The website that was helping you a few years ago may be hurting you now – and you may not even know it.
When was the last time you checked where your site showed up in search results? Are you on page one? Page two? Or somewhere down in double-digit land?
Do you know if your site’s moving up or down in the rankings?
Even if you haven’t checked your stats recently, you may have noticed that your site isn’t bringing in as much business as it used to. Or maybe it never brought you much business in the first place.
So you might be thinking about bringing in an SEO “expert” to give your site a tune-up.
But if that “expert’s” advice is based on outmoded thinking, it’ll do you more harm than good.
Things to Know about SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process by which you improve your ranking for a particular search term on search engines like Google.
For example, if people are searching for a “Seattle family lawyer,” and you happen to BE a Seattle family lawyer, you want those potential clients to find your site.
The gold ring of SEO is being ranked as the first site on the first page for a particular search term. Of course, not everyone can be #1. But the goal is to get as close as you can, because many people (up to 98%!) don’t search beyond the first page of results.
Google’s the most important search engine, with about 70% of the market. It’s constantly updating the algorithms it uses to rank search results. The major updates have names like “Panda,” “Penguin,” and “Hummingbird” and SEO nerds get very excited when a new update comes out.
People sometimes treat SEO like an arcane practice akin to alchemy. They try to game the system with tricks and gimmicks.
But modern SEO boils down to a few very simple things:
- Have good writing and interesting content on your site.
- Update your site frequently.
- Use social media to tell people about the great content on your site.
That’s simple, but it’s not so easy – or everyone would be doing it.
Don’t Get Stuffed
Once upon a time, back in the Internet’s Jurassic era, people thought the way to get sites to rank higher was to cram ‘em full of “keywords,” like in this terrible example:
If you’re looking for a Seattle family lawyer to help you with your Seattle family law needs, contact the Seattle family law offices of Felicia Spaceneedle to arrange a free initial consultation with an experienced Seattle family lawyer.
Content like that doesn’t help you anymore (if it ever really did). In fact, search engines will now penalize you for what’s called “keyword stuffing.”
Here’s what Bing (one of the top three search engines) has to say about it:
When creating content, make sure to create your content for real users and readers, not to entice search engines to rank your content better. Stuffing your content with specific keywords with the sole intent of artificially inflating the probability of ranking for specific search terms is in violation of our guidelines and can lead to demotion or even the delisting of your website from our search results.
Despite these clear warnings, it’s amazing how many people who claim to be SEO “professionals” are still obsessed with things like “keyword density” (the number of times a keyword appears in a text divided by the total number of words in the text) and ignore much more important things – like whether the writing is any good.
Don’t Buy Factory-Farmed Content
It’s cheap and easy to get website filler from “content farms,” which are often staffed by people who don’t speak English at a native level.
The sweatshop rates (e.g., $1 per page) paid to factory farm-writers lead to shortcuts like plagiarism and its first cousin, “spinning.”
(Spinning involves rewriting existing articles, blogs, web pages, etc. by replacing specific words and phrases with synonyms to produce slightly different versions. This process can be done by computers, untouched by human brains, and can result in articles about “Beijing plates” that are supposed to be about “Beijing China.”)
Nothing will get you dinged faster on Google than content that’s stolen from somewhere else.
But spending top-dollar doesn’t guarantee quality either. One of the leading (and highest-priced) content providers in the US produces stuff like this:
If you trip, fall or slip on someone else’s property.
Um, guys… that’s not actually a sentence.
Here’s another example from the same page:
Or think about this, you are walking down a flight of stairs in your office building, when a loose stair caused you to lose your balance and fall down ten feet onto the landing, you ended up in the ER with a concussion and a broken ankle, you should make the building owner pay for your medical bills and time off of work right?
Wow. Just wow.
Bad writing hurts SEO.
According to Matt Cutts (Google’s SEO guru), spelling, stylistic elements and factual accuracy are among the elements used in the Panda algorithm to determine whether websites and blogs are being properly monitored and edited.
And worse, bad writing makes you look bad. It makes you look careless. It makes you look ignorant. It’s like going to an important business meeting with an enormous gravy stain in the middle of your shirt.
Good Stuff Ranks Higher
A study looked at what pages ranked highly by Google had in common, and what distinguished them from lower-ranking pages.
The answer was that stuff that people shared ranked higher.
Google ranked highly content that got a Google +1, that people shared or liked on Facebook, that people Tweeted, and that other sites linked to.
The New York Times did a study on why people share things online. The authors found:
- 49% share to inform others of products (and presumably services) that they care about and potentially change opinions or encourage action.
- People share to bring valuable and entertaining content to others.
Keep It Fresh and Juicy
Google and the other major search engines have a strong bias in favor of content that’s fresh and constantly updated.
Blogs are an excellent way to provide fresh and juicy content on your website. And a new blog post is something you can Tweet about or post on Facebook, further driving visitors to your site.
Blogs need to be valuable and entertaining. You don’t want dry blah blah blah, you want something people will post on their own Facebook pages, Tweet about, and send to their friends.
But just like a fresh and juicy persimmon, blogs are only ripe for a limited time. Nothing’s as old as yesterday’s news – or last month’s persimmon.
Another way to provide fresh content is to regularly add longer-form pieces, such as articles and white papers. In fact, Google is increasingly favoring in-depth content in the 1500 to 2000-word range.
Unlike blogs, long-form content doesn’t age quickly. It’s meant to be useful for the long haul, and should be written with that in mind.
Real human beings like fresh content even more than search engines do. If a visitor to your site sees you haven’t posted anything new since May of 2005, your site will look stale, and you’ll look like you really don’t care about your visitors. Ancient content on your website is like dead flowers in your lobby.
Get the Word Out
Use social media, social media advertising, and other forms of promotion to drive traffic to your excellent content. Having good content without promoting it is like shouting in an empty room. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, G+ all have unique features. Some are better suited from some businesses and some purposes than others. Know your audience, and engage with them.
So Here’s the Sales Pitch
If you’re looking for good content, you’ve come to the right place.