Basic SEO tips that you need to know to succeed online.
Search Engine Optimisation or SEO, is when you optimise the pages of your website, increase their relevancy. Your target? To get search engines to rank your site highly in search results. You've got two choices: a fast-track SEO campaign to get to the top of the page, or give users what they're actually looking for!
Your SEO campaign
Your target is to increase organic traffic by giving users a more positive experience. Tags and keywords mean nothing if your visitors can't relate to your website content. You have to please both the search engines and the users.
- Search engines have over 200 ways of deciding your website's page ranking. These include content quality, technical performance, page structure, and keywords.
- Users have one way. They visit your website and if they can’t find what they're looking for or don’t understand what you're saying - they’ll go somewhere else - simple as that.
Remember, search engines are watching users' behaviour. If users bounce out of your site quickly, search engines will see that as a negative.
Google doesn’t just count keywords anymore, now it reads and understands
Google’s learnt to understand human beings. It gets what we’re looking for, and it corrects its mistakes. When we search for something, ignore the results and alter our search, Google remembers. It knows everything about us, where we are, who we are, who we talk to, where we shop, what we read, and on and on. It knows us so well it anticipates.
Google says, "Base your optimisation decisions first and foremost on what's best for the visitors of your site. They're the main consumers of your content and are using search engines to find your work. Focusing too hard on specific tweaks to gain ranking in the organic results of search engines may not deliver the desired results."
Black Hat SEO & White Hat SEO – both aim to improve website visibility
Black Hat SEO is quick and dirty! It’ll increase the page ranking of your website. But, when Google sees what you’re up to, you'll get penalised and dropped from the Google index.
Black Hat manipulates how search engines assess a web page. It's done using tricks that go against search engine guidelines, and create a poor user experience. It doesn’t bring any value and will damage your reputation.
White Hat SEO aims to create a good quality website with unique and relevant content. It focuses on the audience, and adheres to search engine guidelines and policies.
The following list is Black Hat SEO you must avoid!
Keyword stuffing devalues your content and irritates your users
Keyword stuffing was so cool! It was all about keeping up with the Joneses. If your site used the keyword more times than theirs, you’d be above them in search results. Google caught on.
Search engines will shout 'spam' and refuse to rank your site, users will leave. Keywords are important but they have to be relevant and always used in a natural way. Keep repeating and your content will be repetitive and boring. Don’t use unrelated or inaccurate ones either, that's just crazy.
Google reads your content and judges whether it’s good, bad, useful, or fluffy. It'll confirm that the URL, meta description, title tags, headings, and content match. That they’re all talking about the same thing.
Don’t duplicate content
The content on your website has to be unique, no question. Don’t copy content from other websites, with or without permission. If you’re quoting, keep it short, and remember to credit your source. Try to minimise duplicating your own copy too.
No hidden text or cloaked pages
Content on a page that’s too small to read, white text on a white background - are both black hat! If you show a page of content to a search engine, and the same page but with different content to users – you’ll be penalised.
Link building & comment spam
Link building has to be natural and what some SEO agencies do is most definitely not. Google is clear that if you have to pay for it, request it, or put a link in your post to get it – it’s manipulated. It’s the manual creation of a link and Google says no! That includes posting comments on high ranking blogs with links, e.g. Thanks, cool post! – [link to your site]
Guest blogging purely for SEO
Last year Google's Matt Cutts said, “… I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a link building strategy.” “… it’s just gotten too spammy.” That put the cat amongst the pigeons, big time.
Matt Cutts clarified that there are good reasons to guest blog such as brand exposure, reaching a larger audience, and building your reputation. Just don't be cheeky with the links!
SEO agencies aren't magicians
If you intend using an SEO agency, remember they're a business too and have a service to sell. Check references, etc. Avoid those that promise they can get you number one ranking on a competitive term, that tell you that Google only likes pages that have 200-300 words, or that they can double your traffic in three months. Some see guest blogging as a cheap way of getting lots of links to improve SEO. This and the damage it can do means high ranking websites have started choosing the ‘nofollow’ link rule or zero links in guest posts.
If they don't know your business or your customers they can't do a good job - a one-size fits all SEO campaign is a nonstarter. Check out the warning signs of an incompetent SEO agency.
It won’t happen overnight – it’s not a silver bullet
Google looks at your website and evaluates each page for relevancy and accuracy. It can take a minimum of six months before you see any results or improvement in your website’s page ranking. Even then it’s not guaranteed. Search engine algorithms change and the goal posts move.
Google fights back!
FYI - Last month Google took an unethical SEO agency to court for false and misleading claims. The SEO agency claimed (on its homepage if you don't believe me) that it, "can guarantee first-page placement in Google search results...".
Good luck, you're gonna need it ;)