As many of you know (or may not know) SEO or search engine optimisation is what I ‘cut my teeth’ on almost 10 years ago so it’s very close to my heart.
Now in those 10 years I’ve seen techniques and strategies come and go, but today in 2013, SEO has changed more than ever. Google has really shaken up the industry and made some fundamental changes to the way it works. This will have a major effect on how you, as a website owner will rank and get the traffic you need whether you pretend you’re bothered or not.
I’m willing to bet that if you look at your website statistics (and if you haven’t I suggest you do that like now) that Google sends you the most visitors. For most sites that is simply the case. However, given the recent changes to the way Google will rank sites coupled with the fact this information probably won’t trickle down to the masses for months, I wanted to give you a ‘heads up’ before you start wondering why the hell your website isn’t doing so well anymore.
So without further adieu, let me crack on with a check-list you can use against your website(s) to ensure that Google shows you maximum love in 2013.
- Keywords on your website – It was once good practice to ensure that the keyword(s) you wanted to rank for showed up in the text on the page a fair bit. We assumed Google would need a helping hand in working out what the page was about. That’s no longer true; Google is a lot smarter than it used to be and if you put too many keywords on the page it you’ll simply be slapped by Google and lose your ranking by a few positions or a few pages.
- Remove footer links – There are still lots of sites who put links in the footer with the keywords they’re trying to rank for. Google will see this as ‘over optimising’, it’s no longer needed, remove them.
- Videos and images – Google wants to show pages with good content. If a page is just text against one with videos, graphs, info-graphics etc it will assume that the latter has better quality content (and it will probably be right). So spruce up your pages, not for Google but for real people, it will make it a more interesting read.
- User behaviour – I have to applaud Google on this one. As part of its new rules it will consider how long people stay on your page, if they come back, if they share the page, if they click on other links or if they decided after a few seconds, your page sucks, clicks back to the search results and goes to another website. Clever stuff. So what does this mean? It means you now have to create a good great user experience for your visitors otherwise Google won’t want to show your pages.
- Go crazy on social media – Now this is a BIG one. We SEO’s for some time have suspected that Google will take more notice of social media and how it affects a websites ranking. And that’s exactly what they’ve done. I’m sure you’ve heard about the importance of getting valuable links for your website, well retweets, re-pins, Google + profile links, Twitter profile links and Likes from public pages will now count as a link. The reason why this is important is because obtaining links has always been an increasingly precarious exercise with lots of unscrupulous companies out there offering services that would simply kill your site. Now, you can use all that social media love you’re getting to help your Google traffic.
- Value proposition – Looking at your average search results page, in reality people click on the link which attracts them the most. This attraction is based on the offer, unique selling point or value proposition. We look for something which differentiates one link from another e.g. a free trial, free delivery, special offer, quality, quantity etc. If a site has a good value proposition in the title and description of the page then people will click on it more often. This is called the CTR or ‘click through rate’ of the page. Google is now measuring this CTR as another quality factor in determining how well a site should rank. So think about what your value proposition is and let everyone know about it.
- Page descriptions – Much like the example above, Google now expects pages to have a clear description of what it’s about. A lot of sites simply use the same default description for all of its internal pages. This will no longer cut the mustard so take some time out to fix this if it is a problem.
- Sharing in Google – When logged into Google, you’ll now notice next to the search result an option to ‘share’ that link. So, go ahead and share it and encourage people to do the same. Google will give you credit.
- Page speed – If your website takes too long to load, then people generally click away. Google will frown on you if this happens. They have provided webmasters with a tool called ‘Page speed’ to help optimise your site so get busy with the fizzy.
- Facebook Likes – Google have said they will probably do something ‘special’ with likes. Until we know exactly what that is, I would encourage you to put the ‘like’ count box on your page. If you’re not sure what this it’s the box you see on websites which show you how many people have liked the page. Google can follow this and as part of the ‘social signals’ we know they’re tracking this one should be added to your list.
- Text above the fold – The ‘fold’ is the area of the page visitors can see before they scroll down. In order for Google to take your page seriously it will need to see text well above fold. Within the first 500 pixels of the page in fact.
- More social – If you aren’t already, get busy with Google Local listings and Yelp.
- Long pages – If your pages are too long this is viewed as poor user experience and Google will wag its algorithmic finger at you.
- Advertising – If you have too many ads on the page, Google will not give the page a good quality score because it will assume that the page exists to make money from ads as opposed to deliver great content for its visitors.
- Co-citations – Back in the day, if you had an article on a 3rd party site ‘bigging you up’ then you’d need to put keyword related links in the blog or article which would direct people back to your site. Google is now clever enough to identify your domain name without the need for an actual link. This means that you can write content in a very natural way; not for the search engines but for real people.
“Change is good…” anon
People like to say nasty things about Google 🙂 but in my honest opinion I think this Google update is great. It means that only sites which deliver genuine value to its visitors will do well. As a Google user the last thing you want to see are poor quality sites in the search results. And that’s Google’s #1 priority.
So above all else, think about quality, think about the user experience you’re creating for you visitors and think about your value proposition and why they should buy from you.
A blog could be written about each point, but that would just bore you to tears I’m sure. But if you need more information about any of the points above, then Google them, look them up on YouTube or ask me – firstname.lastname@example.org or @theonlinegenius on Twitter.