The Google SEO guide, better known as the Google Webmaster Guidelines, doesn’t really tell you anything about actual Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Instead it spreads a false idealism by telling you to just write great content. Don’t get me wrong here, the guide is educational but not really about SEO.
Great content is important—and it’s the number one thing most sites don’t do—but it won’t help you get your site to the top of the rankings in a Internet where everyone else is using SEO. Remember the article I wrote called “Content is Not the Only King“, you should make the effort to read this as it makes some serious sense. I agree that content is important but that is not all you need to rule the internet world. (evil laugh in the background)
So what else did Google forgot to mention in the Google SEO guide?
Choose Your Keywords Wisely
The choices you make early in your website’s life will affect it for years to come, so choose your keywords wisely. The Google SEO guide hardly addresses keywords at all, but the basic facts are clear.
1. Short keywords do better than long keywords because they match more possible search queries.
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2. Small sites must be careful about choosing keywords used by larger sites because out ranking a larger site is difficult. (But it’s not impossible.)
3. Do your keyword research using free or paid tools before choosing any keyword. Make sure the keyword receives the amount of traffic appropriate to your site and try to find any related keywords you can also use.
4. Consider the long tail—infrequently-searched keywords which you can rank for very easily for guaranteed regular traffic.
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Get Incoming Links
The Google SEO guide does mention Google’s original special sauce—PageRank—but then the guide downplays how important incoming links are.
Links are still important.
In fact, links may be the most important thing for your website after high-quality content.
There are many ways to get links for your site from the legitimate—such as guest posting—to the illegitimate—such as link farming.
The Google SEO guide, of course, shuns the illegitimate methods, and so should you—in general. (Many SEO specialists try to walk the fine line between “white hat” and “black hat” SEO, but I suggest you only try this if you can afford to have your site blacklisted.)
The five best ways I know to get links are:
1. Guest posting—every site needs more content, so most webmasters will love hearing that you want to provide them with a free article. Of course, if you’ve run a site for any amount of time, you’ve probably received more automated offers for guest posts than you care to count—so don’t be the person who sends them. When you offer to write a guest post, write a personalized letter and demonstrate that you’re familiar with the other site’s core audience.
2. Link baiting—put up a controversial opinion or valuable (but short) resource to get other people to link to your blog with a response.
3. Run a contest—people love free stuff and they’ll often tell their friends about contests by linking to it. You can pay for the contest prizes out of your own pocket or you can get vendors to donate the prizes for you.
4. Proactive linking—link to other people and you’ll find they may link back to you. One way to do this is to revise an old article with medium popularity on your site to link to someone else’s site. If they don’t link back to you within a month, revise the article again and link to someone else. Note, I suggest that once you do get a link back, you stop revising the article—you don’t want to disappoint anyone kind enough to link to you. See my linkbuilding tutorial for more tips.
5. Ask for help—if you make your readers happy, they’ll probably want to help you, so ask them to go out and link to your site. Be careful with this technique—you may get low-quality links and, if you overuse this technique, your readers will get tired of helping you.
Use Meta Tags
You probably know that there are special tags you can add to the head section of your webpages which will be read by the spiders that build Google’s index. The Google SEO guide doesn’t really talk about these tags, so I will.
The main tag looked at by these spiders is the keywords tag. Before Google came on the scene, this was the tag all spiders looked at to determine what your page was about. Unfortunately, many people used keyword stuffing to make these tags practically worthless.
When Google appeared with its new PageRank algorithm, keywords became less important than incoming links, so a lot of early SEO experts stopped filling in the meta keywords tag. But Google and other search engines never stopped looking at it.
Filling in you meta keywords tag can help search engines such as Google figure out what you think your page is about. Google still has anti-keyword stuffing protection built in, so don’t put any keywords in your meta keywords tag which don’t pertain to the current page, but don’t hesitate to use a plugin for your blog or CMS software to fill in these valuable tags.
Don’t Focus On Google
But the most important thing the Google SEO guide doesn’t tell you—and probably never will tell you—is that Google dominates search less and less every year.
It was true two or three years ago that almost no other search engine mattered, and it’s still true that Google sends more traffic to more sites than all other search engines combined. But unless you want to ignore thousands of potential visitors to your site, you should not focus only on Google.
When you check your search engine ranking, take a moment to check Bing as well as Google. Also scan the search engine optimization guides from search engines besides Google.
Because of patents, all of the search engines work differently—they’re not just Google wannabes. That creates an opportunity for you to make small adjustments to your pages which can help you greatly increase your rankings on these alternative search engines.
Remember also that social media strategy is becoming an increasing important driver of traffic to many websites, and that focusing on the Google SEO guide to the exclusion of non-search traffic methods can be detrimental to your business.
In short, don’t take at face value everything you read in the Google SEO guide.