It seems like every other day, some SEO technique that used to be accepted is now being devalued or, even worse, penalized. (Remember when meta keywords and nofollow tags were totally legit? Ah, the good old days…) And now Google is threatening to crack down on two staples of the SEO stable: anchor text and infographics.
With all of these changes it can be hard for businesses to know which search strategies are long-term and future-proof.
Business: “Sure I could invest a bunch of time and resources into this new strategy the weird search person is suggesting, but how do I know it won’t just change next year?”
Well, as much as things change, there are a few basic guidelines that are here to stay. And while I’m not going to go into details on every nuance, as long as your SEO efforts keep with these general strategies, you should be in good shape (at least for a few years).
1. Page speed and efficiency
As a general rule, fast things are better, and in this case, the “better” means rankings. Google and Bing have been saying this for a while now: page speed counts. Google even made a cool little tool for everyone to measure their website’s page speed. It even gives instructions on how to improve it. Why would they do that if they didn’t consider it important?
Why is it so important? Because it’s one of the main things real people look at when they decide whether or not to use a site. Amazon has stated that every tenth of a second of increased load time resulted in a 1% drop in sales. That means people really, really care about this. And if people really, really care, you know all the little Ooompa Loompas and elves working at Google and Bing are trying to make their magic robots care as well.
2. Fixing duplicate anything
Duplication happens. Title tags get repeated, URLs accidentally get indexed with parameters, content gets scraped, mobile sites get indexed separately – it sucks. Like Oompa Loompas, the ways in which content can get duplicated go on forever.
The search engines are getting better at identifying duplicate content. But a search engine robot being 99.9% sure that your page is the one that should rank out of the 15 others indexed is still not as good the robot being 100% sure because it only has one page to choose from.
The best defense with duplicate content is to avoid it all together:
- Don’t use parameters in places where they’ll get indexed.
- Use consistent URLs for both mobile and desktop versions of your site.
- If you can’t fix a wrong link, use 301 redirects.
- If you can’t get rid of duplicate content and you can’t redirect, then use the meta tags like rel=canonical or noindex.
- If you can’t do that, then just fight it any way you can.
3. Resource and instructional content
Updates like Penguin have got everyone freaking out. “What makes a page good?” “What makes a page spammy?” “What makes a link good?” “Does Google like me or like like me?”
Well, here’s the thing – if you have a legitimately useful page for something, it will always be considered good. So, if you sell Frisbees, write a page about how to throw a Frisbee. If you’re trying to get more Renaissance Fair enthusiasts to visit your site, write something on how to care for jousting armor.
This goes back to Google’s humble beginnings as an indexing engine for academic documents.
In academia, if you reference something, you’re doing it because it’s something that you found useful when writing your dissertation on Bigfoot or Jetpacks (or whatever it is smart people write about).
This is how search engines wish you used your links. Lots of SEOs complain about Wikipedia always being in the number 1 spot, but few can argue that it isn’t the most relevant result for most searches.
I realize not everyone can be Wikipedia, but as long as people are linking to you because you’re useful, you will be in good shape.
How do you do this?
- Create resource pages about your industry.
- Create some data oriented blog posts.
- Make an instructional page about how to use your product or a related product.
This is how links were always intended to be used and that’s why they were ever a ranking factor in the first place. These pages are naturally good content and links to these pages will tend to be good links.
4. Good site structure
Should I link to every page from the homepage or just the main ones? Should I repeat everything in the footer or should I cut the footer all together? Can I hide the homepage text?
Good site structure typically falls more into the UI/UX category, but it’s an SEO concern as well. You see, when you design a site with the intention of getting your user or shopper to the right page or give them information they’re looking for, you’re naturally creating a page that does the same for the search engines.
Search engines are complicated because the elves are trying very hard to make them emulate human factors when viewing a website.
Lots of links on a page is confusing. It implies that you consider them all equally important. If your homepage has a few links, on the other hand, it looks like you really care about those pages.
Using this sort of user-oriented thought process is a future-proof strategy to predict what search engines will care about within your site. Sure, you still have to help the robots with filters and search boxes, but they are very good at finding links.
So remember to:
- Show off the links you want to show off.
- Use page hierarchy to group internal pages into categories and subcategories.
- Link to related products. These really make sense to your users and naturally lay out the relationship to the search engines.
5. Anything local
The bottom line for businesses and consultants is this: People who are actually looking for products aren’t changing their settings in Google or using a proxy to see the universal search results. They are clicking on those search results with the little letters next to them.
If searching for any of your keywords displays a local search result, you need to spend time on local. And if people can walk into a storefront, you really need to care about local.
Local search isn’t going anywhere; in fact it’s getting more popular. On mobile devices it pretty much dominates the search results. So if you have one store or one thousand stores, you need to spend some time in Google+ Local and Bing Local.
You need to:
- Claim your listings, check your NAP, and monitor your reviews.
- Create storefront pages and make sure they are associated with your local listings.
- If you don’t have a storefront, make some pages that talk about the area you serve.
Is that all?
No! This doesn’t mean don’t worry about any of the other things. Don’t ignore a social network today just because it might not be around in 10 years. If Google comes out with a hot new tag then you should absolutely use it, even if it may be ignored a few months later. Infographics still work!
But if you have limited resources, these guidelines can help you evaluate whether something is worth investing a ton of time and money in or if there is something more effective you could be working on.
Disagree? Totally agree? Not sure what level of agreement you’re feeling? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!