In the early days of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), optimization was equated to shoehorning as many mentions of your keywords as possible into your copy in a practice known as “stuffing.”
That strategy has since gone the way of the dinosaur. Google’s search engine algorithms have become sophisticated enough that they can recognize content
that has lower informational value and penalize that site’s ranking.
With the enhancements to the algorithms from updates such as Panda and Penguin, copy that is “over-optimized” will harm your site’s rankings more than help.
In the end, this is a good thing. It ensures that the content that gets precedence on the web is content that is genuinely authoritative, entertaining, or useful.
These changes come hand-in-hand with an increased reliance on social media sharing as a method of gauging the quality of content.
To wit, if a piece of content is being shared by multiple profiles as representative of a particular topic, it will subsequently be given more weight by the search engines.
We understand then that the old adage, “Content is king,” rings more true today than ever before.
So how do we create quality content that is SEO-friendly, but not suspiciously overly-optimized?
1. Be Compelling:
If your content isn’t good enough to attract strong, natural links, it doesn’t matter how “optimized” that content is. The first step to getting your content shared is to identify your audience. How will you know how to create content if you don’t understand to whom that content is meant to appeal?
Before sitting down to write, create a marketing persona for your site. Look at the demographics you are targeting. Find out what they are seeking from a content perspective so you can deliver that message along with the marketing language about your product.
At a minimum, you must define your audience’s drivers with regard to your product. Why do they need your product? What happens if they don’t have your product or service? What alternative products and services are there? Why is your product superior?
If you can answer these questions for your audience, they will be compelled to learn more about the product. Your product must fulfill a need (either real or imagined) so it’s up to you to explain to them how your product solves that conundrum. Sometimes, that even means you are creating a problem that they didn’t even realize they had until they’ve heard your pitch.
That kind of insight is only possible when you know your audience.
2. Use Keywords. But Don’t OVERUSE Keywords:
A lot of people in the SEO industry will use the term “keyword density” as though it’s gospel. Let’s first examine what that is.
The concept of Keyword Density is fairly simple. You create a ratio of word count to keyword inclusion. Supposedly, there is then a correlation of how much you use the keyword per a set quantity of words.
This is a deeply flawed concept, because it’s not based on any measurable metric.
Let me say something that’s going to make many SEO’s cry. There is not, nor has there ever been, any concrete evidence that keyword density affects the overall rankings you get from a search engine algorithm. SEO as a discipline has always been about best practices. It’s a hodgepodge of tactics that we know get results but it’s never clear exactly how each of those tactics affect the overall rankings. So goes the stuffing of keywords.
Could it have been a deciding factor in ranking? Sure. But it was unlikely to have been the be-all, end-all tactic it was purported to be.
Combine that realization with the fact that today a keyword density that is too high can actually get your site penalized, and the strategy of maximizing the keyword’s appearance seems even more dated than a career in typewriter repair.
Now, I am not saying is that you should totally ignore your keywords. What I am saying is that their appearance should be organic and a byproduct of the content’s theme. They don’t need to appear more often than is necessary for conveying your point.
If you engage your audience, the algorithms are smart enough to understand what topic you’re speaking about without being clubbed over the head.
3. Interlinking-Or is It INTRA-Linking?:
I’ve always considered the term interlinking a misnomer. Yes, INTER-linking is a valuable tool in your SEO arsenal. But that refers to linking to sites outside your domain. What about linking from page to page within your site? A properly designed site should also have an INTRA-linking strategy.
Ken Lyons makes the following point better and more concisely than I could so I’m just going to quote him:
Internal linking is the most overlooked and undervalued tactic in all of search engine optimization (SEO). What many search marketers don’t realize is that you can often get just as much “SEO value” from internal links placed on high-value pages on your own site as you can from inbound links.
Internal links are links that go from one page on a site to a different page on the same domain. They allow users to navigate a website more efficiently. But more importantly, they set the structure to make the site easier to crawl for the search engine’s spiders. A properly executed internal linking hierarchy can not only help establish a content flow for your site, it will also help spread link “juice” from pages with higher authority to those with lower authority, thus boosting the overall authority of the site.
Internal linking is generally tied to keywords in the copy on a given page. Each keyword should be siloed so that whenever it appears in your copy, it consistently links to the same page within your domain. While this can be tedious, it also forces you to make sure that every page on your site has a single razor-focused purpose. This is important because it helps keep your keywords, however often they appear, from cannibalizing link juice from one another.
Your internal linking structure should cascade, passing down link juice from the higher-ranked pages down to the more obscure ones.
Keep in mind that it’s not necessary to link to a single page more than once from a given page of content, so don’t go nuts.
4. Avoid Duplicate Content:
Recently, Google started implementing severe penalties for the use of so-called “content farms” that are used for the purpose of aggregating duplicate and low-quality content on sprawling sites and then linking those questionable sites to one another in order to improve overall rankings.
After the Panda and Penguin updates, these sites were made to be examples of what not to do and Google punished them and anyone associated with them quite severely.
So how can you avoid being swept up in this? Well, first off you should be writing your own unique content and doing so frequently. If you are re-using content in an effort to cut costs or save time, you’re likely playing with fire.
Since being careless with recycling duplicate content can now cause you to plummet in the rankings, monitoring your content has become more important than ever.
The simplest way to avoid invoking these penalties from Google is to not make use of content farms and not to recycle content on multiple different sites.
I hope you found these tips useful and I look forward to reading your comments below.