Google has been hard at work on its search algorithm…real cat amongst the SEO pigeons. Google started rolling out ‘Semantic Search’ back in May this year and the changes have kept coming. The idea behind ‘the Knowledge Graph’ is for search engines to think more like a human… Google “understands real-world entities and their relationship to one another: things, not strings.”

Personally I’m delighted with the changes…no more key word stuffing more dodgy backlinks…no more people telling me ‘I can get a million (useless/irrelevant) links in some exotic backwater for next to nothing.’

It’s not hard to understand why many businesses get frustrated with search engine optimization. It’s a blend of art, science and technology and to many firms a daunting task.  A Californian mate of mine, Lee Traupel of the Linkedmedia Group put this useful SEO How To Guide together that will give you a good snapshot of basic search engine optimization processes.

1) Remember search engines rank web sites not just pages. You want to think and act holistically – meaning, deploy a search engine optimization strategy that is integrated across your entire site. This may sound simple but it isn’t – our SEO how to guide is all about thinking and acting strategically to drive search rankings.

2) Don’t get lost in and sweat the details too much. In the end, good effective search engine optimization comes down to well written content that has some thoughts/recognition of keyword usage. But, for most web sites 70% of your traffic will come from “long tail keywords” – these are created over time and via consistent good quality content.

3) On Page Search Engine Optimization should have these basic How To SEO Guide Elements:

  • Create a Title with less than 70 characters that reflects what your page is about, with a primary keyword or phrase used on the page.  This Title tag should be at the top of your HTML code (we use plugins as below) in your tag.  The top of the page (in HTML code) is important unto itself. And, remember this shows up in Search Engine Results and will drive visitors (or not) to your site. For a deeper dive visit Aaron Wall’s page about Titles which will give you much more insight.
  • Write a Description that has a call to action to the viewer who is getting your page presented in search results. And, remember this also is used by search engines to determine what your page is about.  Some agencies recommend “branding” your title with a reference to your company – the challenge is of course using the space to reference your brand, which in turn dilute the overall quality of your message. Optimum length is about 120 characters with spaces or 20-30 words.
  • Use Header Tags – these tell Search Engines and your visitor what your content is all about. The most important is the the ‘H1’ that typically surround a post title and you should have only one H1 Tag per page, with sub Header Tags (five additional) used to define your subheadings on the page.
  • You should be using images on your page as they drive search engine rankings and help to engage the visitor. All of these should have an Image Title and the Alt Tag should be used as well. Use the keywords that are optimize for the specific page where the image is located.
  • Keep the Web Designers in check and map to Search Engine Ranking goals first and let design take the back seat. A beautiful site with no traffic is not going to drive revenue, opportunity and/or engagement.

4) There is no single contributor to search engine rankings more important than quality content. Search Engines love fresh sites with quality content that is updated frequently. Content can be images, videos, podcasts, plain vanilla text, infographics and/or Instagram uploads – keep it fresh and meaningful.

5) Use WordPress for your web site. There is no other alternative technology platform that even comes close. It is search engine ranking friendly – we typically see search engine rankings for client sites within a matter of hours behind a new piece of updated content.

There are tens of thousands of plug-ins that extend WordPress, thousands of developers, it has a superb build in content management system, is updated frequently with much more robust capabilities, it’s free for the most part and it is used on about 75 Million sites and counting. It’s a no brainer.

6) Off site link building is in itself a topic that we could write reams about, as others have done. For a deeper SEO dive check out our “Why Google No Longer Loves Your Brand” – but, for the sake of brevity, here’s what’s important. Create good content that will be linked to and shared on the social web – this unto itself will drive high quality back links for your brand. Nuff said……

Other ways to develop quality back links:

  • Offer infographics that can be downloaded (some brands develop standalone apps) across the web that incorporate a link back to your site.
  • Create your own back links – we use a nifty WordPress plugin by Mark Jaquit called “Page Links To” – that enables you to upload a page and select a page via search to link to.
  • Create quality Comment tags on sites that are targeted and that offer “do follow” (we are trying to avoid SEO geeky terms) – “do follow” (simplified) means you will get some link juice back from Google.
  • Submit your site to quality Directories (note our emphasis on quality); i.e. Yahoo (yes, they are still alive), and/or vertical market directories in your market niche.
  • Complete your Social Profiles on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and/or second tier sites.
  • Syndicate your content across Web 2.0 sites like Posterous (now part of Twitter) and StumbleUpon. If you’ve built back links into older pages (as we’ve done on this post), every time your page is published elsewhere you are creating a back link for yourself.
  • Think social for link building – are you surprised that setting up a Google+ account and sharing content will create back links for your brand?  The more you integrate social signals into your backlinking (big three: Facebook, Twitter Google+) the better. And, as search becomes more social, you are laying the proper groundwork for your brand.

7) Use and leverage Search Engine Plugins for WordPress. Two of the best (both are industry standards) are “All in One SEO” (by Semper Fi Web Site Design) and Yoast’s WordPress SEO- we’ve used both of these plugins across many sites for years and they can even be integrated together. Speaking of Yoast – he has a superb tutorial about all things SEO related and WordPress – it’s authentic, informative and well done.

8) You have to use Google Analytics for your web site – it’s an industry standard and your brand and online business will be remiss not using it for a snapshot of your web site. But, having said this, we also use  StatPress across all of our client and publishing sites – it’s not going to give you a a deep dive into analytics but it will give you a fast snapshot take of visitor traffic and associated statistics. And, there is no learning curve associated with it like Google Analytics.

8) Last but not least – shooting for search engine rankings is like being nineteen again and trying to wade through the dating process…… most cases you get your heart broken at least once. This holds for this SEO How To Guide – expect some trial and error, be patient and keep sharing content across the social way.

Romance and search engine ranking sometimes occur when you least expect them……we digress……..”