By now you’ve learned that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important to the success of your business. It should be a priority for you from the moment you start building your website. It can make or break your online presence, which is how most people find out about their newer and most trusted brands.
But SEO is a rapidly changing industry. The battle between giants like Google and small businesses that just want to be visible to consumers is constantly raging with new rules of war, new weaponry, and strategical progressions and disruptions.
If you’ve been using the same SEO tactics since 2012, I hate to break it to you but times have been a’changin’. Some of the things you’re doing are most likely vital and good practice, but many of them are also outdated, stale, or even counter-productive. Let this article be a quick refresh button for your ever-changing and ever-growing website.
Fred, Panda, Possum?
So, if you’ve ever done anything with SEO, you know that Google enrolls algorithm changes fairly regularly to increase the user-friendliness of their search engine.
You may remember Vince and Buffy if you’re an old timer, and probably Panda as well. These were the names of changes, named by Google or otherwise, that vetted and ranked sites on their more “authentic” and “quality” metrics and content. For instance, Panda originally made a target out of so-called content farms and sites with thin or otherwise non-helpful content.
Things have changed since then, and Google has become even more cutthroat with updates such as Possum (affecting local results), Hummingbird (affecting preciseness of search results), and most recently, it’s hypothesized that there is a new change that some are calling “Fred,” which seems to be another spam-targeting update.
To be perfectly honest, the most important thing in combatting these updates is making sure your site is optimized to the best it can be and not putting out garbage content. This means that you shouldn’t keyword stuff on your onsite updates or post content that offers no value to your readers. This is equally true for your broader, blog-style content as well as your most important landing pages.
The best way to get screwed by these algorithms is to put out content that was obviously made for SEO. So anything you do on your website should be of the utmost quality and professionalism. Oh yeah, and it should scream authentic by nature.
The Relevance of Meta Tags
Meta Tags were emphasized heavily in the past but are no longer considered to be as important for SEO reasons like they were emphasized back in the day. However, they are still of vital importance for user experience.
See, just because they don’t affect your rankings does not mean that they’re useless. In fact, they’re exactly what will get you more clickthroughs. The description someone sees in the SERPs is what will make them go to your website. So have it up to cue, as it’s the step between ranking and clickthrough you’re looking for.
For more on writing the best meta descriptions, read Moz’s recent writeup on Meta Tags.
Here’s what you need to know about third party metric-measuring SEO tools (what a mouthful): they are great signposts but not perfect. Moz, SEMRush, Majestic — these give insight to ranking and authority, but it will never be a replacement for your own critical analysis.
There are many times, for instance, that SEM Rush’s metrics about page authority or site traffic is not entirely accurate. Using these tools together can point you in the right direction but will never be the ultimate authority on how your site is doing.
Rather, a much better authority on web traffic and click throughs comes from Google itself: Google analytics. If you’ve never used Analytics before, I recommend getting on it as soon as you possibly can.
Google Analytics is a freemium service offered by Google that gives website owners insight into site visitors and their demographics, converting site visitors (now customers), the most popular pages on the websites, where your traffic is coming from on the web, and more.
In the past, Google Analytics was pretty hard to learn and get the hang of, but that’s the best thing about catching up like you are right now – Google has created a demonstration account to help you learn. It functions the exact same way a normal Analytics account does so you are able to learn by doing without paying for an expensive class or using it incorrectly on your own website due to inexperience.
This demonstration account also allows you to use the information the Google Merchandise Store, so it’s not just a made up or fake business. You learn Analytics by essentially using a real account. There is not a better way to track these things right now than Google Analytics.
More Blogging, Better Blogging
Even five years ago there was an emphasis on good content. So it shouldn’t surprise you that this emphasis has grown, and there is a greater push for better quality. Content is king, and don’t forget it.
This goes back to what I was saying earlier – don’t hash out garbage. Write only things that are useful to people. Your blog content should be applicable to people as a source on whatever it’s talking about. Internal linking in your content is good but too much internal linking can look ridiculous.
In short, write something that you would want to read, should you be in the position of your target audience. In fact, make your content the necessary content for people seeking the type of information you’re writing about.
Responsive design, or “mobile responsive” pages, are up there with the most important parts of creating any website nowadays. Instapage defines “mobile responsive” as the moment when “a web page detects the device type of the user and automatically adjusts the layout based on the screen size so that it’s more easily readable.”
So in short, it means optimizing your site to work well on devices other than computers. This is your smartphones, your tablets, etc. So if people look up your website on a different device, it should be just as user friendly as if they visited on their computer.
In this day and age your website isn’t considered valid if it’s not mobile responsive, so take care of this now if you haven’t already.
An Ever-increasing Quest For Quality Link Building
What you need to know about link building in 2017 is that, now more than ever, quality trumps quantity. It’s common to do a backlink report on an older website and find a plethora of spammy backlinks. Many sites have been demoted in rankings for this now, and the lower quality your links are, the more Google might penalize your site.
Quality link building involves things like quality guest content and local directories — anything natural and helpful to web users. And again, this comes down to having good content on your website.
Hand in hand, a quality website must be represented as quality across the web, and that means staying away from websites that could ruin your reputation and building links to your site in a way that fully represents the quality of your product or brand.
What did you learn that surprised you? What do you think I missed? Let me know in the comment section below!
Avery Phillips is a freelance writer currently making her home in the weather-crazy hills of Idaho. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually out enjoying nature on a hike, a bike ride, or weekend camping.