State Of SEO: Guide To Current Best Practices
It’s pretty obvious over the past year that Google wants to keep webmasters guessing. They want to update their algorithm so much and throw out so many half-truths courtesy of their puppet and webspam leader Mr. Cutts so that anyone trying to increase their rank in Google will eventually give up and switch to adwords or just give up in general and let the big brands dominate.
Don’t let this happen to you!
In a way SEO is easier now because these days “less is more”. I’m going to give a brief overview of what you should be doing now and what Google updates these practices will appease.
All of your on-page issues for the most part are to appease Google Panda. Panda was and is an on-page issue so if you get hit by one of the Panda updates you need to check your site and NOT your backlinks. The following are the biggest factors I think regarding Panda and keeping that big bitch happy.
No longer should you be optimizing your page too heavily for a keyword. Sure you can mention it a few times within the content and maybe put it in the H1 tag or the URL, but you don’t want to optimize it too much. By optimize too much I mean this…your keyword is in H1 & H2 tags, in the Title, in the URL, and in the article a bunch of times.
This might be OK sometimes, but if you create backlinks with this keyword and point it to this page, this is where you get into trouble. Google sees that you are optimizing for this keyword and “SEO’ing” the page. Google’s Penguin updates will bang you up for this (more on this below).
A safer thing to do, in my opinion, is to only put the keyword in the Title OR the URL. Then put a VARIATION of the keyword in the H1 and H2 tags if you use them.
Make sure your articles don’t overlap. Don’t make articles optimized with slight variations of keywords. For example, don’t make one article for “best vegetarian dog food” and then another optimized for “top quality vegetarian dog food”. Having a few is OK but if there is too much overlap, Google’s Panda update will shove some bamboo into your eyes.
Don’t have any “doorway pages”. These are pages that are obviously meant to funnel visitors to one particular page. You will see these on affiliate sites in which the page has 10 links to the same salespage. Again Google Panda.
Your content should be all original. This should be obvious. And it should bring value to your website and to the visitor. Make sure it’s edited well, looks good, and is thorough.
Make your articles as long as possible, at least 700 words although 1000 is better. They don’t ALL have to be this long, but the more the merrier.
Look & Feel
Don’t show too many ads, especially “above the fold”. Above the fold is what the visitor sees when they first visit the page and don’t scroll down yet. When the page loads, a large part of the page should be actual content and not mostly ads.
Content Amount & Frequency
Add as much content as you can. I think now more than ever long-tail traffic is more important to small businesses trying to make it online. And to get as much long-tail traffic as you can, you need to have as much content as you can.
The more content you have also indicates to Google that they should give you more “authority” in your niche.
How often should you post?
This is a tough one. Many people will suggest that you MUST post regularly. Well I know of LOTS of sites that rank well within their niches that hardly ever post new content.
But you know what? Error on the side of caution here and post as often as you can. You certainly won’t be penalized for posting TOO often, right?
You need to link out to other authority sites. Just do this where is makes sense. See a word or phrase that some of your readers might not be familiar with? Link it out to an authority site. Don’t be afraid to do this.
What about affiliate links? Cloak them!
Disclosure & Contact Pages
It’s a super pain in the ass, but you need to interlink your site well. Make sure pages link back to the homepage. Make sure the homepage links out to a bunch of articles/categories. When you link around, it should make sense. Don’t just interlink haphazardly like a crazy person. This is done for the visitor, so keep a reader in mind when you do it.
Off-page stuff is primarily your issue if you were hit by Google’s Penguin update. It does, however, tie into an on-page issue. Penguin basically took down sites that had too many backlinks with the same anchor texts. This is because they were obviously sites in which the owner of the site built links and as such the links to the site were NOT naturally built by other webmasters linking to them. This shows artificial manipulation of Google algorithm so Penguin ate those sites and crapped them out.
So what do we do about this?
Your backlinking should be more random now. When you are backlinking to a particular page optimized for a keyword, don’t use that keyword as anchor for more than 10% of your overall link profile. Include variations of the keyword for another 20-30%. Use your brand/URL for another 20-30%. And use random anchors like ‘click here’ for another 20-30%.
IMPORTANT: Just be more “natural” with it. Don’t obsess over the percentages and numbers, just make sure you don’t send too many exact anchors to your pages and mix in all the other things I have mentioned.
Don’t spam your money site with lots of low-value links. I think it’s OK to have some low value links to your site, like web 2.0 links from places like Squidoo for example, because it’s natural to have some. Authority sites don’t ONLY have other authority sites linking to them, they also have some low value links as well.
But don’t spam your site with Scrapebox or Senuke, etc if you want a site that will last and you are in it for the long-term. Those days are over. If you are trying to rank short term, make some money, and get out then you can blast away. Otherwise slow and steady is very important in my opinion.
Link building is more difficult and more expensive now, but the good news is that you can rank with alot less links than before.
Don’t believe me? Do some searches on Google and then run the pages that are ranking through Majestic. I bet you will find lots of sites ranking that have less than 10 backlinks showing in Majestic.
A Note On EMD’s
Do you have an EMD (Exact Match Domain) that has recently been hit that has seemed to survive other updates? For example, you wanted to rank for “cheap Nike shoes” so you bought cheapnikeshoes.com.
Last week (first week of Oct 2012) Google released some sort of penalty that affects EMD’s. It seems that the only ones that survived were high-authority, strong EMD’s or EMD’s with zero backlinking done. If you got hit, the first thing I would do is remove that phrase that makes up the EMD from ALL of your content, H1 & H2 tages, URL’s, Title, etc. Get rid of it completely.
If that doesn’t work you might be better off buying a new domain and moving the whole site over and starting again. It sucks and it a last resort but don’t get too attached to the EMD domain name. You might never recover.
I hope this helps clear up any confusion out there. Trust me, I’m still learning every day so it’s no cake-walk for me either.
Any questions please hit me up in the comments!
P.S. If your traffic took a huge hit or takes a huge hit someday, check this page by SEO Moz that tracks them all in one place. By knowing what you got hit with, you will more easily know how to get out of it.
Did you enjoy this article?
Get Free Updates