Feeling overwhelmed by the wealth of information about onsite SEO? Yes, it's a wildly dynamic world. Yes, it's essential that you play by the rules or else be invisible to the all mighty search engines. But take heart; SEO is not rocket science. It's a bundle of best practices that when followed diligently, and coupled with stellar content and website flow, can equal huge wins for your business.
This article will decipher the current mysteries of effective onsite SEO: What's working and what's not. Prepare to be demystified.
Golden Rule #1: Focus on Your Audience, Not Search Bots
Before you implement a single onsite technique, create an ironclad mantra that your website is tailored to your customers' needs, not the imaginary requirements of a search bot. Search bots are finicky little beasts; their algorithms change frequently based on - you guessed it - what your customers want. So cut to the chase and design for people, not machines.
Golden Rule #2: Metadata Still Matters
All those title tags and description tags may seem like little things, but don't believe the hype that they no longer make a difference. They most certainly do. Title tags tell web crawlers what your content is about, description tags don't effect ranking but definitely do dramatically effect usability, canonical tags protect you from significant penalties from duplicate text. Make friends with your meta data!
Golden Rule #3: Social Signals are Near Obsolete
Remember all that hullaballoo about how social signals were the next big thing in SEO? That ship has sailed. Matt Cutts did say in 2010 that social signals had a correlation to high rankings, but this was dramatically rebutted last year when he stated: there was an SEO that said, 'OK, we see a lot of links on Facebook and those are the pages that rank well.' But that's correlation; that's not causation. Instead, it's probably that there's something really awesome, and because there's something awesome, then it gets a lot of likes on Facebook and a lot of people decide to link to it. That's the sort of thing where the better content you make, the more people are [going] to like it not only in Google, but in Twitter and Facebook as well."
Heed this call loud and clear; social signals don't move your rankings, great content does. So just like you vowed to focus on your audience and not Google's bots, promise you'll worry about creating amazing content and not fret about likes and tweets.
Golden Rule #4: Get to Know Semantic Search
Semantic search was quite possibly the hottest new trend in SEO last year, and it's growing in popularity all the more this year. Semantics as a general term references the study of meaning. Semantic search, then, is an in-depth discovery of the true meaning of search terms, in respect to what the searcher is consciously and unconsciously hoping to unearth. This also means the entire search term is dissected and understood, rather than the keywords. Even pronouns are crucial and indicate a deeper meaning. The end goal is simple: Give the search the most precise list of results that directly mirrors their intention. Yes, it's complicated, but semantic search is here to stay. The moral of this for you is to be very aware of how your customers are finding you - down to the last word.
Golden Rule #5: Earned Links are Powerful
There's three types of links prevalent in SEO these days:
1. Owned media and owned links: These consist of anything you yourself (or your company) created and own.
2. Paid links: Placements you pay for on sites like Google Adwords that advertise your goods and services.
3. Earned links: These are the golden tickets; links to your content from credible, like-minded sources that only wish to tell the word about your efforts. With earned links, quality is everything. A few links from some low ranking sites won't do you any favors, and if they're guilty of spammy behaviors, can even hurt your cause. Links from top tier sites that relate to your industry, however, are immensely powerful.
Golden Rule #6: Go Mobile or Become Obsolete
Mobile optimization is a vastly different game than traditional SEO, but it's becoming arguably more important. Depending on your audience, you could very well find that mobile is the only space you should focus your optimization efforts.
First of all, bear in mind that about 50% of all searches are for local content. 50% of searches have also purchased goods from their phones, however, so this is hardly just a local's game. According to the Mobile Marketing Association, 43% of Americans now use their smartphones as their number one search tool. And as you can guess, this number keeps rising year over year. The rule of thumb here is simple: Know your audience. If the majority of your customers are looking for you on their mobile phones, then you need to make sure you're there for them to find.
So there you have it! The most crucial elements of SEO in the here and now.
What other essential SEO tips are you finding successful these days?
About The Author:
Digital producer, online marketer, community manager, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney-Brown has been managing cross-functional teams for online businesses since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, nonprofit director and spiritual counselor. Learn more at her personal website.