippets, which is another great way to gain visibility on the search results page.
Develop content with a conversational tone
Because natural language queries reflect the way that people speak, they aren’t just longer but more colloquial. So consider if there are ways that you can create and incorporate content with a more conversational tone, to match this.
Use voice search!
One of the best ways to understand voice search, how it works and what kind of results it returns is to use it yourself. Search the questions you think might bring people to your site and see what currently ranks top, to get a sense of what works for others. Are there questions that aren’t being addressed, or answered very well? You can take this into account when creating content that is geared towards voice search.