Analysis is the key to SEO – Monitoring your ranking on search engines is key to getting better results. Start by tracking the most important website metrics to set a baseline for your performance. Make small content changes and see if you notice a boost in your site traffic or rankings. Avoid making several unrelated changes simultaneously so you can always keep track of what was responsible for improved performance.
Comparing your Google Analytics data side by side with the dates of official algorithm updates is useful in diagnosing a site health issue or traffic drop. In the above example, a new client thought it was a switch to HTTPS and server downtime that caused the drop when it was actually the May 6, 2015, Google Quality Algorithm (originally called Phantom 2 in some circles) that caused the sudden drop in organic traffic – and the problem was probably compounded by unnatural linking practices. (This client did eventually receive a penalty for unnatural links when they ignored our advice to clean up).
Brand new keywords sound super tricky to find — except for a ton of easy ones that come around every January: simply adding the year to whatever keyword you’re targeting. People can start getting traffic from “2020” keywords long before they show up with any kind of search volume in typical keyword-research tools, since their data lags. (Hat tip to Glen Allsopp, who I got that idea from.)
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!
One thing Google has indicated it likes to do is penalize sites or stores or companies that consistently have poor reviews, so if you have many poor reviews, in time Google is going to figure out not to show your site in their rankings because Google doesn’t want to show those sites to their searchers. So prove to Google’s algorithm that you are trustworthy. Get other highly authoritative websites to link to you. Get newspaper articles, get industry links, get other trusted sites to link to you: partners, vendors, happy customers—get them to link to your website to show that you are highly credible and trustworthy.
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.
Google asks quality raters to investigate your reputation by searching “giving the example [“ibm.com” reviews –site:ibm.com]: A search on Google for reviews of “ibm.com” which excludes pages on ibm.com.” – So I would do that search yourself and judge for yourself what your reputation is. Very low ratings on independent websites could play a factor in where you rank in the future – ” with Google stating clearly “very low ratings on the BBB site to be evidence for a negative reputation“. Other sites mentioned to review your business include YELP and Amazon. Often – using rich snippets containing schema.org information – you can get Google to display user ratings in the actual SERPs. I noted you can get ‘stars in SERPs’ within two days after I added the code (March 2014).
The leading search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!, use crawlers to find pages for their algorithmic search results. Pages that are linked from other search engine indexed pages do not need to be submitted because they are found automatically. The Yahoo! Directory and DMOZ, two major directories which closed in 2014 and 2017 respectively, both required manual submission and human editorial review. Google offers Google Search Console, for which an XML Sitemap feed can be created and submitted for free to ensure that all pages are found, especially pages that are not discoverable by automatically following links in addition to their URL submission console. Yahoo! formerly operated a paid submission service that guaranteed crawling for a cost per click; however, this practice was discontinued in 2009.
Baseline ranking assessment. You need to understand where you are now in order to accurately assess your future rankings. Keep a simple Excel sheet to start the process. Check weekly to begin. As you get more comfortable, check every 30 to 45 days. You should see improvements in website traffic, a key indicator of progress for your keywords. Some optimizers will say that rankings are dead. Yes, traffic and conversions are more important, but we use rankings as an indicator.
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.
The biggest advantage any one provider has over another is experience and resource. The knowledge of what doesn’t work and what will hurt your site is often more valuable than knowing what will give you a short-lived boost. Getting to the top of Google is a relatively simple process. One that is constantly in change. Professional SEO is more a collection of skills, methods and techniques. It is more a way of doing things, than a one-size-fits-all magic trick.
Forget whether or not to put your keyword in it, make it relevant to a searcher and write it for humans, not search engines. If you want to have this 20-word meta description which accurately describes the page you have optimised (for one or two keyword phrases) when people use Google to search, make sure the keyword is in there. There is more likelihood it will be used by Google as your snippet description in SERPs.
Great guide Sharon! Thank you so much for sharing. I was wondering if off-page SEO is still worth it? Like using Personal Publishing Accounts or other social media where you can share your content. I’ve been trying for some months now to spread around content but still waiting for better results. I’ve read it needs diversity but I still haven’t figured it out yet.