In today’s rapidly changing digital world, SEO techniques can change with the direction of the wind. Tricks that won you a front-page position two years ago may be useless now.
In order to drive a digital marketing campaign to success, it is vital to understand the importance of SEO. When used properly, SEO facilitates in increasing traffic to your site, engagements, as well as conversions.
Key metrics to assess your content marketing success
Here are three SEO techniques that you must master this year to ensure your content gets seen.
High-quality content is key
Though the marketing buzzphrase “content is king” often leads to a wave of eye-rolls, when it comes to SEA the quality of your content really is vital.
When creating your content, it is important to think like Google. With the search engine goliath constantly making efforts to enhance their search results, you must ensure you’re providing searchers with good quality, informative, interesting, and entertaining content.
Google’s ranking algorithm has shifted towards user intent, so you must ask yourself- does your content fulfill the reader’s needs, or leave them having to look elsewhere?
Good quality content goes beyond a blog post. Less “traditional” content such as videos, infographics, images, and more have been shown to engage readers at a far higher level and is more shareable. This shareability factor is also a powerful way to build backlinks.
Tip: In order to provide consumers with what they really want, try finding out where your audience are on social media via groups and hashtags, and from this join the conversation. Ask for suggestions about topics to talk about. Additionally, creating a blog post on “frequently asked questions” will increase your SEO by showing Google that you are answering the questions of consumers.
The importance of link building
Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own and is a technique that you should perfect in order to improve your SEO.
Previously, backlinks were mainly about quantity, but now the effectiveness of backlinks is about the quality of the content which they lead to.
The theory behind this technique is that when another website links to yours, they are basically saying that it is a good resource. This is a strong signal of the quality of a page and is much like making a recommendation to a good restaurant.A few high-quality backlinks will do well in helping your website climb the SEO rank.
Tips: Reach out to bloggers in your industry to link back to your content, for instance, by providing them with infographics, images, etc. Also, ensure you include strong internal links, report broken links, produce high-quality content. This will all help to increase the visibility of your site and increase traffic.
Make your content mobile-friendly
Today, more searches are conducted on mobile devices rather than from desktop. As a result, it is vital to ensure your SEO targets mobile platforms as well in order to reach success.
A responsive design is essential in order to attract and retain visitors to your site who are so reliant on mobile to find information. It’s also integral to the user experience you provide.
Not getting it right on the mobile screen isn’t an option, especially for businesses that deal with consumers directly. How’ll they impulse shop if you make them wait to surf through your site?
Tip: Ensuring that your mobile-website is speedy, works on all mobile devices, has key information easy to access, and offers a variety of content formats is all vital to increase your SEO ranking.
In digital marketing, and specifically search engine optimization (SEO), there are tidbits of information that in their retelling lose context and become what we call in other circles “Zombie Lies” or in this case “Zombie Myths.”
Zombie SEO Myths
Zombie SEO myths are myths that, despite being debunked over and over again, never seem to die. They take on a life of their own and leave site owners confused as to what is true and what is not.
So this chapter is going to look at some of those myths that never seem to die – no matter how hard experts try to kill them.
Mostly, we’re going to focus on Google because that is where most sites get their traffic (and where most of the myths revolve around).
Myth 1: SEO is Voodoo or Snake Oil
There is a low bar to entry into the field of digital marketing, including and especially SEO. There are no real certification processes (because how would you certify something that changes every day?) and Google never publishes the algorithms, so there is no way to test an individual’s knowledge against what they contain.
Basically, when you hire an SEO provider it has to be based on trust.
This is why the myth that SEO is voodoo prevails. It prevails because bad practitioners did bad work and the client is left with no other way to explain their lack of results. In fact, it is often these bad practitioners who use the myth to explain their poor results.
That being said, SEO isn’t voodoo (or magic or “bovine feces”). Real SEO is the process of making sites adhere better to Google’s algorithms, for specific query strings, in order to increase relevant site traffic and/or company revenues.
These algorithms aren’t completely unknowable things.
While Google never publishes the details of that information, informed SEO professionals have a good understanding of what will bring a site in compliance with those algorithms (or, in the case of black hat SEO, how they can game those algorithms). They are after all based on math and processes governed by logic.
A trustworthy SEO professional lives and breathes algorithm changes, which can amount to multiple changes a day. They know why the algorithms do what they do as best as anyone not working at Google can do.
This is the opposite of voodoo and magic. It is called earned knowledge. It is also a very hard earned knowledge.
When you pay an SEO pro, you aren’t paying for their time. You are paying for their knowledge and results. Prices are set accordingly.
Myth 2: Content Is All You Need
“Content is KING!”
You will find many articles that make this statement. While they are not completely untrue, content is less king and more like a valuable business partner to links, design, and usability.
Mostly, though, content and links are the like the conjoined twins of the SEO world. You must have both. One will not work without the other (at least not well and not for the long term).
Now, Google will tell you many long-tail queries rank without links. That is likely true. It is also likely that these long-tail queries are so unique that there is no competition for them, so links don’t play an active role the way they do in a competitive query.
If you’re trying to rank for the Walking Dead, you better have links* or don’t expect anyone to find you.
*Good links. Not poor, $99 links bought from a link farm.
So while content is very important, content needs links. Just like links need content.
Bonus Tip: Content is not king. Content is special, but not king. Like peanut butter and jelly you can have one without the other, but it isn’t as good. Add technical to this duo and you have the triad that is the basis of all good core SEO.
Myth 3: Speed Isn’t That Important
Google said a while back that page speed is only a tie-breaker when all other factors are equal. This is one of those cases where I can say that this is not borne out in real-world testing.
Personally, I had a client increase their traffic by over 200,000 sessions a day when they cut their page speed by 50 percent during a likely Panda update. So while it is true that it acts as a tie-breaker when all things are equal it can also dramatically improve rankings when your site has a severe page speed issue.
Now when I say a page speed issue, I don’t mean you cut your 5-second site load time down to 2 seconds. I mean when you dramatically cut your page load, say a 22-second site load time down to 8 seconds, which is what happened in this case.
Know What is Being Measured
It is also important to know what Google is measuring when they are evaluating page speed. While they are looking at overall speed the issue they are most “critical” of is how long the DOM (Direct Object Model) takes to load. The DOM items are the visible items on the page excluding ads, if you have stacked your load right.
This means that if you can cut your DOM load from 22 seconds to 8 seconds as in the example, Google will likely reward you for the dramatic decrease in page load because you are now dramatically faster. This is an additional benefit of improving page speed unrelated to breaking a tie on a specific query result.
A faster site is much easier for Googlebot to crawl. When the site is not slowing the crawl down, more of your site is getting indexed either in number of pages or in depth of page crawl.
Note: The Google Page Speed Insight tool only measures items in the DOM, so you could have a higher page speed score than another site, but still perform more poorly in the rankings because your overall page load is too slow. Page speed is very important and will become even more so as we move into mobile first. So never discount it.
Myth 4: Links Are Dead
I once had a call from a potential client that asked me if I could remove all his links.
“Remove all your links? May I ask why you would want to do that,” I asked.
“Because I heard links were bad and I need to remove them,” he told me.
“Did you buy the links or get them from some nefarious method?”
“No they are all legit.”
“Then, sir, whatever you do, use me or don’t for other reasons, do not get rid of your links!”
Links aren’t dead.
Links aren’t close to dead.
If you have the best content in the world and no links, your site won’t get much visibility. Links and content are correlated with rankings. Great content still needs great links (or a lot of mediocre ones).
If you’re buying links for $99 and expecting to get to the top spots in Google, you’re barking up a very dead tree.
Remember, good links require topical relevancy and legitimacy. If it isn’t natural and it comes from an unrelated page or site, it probably won’t help much.
Bonus tip: Reciprocal linking died circa 2007, maybe earlier. Linking to your buddy and them linking to you won’t do you much good.
Myth 5: Keyword Density
There was a time keyword density have some validity.
Really, if it did not work why do you think all those people were stuffing white text on white backgrounds for ranking purposes? Then Google got smarter and it did away with keyword stuffing as a viable practice and even people who got good results from applying density testing to much smaller keyword placements no longer could count on knowing what keyword density would help.
In both cases, this no longer exists.
While you can still put any word on the page too many times, there is no set range of what makes a page rank. In fact, you can find results now where the keyword does not exist in the visible portion of the page. It might be in the links or in the image tagging or somewhere else that is not part of the content it might even be a similar not exact match. This is not typical, but it does exist.
Bottom line: placing a keyword X times per page is no longer something worth spending your time on. There are far better fish to fry.
Bonus Tip: Better to make relevant content that you can link to internally and others can link to externally than to waste time on optimizing keywords. That being said your title tag is still highly relevant. Spend some time adding your query set there. That might give you a boost.
Myth 6: You Must Submit Your Site
At least twice a week I get an email from an SEO site submission company telling me I need to pay them to submit my site to the search engines.
Seriously? No, you do not.
Now, are there times when it is good to submit your site URLs? Sure when you need the search engines to come back to the site to do things like pick up a new piece of content or re-evaluate a page, however, you never need to submit your site.
Google is advanced enough now – and especially with its status as registrar – that it can find you minutes after not only that site is live, but also when the domain is registered.
Now if you’ve been live for a few weeks and have an inbound link to the site and Google has not come by as evident by your logs it can’t hurt to submit it via Google Search Console Fetch and Render, but never ever pay someone to submit your site.
Myth 7: You Don’t Need a Sitemap
Sitemaps are not a nice to have add-on for sites today. This gets even more important as we move to the mobile-first algorithms in 2018.
Why? When Google cannot easily crawl a portion of your site, the sitemap allows the crawler to better find these pages.
Bonus Tip: Google is going to have a harder time finding pages due to the reduced size of navigational elements in mobile-first indexing. Sitemaps – both XML and HTML – will be the best way for them to find all the pages on the site you want indexed and ranked.
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Myth 8: Query Must Have Freshness
QDF, or Query Deserves Freshness, most certainly applies to queries that need fresh results. For instance, from a news site or say the most recent Powerball numbers.
That does not mean you have to change every element on your homepage every day, or even very often.
While there are sites that absolutely must have fresh content on their main site pages on a daily or weekly basis, most do not.
Evergreen pages are evergreen for a reason. If you write an article on mobile-first indexing and that information has not changed, you do not need to change that page to give it “freshness”.
You do, however, need to have some fresh content on your site. So a good content strategy is how you address having fresh content without trying to meet some unnatural goal for daily content changes.
Bonus Tip: For smaller sites that have small teams or little money and do not need to have fresh content daily, you can just invest in adding pages to the site when needed but keeping an active blog presence. Adding 2-3 blog posts a week will keep the site relevant without adding the demands and costs of continually updating pages.
Myth 9: Because Big Brands Do It, It Must Be Good!
Remember your parents saying to you when you were little, “Would you jump off a bridge just because Johnny told you to?!” Same thing goes here.
There is a long history of sites copying bad website decisions from each other simply because they thought the other site knew something they didn’t.
Don’t be a lemming.
What one site does may work for them and may not. What if they tell you it is the best thing since sliced bread? Unless you’re looking at their metrics, don’t believe them and even if it is the best thing for them, the chances of that being right for you are slim.
Why? Because you’re a different company. Your users have different queries and user intent. Just because Facebook and Twitter use infinite scroll doesn’t mean you should.
In fact, because big brands don’t suffer as much from user and Googlebot discontent when they get it wrong, they are more likely to – get it wrong.
Don’t copy big brands. Find what works for your users and stick to that.
Bonus Tip: If you want to try something that you see on another site, find a section of yours that isn’t bringing in a lot of traffic and then A/B test the idea on your own pages. Your data will show you what works best for you. Never assume because a big brand does it, you will benefit from following their path.
Myth 10: Algorithm Devaluations = Penalties
Google has two types of site devaluations.
Penguin, Panda, Pirate, Pigeon, Layout etc. are all algorithms. Algorithms can giveth and they can taketh away. This means that not every site sees devaluations from the update of these processes. Many sites see positive results. This is called an “algorithmic change” not a penalty.
What are penalties then?
Penalties are manual actions you can find in Google Search Console. This is when Google took a look at your site and decided it was in violation of the Webmaster Guidelines and devalued the site. You know this happened by checking your messages in Google Search Console. When it happens they will tell you.
Penalties also require you “submit a reconsideration request” to regain your site status and remove the penalty.
Algorithmic devaluations have no such consideration. You fix what you think went wrong. Then you wait to see if Google gives you back your rankings when that algorithm or set of algorithms comes back through and re-evaluates the site.
Myth 11: Duplicate Content Is a Penalty
There is NO duplicate content penalty!
There has never been a duplicate content penalty.
Google does have a duplicate content filter, which simply means that if there is more than one item of content that is the same Google will not rank both for the same query. It will only rank one.
This makes perfect sense. Why would you want the results for a query to bring back the same content multiple times? It is simply easier to rewrite the piece than try to guess what those might be.
All that said, too much duplicate content can affect you with the Panda algorithm, but that is more about site quality rather than manual actions.
Bonus tip: The duplicate content filter applies to titles and meta descriptions as well. Make sure to make all your titles and descriptions unique.
Myth 12: Social Media Helps You Rank
Social media, done well, will get you exposure. That exposure can get you links and citations. Those links and citations can get you better rankings.
That doesn’t mean that social media postings are inherently helpful to getting you rank.
Social media doesn’t give you links, but it encourages others to link to you. It also means that the social media post may escape its ecosystem and provide you a true site link. But don’t hold your breath.
Social media is about visibility.
Getting those people to share your content and link to or mention your site in a way that Google counts it as a “link”? That is SEO.
Myth 13: Buying Google Ads Helps with Organic Ranking
These two divisions are in two separate buildings and not allowed to engage with each other about these things.
Personally, I have worked with sites that have had massive budgets in Google AdWords. Their site still lived and died in organic by the organic algorithms. They received no bonus placements from buying Ads.
Bonus Tip: What buying ads can do is promote brand validation. In user experiments, it has been shown that when a user sees an ad and the site in the organic rankings together, they believe it to have more authority. This can increase click-through rates.
Myth 14: Google Uses AI in All its Algorithms
No. Google doesn’t use AI in the live algorithms except for RankBrain.
Now, Google does use AI to train the algorithms and in ways internally we are not privy to. However, Google doesn’t use AI in terms of the live algorithms.
Very simply put, because if it breaks they would not know how to fix it. AI operates on a self-learning model.
If it were to break something on search and that broken piece hurt Google’s ability to make money there would be no easy way to fix it. More than 95 percent of Google’s revenue still comes from ads, so it would be extremely dangerous to allow AI to take over without oversight.
Myth 15: RankBrain
So much has been written about RankBrain that is simply incorrect it would be difficult to state it as one myth. So, in general, let’s just talk about what RankBrain is and isn’t.
RankBrain is a top ranking factor that you don’t optimize to meet.
What does that mean? Basically, when Google went from strings to things (i.e., entity search), it needed better ways to determine what a query meant to the user and how the words in the query set related to each other. By doing this analysis, Google could better match the user’s intent.
To this end, they developed a system of processes to determine relationships between entities. For those queries they understand, they bring back a standard SERP. Hopefully, one that best matches your intent as a user.
However, 15 percent of the queries Google sees every day are new. So Google needed a way to deal with entities whose relationship was unclear or unknown when trying to match user intent.
RankBrain is a machine-learning algorithm that tries to understand what you mean when Google is unsure. It uses entity match and known relationships to infer meaning/intent from those queries it doesn’t understand.
For instance, back when the drought in California was severe if you looked up “water rights Las Vegas NV” (we share water) you would get back all sorts of information about water rights and the history of water rights in the Las Vegas area. However, if you put in a much lesser known area of Nevada, like Mesquite, Google wasn’t sure what you wanted to know.
Why? Because while Google understands Las Vegas as a city (entity) in a geological area (Clark County) and can associate that with water rights, a known topic of interest due to search data. It cannot, however, do the same for Mesquite.
Why? Because no one likely searched for water rights in Mesquite before or very often. The query intent was unknown.
To Google, Mesquite is a city in Nevada, but also a tree/charcoal/flavor/BBQ sauce and it brought back all of these results ignoring the delimiter “water rights” for all but one result. This is RankBrain.
Google is giving you a “kitchen sink.” Over time, if enough people search for that information or the training Google feeds it tells it differently, it will know that you specifically wanted x, not y.
RankBrain is about using AI to determine intent between entities with unknown or loosely formed relationships. So it is a ranking factor, but not really a ranking factor.
Bonus Tip: While there are a few niche cases where it might make sense to optimize for RankBrain, it really doesn’t for most. The query is a living dynamic result that is Google’s best guess at user intent. You would do far better to simply optimize the site properly than trying to gain from optimizing specifically for RankBrain.
If you want to be truly successful in SEO, you need to stop taking so much SEO advice. Here’s why.
There’s no shortage of SEO advice to go around. Heck, I’ve made a career out of it. I’ve listed hundreds of strategies companies can use to improve their rankings in search engines, and have provided updates as SEO develops, to guide search optimizers in the right way to respond to algorithm changes and new technologies.
For the most part, the advice you read on high-authority publishers and niche specialist sites is “good”—it’s not meant to lead you astray, and it usually provides factual, valuable information. But if you want to be truly successful in SEO, you need to stop taking so much SEO advice.
I realize the bit of hypocrisy here. I’m dispensing advice that tells you to deliberately avoid taking advice—but I don’t mean you should ignore SEO advice altogether. Instead, I caution you to do three things:
- Double check the facts. Don’t just assume that an author knows what he/she is talking about. Do the research to see if other authorities have made similar claims, and how their experiments may have differed.
- Don’t follow tactics blindly. Make the effort to understand what you’re doing before you follow a step-by-step approach.
- Try new things for yourself. Dedicate some time to experimenting with new strategies of your own. It may seem riskier than just doing what other people have already done, but there are significant benefits to this experimental approach.
SEO Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All
For starters, SEO isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. What works for one business in one industry isn’t necessarily going to work for someone else. For example:
- National and local SEO function on different algorithms. Local SEO demands a separate set of tactics and strategies, which simply aren’t relevant to you if you’re pursuing national SEO. Fortunately, it’s easy to filter out irrelevant articles in this split, but it’s an example of just how different SEO can be for different companies.
- Competition can make or break a strategy. Next, understand that the level of competition you’re dealing with can make or break a given strategy. If an influencer reports that their homepage moved up three spots for a given keyword term after producing a new video every week, that doesn’t mean you’ll see the same results; if you have far more competition, you might not move at all, and if you have far less competition, you might not need nearly as much effort to see the same results.
- There are thousands of influential variables that can’t all be isolated. SEO is ridiculously complicated; even though we’ve pinned down a number of ranking factors, and how much impact they have (relatively speaking), it’s still hard to determine exact root causes for each shift in rankings we experience. For example, let’s say an article goes viral on social media and subsequently rises in rankings. It would be easy to think that its ranking increase was a direct result of those social shares, but in reality, it was likely a secondary factor—such as increased inbound links as a result of those social shares—that did the trick.
Misinformation Is Easy to Spread Unintentionally
I’ve written recently about a problem in the SEO industry related to the emergence and spread of inaccurate SEO information. This isn’t a product of people deliberately trying to lead others astray; instead, it’s a natural result of the industry.
SEO is necessarily imprecise in some ways (since Google doesn’t formally publish exactly how its ranking algorithm works), the nature of the industry changes quickly, and the SEO community is ravenous for new information, which many search optimizers are quick and eager to provide.
The end result is that information often gets published before it’s fully verified, and it’s easy for readers to form first impressions of articles that may reflect isolated incidents rather than broad trends. It’s also easy for this information to spread, since many influencers and community members share new information without checking its validity for themselves (I’ve been guilty of this too—we all have).
Misinformation is Often Spread Intentionally, Too
Aside from well-intentioned SEO professionals jumping the gun with unverified information in an attempt to be the first to publish new information, the internet is full of self-proclaimed “SEO experts” who eagerly spread false information in order to make a profit. Forums and low-authority blogs are where I most commonly find bad information being perpetuated.
For example, before Google’s Penguin algorithm update in April of 2012, it was considered a “best practice” to obtain as many inbound links as one possibly could, regardless of the quality of those links, and the anchor text used for those links needed to be “exact match” keywords. That is, if your keyword was “green widgets” then the link to your website should always say “green widgets.”
Today, this is precisely the kind of practice that will get your website penalized by Google. But lurking in the dark confines of small blogs and community forums are snake-oil salespeople, proclaiming that they can get you thousands of high-quality links in a day, each with perfectly keyword-optimized anchor text, and all this for the low price of $100. To many SEO newcomers looking for a cheap start to their SEO campaign, this seems like just the deal they’ve been looking for. After all, they know that more links is generally a good thing, so why not take the deal?
Clearly, this is just one type of SEO scam perpetuated by lurkers, but they are numerous. Distinguishing trustworthy SEO advice can be difficult for business owners who are just getting their feet wet with SEO, and it can be a minefield of misinformation designed to confuse business owners into spending their money unwisely.
Experimentation Is the Best Way to Learn
According to a scientific study of—ironically enough—science students, it’s easier for people to learn by doing than it is to learn by traditional forms of instruction. You can read and regurgitate information about SEO all day long, but until you get your hands on a campaign, doing your own keyword research, writing your own content, and doing your own measurement and analysis, you won’t develop a subjective, innate “feel” for how SEO works.
There’s nothing mystical going on here. Over time, as you venture into SEO on your own, you’ll get better at intuitively troubleshooting problems (the way auto mechanics can tell what’s wrong with a vehicle just by listening to it), and you’ll end up tinkering with tactics that even industry leaders haven’t considered. Ignoring the advice—and sometimes contradicting it—can lead you down an even more innovative path.
SEO advice is, for the most part, good. It will help you learn more about the industry, come up with better ideas, and might even inspire you to try something new. But you shouldn’t rely exclusively on advice, verbatim, to fuel your strategies.
If you want to see the best results, you need to take SEO advice with a grain of salt, think critically about what you’re reading, and ultimately use your own research and experience to fuel your progress.
There’s a joke that asks, “Where should you bury something that you don’t want people to find?”
Answer: On the second page of Google.
Sure, it’s corny. But there’s still some truth to that statement.
75% of people will never scroll past the first page on a Google search.
That means you can’t afford to be ranking on the second, third, or fourth page.
You just won’t get the clicks and traffic you need to make SEO worth your time and money.
And you need that organic traffic because 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine.
On top of that, there are over 1 trillion searches every single month!
A good SEO presence has the power to drive inbound traffic that could grow your business for years to come.
But the average-joe website owner doesn’t have the power to rank on the first page of Google for the best keywords.
There are already countless high-profile websites capitalizing on the top industry keywords.
And there are thousands of other bloggers trying to rank for that keyword as well.
That means the deck is stacked. And it’s not in your favor.
You shouldn’t give up, though! There are a few proven methods that I’ve used and found success with to show up on the first page of Google.
And the best part is that you don’t need the authority or links to rank for many of these keywords.
I can teach you how to show up for them anyway.
First, I’ll explain why you’re doomed for now.
And second, I’ll show you how to use this problem to your advantage to rank on the first page of Google despite your shortcomings.
Ready to get started? Let’s do it.
Why you probably can’t rank on the first page of Google anytime soon
I’m going to be straight with you:
You’re pretty much doomed. If you’re trying to get noticed and rank organically on the first page for popular industry keywords like “SEO Guide,” it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
If you’re just starting out, you’ve got no domain authority, a tiny backlink profile, and hardly any traction as a result.
And if you take a look at Google’s first page results for “SEO Guide,” you’ll quickly see what the major problem you’re up against is:
See what I mean? The domain authorities of these top page rankings are going to blow any new website out of the water.
Moz? 93 domain authority. Kissmetrics? 85.
How many backlinks does that #1 spot have? 18,389 to be exact.
That’s more than most of us will get on our entire site. Ever.
Plus, these guides have been up for years!
The Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz has been up for five years or so. Their website claims that over three million people have read it.
You get the idea.
Sites that have been around for a long time are going to dominate the top page rankings for popular industry keywords.
These people are producing stellar content and getting countless backlinks to their content.
If you’re just starting out, you need to pursue different strategies.
You can’t afford to wait around for five years to rank on the bottom of the first page for “SEO Guide.” Not with the number of hours and dollars it would take.
But that’s OK!
Just realize that you’re not going to rank organically for it right now.
The good news is that you don’t need to. There’s still hope.
The trick is to readjust your strategy and use different methods to still show up for your target keywords.
Here’s how to do it.
1. Start by dominating long-tail keywords
There are more long-tail keywords out there than big, popular ones.
Here’s a simple comparison to explain the difference:
And my own beautifully simple example:
- ‘Head’ keyword = “SEO guide”
- Long-tail = “SEO guide for small businesses 2017”
Each might not send you a ton of traffic. However, long-tail keywords do in total when you add a bunch of them up.
For example, I was able to increase my organic traffic to 173,336 visitors monthly using a long-tail strategy.
Long-tail searches also make up the majority of searches on Google.
You should target these long-tail keywords because they’re easier to rank for. And that means they’ll usually take less time and money.
So you’re not going up against the mammoth, industry-leading companies on these search engine result pages (SERPs).
Still skeptical of the power of long-tail strategies? I was, too, at first!But then I read about how Amazon makes 57% of their sales from long-tail keywords.
How? Because long-tail searches are looking for very specific information, whereas short-tail keywords are more general.
If you can give the searcher specific information, they’re going to stick around and convert.
Here’s an example SERP of a long-tail keyword search to help you get an idea of how it’s possible to rank for them.
Do you notice that the SERP isn’t overcrowded with industry influencers and top blogs?
Sure, there are still a few in there, but the top-ranking sites are ones that you’ve probably never heard of.
Instead of going up against a website with a 93 domain authority, here’s what the first ranking page for this long-tail search query looks like:
Now I’ve got your attention, right?
So sure, this keyword might have lower search volume than “SEO Guide.”
But remember that these long-tail keyword conversion rates are almost always higher.
And you know what I preach:
Traffic doesn’t mean anything if people don’t convert!If you’re getting 50,000 visitors a month from a popular keyword, but nobody is converting, it’s not doing you much good.
Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket for “SEO Guide,” create more content and optimize it for long-tail searches to dominate the SERPs!
Now let’s talk about a few ways to rank for the more popular terms that you just can’t seem to resist. And let’s do it without any ‘classic’ SEO.
2. Pay to reach the top of the AdWords search network
Now, you may be thinking, “Neil, my friend, my mentor, you do know that AdWords is not organic search, right?”
Well, just hear me out on this one, okay?
I’m going to start this one off with an example because it’s the only way to understand how truly effective this strategy can be.
So let’s fire up a search for “Best CRM.”
Here’s what the results page looks like:
It looks a bit different, doesn’t it? There’s not a single organic result until you scroll past the fold.
You’ve got four AdWords search network ads and a featured snippet from a single organic result.
It takes the user multiple steps just to reach the organic results and decide what to click on this SERP.
But something even more important jumps out at me here.
The keyword intent and the results that appear don’t line up.
Here’s what I mean.
Check out the first three ads:
They all talk about their own CRM and say that they’re the best in the industry.
That’s not surprising, necessarily. Everyone wants their products and services to be seen as the best.
But for this search, that’s a problem.
And more importantly, this is an opportunity for you to show up for that keyword.Here’s why.
What are people looking for when they type in “Best CRM?”
Are they looking for Salesforce or Zoho or Pipedrive right now?
No. They’re looking for a CRM comparison to see which one is the best. They want to consider their alternatives and options before deciding.
You can validate this by looking at the organic results, which all feature comparison articles and reviews.
Google wants to help the searcher find what they’re looking for as fast as possible.
That means the top organic results usually reflect the searcher’s intent.
So instead of looking for a branded PPC ad about one product being the best, a searcher is looking for CRM comparisons!
Now, do you remember those top 3 PPC results? They’re probably not getting any clicks because they’re not answering the searcher’s question.
The content doesn’t match the intent behind the search query.
But look at the 4th result:
If I were a betting man (which I am), I’d bet you that this low-domain-authority website is getting countless clicks for “Best CRM.”
I’d bet that this ad outperforms the ones above it.
This no-name site can rank with the big boys because they’ve done a better job matching keyword intent with their ad.
It’s practically cheating the system, and it works perfectly.
Now check out all of the traffic you have the opportunity to steal without competing for it head-on with massive brands in the organic rankings:
Instead of preaching about their product, the fourth ad lines up their content to look exactly like the organic results.
However, they show up before the organic results with no effort spent on link building.
You don’t need to organically rank for a keyword to get traffic for that keyword. Just remember to match the searcher’s intent and mimic the organic results to drive traffic.
3. Write more blog posts than your competition
What’s the downside of a long-tail keyword strategy?
You can’t stuff a bunch of random keywords onto the same page. You should still focus on one or two keywords per post, max.
That means you’re going to have to create a lot more content!
This is no great secret.
If you write more content, you’ve got a better shot at ranking on the first page of Google.
The more you write, the more pages get indexed, and the more traffic you bring to your site.
If you’re writing 5-10 posts a month, it’s still not enough.
Your competition and industry leaders are writing 16+ every single month.
You can’t reasonably expect to outrank a competitor or catch up to an industry leader by writing less, can you?
You need to write like your business depends on it. Because based on the information above, it does!
And it can’t be any old 500-word blog post that you slap together in an hour.
Here’s what the top content on Google looks like on average.
Everything on the first page of Google is over 2,000 words.
That means that you need to write more in-depth content that guides users through the process of solving their problems.
This content should be actionable and filled with images, examples, and step-by-step instructions.
Now is about the time when you start thinking, “How on Earth am I going to carve out time to write more?”
If that’s the case, maybe you need to hire someone.
The good news is that content marketing costs 62% less than other marketing mediums. All while generating 3x the number of leads.
If you want to start ranking for the top keywords, you need to produce valuable, unique content — and lots of it.
On top of that, you also need to optimize your content to generate the highest CTR possible.
Why? Because optimizing headlines and meta descriptions for searchers can result in a 10% increase in CTR.
And an increase in CTR means you’re on your way to ranking higher.
Here’s an example:
Why do you think this Search Engine Land post outranks the post below it?
Take a look at that headline!
Instead of a basic headline, they make you think about what you just searched.
It goes against the grain of normal, acceptable advice. It’s like a pattern interruption that causes you to stop what you’re doing.
Now you’re rethinking everything you once thought was true!
Here are a few powerful headline templates to try immediately to boost your organic CTR:
[ ______________ ] Using These 5 Strategic Moves
10 Quick Moves to [ ________________ ] and Increase Revenue
How I Used These 5 Moves to [ ____________ ]
Interested in more headline tips to increase your CTR and boost your rankings? Start with my in-depth guide on headlines.
4. Get reviewed and featured in round-ups
Sometimes, spending money on PPC ads to rank higher for keywords isn’t an option.
Spending too much time and money on creating long-form guides to rank for your desired keywords also may not be feasible.
Luckily, you can still get your name featured in top-ranking content! All while doing a fraction of the work.
Rather than having your official site placed on the top page of Google from AdWords or organic rankings, you can get featured in round-up posts with minimal time and effort.
Here’s what I mean:
Just go to Google and search “best SEO tools 2017”:
All the results are roundup-style posts in which the authors review and analyze the top tools.
It’s basically free advertising.
You can get your name out to thousands upon thousands of consumers a month who are clicking on those top-ranking posts.
For example, let’s click on the first result from PC Magazine:
They cover each SEO tool, providing reviews of each feature the tools have and then helping to prioritize them for everyone else.
Now, you can use these roundup-style posts to your advantage. Rank well on these posts, and you’ll get tons of traffic in return.
For example, thousands of people are already searching for “SEO tools.”
Then you can conduct outreach to have your tool featured in those comparisons.
And that traffic can be huge:
If you’re featured on all of the comparison posts that already rank on the top page, you’re going to get traffic from each one of those.
And this traffic will already be primed to buy from you.
A few simple outreach efforts can now save you years of grinding away in obscurity to get your brand in front of eager searchers.
No time, no money, and just a little effort can still get your brand in the top results.
If the deck is stacked against you in one game, just switch the game that you’re playing.
Showing up on the first page of Google is nearly impossible if you’re just starting out.
That’s harsh, but it’s also true.
Industry leaders who’ve been producing content for years dominate all of the best keywords and SERPs.
Many of them have been spending millions on big-budget ad campaigns, too.
So you can’t expect to rank first when you’re new.
The competition is already so far out ahead. They’ve been accumulating thousands of links and countless shares while this business was still a twinkle in your eye.
Their brands are well-established, and their authority is too high.
But you still need organic traffic to thrive and keep your business growing.
Thankfully, there are a few workarounds.
Try researching and producing content for long-tail keywords. The volume might be lower, but so is the competition.
Use sneaky tactics like PPC ads to rank above the organic results for an extremely popular ‘head’ keyword that you know you’ll never be able to rank for organically.
Try getting reviewed in roundup-style posts to get featured on top articles.
There’s plenty of unconventional methods to get your brand in front of the traffic that you crave.
You just have to get a little creative and understand that you might not always rank for the top terms.
But other methods exist to get similar results if you know where to look.
What strategies have you used to rank on the first page of Google?
Some SEO insights offer incremental improvement. Others can change your life forever.
We need both. But today I want to focus on three life-changing insights.
As you can probably guess, these aren’t “tactics.” These are fundamental ways of looking at your discipline. You may even have heard some of them before. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that knowing is different from doing.
These are three key insights that master SEOs put in practice in their daily lives.
1. The Hustle Matters Twice As Much As The Algorithm
Understanding as much as is possible about the search engine algorithms is crucial in order to be an effective SEO.
In fact, I believe that the search industry as a whole is severely underinformed. Many SEO professionals (and agencies):
- Jump to conclusions far too swiftly from correlative studies.
- Take universal lessons from anecdotes too often.
- Ignore Google’s guidelines too frequently.
- Take industry-wide “best practice” too seriously and their own data not seriously enough.
As an industry, we need to be better skeptics, experimenters, and testers.
I’m not at all dismissing the technical side of SEO when I say that the hustle is twice as important as the algorithm.
The search engine is designed to make ranking difficult. It is built on the foundational assumption that the most cited pages are the most valuable.
You have to get noticed.
Getting noticed takes work.
If you don’t put yourself out there, your SEO strategy is doomed to failure.
I can pretty much guarantee some readers are scoffing right now. “This is supposed to be a life-changing revelation that will change my life? Get real. I already know this.”
For some of you, that may be the case. But for most of you, I think the following is much more likely: you know this is what you’re supposed to do, you’ve heard of it before, but somehow it hasn’t quite sunk in. Somehow, something is holding you back, and you’re refusing to invest in the hustle.
I know because I’ve been there.
We’ve all been there.
We get stuck in that phase of information addiction. If that’s where you are, I know what it feels like.
Deep down, you know you should be putting more of what you’ve learned to action. You know you should test that tactic you learned last Friday. You know you should build a process to ensure that all of this gets done.
But you can’t help it.
Some nagging part of you says “Just this next tactic. Just this next blog post. And then I’ll know enough to really put all of this to action.”
I’m here to tell you no, you need to hit the ground running and make it happen.
And I’m not talking about trying that one tactic one time and forgetting about it.
I’m talking about having the resolve and dedication to make it an institutionalized habit.
- Put tactics to full use.
- Make it a part of your routine.
- Measure the results.
- Adjust as needed.
This is the only way to cross the bridge from theory to practice. And I guarantee when you start making a habit out of crossing that bridge, you’re going to realize just how much of the theory you come across is a waste of time.
No reserve of knowledge is more powerful than your own history of attempts and failures.
SEO knowledge isn’t power. It’s only potential.
2. If You Don’t Build It, They Won’t Come
I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
The winners of the internet don’t “produce content.” They build things.
(Easy there. We’re marketers. You’re reading content right now. We understand the value. Hear us out.)
Are you old enough to remember when the internet first started taking off? Do you remember that hot new phrase: “interactivity?”
Ask yourself, what do you spend most of your time on the internet doing?
Are you consuming the internet, or are you using it?
If you’re like most people, you spend a pretty solid portion of your time online.
More importantly, of the time you spend using the internet, you probably use a pretty small number of sites. Know why? Because most sites are built to be consumed instead of used. Most sites take lessons from their peers at the bottom, rather than the industry leaders at the top.
Just take a look at the most linked sites on the internet.
I see an awful lot of tools and platforms here. Not so many “content producers.”
Again, this isn’t intended as some kind of anti-content marketing rallying cry. Instead, I’d like you to now think about your favorite content site.
Do you use it, or consume it?
What first put them on your radar? Did you land on a random blog post, or did you come across a massive content resource of some kind that you quickly realized you almost couldn’t live without?
Look at any developed online industry and you will find that the top players have at least one page on their site that is elevated to this level.
What I mean is this: the page crosses a threshold. It ceases to be “content” and it becomes a free product. It’s something so valuable that people actually come to use it, not just to consume it. And they will likely use it more than once or twice.
These pages aren’t always the highest converting, but they are usually the most heavily linked, second only to the homepage, and they are usually the most heavily trafficked, with the highest return rate. All of these things play a crucial role in rankings, brand reputation, and brand recognition.
If you have to choose between “producing content” and “building something,” go with the latter. A tool, a platform, a community, or an “ultimate guide” is almost always going to draw more traffic and links than your next piece of “content.”
I strongly believe that you need to produce content and build something. You need both. Most only have one.
The internet was built to be used.
3. If It’s Not For Anything Else, It’s Not For SEO Either
A masterful SEO understands the search engines and understands that they can’t rely on the search engines.
Let me explain.
First and foremost, there are two simple facts:
- The algorithm changes, and it changes constantly.
- Google warns us against manipulating the algorithm.
I want to hammer these points home, because they are often either ignored or acknowledged and then quickly treated as though the statements were never uttered.
First, the algorithm (algorithms, really) is updated about 500 times every year.
Just let that sink in. It is updated once or twice every single day.
Google’s search engine is just a massive collection of interfacing code. It is interacting with a constantly crawled and updated search index. No single engineer at Google can possibly understand fully how their own search engine works.
We’re talking about a massive collection of protocols, applications, operating systems, databases, and information retrieval processes. If you’ve ever dealt with complex code, then you know how much one small tweak can change everything else inadvertently. And I’m talking about the kinds of changes that don’t show up as “syntax error.”
So if you’ve been studying all of those “ranking factors” hoping to “reverse engineer” the algorithm, you have presented yourself with a task that is quite literally impossible. We can only hope to find statistical tendencies, and you absolutely must treat every site and every SERP as its own entity with different sorts of factors taking priority.
Second, I can’t stress enough how important this point is from Google’s guidelines:
“Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, ‘Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?’”
Don’t get me wrong. The idea that you should only do things that you would feel comfortable sharing with a competitor is laughable, and pretending search engines don’t exist today is even more impossible than it was when the guidelines were first written.
But the implications are clear. If your SEO tactics are only helpful for SEO, and do nothing else for you, you’re on uneasy ground with Google’s guidelines.
Anybody who has been doing SEO for a long time know that those “pure” algorithmic SEO tactics fade with age.
Only SEO rooted solid marketing principles continue to work for you in long term.
A masterful SEO always has two eyes open: one on the search engine, the other on marketing.
Remember, the SEO mindset is one of cumulative growth.
We are looking for lasting improvements. Each incremental improvement is intended to tack more visits, more links, and more revenue to our long-term monthly figures, not just to this month’s figures.
That means not just using tactics and strategies that the search engines will always be OK with, but using tactics and strategies that don’t strictly rely on search engines to have lasting, cumulative impacts.
Put these insights to use. You won’t regret it.
Have you ever wished for a nostalgic retrospective on the heyday of SEO, featuring some of the biggest names in the world of search, all condensed into a 40-minute video with an admittedly cheesy title?
If so, you’re in luck, because there’s a documentary just for you: it’s called SEO: The Movie.
The trailer for SEO: The Movie
SEO: The Movie is a new documentary, created by digital marketing agency Ignite Visibility, which explores the origin story of search and SEO, as told by several of its pioneers. It’s a 40-minute snapshot of the search industry that is and was, focusing predominantly on its rock-and-roll heyday, with a glimpse into the future and what might become of SEO in the years to come.
The movie is a fun insight into where SEO came from and who we have to thank for it, but some of its most interesting revelations are contained within stories of the at times fraught relationship between Google and SEO consultants, as well as between Google and business owners who depended on it for their traffic. For all that search has evolved since Google was founded nearly two decades ago, this tension hasn’t gone away.
It was also interesting to hear some thoughts about what might become of search and SEO several years down the line from those who’d been around since the beginning – giving them a unique insight into the bigger picture of how search has changed, and is still changing.
So what were the highlights of SEO: The Movie, and what did we learn from watching it?
The stars of SEO
The story of SEO: The Movie is told jointly by an all-star cast of industry veterans from the early days of search and SEO (the mid-90s through to the early 2000s), with overarching narration by John Lincoln, the CEO of Ignite Visibility.
There’s Danny Sullivan, the founder of Search Engine Watch (this very website!) and co-founder of Search Engine Land; Rand Fishkin, the ‘Wizard of Moz’; Rae Hoffman a.k.a ‘Sugarrae’, CEO of PushFire and one of the original affiliate marketers; Brett Tabke, founder of Pubcon and Webmaster World; Jill Whalen, the former CEO of High Rankings and co-founder of Search Engine Marketing New England; and Barry Schwartz, CEO of RustyBrick and founder of Search Engine Roundtable.
The documentary also features a section on former Google frontman Matt Cutts, although Cutts himself doesn’t appear in the movie in person.
Each of them tells the tale of how they came to the search industry, which is an intriguing insight into how people became involved in such an unknown, emerging field. While search and SEO turned over huge amounts of revenue in the early days – Lincoln talks about “affiliates who were making millions of dollars a year” by figuring out how to boost search rankings – there was still relatively little known about the industry and how it worked.
Danny Sullivan, for instance, was a newspaper journalist who made the leap to the web development in 1995, and began writing about search “just because [he] really wanted to get some decent answers to questions about how search engines work”.
Jill Whalen came to SEO through a parenting website she set up, after she set out to bring more traffic to her website through search engines and figured out how to use keywords to make her site rank higher.
Rae Hoffman started out in the ‘long-distance space’, making modest amounts from ranking for long-distance terms, before she struck gold by creating a website for a friend selling diet pills which ranked in the top 3 search results for several relevant search terms.
“That was probably my biggest ‘holy shit’ moment,” she recalls. “My first commission check for the first month of those rankings was more than my then-husband made in a year.”
Rand Fishkin, the ‘Wizard of Moz’, relates the heart-rending story of how he and his mother initially struggled with debt in the early 2000s when Moz was still just a blog, before getting his big break at the Search Engine Strategies conference and signing his first major client.
The stories of these industry pioneers give an insight into the huge, growing, world-changing phenomenon that was SEO in the early days, back when Google, Lycos, Yahoo and others were scrambling to gain the biggest index, and Google would “do the dance” every five to eight weeks and update its algorithms, giving those clever or lucky enough to rank high a steady stream of income until the next update.
Google’s algorithm updates have always been important, but as later sections of the documentary show, certain algorithms had a disproportionate impact on businesses which Google perhaps should have done more to mitigate.
Google and webmasters: It’s complicated
“Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] were fairly antagonistic to SEOs,” Brett Tabke recalls. “The way I understood it, Matt [Cutts] went to Larry and said… ‘We need to have an outreach program for webmasters.’ He really reached out to us and laid out the welcome mat.”
Almost everyone in the search industry knows the name of Matt Cutts, the former head of Google’s webspam team who was, for many years, the public face of Google. Cutts became the go-to source of information on Google updates and algorithm changes, and could generally be relied upon to give an authoritative explanation of what was affecting websites’ ranking changes and why.
Matt Cutts in an explanatory video for Google Webmasters
However, even between Matt Cutts and the SEO world, things weren’t all sunshine and roses. Rand Fishkin reveals in SEO: The Movie how Cutts would occasionally contact him and request that he remove certain pieces of information, or parts of tools, that he deemed too revealing.
“We at first had a very friendly professional relationship, for several years,” he recollects. “Then I think Matt took the view that some of the transparency that I espoused, and that we were putting out there on Moz, really bothered him, and bothered Google. Occasionally I’d get an email from him saying, ‘I wish you wouldn’t write about this… I wish you wouldn’t invite this person to your conference…’ And sometimes stronger than that, like – ‘You need to remove this thing from your tool, or we will ban you.’”
We’ve written previously about the impact of the lack of transparency surrounding Google’s algorithm updates and speculated whether Google owes it to SEOs to be more honest and accountable. The information surrounding Google’s updates has become a lot murkier since Matt Cutts left the company in 2014 (while Cutts didn’t formally resign until December 2016, he was on leave for more than two years prior to that) with the lack of a clear spokesperson.
But evidently, even during Cutts’ tenure with Google, Google had a transparency problem.
In the documentary, Fishkin recalls the general air of mystery that surrounded the workings of search engines in the early days, with each company highly protective of its secrets.
“The search engines themselves – Google, Microsoft, Yahoo – were all incredibly secretive about how their algorithms worked, how their engines worked… I think that they felt it was sort of a proprietary trade secret that helped them maintain a competitive advantage against one another. As a result, as a practitioner, trying to keep up with the search engines … was incredibly challenging.”
This opaqueness surrounding Google’s algorithms persisted, even as Google grew far more dominant in the space and arguably had much less to fear from being overtaken by competitors. And as Google’s dominance grew, the impact of major algorithm changes became more severe.
SEO: The Movie looks back on some of Google’s most significant updates, such as Panda and Penguin, and details how they impacted the industry at the time. One early update, the so-called ‘Florida update’, specifically took aim at tactics that SEOs were using to manipulate search rankings, sending many high-ranking websites “into free-fall”.
Barry Schwartz describes how “many, many retailers” at the time of the Florida update suddenly found themselves with “zero sales” and facing bankruptcy. And to add insult to injury, the update was never officially confirmed by Google.
Fast-forward to 2012, when Google deployed the initial Penguin update that targeted link spam. Once again, this was an update that hit SEOs who had been employing these tactics in order to rank very hard – and moreover, hit their client businesses. But because of the huge delay between one Penguin update and the next, businesses which changed their ways and went on the metaphorical straight and narrow still weren’t able to recover.
“As a consultant, I had companies calling me that were hit by Penguin, and had since cleaned up all of their backlinks,” says Rae Hoffman.
“They would contact me and say, ‘We’re still not un-penalized, so we need you to look at it to see what we missed.’ And I would tell them, ‘You didn’t miss anything. You have to wait for Google to push the button again.’
“I would get calls from companies that told me that they had two months before they were going to have to close the doors and start firing employees; and they were waiting on a Penguin update. Google launched something that was extremely punitive; that was extremely devastating; that threw a lot of baby out with the bathwater… and then chose not to update it again for almost two years.”
These recollections from veteran SEOs show that Google’s relationship with webmasters has always been fraught with difficulties. Whatever you think about Google’s right to protect its trade secrets and take actions against those manipulating its algorithms, SEOs were the ones who drove the discussion around what Google was doing in its early days, analyzing it and spreading the word, reporting news stories, featuring Google and other search companies at their conferences.
To my mind at least, it seems that it would have been fairer for Google to develop a more open and reciprocal relationship with webmasters and SEOs, which would have prevented situations like the ones above from occurring.
Where is search and SEO headed in the future?
It’s obviously difficult to predict what might be ahead with absolute certainty. But as I mentioned in the introduction, what I like about the ‘future of search’ predictions in SEO: The Movie is that they come from veterans who have been around since the early days, meaning that they know exactly where search has come from, and have a unique perspective on the overarching trends that have been present over the past two decades.
As Rae Hoffman puts it,
“If you had asked me ten years ago, ‘Where are we going to be in ten years?’ Never would I have been able to remotely fathom the development of Twitter, or the development of Facebook, or that YouTube would become one of the largest search engines on the internet.”
I think it’s also important to distinguish between the future of search and the future of SEO, which are two different but complimentary things. One deals with how we will go about finding information in future, and relates to phenomena like voice search, visual search, and the move to mobile. The other relates to how website owners can make sure that their content is found by users within those environments.
Rand Fishkin believes that the future of SEO is secure for at least a few years down the line.
“SEO has a very bright future for at least the next three or four years. I think the future after that is more uncertain, and the biggest risk that I see to this field is that search volume, and the possibility of being in front of searchers, diminishes dramatically because of smart assistants and voice search.”
Brett Tabke adds:
“The future of SEO, to me, is this entire holistic approach: SEO, mobile, the web, social… Every place you can put marketing is going to count. We can’t just do on-the-page stuff anymore; we can’t worry about links 24/7.”
As for the future of search, CEO of Ignite Visibility John Lincoln sums it up well at the very end of the movie when he links search to the general act of researching. Ultimately, people are always going to have a need to research and discover information, and this means that ‘search’ in some form will always be around.
“I will say the future of search is super bright,” he says. “And people are going to evolve with it.
“Searching is always going to be tied to research, and whenever anybody needs a service or a product, they’re going to do research. It might be through Facebook, it might be through Twitter, it might be through LinkedIn, it might be through YouTube. There’s a lot of different search engines out there, and platforms, that are always expanding and contracting based off of the features that they’re putting out there.
“Creating awesome content that’s easy to find, that’s technically set up correctly and that reverberates through the internet… That’s the core of what search is about.”
SEO: The Movie is definitely an enjoyable watch and at 40 minutes in length, it won’t take up too much of your day. If you’re someone who’s been around in search since the beginning, you’ll enjoy the trip down Memory Lane. If, like me, you’re newer to the industry, you’ll enjoy the look back at where it came from – and particularly the realization that there some things which haven’t changed at all.
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.
Terminology changes come with some new functionality, including the ability to set different CPA targets at the ad group level within the same bid strategy.
Google is going to be rolling out a revamp of AdWords automated bidding. Some of the changes are just semantic, but the workflow is also getting an update.
First the naming changes:
- Flexible strategies will be called “portfolio” bid strategies. The change is meant to better indicate that a single strategy can be applied across multiple campaigns, ad groups — and keywords, in some cases.
- A strategy that is applied to a single campaign is called a “standard” bid strategy.
- Conversion Optimizer will be called Target CPA for all new bid strategies to simplify the nomenclature. Target CPA can still be applied as a “standard” or a “portfolio” bid strategy.
Now for the functionality updates:
- Managers will be able to create or add to bidding strategies from the Campaigns Setting tab — no more need to dive into the Shared Library.
- Portfolio bid strategies for Target CPA can have different CPA goals for separate ad groups. “For example, if you’re a clothing retailer with multiple ‘Accessories’ ad groups in a bidding portfolio, you may want to set a lower CPA target for ‘Socks’ compared to other product categories with higher average order value.”
Note that Portfolio bid strategies can not be applied to video or universal app campaigns
In December, Google added new reporting features for automated bidding. These latest updates will start showing up in accounts over the next few weeks.
GOOGLE developes a deep learning neural network program. Thats a useful network program. All of our consultants and campaign managers are Google Certified and we take a lot of pride in educating our clients on not just their search campaign, but how search engines work.
When you type in a search query in Google, Yahoo, or Bing you want the answer, not a trillion webpages. The web is literally made up of over 60 trillion webpages that need “searched” in less than a second to return a high quality answer that is also extremely relevant. Search engines crawl the web pages by content and other factors. This is all then kept track in the index (which is over 100 million gigabytes). Algorithms and programs are set in place to deliver the best result possible when you click “return” after typing your search query. The algorithms are constantly changing. These changes begin as ideas in the minds of search engines engineers. They take these ideas and run experiments, analyze the results, tweak them, and run them again and again.
Google Search Projects
There are many components to the search process and the results page, and they’re constantly updating technologies and systems to deliver better results. Many of these changes involve exciting new innovations, such as the Knowledge Graph or Google Instant. This list of projects provides a glimpse into the many different aspects of Google search.
Displays immediate answers and information for things such as the weather, sports scores and quick facts.
Predicts what you might be searching for. This includes understanding terms with more than one meaning.
Finds results out of millions of books, including previews and text, from libraries and publishers worldwide.
Shows the latest news and information. This includes gathering timely results when you’re searching specific dates.
Displays immediate results as you type.
Shows you image-based results with thumbnails so you can decide which page to visit from just a glance.
Uses systems for collecting and storing documents on the web.
Provides results based on a database of real world people, places, things, and the connections between them.
Includes improvements designed specifically for mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones.
Includes results from online newspapers and blogs from around the world.
Gets to the deeper meaning of the words you type.
Provides features like “Advanced Search,” related searches, and other search tools, all of which help you fine-tune your search.
Reduces the amount of adult web pages, images, and videos in your results.
Creates new ways to search, including “search by image” and “voice search.”
Site & Page Quality
Uses a set of signals to determine how trustworthy, reputable, or authoritative a source is. (One of these signals is PageRank, one of Google’s first algorithms, which looks at links between pages to determine their relevance.)
Shows small previews of information, such as a page’s title and short descriptive text, about each search result.
Identifies and corrects possible spelling errors and provides alternatives.
Recognizes words with similar meanings.
Translation and Internationalization
Tailors results based on your language and country.
Blends relevant content, such as images, news, maps, videos, and your personal content, into a single unified search results page.
Provides more relevant results based on geographic region, Web History, and other factors.
Shows video-based results with thumbnails so you can quickly decide which video’s to watch.
There’s a lot to keep up with! That’s why Guardian Owl offers campaign management AND consulting services. Your website is your virtual business and Guardian Owl Digital represents a team of experts that strive everyday to increase businesses exposure through search.