Making sense of your online experience for more than twenty years

SEO: What counts in 2013?

Must-haves:

  • Metadata description, with keywords. (Write it for humans, to provide an overview of the content of the page. This is used by Google to understand what the page is about).
  • Headings and subheadings (H1 and H2s), with keywords.
  • Title tag, with keywords as close to the front as possible.
  • Fast-loading web pages.
  • Well-coded website and semantic page structure.
  • Good content that is not duplicated elsewhere.
  • Enough content on each page. (500 to 600 words – that is around 1½ pages in MS Word.)
  • Links to your site, from quality sites that rank well. Avoid link exchanges and links from link-spam sites.
  • Social media shares, likes, tweets, etc. Google+ is now most important.

Good-to-haves:

  • Video.
  • Lots of images.

Google doesn’t care about:

  • Keyword density in your content. In fact, it might penalise you.
  • Keywords in domain name, or even in the URLs of your pages.
  • Single keywords used as link text. Actually, too much of this counts as bad.
  • Metadata keywords. This is so 1990’s.

Google will kill your ranking for:

  • Keyword stuffing.
  • Unnatural (paid) link building.

SEO: Seven actions to cover your bases

1. Keyword research

  • User words: What words do people use to describe what they are looking for? Find these user words from support, reception and sales teams, and also by trawling forums where users ask questions.
  • Industry words: Not as important, but good to use too. Get these from white papers, articles, subject expert’s blogs, etc.

2. Information Architecture

  • Structure: The site should not be overly deep with many layers of navigation, but not too shallow either. Both users and Google must be able to work out what is where.
  • Headings: Based on keyword research and structure, what are the headings likely to be?

3. Technical bits to do in your Content Management System (CMS)

  • Metadata: Publishers must be able to add metadata (short descriptions used by search engines), including OpenGraph tags, and select a featured image for each page.
  • sitemap.xml: This file, which is used by Google to find web pages, should be automatically updated by the CMS. Should also be possible to specifically exclude pages or sections.
  • Speed: Reduce the number of files that must be downloaded from the web server, as much as possible. Combine separate CSS and JavaScript files into as few files as possible. Use a combination of style sheets and a single image for navigation.

4. Marketing review

  • It’s not about you: Don’t talk about yourself, at least not too much. Avoid fluffy content and language.
  • It’s about your customer’s world: Create content that is of value to your visitors.

5. Review existing content

  • (Re)write content: Review and rewrite content. If this is not possible, at least add or rewrite headings and subheadings.
  • Design metadata: Descriptions should be short, informative, not stuffed with keywords, and should make sense when used out of context (for example, on someone’s Twitter feed).

6. New content

  • Web pages: Describe what you do and what you know. Use informative content, not marketing speak.
  • Blog posts, articles or white papers: Share your knowledge (educate) over a period of time.
  • Images: Avoid corny or popular stock photos. Your visitors are hungry for fresh images. So is Pinterest.
  • Short video clips: Aim for 90-seconds maximum. One way to achieve this is to use punchy slideshow style clips to summarise the content of articles and blog posts.
  • Encourage sharing: Add share buttons: pick the top three that make sense for your audience, as well as Google+.

7. Build your links and social presence

  • Wikipedia: If feasible, build a page for Wikipedia, but don’t try to market yourself here. The page can be about your business if you have been around for a while, or it can be on a topic that you’re an expert in. You can link to expert content on your site.
  • Guest posts: Write for authoritative blogs that will link to your site.
  • Encourage social activity: Add commenting to your site where appropriate. Comments should be moderated before going live.
  • Participate online: Share videos and photos on social networks such as YouTube and Pinterest. Join a few online communities and contribute after you have discovered the lie of the land.
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