There are a lot of definitions of SEO (spelled Search engine optimisation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, or search engine optimization in the United States and Canada) but organic SEO in 2019 is still mostly about getting free traffic from Google, the most popular search engine in the world (and almost the only game in town in the UK in 2019):
It is important you spread all that real ‘PageRank’ – or link equity – to your sales keyword / phrase rich sales pages, and as much remains to the rest of the site pages, so Google does not ‘demote’ pages into oblivion – or ‘supplemental results’ as we old timers knew them back in the day. Again – this is slightly old school – but it gets me by, even today.
For example, let’s say you were running the website of an online pet store. You might be wise to create one keyword grouping for all your dog-related products, then one for all of your parakeet-related projects, etc. The next step would be to segment each individual group into smaller subgroups (parakeet cages, parakeet toys, parakeet snacks) and then even smaller groups for each type of product (low-fat parakeet snacks, luxury parakeet snacks… you get the idea). Now your pet store can create individual pages optimized for each small keyword group.
SEO may generate an adequate return on investment. However, search engines are not paid for organic search traffic, their algorithms change, and there are no guarantees of continued referrals. Due to this lack of guarantees and certainty, a business that relies heavily on search engine traffic can suffer major losses if the search engines stop sending visitors. Search engines can change their algorithms, impacting a website's placement, possibly resulting in a serious loss of traffic. According to Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, in 2010, Google made over 500 algorithm changes – almost 1.5 per day. It is considered a wise business practice for website operators to liberate themselves from dependence on search engine traffic. In addition to accessibility in terms of web crawlers (addressed above), user web accessibility has become increasingly important for SEO.
QUOTE: “7.4.3 Automatically Generated Main Content Entire websites may be created by designing a basic template from which hundreds or thousands of pages are created, sometimes using content from freely available sources (such as an RSS feed or API). These pages are created with no or very little time, effort, or expertise, and also have no editing or manual curation. Pages and websites made up of autogenerated content with no editing or manual curation, and no original content or value added for users, should be rated Lowest.” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines 2017
What’s your audience searching for? – Just a few years ago, the average user didn’t trust search engines to understand conversational questions. They were searching with clunky phrases like “flower delivery new york.” Now people feel comfortable typing in things like “who delivers roses near me?” Changes in searcher habits are usually subtle, but will affect which keywords will be most valuable for your site. Instead of focusing on keywords that get you more traffic, focus on those that translate into conversions, revenue and profits.
In February 2011, Google announced the Panda update, which penalizes websites containing content duplicated from other websites and sources. Historically websites have copied content from one another and benefited in search engine rankings by engaging in this practice. However, Google implemented a new system which punishes sites whose content is not unique. The 2012 Google Penguin attempted to penalize websites that used manipulative techniques to improve their rankings on the search engine. Although Google Penguin has been presented as an algorithm aimed at fighting web spam, it really focuses on spammy links by gauging the quality of the sites the links are coming from. The 2013 Google Hummingbird update featured an algorithm change designed to improve Google's natural language processing and semantic understanding of web pages. Hummingbird's language processing system falls under the newly recognized term of 'Conversational Search' where the system pays more attention to each word in the query in order to better match the pages to the meaning of the query rather than a few words . With regards to the changes made to search engine optimization, for content publishers and writers, Hummingbird is intended to resolve issues by getting rid of irrelevant content and spam, allowing Google to produce high-quality content and rely on them to be 'trusted' authors.
Links to your site are extremely valuable – When another website links to yours, search engines consider that an indicator that your site contains valuable content. Not so long ago, getting dozens of links from low-quality sites was all it took to boost your ranking. Today, the value of a link to your site depends on the quality of the site that linked to you. Just a few links to your business from high-traffic sites will do wonders for your ranking!
Search engines may penalize sites they discover using black or grey hat methods, either by reducing their rankings or eliminating their listings from their databases altogether. Such penalties can be applied either automatically by the search engines' algorithms, or by a manual site review. One example was the February 2006 Google removal of both BMW Germany and Ricoh Germany for use of deceptive practices. Both companies, however, quickly apologized, fixed the offending pages, and were restored to Google's search engine results page.
Some search engines have also reached out to the SEO industry, and are frequent sponsors and guests at SEO conferences, webchats, and seminars. Major search engines provide information and guidelines to help with website optimization. Google has a Sitemaps program to help webmasters learn if Google is having any problems indexing their website and also provides data on Google traffic to the website. Bing Webmaster Tools provides a way for webmasters to submit a sitemap and web feeds, allows users to determine the "crawl rate", and track the web pages index status.
QUOTE: “Ultimately, you just want to have a really great site people love. I know it sounds like a cliché, but almost [all of] what we are looking for is surely what users are looking for. A site with content that users love – let’s say they interact with content in some way – that will help you in ranking in general, not with Panda. Pruning is not a good idea because with Panda, I don’t think it will ever help mainly because you are very likely to get Panda penalized – Pandalized – because of low-quality content…content that’s actually ranking shouldn’t perhaps rank that well. Let’s say you figure out if you put 10,000 times the word “pony” on your page, you rank better for all queries. What Panda does is disregard the advantage you figure out, so you fall back where you started. I don’t think you are removing content from the site with potential to rank – you have the potential to go further down if you remove that content. I would spend resources on improving content, or, if you don’t have the means to save that content, just leave it there. Ultimately people want good sites. They don’t want empty pages and crappy content. Ultimately that’s your goal – it’s created for your users.” Gary Illyes, Google 2017
QUOTE: “Google will now begin encrypting searches that people do by default, if they are logged into Google.com already through a secure connection. The change to SSL search also means that sites people visit after clicking on results at Google will no longer receive “referrer” data that reveals what those people searched for, except in the case of ads.
Search engines are expanding - When someone mentions search engines, do you automatically assume they’re talking about Google? The tech giant has such a big share of the market that 'Googling' has become a verb. However, a significant portion of searches take place on alternative sites, such as Microsoft’s Bing. Make a point to search for your site on Google alternatives to see where you rank. Just improving social media engagement and adding meta tags might be all it takes to boost you a couple ranks on Bing.
Yes, you need to build links to your site to acquire more PageRank, or Google ‘juice’ – or what we now call domain authority or trust. Google is a link-based search engine – it does not quite understand ‘good’ or ‘quality’ content – but it does understand ‘popular’ content. It can also usually identify poor, or THIN CONTENT – and it penalises your site for that – or – at least – it takes away the traffic you once had with an algorithm change. Google doesn’t like calling actions the take a ‘penalty’ – it doesn’t look good. They blame your ranking drops on their engineers getting better at identifying quality content or links, or the inverse – low-quality content and unnatural links. If they do take action your site for paid links – they call this a ‘Manual Action’ and you will get notified about it in Webmaster Tools if you sign up.
One concern we hear frequently is whether it is beneficial or harmful to repeat keywords. In other words, should we vary keywords (dog food, puppy food, and Purina) or repeat keywords (dog food reviews, dog food comparison, and dog food rankings.) The short answer is that the repetition is just fine, as long as the meaning of the phrase as a whole is sufficiently varied. In other words, dog food and dog food online are basically synonymous, and the content that one might expect to find associated with both keywords is the same. However, dog food reviews and dog food comparison indicate somewhat different content and therefore are appropriate to be used in tandem as keywords.
I do not obsess about site architecture as much as I used to…. but I always ensure my pages I want to be indexed are all available from a crawl from the home page – and I still emphasise important pages by linking to them where relevant. I always aim to get THE most important exact match anchor text pointing to the page from internal links – but I avoid abusing internals and avoid overtly manipulative internal links that are not grammatically correct, for instance..
“Easy Internet Services have up to this point been an amazing company to work with. The mark of truly good customer service comes from someone not just going above and beyond their required line of duties, but them being happy to do so. In my eyes this description perfectly encapsulates how I feel about SEO Rankings. I have engaged them to redesign my website, which they have done an amazing job of. It is beautiful and functional. In addition to this I have asked them to do my SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and have seen rapid results. I have total faith that in the near future they will have me at the top of my desired search terms. they are fast, efficient, friendly, very well priced and the proprietors of functional, effective and beautiful work. You will not go wrong putting the desires and dreams for your business in their hands.”
Capturing and keeping attention is one of the hardest parts of our job today. Fact: It's just going to get harder with the advent of new technology and conversational interfaces. In the brave new world we're stepping into, the key questions are: How do we get discovered? How can we delight our audiences? And how can we grow revenue for our clients? Watch this session to learn how to make your marketing and advertising efforts something people are going to want to consume.
A poor 404 page and user interaction with it, can only lead to a ‘poor user experience’ signal at Google’s end, for a number of reasons. I will highlight a poor 404 page in my audits and actually programmatically look for signs of this issue when I scan a site. I don’t know if Google looks at your site that way to rate it e.g. algorithmically determines if you have a good 404 page – or if it is a UX factor, something to be taken into consideration further down the line – or purely to get you thinking about 404 pages (in general) to help prevent Google wasting resources indexing crud pages and presenting poor results to searchers. I think rather that any rating would be a second order scoring including data from user activity on the SERPs – stuff we as SEO can’t see.
QUOTE: “Some pages load with content created by the webmaster, but have an error message or are missing MC. Pages may lack MC for various reasons. Sometimes, the page is “broken” and the content does not load properly or at all. Sometimes, the content is no longer available and the page displays an error message with this information. Many websites have a few “broken” or non-functioning pages. This is normal, and those individual non-functioning or broken pages on an otherwise maintained site should be rated Low quality. This is true even if other pages on the website are overall High or Highest quality.” Google
Hey Sharon, great post! Re. dwell time – I’ve read conflicting opinions, some saying that Google DOES consider it an ‘important’ ranking signal, and others saying that it doesn’t, because dwell time can sometimes be a misleading indicator of content quality. For example when a user searches for something specific and finds the answer immediately in the recommended page (meaning that the content on the page is actually spot on) so he returns to the SERPs very quickly. I have been unable to locate any definitive statements (written/spoken) from anyone at Google that suggest that dwell time IS still a factor in ranking considerations, but it makes sense (to me, anyway) that it should be. Do you have any ‘proof’ one way or the other re. whether Google definitely considers dwell time or not?
When you write a page title, you have a chance right at the beginning of the page to tell Google (and other search engines) if this is a spam site or a quality site – such as – have you repeated the keyword four times or only once? I think title tags, like everything else, should probably be as simple as possible, with the keyword once and perhaps a related term if possible.
QUOTE: “As the Googlebot does not see [the text in the] the images directly, we generally concentrate on the information provided in the “alt” attribute. Feel free to supplement the “alt” attribute with “title” and other attributes if they provide value to your users! So for example, if you have an image of a puppy (these seem popular at the moment ) playing with a ball, you could use something like “My puppy Betsy playing with a bowling ball” as the alt-attribute for the image. If you also have a link around the image, pointing a large version of the same photo, you could use “View this image in high-resolution” as the title attribute for the link.”
Google is all about ‘user experience’ and ‘visitor satisfaction’ in 2019 so it’s worth remembering that usability studies have shown that a good page title length is about seven or eight words long and fewer than 64 total characters. Longer titles are less scan-able in bookmark lists, and might not display correctly in many browsers (and of course probably will be truncated in SERPs).
Ever since its April 2015 update, Google is now taking the user's mobile experience into consideration in its search results. This means that when a user is doing a search on a mobile device, Google's search results will favor websites that are mobile friendly over the ones that aren't. If you want to capture that mobile search audience, you will need to have a mobile version of your website in addition to your desktop version.