SEO Best Practices 2013: Post-Penguin 2.0
The wild world of SEO is-a-changing! The SEO community is abuzz with a recent Google algorithm update and the (not so new) emerging trend of creating well-targeted quality content designed to address real audience needs; then promoting that content through social-media channels where the true test of quality and share-ability can take place. If they share it, it might be the right stuff to get your SEO poppin’.
SEO Best Practices for Pre-Campaign Analysis
- Define Your Target Market – It’s a rookie SEO mistake to go straight to keyword research when exploring new opportunities, it’s critical to gain a deep understanding of each business’ target customers by examining demographics, psychographics, industry trends, and any known purchase habits. Quantcast can be used to get valuable user data, to activate they require you add a snippet of code to each web page you wish to track.
- Identify Customer Personas – To help define your audiences after you have studied any market data, create personas that represent various customer types. This activity aids in recognizing and better understanding customer personality types you may not have previously considered.
- Consider Various Messaging Strategies – After defining the target market and considering various customer personas, create a messaging strategy that aligns with the most important customers in order to maximize every incoming opportunity.
- Define KPI’s – Identify the key conversions that take place within the business itself that define success. This could be the monthly number of incoming calls, service orders, quote requests, or web leads. You may not be able of track all of this data, but its important to have well-defined objectives and target metrics to measure over the course of the campaign. Goals and events can be set up within Google analytics to track specific actions taking place on the site.
SEO Best Practices for Keyword Research
- Identify the Right Keyword Opportunities – The keywords that are most relevant to identified business goals, have the right amount of traffic opportunity, and have the right amount of competition, will most effectively convert to actual business leads once arriving at the website. The wrong keywords produce no visits from inability to rank, poor CTR, or lack of existing traffic opportunity. I use Google keyword suggestion tool and ubbersuggest to find new search terms.
- Evaluate Keyword Intent – Not all keywords are created equal. It’s important to think critically about each keyword and understand which are most relevant to target customers. Examine the search results for each keyword and try to understand where your brand fits in. If there are no similar results you may be either targeting a less than relevant term, or found an untapped opportunity (which is less likely).
- Examine Existing CTR Data – Take a look into webmaster tools to examine the click through rates (CTR) of any keywords that have produced impressions. If PPC has been performed it can provide additional CTR data to review. The highest CTR keywords are the ones to take a hard look at because they’ve shown success in converting searchers into visitors, and may be more likely to convert into a new customer lead as well.
- Consider Keyword Ranking Competition – Finding keywords that represent attainable rankings are just as important as targeting those with traffic. First instincts for many are to pick keywords with the most traffic; this can be a huge mistake. Consider on-page SEO, page rank, authority, trust, and back link profiles. I use; Traffic Travis (keyword difficulty tool), SEO-quake (toolbar add-on), and mozbar to asses on and off-page SEO factors for keyword competition.
SEO Best Practices for On-Page SEO
- Content – The content of each page should be naturally written, directly relevant to target keywords and make good use of various tenses, synonyms, and similar keywords. It is equally important that the content fulfills user’s specific needs and facilitates the next step in the website conversion process, whether that be to make a phone call, submit a lead form, or make a purchase.
- URL – URL’s should be simple, clean, and make use of relevant keywords. Avoid long string URL’s containing random letters, numbers, and unsafe characters such as; “?”, “#”, “%”, etc. It is also beneficial to mimic the site page structure in the URL, for example “www.petstore.com/dogs/dog-collars/wammo-dog-collar”.
- On-page Structure – It is good to break up content into smaller pieces to allow users to quickly consume and process information. It is good to use h1, h2, and h3 tags to prioritize information, as well as bold, italics, bullets and numbered lists. Avoid exclusively using images or flash to ensure all content is indexed, if images are used make sure to include keywords in the alt attribute and image file name.
- Links – It’s a good policy to link out to relevant websites wherever possible, you want to link to authorities on the subject matter you are covering. Look for other sites that are reputable and are ranking on the search engines themselves. I usually recommend approximately 1 link per 100 words.
- Social – We usually suggest adding a social-sharing widget to website pages in order to allow users to share your content through their social media networks. Share This and Add This both offer free social sharing widgets.
SEO Best Practices for Link Building
- Assess Link Assets – Each business and website is unique and usually has different assets to leverage when it comes to link building. Start with existing relationships such as suppliers, customers, and partners, many of these entities may have websites with link opportunities. Also consider digital assets that can be used to create compelling content to acquire links, this can include; whitepapers, guides, photos, videos, interviews, or even other existing web properties.
- Plan Compelling Content For Links – Traditional “link-building” is on it’s way out, it’s now all about creating well-researched compelling content that people will naturally want to share and link to. Some directories are still good to a fine point, but quality and authenticity is more important than volume and anchor text; and if your doing any traditional link building you better balance well with social and no follow links or your link profile will be easy to spot by G.
- Promote Through Social – Social media is a must in 2013, it is important to have active social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, and G+ at a minimum. Social media should be used to share new content and engage with potential customers. Paid social ads can also be beneficial to get user engagement on a new piece of content. 85% of your time should be spent on producing the content, then 15% on promoting it. If it’s good content that’s all it should take.
- Competitive Research – While creating compelling content is a primary focus for link building, it is also important to explore competitors’ back link profiles to discover new opportunities and gain an understanding of what link building strategies are effective in each niche. I use Open Site Explorer (OSE) and majestic for link research data, they both give slightly different metrics and majestic offers a historic index that is fairly robust compared to OSE.
SEO Best Practices for Website Analytics
- Measure KPI’s – Key performance indicators are specific data metrics that are directly correlated with site success, and should be measured over a period of time with a specific goal in mind. Google analytics can be configured to measure specific pages views and actions (goals & events), which can be tied directly to KPI’s. The important thing here is to be tracking, analyzing, and improving KPI’s over time.
- Filter Data! – Website analytics platforms are great for tracking and sorting data, but the goal of analytics is to gain knowledge that can be directly applied to ongoing SEO strategy, to do this you must filter! Filter by various time periods, new visitors, organic traffic, CTR, bounce rate, keyword, pages per visits, etc. The more this data is filtered the more insights can be found, use advanced filters to drill down even further.
- Examine Long-Term Trends – It is important to not only examine weekly and month over month data, but also extended trends. Look at 6 months, 1 year, 2 years and try to understand where your SEO efforts, search-engine updates, and website status changes have intersected to yield your current results to date. SEO is always changing; at the site level, link level, and search engine level.
- Don’t forget Webmaster Tools! – Both Google and Bing offer webmaster tool platforms that allow webmasters access to additional data from the search engines not available in analytics platforms. Webmaster tools will notify you of crawl errors and site hacking, show link data, and allow you to diagnose on-page SEO issues. Making sure everything is “all good” in webmaster tools should be a top ongoing priority.
Our SEO best practices in 2013 are finally starting to come in line with the recommendations Google has been making for years but not enforcing. Creating well-researched content that fulfills user needs, delivered through a high quality user experience that encourages people to share with others. Well the promised land is here and if you were one of those people complaining of spammers dominating the search rankings, your opportunity to show why your better is here!
SEO is still highly relevant, but our best practice should now be centered around providing relevant content to real people online; in a smart way that will yield valuable visits, interactions, shares, and links. SEO still needs to be applied, but the technical tricks are on their way out. Today’s SEO analyst needs to be a savvy digital marketer who leverages a deep understanding of organic search, rankings strategies, and conversion optimization.