Everyone wants to rank on the front page of a Google search. When it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) the Internet is like high school, and being on the front page with the popular kids matters for your site and your business! One of the major problems with keeping up is that the search algorithms of major search engines like Google constantly change. Far too many SEOers focus on short term and temporary strategies instead of long-term SEO efforts.
While Google tends to have one or two major publicized changes or adaptations per year, the company even admits that small changes, tweaks, and adjustments are made hundreds of times a year. Falling behind not only hurts your website’s rankings, but using old SEO strategies can often result in your site actually getting penalized. Having Google refuse to show your site to any search results is a death knell for many upstart websites. So how can you keep up without fear of getting punished?
They key to long term success in getting your website noticed by the search engines, and staying in their good graces, is to focus your efforts on on-page long-term SEO. What does this mean?
Programming and overall setup matter
Have you ever looked at a website and found yourself frustrated while looking for the information you wanted? Chances are that eventually a drop in search engine rankings hit that website because it wasn’t cleanly organized. A well-organized website with clear pages, a clear site map, and clean programming language is extremely important to rank well. The reason for this is simple: it makes for a better visitor experience.
When you’re looking at page set up and programming, you want to focus on the following long term SEO factors as it pertains to the programming aspect of your site:
- The speed your site loads / server speed
- A site map or XML site map
- Clean HTML and CSS coding for easy loading and reading
The biggest single factor affecting site-loading speed is your hosting plan. While $3 a month shared hosting might sound like a deal, the load times are going to be much worse than if you have a better hosting account or even your own server.
Finding a top notch programmer is important if you don’t know programming languages yourself. The cleaner and more precise the HTML and CSS coding is on a site, the quicker that site will load and the easier it is for search engine spiders to read. If you are using a base like WordPress, there are many easy plug-ins that specifically focus on laying out a simple site map or XML site map. Adding one of these plug-ins will allow search engine spiders to easily crawl your website and find and index every page.
The speed of your hosting, the site map, and the clean programming language aren’t just important SEO factors but make sense for creating an exceptional website that is user friendly.
Think about your reader
Google, the largest search engine and the one that all others model themselves after, says time and time again to think about your visitors when writing your site. What are they looking for? Why did they visit? Are you offering clear and concise answers to what they are looking for? Are you meeting their needs or not?
There was a time when crafting a good SEO post meant keyword percentages, geotags in the titles, and other similar practices that were obviously meant to influence search engine results. While these strategies may have worked in 2005 all the way up to 2010, they are no longer a safe long-term SEO strategy.
As Google’s search algorithm gets more complex and becomes more capable of discerning the meaning of search queries or the intention behind text, having keywords is far less important than having good writing. Good writing that answers a searcher’s question and provides exceptional related information is what you should be aiming for.
Start with high-quality writing. This starts with the basics like grammar, sentence structure, paragraphs, and more, but it also goes well beyond that. What’s the reading level of the content? Is the writing natural and native, or does it sound spun, technical, or fall under the dreaded “English as a second language” label? You want your text to be easy to understand, follow all the basic rules of English, and give the reader a clear and concise picture of what information you are providing.
The best strategy in putting together a page is to write for your reader. Not only does Google hire human readers, but the algorithm is better than ever at discerning what the page says. This not only includes basic meanings of words, but even concepts like jokes, satire, sarcasm, and more. A naturally written article designed to entertain visitors is going to go a long way to ranking high in Google. This is especially true if it not only offers a direct answer, but also offers important supportive or related information to the topic at hand.
By focusing on answering specific questions and offering solid information on both the general topic and related specifics, you will have a complete article or page that is not only good to read, but it will rank well in the search engines. Crafting your content that way also makes sure you pass any human examination with flying colors!
Keywords and linking
Keywords and links used to be two of the most important aspects of good SEO practices. When it comes to links, you would most often hear about two types: external backlinks and internal or on-page links. External backlinks at this point are best more or less ignored. Trying to “collect” or “gather” backlinks used to result in higher rankings, but now results in an instant penalty when Google catches these links or actions. Even the once safe practice of guest blogging is considered taboo for creating links to your website. Avoid that practice.
When it comes to promoting your website with links, you want to focus only on two types: proper social media and internal or on-page links.
Proper social media is simple. Avoid the “scrapper” type of social networks and only work with the ones that apply to you. Every website should have a Facebook account, and your Facebook updates can always safely link back to new blog posts, specific pages, or other parts of your website. You should also have a Google Plus (most often written as Google+) account. Since this social media site is run by Google, it makes sense that Google not only indexes those pages, but also pays attention to who you link to.
There’s no question that additional social media links can be useful for some sites. If you have instructional videos on YouTube, those can be a good way to promote the SEO of your site. (This is another case where it is worth remembering that YouTube is owned by Google). If you are involved in a picture, photography, or visual-heavy website or industry, then Instagram is another option for promoting your site and getting some social links back.
Perhaps even more important is setting yourself up with exceptional internal linking on your website. Internal linking is the simple practice of linking one page to another, making it easier for readers to jump to other pages or blog posts depending on what information is being sought out. There aren’t many rules with internal linking, but the first is that you should not have multiple links to the same page on one page or post.
The next step is to avoid exact keyword links. An exact keyword link shows a blatant attempt to manipulate search engine rankings, and that will never go over well. “This post I wrote on SEO tactics” is a much better example of a keyword phrase to use for an internal link than “SEO tactics.” The first example is conversational. The second example is an obvious attempt to rank for a keyword.
Finally, forget about the idea of keyword densities or using “long tail” and “exact long tail” keywords. The most important practice is simply to write naturally. Take a look at using different synonyms and phrases that target the words you would like to rank for, but don’t force anything. That will be obvious and bring down the readability.
The only concern about keyword density you have should be to keep it low. If you find a keyword coming up 2-3% of the time, your writing style is using it too often. Adjust accordingly and remember that Google knows how to group similar words and related terms together. So write naturally and use a wide range of phrases to get your point across.
Focus on what Google wants
The core philosophy that will help you rank in Google is to think about your website from their point of view. Google is very clear on what they want. They want well-written, high-quality websites made from original content. When that content demonstrates you are an expert in your field and have authority on the subject you’re talking about, that’s even better.
At the end of the day, the best way to rank high in Google’s search engine results is to give Google what they want. Taking a long-term approach to providing original and high-quality content will give your website the edge over any competition. Regardless of what others might say, quality does matter!