SEO has evolved over the past decade—but not in the way we like to think. It’s interesting how we pay attention to Google’s changing algorithm, but forget how SEO basics have remained largely unchanged: create a good website, write great content, get links and shares. This week Danny Hall from SEO Essex explains why it is time to get back to SEO basics.
The whole point of SEO is to improve the human experience on the Internet. Sure, there are a few technical things you can implement to catch the attention of the search engines, but humans must come first. Google’s algorithm changes reflect this; Panda was designed to simulate human judgment, while Penguin was built to weed out spam.
So what, specifically, are these search engine optimization basics we can’t afford to deviate from?
- Create great content
- Provide good user experience
- Get links to your content
- Get your content shared
- Create Great Content
It always starts with creating great content. You must publish the kind of content humans would care enough to read or watch, and possibly share. And in order to produce epic content, naturally, you will need to know your ideal reader well. Who do you want to appeal to? Would you find your content interesting if you were that customer?
Great content gets read, shared, linked to, and even rehashed by your admirers and competitors alike. Great content, be it in the form of text, infographic or video, will market itself well, but only if you present it properly and promote it hard. Which leads us to…
Providing a Good User Experience (On-site optimisation)
On-site optimisation is about making your content presentable, easy to navigate, and easy to understand. This means that both humans and search engines should be able to access and use your content without problems.
You want to make it as easy as possible for humans to quickly tell what your content is all about before they can consume it. The rules are simple:
Have a proper title—you must make your title clear and compelling enough for people to click through to your page. In addition, you have to include your keyword (or a variation of it) so people know whether your content is relevant to their search.
Improve readability—make use of subheadings, lists, and short paragraphs. The key here is to get the ready to easily scan through your content. Large chunks of text can be intimidating to look at, so we must keep things as readily digestible as possible.
Optimize images—use alt tags in your images. Add a caption if it feels necessary. Also reduce file sizes for ‘heavy’ image files.
Highlight important phrases and sections—use bold formatting to highlight few important bits and blockquotes to differentiate quoted text. A lot website owners in the past abused this technique by stuffing keywords and bolding them. This is the stuff of spammers. Remember that we’re putting man first, not robot.
Search algorithms have evolved over the years to be able to discern your website’s usability. Using metrics such as bounce rate, Google can collect data about your site over time and be able to tell whether users who clicked through to your website found it useful or not (as indicated by how quickly they left).
Other usability metrics include engagement, loading speed, and more recently, mobile-friendliness. Needless to say, you’ll need a modern website design, decent hosting, and the right SEO plugins/tools for on-site optimization.
Get Links to Your Content/Website
Link building remains at the core of SEO. However, what’s become most important to search engines is where and how you obtained your links. Link schemes have been devalued over the years as search engines get smarter. And while SEOs are getting smarter with advanced link building tricks, the most important thing is to make your link building as natural as possible. At least in appearance, that is.
If your focus is on producing valuable content for your readers, you will surely get rewarded with back links. You must, however, thoroughly promote your content. You must reach out to influencers in your industry, as well as anybody who might be interested in linking back to or sharing your content.
The same applies to guest blogging. While the main objective should be to get traffic to your site, you may need to go the extra mile with promotion. Find people who can link to the article or share it. This improves the credibility score of your guest post—and this is great because it links back to your site.
Remember also to link to relevant stories of resources within your content. This is the natural way of blogging online.
Get Your Content Shared
Getting social shares is somewhat similar to getting backlinks. You must write compelling content to begin with, and then promote it. Make your posts easy to share by including a call-to-action at the end. Adding a relevant image for social media will also make your links more enticing.
Ever since social signals became a part of search engine algorithms, it’s become increasingly important to focus on what matters most—putting out great content that humans would find engaging and worthy of sharing.
It’s safe to say that SEO as an industry has evolved, but the most important things remain the same. A properly designed website with compelling content is the first basic requirement. Then second is promotion, which involves outreach campaigns to earn relevant backlinks to get your content shared widely. As these two steps already provide value to humans, your ranking on the SERPS will take care of itself. All other tactics and tricks come second.