The SEO world is changing very quickly, with newer things to take into account being debuted regularly and major tools being upgraded and rebranded, and that’s just 2015 alone.
If you are a business owner with a small marketing budget and not a lot of internal resource, you could be forgiven for feeling a little worried about where you stand in this brave new search world.
Fear no more; here are five key approaches you need to take to your SEO and marketing efforts in order to ensure that you stand the best chance of succeeding.
Share your knowledge and experience to help your audience and the community
It doesn’t matter how niche your industry is, there is someone out there who will be interested in what you have to say. A lot of business owners make the mistake of either thinking that their industry is too dry to create content around or getting trigger happy and publishing reams of content for the sake of attracting search engine spiders.
It is true in that Google is like a child on Christmas Day and loves new and shiny content, rewarding websites that update regularly; however, the content you are producing needs to be useful, relevant and trustworthy.
Put content on your website that you know your audience will find useful. One way of finding out what people want to know is using Google’s Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and look at what people are typing in to find your website.
Also, think beyond the product and get creative; a company that tells cutlery will benefit from engaging their audience with content on the home in general, keeping tidy, decorating and parties because these are a lot of the things the audience will be thinking about when they are in the mindset of converting on the website.
Stopping your content from being too “on the nose” (NEVER go down the “Five ways you can use your forks” type content just for the sake of being able to mention the product and get SEO anchor text in there) means that it is likely to have more credibility.
Get up to date with your keyword research
Search queries have become a lot more long tail as people use voice search and ask more questions than they did before.
Google’s rapidly increasing sophistication means that they are a lot better at understanding the meaning and intention behind searches rather than simply matching documents with searches that have an exact match to words in the documents.
This means that search behaviour is going to continue to grow, evolve and develop and that marketers need to make sure their keyword strategies are responsive to this.
Become an expert at auditing your links
Knowing that 650 links point back to your site is not enough. Google has historically said they were being tough on rogue link building whilst ranking sites clearly doing dodgy SEO at the top of the search results. No more; while they are still not quite following their own advice, they have got much cleverer at sorting a natural link profile from one that is manipulative.
So how does this relate to you and your business?
Here’s what you need to get to grips with in 2015:
Having 650 links is great but not if they come from only 60 domains. You’ll agree that this hardly looks like people providing a genuine recommendation of the business placed the links. Think about the number of actual root domains linking back to you rather than the number of links. If there is too large a difference between your number of links and the number of root domains then you need to start pruning.
Going further into this, you could have 650 links from 550 domains and still be falling foul of Google. This is because the domains linking to you could be related in some way.
This is pretty easy to check. Have you ever used Open Site Explorer before? No? Where have you been? This tool not only tells you how many root domains link to you but also how many of them come from different IP addresses.
With IPv4, you have 32 bit IP addresses with four bytes each – let’s use 188.8.131.528 as an example.
If the first three bytes (the 111.25.22) are the same as another IP address then the two IP addresses are seen to be related and sharing the same C-Block.
So you could technically have 100 links from 95 different root domains where most of them are related.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve been engaging in dodgy link building practices but Google does take note of this and your link profile could be compromised.
Check this by going to www.opensitexplorer.co.uk, clicking on “Compare Link Metrics” from the left hand menu and then entering your domain. The table that appears will tell you how many links, linking domains and C-Blocks you have.
You can also enter the domains of up to four competitors and see them represented in the table next to you. This allows you to see where you stand compared to them.
In the same left hand menu you can use to find “Compare Link Metrics”, you can also find out what anchor text people have used to link back to your site.
This is useful in that it enables you to see if you have an imbalance that needs to be rectified.
When people link, they very rarely link in the same way, this is why a website with one hundred links bearing the anchor text “cheap holidays Bournemouth” will look like it’s been spamming Google.
Get into the psychology of why people link and how they do it and you can make sure your activities are more natural (or at least appear that way!).
People link to and share information to say something about themselves to their peers and solidify/create an image of themselves. Someone using anchor text like “cheap holidays Bournemouth” isn’t going to be doing this effectively.
Anchor text should be a hodge-podge of brand mentions, logical page names/product name anchor text and even the odd messy URL. Remember that people are rarely uniform in the way that they are going to mention your brand.
When I first started working with Call2Call, a client of mine, they had a lot of unnatural looking anchor text that had seen them handed an algorithmic Penalty by Google. By taking the above approach, we were able to help them a lot.
Do the same for your site now.
Get to grips with mobile search
With the advent of the recent “Mobilegeddon” update, Google made it very clear to businesses that it expects its mobile index to be comprised of websites that are mobile friendly. After April 21st, websites that are not deemed by Google to be mobile friendly started to lose mobile search rankings.
When you consider that some of our clients see 60% of their traffic come from mobile, this is pretty bad.
I wrote an article on this back in March that takes you through what you need to do to make sure your site is mobile friendly, run through the checklist here.
Google’s mobile friendliness checking tool is also really good, and free!
Learn to see your site technically in the way that Google does
Doing regular technical checks on your website will help you get to grips with how Google sees your website. Here are some things to keep an eye on:
- Metadata – how long are unique are your meta titles and descriptions? If they are too long, short or duplicate to those on other pages then they will lose their effectiveness dramatically.
- XML sitemaps – you need to generate an XML sitemap and get it uploaded to Search Console ASAP. Search Console will not only show this to Google, it will tell you if any pages are not being indexed.
- Robots.txt commands and meta tags – one rogue C&P in your robots.txt file could result in Google being told not to look at your entire root domain. Page specific meta robots tags are also responsible for mistakes in this area.
- HTML and CSS markup errors – while not really an SEO specific thing, they could stop your site from working effectively and, therefore, signal to Google that your site has reduced in usefulness.
- Site speed – Google has a great tool where you can get a score out of 100 for how fast your site is in mobile and desktop as well as get details on what is slowing it down.
Hopefully this is a useful guide towards improving your SEO in 2015. Follow this and you will be doing a good job against protecting your site against Panda, Penguin and whatever menagerie of animals Google decides to send our way next.