If you can’t find your website on the first few pages even after entering one of your own product names on Google, Bing or Yahoo!, chances are you have some sizable holes in your SEO game that need addressing.
However, often these holes are self-induced and likely the result of either lazy thinking or worse, indifferent efforts - is it possible you’re just going through motions? The good news: fixes are available if you are willing to objectively evaluate your own efforts. The bad news: you’re going to need to take a genuine interest in this stuff if you plan on being successful. Your clients deserve as much.
The following five areas are often rocky outposts where many run aground with their SEO plan, but they are correctable, and addressing even just a few of these issues is a fast way to get back on course and improve search engine rankings.
1. To Stay on top, have a value prop
Working on SEO before deciding what value your website brings to searchers is like throwing darts in the dark. Starting with a value proposition will simplify SEO efforts.
Too often, in the rush to increase page rankings, SEO’s chart a course without considering why users should choose their search results. It is difficult to achieve high SERP rankings without offering visitors something of value.
Consider what differentiates your business from competitors. What separates you from the suckers: lower prices, free shipping, awesome customer service? It’s your hard-earned advantage, now get out there and use it!
2. The planning process- segmented approach
Maile Ohye, Developer Programs Tech Lead at Google, warns on her corporate blog of the dangers of setting SEO-related goals without making sure they’re aligned with a company’s overall objectives and the goals of other departments.
Consider SEO an entire user experience from marketing campaign to conversion. When SEO strategies are segmented – one strategy independent from another that doesn’t compensate for the other strategies – a company’s goals are often tossed off course.
This means that SEO must not be separate from Web development and marketing strategies, and should be readily present in the marketing campaign planning up to the actual time of implementation
For example, when optimizing product pages for the full user experience once users come to your site, also contribute these same expertise to a marketing team’s upcoming campaign. If marketing is launching new videos or a more interactive website, be sure that searchers will be able to find their content.
3. Getting the workaround
Drop the workarounds. It’s chewing up your team’s bandwidth and yielding rather bland results. Instead, research new features and focus on best practices designed to simplify tasks.
For example, webmasters of yore loved to employ the workaround rel=”canonical” for each component page in a series to their page 1. DON’T! This can cause a loss of content on Google’s index and result in a colossal waste of time.
Google now supports new best practices. Instead use new rel= “next” and rel=”prev” markup for paginated content. This way paginated articles or product categories are treated as a single series rather than have PageRank diluted into various components.
In 2011, Google expanded webmaster tools such as Googlebot so that per week you can submit up to 500 new or updated URLs you’d like to be crawled, or up to 10 that you’d like crawled along with their link pages.
This obviously eliminates the tiresome need of webmasters updating sitemaps with new URLs and then uploading new sitemap files and submitting to Google.
When submitting the URL through Fetch as Googlebot most URLs are crawled within 24 hours. An easy way to stay in touch with new features is to subscribe to Google’s webmasters blog.
4. Stop chasing the user- you’re caught in SEO trends!
In the early days of SEO both webmasters and search engines were so busy chasing users that actual search progress was likely stunted as a result. Both were basically running same race – get more users to visit and then convert.
As the market matured it was as if the race split into two simultaneous races, said Ohye, and rather than chasing users, some websites started chasing algorithms.
At this point, somewhere in 2005, SEO’s lost focus and began editing keywords for optimization. This chasing of the user started a long trend of trying to game the system. In actuality, it is always better to make Web content readable, compelling and informative.
Avoid these trends and prioritize tasks that bring lasting value. Consider spending less time obsessing about the latest “trick” to boost your rankings and instead focus on the fundamental tasks that will bring lasting visitors.
5. Slow iteration
The main constant in SEO is that it is continually evolving. So the faster a team iterates the better.
- Define metrics for success.
- Implement improvements.
- Measure impact.
- Create new improvements.
- Prioritize improvements based on market and personnel.
A great 20th Century philosophy and writer once said: Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple (bonus points if you leave a comment below identifying this genuis). Same holds true for SEO. Don’t bog yourself down in the minutia of difficult questions but rather focus on these simple solutions. It’s far better (and easier) to be agile than to promote an environment where the infrastructure and/or processes make improving your site, or even testing possible improvements difficult.
6 bonus SEO tips
1. Do something interesting that makes your site stands out from the competition.
2. Keep it relevant. It helps to know your customers. Make sure you’re including words in your copy including what query searchers needed to find you online.
4. There is no longer a need to think about density. Just make it relevant.
5. Attract buzz through social media.
6. Keep content up-to-date and interesting.