SEO, or search engine optimization has long been debated for its effectiveness, usefulness and all that, and one may wonder if it is really something we should be concerned about to help us succeed in our online business endeavors. My take on this is quite simple, YES, I think it helps. Let me put it this way, “Any website that implements the best SEO practices will stand out, compared to those who don’t”. Got it!
That said, here are some SEO practices that we should be looking at for 2011. While many SEO techniques and factors have not changed that much, there are “new” ones that we should be keeping pace at, even if it is just to play it safe. Search engines keep tweaking their “algorithms” on a regular basis, and what matters today may no longer be of great importance tomorrow. Your SEO strategy should coupe up with new and developing trends and if you are really completely new to this, start by reading the Google’s Best SEO Tips starter guide as this covers more than 70% of what you need to know. An added 20% is what this post is all about and the remainder 10%, well those are the ones that keep developing :). You will need some time to read this at it is rather long, sorry.
Best SEO Practices Checklist For 2011
As noted, the best SEO Practices did not not change that much, and most of the important points remain the same. Essentially, to rank well, what you need is quality and optimized content. With the help of SEOMoz (one of the known authorities in SEO), my own SEO Tips and a little bit more of research, let’s pin this down to key points that are timeless (a manner of speaking) as far as helping you get those desired rankings. May I remind you that there is more than “one” search engine and what may be important for one, is not necessarily for the other.
On-Page SEO Practices
We all know what this is, right. On-Page SEO is the first thing we can really control as this is all up to us. These are those “factors” that we can do ourselves without having to rely on any external factors (e.g. inbound links, link popularity, domain authority, etc.).
“Killer” Content: Nowadays anyone can set up a website in a matter of minutes and “fill it” with other people’s content by using aggregators, bots and all that bad stuff. Provide content that are useful, informative, helpful, updated and whenever possible, “timeless” or pillar articles. This is all that matters, quality, and uniqueness (your own voice). In addition, pick a posting frequency that suits you best and stick to it. You do not have to write an article everyday (unless you are a news site or something similar), and moreover, you should give time for people to digest the hundreds of blogs they visit every day, before they arrive at yours. Keeping it “fresh” is the key.
Keywords: When it comes to SEO, unfortunately you are really writing for search engines and truth is you should not. This seems contradicting, but you should first write for your readers and then for SEO. To solve this problem, please read this article about the 3 simple steps to SEO writing.
In addition, ensure that the keywords you are targeting for are:
- included in your title (preferably first two words), and tagged <h1>
- included in other title tags (<h2> – <h6>)
- are included within the first 50 – 100 words of you articles
- are linked (anchor text) to other pages within your site relevant to that post
- included in your images using the <alt=””> tag
Other SEO factors, such as density, keyword in comment tags, meta keywords (not description) bolded, italic, bulleted, while recommended, are of less importance. Always do a proper research for keywords as the choice you make will greatly impact on your rankings. The more competitive the harder it will be. A good WordPress plugin that you can use to assist you is keyword winner.
Title: Separated this one for obvious reasons. This is the single most important part of your on-page SEO and should not be neglected. Use attention “grabbing” headlines and make it as unique as possible. Use a combination of your keyword and the common phrase your keyword would be “naturally” used by searchers in within your title tag. In addition, this free report from Chris Garrett gives you some great ideas of 102 Headline Formulas (direct download no optins – free pdf).
Links: Linking to other sources is not only a great way to show your appreciation to others but is also a form of sharing what other have to say about your topic. Many fear that this will drive people away and in my opinion, this is totally the opposite. The positive effects outweigh by a huge margin, to that of the negatives (if any). However, ensure that your outbound links are pointing only to trusted sources and avoid at all cost linking to “bad neighborhood”.
Off-Page (the opposite of…)
Backlinks – This may sound rather bold but in a nutshell, Bing is great for ranking with an “exact-match” domain name, awesome content and a good title tag, while Google, in addition to that of Bing, relies heavily on backlinks (links pointing to your site). If you want to rank well in Google for competitive niches, you’ll need backlinks – period. This is one of the most overlooked part of anyone’s SEO strategy. Your external links (inbound) will have more importance if they are coming with or from:
- high authority domain sites (trusted, popular, high PR, etc.)
- several root domains (preferably relevant to your niche) – somedomain.com/youranchor and somedomian.com/youranchor/seo is considered only one root domain. Diversity counts.
- keyword focused anchor text (best way to grab one of these is via guest posting)
Social Media: Social media in the past as being of minimal importance when it related to SEO. Recently however and in response to one of the many questions users ask on webmasters central, Matt Cutts (Google), hinted that Google is now using social data into its ranking factors.
Social media should be also be a part of your overall SEO strategy for 2011. Building relationships and interacting with connections helps you build your brand, exposure and most importantly, building a trusted community and within the process gain credibility (do not neglect this either). Consider using “branded” URls if you are a heavy social media user. Want to know more about Social Media? Start here: Ching Ya’s Social Media and Blogging Tips.
Video: I know that this is something that many fear of doing because it goes beyond “our comfort zone”. I too am guilty of this but let’s face it, video is so popular to share information and learn online, that neglecting this medium is letting go of a big chunk of potential traffic sources and consequently another important SEO ranking factor. Having videos will give you the edge compared to those who don’t (there we go again). Here is a great article about the subject matter: Video Marketing – How To Get Views On YouTube and increase your YouTube Traffic..
Mobile SEO: More and more, mobility is playing an important role in our everyday lives. Portable everything is not around the corner, it is there, and with gadgets, such as cell phones having full internet browsing capabilities and more, it is also wise to give a little time in preparing yourself for nearly 10% and counting of global internet users using this medium. Simple WP plugins, such as WP Touch, and more recently for blogger users too, can make your website “mobile friendly”. Combined with the recent addition of “important and searchable” mobile data from Google AdWords Keyword tool, this is something you should not ignore. I will cover this more on my next post.
Domain Names: This was kept last deliberately, because it something that you may or may not be able to implement (obvious, if you already have a domain name – like me). However, if by any chance you are going to set up a new website or thinking of changing your domain name, consider using keyword rich domain name and all the better if you can get an “exact match” domain. Exact match domain is the tip of the iceberg and can give your small business a boost on your rankings.
SEO Practices (Negative)
So you think that there are no Best SEO Tips and practices of things to avoid while doing your SEO? Think again, and here are the top things to avoid (many more but these are the “original sins” of SEO) – using malicious codes with the intent to do harm, linking to SPAM or Banned Sites (bad neighborhood), cloaking links, buying links from link farms, incredible long page load times, frequent server downtime (get another host), keyword stuffing (keyword use in excess), are just about the most important thing you should not do.
[note]UPDATE (July 2011): A very important factor has been added to this list, that being the amount of time in which your site or pages, takes to fully render for your visitors. The faster the better. Therefore, I highly suggest you to read how to improve your sites performance and test it accordingly.[/note]
There you have it. The Best SEO Tips and Practices for 2011. I tried to be as concise as possible, mainly for you to use it as a reference. Not much of a change from what we already know, right? True, but the question is and always the same – what are you doing about it? If your online presence also entails doing business, take the time to take action on this. It pays off.
So, now that we have the best SEO Tips and Practices, what about the best SEO tools (free and premium tools) to aid us in achieving all this. Tools that are designed to help us monitor our SEO progress (such as CuteRank, Google Analytics, etc.), tools to help us get more visibility and exposure (Webmaster tools), tools that analyze our pages for errors and other SEO violations (SEO audit) and SEO plugins and tools that can save us time? Worry not, that was deliberately left off to make way for the next SEO series. Stay tuned and these best SEO practices only work if you take action.
[note]UPDATE: January 2012 – The Best SEO Practices For 2012 is now live.[/down]