SEO, or search engine optimization has been a much discussed and debated topic. IMO, I think it will continue that way, for as long as there are search engines and most importantly when users continue to make use of them. There are studies all over the place, where results indicate that when someone is looking for something, they start generally by “searching for whatever it is” online. SEO is not dead as many would like you to believe, but it is constantly changing and as new factors come into play, others go. In addition, SEO is just a piece of the puzzle, now included in a much larger scale called “inbound marketing” (more on that later).
Best SEO Practices For 2012
As I mentioned before, the best SEO Practices have not really changed that much, as the most important ranking factors pretty much remained unchanged. At its basics, you need to know that there are only two essential elements for good SEO, on-page and off-page. On-page SEO are those that you as a publisher/webmaster can control directly, while off-page SEO essentially relies on user behavior, social engagements, visitors, and other publishers, although there are some cases where you too can control part of it.
Now and understandably, you might be a complete newbie to this whole SEO thing. If that is the case, I strongly suggests you to read the following, before anything else. While these material may have been published for a while now (not entirely – new updates included), they all provide a lot of information that are valuable. It will definitely introduce you to the basic concepts of content optimization for search engines and a bit more :).
- Google Webmaster Academy (new update: June 2012)
- Another Step To Reward High Quality Sites (new update: GWT Official Blog April 24, 2012)
- Google’s SEO Starter Guide
- Google’s SEO Report Card
- Best SEO Tips and Practices for 2011
- Search Engine Land’s Guide To SEO
- How to Fix On-Page SEO Problems using Bing Webmaster Tools (new upated June 2012)
On-Page SEO Ranking Factors and Important Elements
Essentially, you will need to address the following – Content, Code and Site Architecture. Let’s put aside the need for quality content as that is the only one that is a given.
Best On-Page SEO Practices For…
Quality content is really what you should aim for, as this is what it takes to enhance or improve users experience. I won’t be discussing posting frequency as it depends a lot on your topic or niche and how often you can generate good content. If you ask me, it is way better to post a great article 2 –3 times a week than shooting for useless and low quality daily content. That won’t cut it. You should know however that search engines, and in particular Google, is now looking for “fresh” content. Obviously, if you are talking about something that is “hot” or trending , the more updated the information is, the better. Otherwise, find a frequency that suits you best and stick to it.
Is freshness an important signal for all sites? (Update 10/2012)
To clarify a bit what QDF or Query that Desrves Freshness is all about, Matt has published this video that porvides some helpful tips and advice about “content fresshness”. Note to what he mentions about “evergreen” content.
Now, you may be asking what is quality content? Oh boy, we can stay here forever, but to keep this short, anything that can be helpful and enhanced peoples lives or experience is what quality is all about. Do not refrain yourself to just writing “text” posts. You can make use of all content creation methods such as Videos, Infographics, Videographics, Images or a combination of all. You can even be a great content curator, if you know how to do it properly, and having a hard time to self-create content. Read the “Quality Guidelines” as outlined in this article and you will know what it takes to have a quality website.
This is nothing more than the language that you use to generate “signals” for search engines bots. Content creation is geared for your readers, visitors and users in general, while the “code” is the part where you optimize your site and content for search engines. This is where you put in practice the proper use of words (known as keywords) in your title, description and body of your posts (no keyword stuffing please). Proper use of words here means that you are using the most relevant keywords that best describe your site or a specific posts. Words are important for your SEO campaign and while it is not “everything”, it is a very important piece of the puzzle. On a later stage (hopefully next week), I will provide the best SEO tools (and best SEO plugins), that you can use to assist you in optimizing your content, among other things. Watch out for that?
And let’s not forget about the theme you are using. For SEO purposes, one of the best recommended platforms is WordPress. Even Matt Cutts recommends it, and for a good reason. Why? Because according to Matt Cutts, WordPress takes care of about 70% of the technical issues required for your SEO. The remainder, or 30% of on-page SEO can be complimented by using the best SEO plugins and whenever possible using WordPress SEO optimized themes. Don’t get fooled by the later. There are many that will say that their themes are SEO optimized. Do some research first just to make sure. The only two SEO optimized themes that I know of, because I use them, are Thesis and Genesis (aff links). You should give them a try :).
Also known as usability, site navigation, etc.. Having quality and optimized content is great, but your site should also provide the best of user experience and accessibility for search engine bots. Page speed, Link structure (broken links are bad) and easily allowing for search bots to crawl your site are all but important ingredients to wrap up your on-page SEO. In addition, you may want to seriously consider setting up the authorship markup on your site, as this is one way of Google knowing about you as the author. Excellent way to “prove” that you are the original creator of a certain piece of content, while providing exposure, building credibility and trust.
The guides above, my SEO Tips, along with the great information out there, should give you an idea of how and what you need to do to accomplish this objective. Take page speed for example. If you are on WordPress, reading how to make your WordPress site load faster will provide you with a step by step instruction on how to achieve this.
Recommended articles and video for more Best SEO Practices and Tips
- SEO Strategies and Inbound Marketing Best Practices for 2012
- The KISSmetrics Guide To Keyword Research (series)
- Promoting Your Content on YouTube
SEO for startups in under 10 minutes (Update: July 2012)
Maile Ohye from Google advises your startup as if she had only 10 minutes as your SEO consultant.
Off-Page SEO Ranking Factors and Important Elements
Once upon a time, the only critical element to off-page SEO was basically link building. Essentially the more quality links you can amass and point to your site, all the better. This was achieved in many ways, including but not limited to link exchanges (include wheels), article marketing (so, so), directory submissions, etc. These were effective back then, but as the game changes, search engines are now giving more and more importance to “quality and natural inbound links” and other external SEO factors, such as social engagement, trust factor of a website, etc.. These are the ones that we essentially do not control and have to rely on users, other publishers, to help us build credibility and trust. Hence, why it is now very important to have great content, build relationships and engage actively on the social sphere.
Best Off-Page SEO Practices For…
Links or Link Building
As I mentioned above, inbound links are still very important, the only difference being that search engines now favor “quality” over “quantity”. The more natural, trusted and authority sites links to you (domain level), the better. This is why it is equally important to monitor and track backlinks. In addition, inbound links are further strengthen with the use “again” of proper words, also known as anchor text. The more relevant your anchor texts are, the greater you chances of ranking well for that particular term. If you do find a link pointing to your site that you feel does not have a proper anchor text, politely ask the webmaster to change it, if they can. If you have “other” sites where you can control the links and anchor text, remember to use relevancy, over “spammy” like keywords.
Other ways of how to get backlinks and traffic generation techniques exists and a bit of research can help. However, not all methods are considered “white hat” or ethical, and with “Google Panda” continuing on its path on “removing” useless stuff from their index, you want to make sure that you are doing the acceptable thing. One great form of link building is via guest posting. Start with this list of awesome sites that you can submit your guest post for consideration.
On a side note, here are some articles that you may want to consider reading
- Private Blog Networks – Worst Backlink Building Strategy? (update 04/2014)
- Pinterest Image Optimization, Using Pinterest for Brand Exposure (update 04/2012)
- How to Build Links Through Guest Blogging (update 04/2012)
- Google Panda Update: Say Goodbye to Low-Quality Link Building
- Link Building Strategy For 2012
Ahh! The social sphere. What is there to say about it? A lot actually, but let’s focus on SEO and how the social web can help your site rank better. Basically it all boils down to your online reputation, the trust and authority of the people who share your content, the amount of “votes” you obtain from influential people to your content, and the level of engagement and interaction you perform on the major networks. Search engines are now heavily looking at you and your content on social networks. It is believed that the more trusted and authoritative people share your content, the more your content could be considered of high quality and value. At least that is what is perceived.
I won’t put too much details as to what you should and should do on social networks. The important part is that you know that they are now important and you should not ignore being a part of the major ones, such as FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter and now Google+. I don’t want to seem pushy, but I really encourage you to be a part of Google+ and also build your Google+ page, if you have not done so already. Results from Google, specially when a user is logged in any Google account, are now showing relevant results from your circles first, before anything else. Here’s a great and free guide (PDF) on everything you need to know about Google+ (excellent).
There you have it. These are the best SEO practices that you should seriously consider for your SEO campaign. The above are all part of a “big” pie and while some factors are indeed more important than others, do remember that there is not one single factor that guarantees you top rankings.
Worst SEO Practices For 2012
Yep! There are also SEO techniques that you should avoid. While some may give you a sort of instant boost in your rankings, they will, in due time, not only hurt your rankings but may cause other unexpected negative impact on a lot of things. Your reputation, brand, among other things that are at risk. So think again and avoid, copying content, posting shallow or useless articles, excessive use of repetitive words (stuffing), link cloaking, bad redirections, any attempt to falsely manipulate PageRank, and yep, paid and spammy links. All these are frowned upon and is bad for user experience.
Stay on the right path. Avoid shortcuts as they may only result with your sites demise and whenever possible, be sure that you are in compliance with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and Bing’s webmaster tools.
5 common mistakes in SEO (and 6 good ideas!)
Maile Ohye from Google covers the five most common errors she finds in SEO, and then concludes with six quick tips to make sure you’re on the right track.
Wishing you all success in your online endeavors on 2012!