by Chris Horton
There’s no doubt that SEO is a tricky business. The primary problem could be that people see it as just that. A trick. We’re viewed as guardians of some magic that we make people pay money for and it makes them mad because it’s the equivalent of your uncle’s disconnected thumb trick.
But true SEO professionals don’t use games or trickery to improve rankings. It’s a hard battle and we’ve offered tons of tips and guidance over the years. Many of which people simply choose to ignore. And just like Lady Gaga still can’t sing, the rules haven’t changed.
It’s a tad surprising that anyone is even remotely shocked at what has unraveled with Google’s Panda and Penguin updates. The warnings and signs have been in place for years and Google has been very forthcoming about its stance on strategies like mass link building, duplicate content, hidden text, and other website atrocities.
And even though it’s been said before, the problem is that most people don’t listen. We’ve already given you a rundown of what Google expects on previous posts as told to you BY Google. But since you refuse to listen to God, I mean Google, we’ll make this a tad easier for you to grasp by giving you the 11 best tips we can think of. It may cause some of you to scoff, but that’s okay. Scoff on.
1) Love what you’re doing.
Are you running a website selling baby clothes because you are obsessed with baby clothes, love to share ideas and want to sell some of your creations? Then by all means, continue what you’re doing. However, if you’re running a baby clothes site because you heard that it’s very lucrative, you must have recently shaved your privates too closely because nothing on the web is lucrative. It will drain every bit of energy you have to keep running a site that you don’t have a passion for. And eventually, your site visitors will notice. It is incredibly easy to spot a website that has been put up by someone that simply does not have any passion for the content.
2) Update content often and carefully
Update your website with new content frequently. And when you do, check and double check for grammatical errors and misspellings. What’s the first thing that you think of when you see a site with misspellings? Amateur. It also carries quite a bit of weight with Google who may give precedence to someone else’s website over yours if your site is littered with it.
3) Don’t be a copy cat
Don’t take photos or content from other people’s websites, even if you have permission. Websites that contain a lot of content that was duplicated from other websites around the web were the ones that got the biggest slap during Google’s Panda update. God forbid if Tom Bosley talked you into signing up with SMC or some other “build you own online storefront” package, but if you do, you’re almost doomed from the start. Your best bet is to sit down and rewrite all of the product descriptions that they sent to you. It will seem tedious and similar to killing an army of ants with a needle, but in the end you will definitely win the battle of the SERP’s. Additionally if you can purchase, photograph or locate alternate product photos (besides the ones that they sent to you), that would be a huge advantage over the other suckers.
4) Do your research
Find out what keywords people are searching for when looking for your product or service. Search the web for Google Keyword Tool to see a rough estimate of how many people searched for the keyword that you THINK they’re searching for. Then use those keywords in your meta tags, title tags, headers, descriptions and text, but…
5) Don’t overdo it
If your website is about Pitbull puppies, don’t litter the pages with that phrase repeatedly ad nauseum. “Welcome to my Pitbull puppy website. We sell Pitbull puppies and breed pitbull puppies. Want to buy a pitbull puppy? Choose from the list! Click here for white pitbull puppies, click here for brown pitbull puppies. Click here for black pitbull puppies. Click here for grey Pitbull puppies.” If there is anything that will get you penalized quicker than Michael Vick, it’s that type of old school approach to keyword stuffing. This was one of the focuses of Google’s Penguin update. The other was…
6) Mass linking madness
You’ve probably seen it before, but paying a service to acquire mass linking is a bad idea. Shockingly, even SEOMoz had supported a service that allowed you to buy links at one point back in the day, but this is never a good idea. Don’t buy links anywhere. If you simply have no way to acquire links because no one wants to link to your Blow Up Clown Doll website, sign up with a service like LotusJump. LotusJump will share ideas with you about where are good places to acquire links on sites like Yahoo Answers, various blogs, etc. While this is not the way that Google would prefer you to acquire links, this is a very “white hat” strategy to getting them.
And before SEO pros get all wonky screaming, “That’s not white hat!”, let me clarify this. If you use a tool like this, keep in mind that people will read your posts. Use the oppotunity to contribute to the conversation. That is the white hat way. Simply slapping your URL on comment sections is bad juju. You will rot in hell for that. Use it as an online equivalent to networking. LotusJump simply tells you where your networking would help you the best. The preferred method would be to post content that people would want to link to and that do so rabidly. As they would with a Blow Up Clown Doll website.
7) Manage your mess
If Google feels as if your website structure is just plain confusing, disorganized, or broken, don’t expect to rank well. Keep your information well organized. We’ve spoken about website siloing before using the silo strategies to keep everything uniform. Additionally, you should always pay attention to Webmaster Tools to spot broken links and clean up your act. And if it happens too frequently for you to keep up with because of insanely fast moving automated parts, then by all means create a custom 404 page that allows them to get to other locations within your site to find the information they’re looking for in case pages get broken.
8) Utilize social media and bookmarking
This will be our next post is to show you how to best utilize social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Delicious, Reddit and others to achieve greater visibility and potentially more incoming links. For now, sign up with a service like OnlyWire and get a list of services that you can post to and begin setting up accounts to them. This is yet another task that’s less fun than shaving a possum with rabies, but well worth it in the end. I mean, have you ever seen a shaved possum? It’s awesome. As for social networking, you already know that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are a must to have if you want to survive online. Build up your business presence on those sites as best you can and utilize their built in tools that will walk you through the process.
9) Take all that Google gives you
Use every service that Google offers. As Google continues to grow in size, they integrate their services into their new offerings. Upload your meaty content rich documents to Google Documents and share with the public. Make sure your business location is listed on Google+ Local and that all of the fields are used (videos, photos, address, store hours, description, URL, etc.). Use Google Adwords to get to those front pages until you start rolling and turn on those ad extensions! Sign up and actively use Google+ as much as you do Facebook! We think you get the point. Use whatever they offer because all of it is part of a bigger plan that you don’t understand. And never will.
10) Use microdata
While this could be a huge post all in itself (and will be soon), microdata is going to be imperative to have in your site to compete and it’s coming as quickly as a unicorn on fire. Instead of repeating what’s already been said, simply head to http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=176035 and get the entire scoop on microdata and how to implement it into your website.
11) Go mobile
Make sure that however you setup your site, that you’re prepared for mobile. You simply must have a mobile version of your site ready for people to view on their iPhone, Android tablets, iPad, etc. A majority of your searches come from those sources and as it gets more accessible, you will become less relevant if you’re not prepared.
So those are your 11 top tips for now. We could keep going, but those are the ones that will have the most impact.
But what’s the point of even having an SEO professional helping your business? Isn’t the point of hiring an SEO pro to have them deep dive into your website and flip a few switches and magically you’re number one? Trust us. If we could actually do that, we would be very, very rich.
The advantage of having a professional on your side is primarily because we are intimately familiar with all of the rules and guidelines of Google and what they expect to see. We know exactly what to change, how to change it, and most importantly, what not to do. We know the strategies. And even as we laid out some great ground rules for you, your head is reeling and you have no idea what to do first. See what we did there? We inundated you with a “to-do” list. But we actually do think that you can handle a lot of it.
Get a strategy in place and tackle them one by one or hire someone who actually knows how to do all of it. And by all means, don’t purchase anything that is touted as a quick fix. Great websites take a lot of time to put together and to build an audience. If you try to make it happen quickly, or take shortcuts, you could find yourself squashed and beaten. Of all of the tips we’ve given, the most important is to find your passion and focus on that. There’s nothing better than being able to say, “I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this.”