When optimizing your website for the search engines, a good starting point is to work with a basic recipe. You want to optimize your content with good keywords, follow the webmaster guidelines established by the search engines, format your content and links so they can be easily crawled by the search spiders, and implement an integrated strategy including blogging and social media that will help catapult your site toward the top of the search results.
It’s Halloween, so I want to have a little fun today. Some furry friends are going to help me tell the story of a basic SEO strategy. I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I have!
Find and optimize your content with long tail keywords that will help you emphasize your specialized focus.
Your content should be user friendly. You need to avoid the use of ghostly tactics such as hidden text.
You want to be sure your site uses the proper keyword linking strategies so the search spiders will deem your content worth a high ranking in the search engines.
Make sure you read up on and are compliant with webmaster guidelines to avoid being penalized.
Implement an integrated strategy with blogging, social media and linking that will help your keyword strength and web presence bloom.
There’s no way around it – Google is the head honcho of the search engine world. If we want our websites to show up in the search results (and stay there) we need to acknowledge Google’s webmaster guidelines. While we may not follow these guidelines to the T, it’s clear that following Google’s suggested best practices will mean a healthier life-cycle for our sites.
Google breaks down their guidelines into three main sections: Design and Content Guidelines, Technical Guidelines, and Quality Guidelines. Let’s take a look at what Google wants from each category.
Design and Content Guidelines
- Easy to Navigate
- Provide useful, relevant content
- Keep the number of links on each page to a reasonable number
- Include appropriate keywords in your content
- Test your site to be sure it displays correctly in different browsers.
- Optimize your site speed and performance
- Regularly monitor your site’s performance
- Allow search spiders to crawl your sites without session IDs
- Don’t try to trick your users or the web with cloaking (presenting different content to the search engines than you users).
- Avoid tricks to improve search rankings.
- Don’t take part in link schemes
Specific Quality Guidelines
- Avoid hidden text and links
- Don’t use cloaking
- Don’t create multiple pages or sub-domains with duplicate content
- Don’t fill your content with irrelevant keywords
Overall, Google wants websites to provide unique, useful and relevant information on sites that are easy to use – the end goal being happy searchers. This was verified with their recent Panda update which focused on increasing the exposure of sites with quality content. As we always say here at Astonish Results, quality content is king.
SEO isn't so scary...
Fear has a lot to do with the unknown. SEO is still a relatively new development in the marketing industry, so it stands to reason that many companies are hesitant to dig into it. I’ve outlined five of the top reasons companies fear search engine optimization in hope that eventually we can quell these fears. The more you learn about SEO, the less intimidating it will become and the easier it will be to implement a solid optimization strategy.
- SEO Can Be Confusing. The world of search engine optimization can feel rather abstract, which provides challenges to newcomers – and SEO experts from time to time. Companies cannot be blamed for not understanding search engine optimization. It is continuously changing and there are plenty of people out there who claim to understand the best optimization tactics, but don’t. In addition, SEO uses a whole different language utilizing terms such as “search spiders”, “search volume”, and “keyword density” on a regular basis, which can sound like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo if you’re not in the industry. The combination of these things is understandably scary, but don’t let that fear get the best of you. Search engine optimization is a proven method to improving your online presence, it just takes a lot of work.
- SEO is Hard Work. Search engine optimization requires a great deal of time and effort – it is not a quick and easy fix for your online strategy. SEO is a continual process – the more juice you feed your site, the more powerful it will become. You cannot simply throw some keywords on your site, cross your fingers and hope for the best. You need to keep your website optimized and engage in ongoing strategies such as link building, social media, etc. The beautiful thing about the fear associated with SEO is that not everyone is doing it. So, if you take part then you will likely have an advantage over your competition – in this case, the hard is what makes it great.
- Sites Do Not See Immediate Results. SEO takes time. The results seen from SEO are organic, meaning they are not a paid strategy such as Pay per Click, so no one should expect to see the full potential of their efforts immediately after implementation. Here at Astonish Results we help our clients develop insurance marketing strategies for their Virtual Insurance Offices and we tell them not to get too antsy in the first few months – it can take up to six months for the search engines to recognize a new website. Waiting to see results can be scary, so it’s important to remember that the pay-off is in the long run. If you put in the effort to develop a solid strategy that integrates SEO, blogging and social media then you will see a turning point – hang in there!
- The Search Engines are Always Changing. The search engines are not stagnant. They are always developing new methods, best practices and algorithms – which means that we have to be willing to continuously update our strategies. Unless you work on SEO full time, you can quickly get lost in the constant updates and alterations. Tactics that may have been successful in increasing your ranking a few years ago may get you penalized by the search engines today. The search engines, such as Google, Yahoo! And Bing, are committed to keeping us on our toes and they do a superb job.
- SEO Scams Do Exist. It’s unfortunate, but there are people out there with scams – you’ll find them in every industry. Be aware of the major warning signs and you shouldn’t get caught in a scam’s web. If you’re being told that you’ll see immediate results and you’ll absolutely rank in the top position on page one, you are being sold false hope. A true SEO agency will take the time to consult with you in order to determine what goals you are trying to achieve and what areas of your business you’re trying to grow. As we’ve already discussed, proper search engine optimization takes time so look for an agency that wants to develop a relationship with you – not someone with an overnight fix.
Fearing SEO or being intimidated by all of the work required of a successful strategy is no reason to steer clear of this proven marketing tactic. According to G.I. Joe, knowing is half the battle – so start your education today. If you can grasp the fundamentals of SEO, then you are one step ahead of the pack. If you don’t have the time to implement an SEO campaign on your own, team up with a consultant but be sure to stay away from the false “quick results” scams out there. Then prepare yourself for some hard work and eventually you’ll see some astonishing results!
Use proper keyword portions & avoid keyword stuffing.
Writing content for the web is much like cooking – you have to use the right balance of ingredients in order to get the desired result. When it comes to search engine optimization, you need to find the right keywords and then use them appropriately throughout your content. There is a definite skill involved with finding the right measurement of keywords in your web content – if you use too few you won’t be recognized but if you use too many to the point of saturation your content can be perceived as spammy. Utilizing the proper portions is key.
- Add a keyword to the title tag.
- Incorporate a keyword in the meta description.
- Place a keyword inside the H1 tag – don’t forget to close the brackets.
- Sprinkle a sampling of keywords throughout the content of the page, be sure not to overdo it.
- Allow site to bake for several months. It takes time for the search engines to crawl and index a website, so don’t expect to see your rankings jump immediately. Like dough, it will rise in time.
Much like testing out new recipes and tweaking old favorites, there is no singular technique to creating the perfect SEO strategy. The search engines alter their algorithms on a regular basis, so it’s important to be willing to experiment with various methods. Now, while it’s important to try new practices there are definitely some aspects of search engine optimization that are go-to’s. It’s vitally important to determine a set of keywords and incorporate them naturally into your content. This is where things can start to get tricky – it is so important that you use your keywords appropriately. Think of keywords as an ingredient, if you use too much the whole recipe will be thrown off.
While we cannot say for sure exactly how many keywords should be used on each page of your site, it has been determined that overloading a website with keywords is a bad practice. Keyword stuffing has been identified as an unethical misuse of the web and it can even get your site penalized. Keyword stuffing can be defined as the act of over-filling your website’s pages with keywords by creating lists or paragraphs of terms or unnecessarily repeating terms throughout the content. The search engines want to promote a positive and useful user experience, keyword stuffing detracts from that.
Keyword overkill can also result from hidden text – for example: hiding terms by putting them in a white font on a white background, including text behind an image, or setting the font size to 0. Just because the standard user cannot see the hidden text doesn’t mean the search engines can’t. When the search engines find hidden text, they are likely to deem the website as untrustworthy because it is offering a different experience to users than the search engines. Such a discovery can mean reductions for your website’s rankings.
There are many facets that must be incorporated into your online marketing strategy, but a major key to remember is keeping a balance. Any reasonable talented chef understands that you need to use a properly portioned mix of ingredients – the same is true for search engine optimization.
Few things in life are strictly black and white, but in the SEO (search engine optimization) world it is important to be able to identify and understand the difference between White Hat and Black Hat strategies. In the simplest sense, the two can be described as follows:
White Hat SEO – Ethical SEO tactics in which you follow the guidelines established by the search engines for long term stability and success.
Black Hat SEO – Unethical SEO tactics in which you try to trick the search engines in order to gain quick results.
While the search engines still have a lot of work ahead of them, they strive to keep search results as genuine and helpful as possible for searchers. To accomplish this goal, the search engines, with Google leading the pack, have established usability guidelines for websites to follow. By following these webmaster guidelines, you can ensure that your website will remain in the good graces of the search engines and have the ability to grow in strength (and improve search rankings) on a long term scale.
White Hat SEO tactics revolve around following the webmaster guidelines. White Hat is all about playing by the rules in order to garner long term stability for a website. White Hat SEO takes a great deal of work and creativity – it is definitely a challenge – but the hard is what makes it great. By taking the time to invest the proper, and approved, SEO strategies in your online campaigns, you will see a payoff in the end. White Hat tactics won’t get your site to rank immediately, but in the end you will have a website that is built with good content, clean linking, and the ability to bring you traffic, leads and funds into the future. At Astonish Results, we pride ourselves on employing and advising only White Hat SEO campaigns. We do our best to educate clients on SEO best practices so they don’t get falsely lured into the short term charms of Black Hat SEO.
Black Hat SEO is a strategy for getting short term results. Through Black Hat tactics such as keyword stuffing and link farming you can get your site high rankings quickly, but you can generally anticipate that a Black Hat site will be banned or penalized once the search engines catch on to the unethical behavior. Websites that utilize Black Hat strategies are generally looking for a quick fix or to turn a quick profit. Companies who are trying to develop a long term web presence will only hurt their reputation if they participate in Black Hat SEO. We understand that Black Hat SEO can be tempting, primarily because it will work – for a short period of time. However, if you want to be considered a legit source on the web, you need to follow the rules.
Here are some of the major Black Hat SEO strategies you should be sure to avoid on your website:
Keyword stuffing: Loading a page with a bunch of keywords and nothing else. You need to spread keywords throughout your content to avoid being penalized by the search engines.
Hidden text: Displaying text or links so that they are invisible to the reader but available for the search spiders to crawl. This can be done by putting white font on a white background. If it appears that your website is trying to deceive the search engines with hidden text or links, the site could be removed from the search results.
Doorway Pages/Cloaking: Pages that are built for the search engines to crawl, and not for humans to see. They are hidden pages that are built with the intention of tricking the search engines into thinking a site has more content than it actually does in order to rank higher in the search results.
Overall, if you want your business and its web presence to be considered legit, you should steer clear of Black Hat SEO strategies. They are simply not worth the risk of having your website either temporarily or even permanently removed from the search results. Stick with White Hat SEO practices and you’ll be in the pink.