The Smart Way to SEO Success

Google’s algorithm updates may be incremental, but the effect on SEO over time has been anything but. And while the relentless pace of those updates may make SEO feel like a game of whack-a-mole, attention to the fundamentals can make all the difference to your SEO success.

Google’s algorithm updates may be incremental, but the effect on SEO over time has been anything but. And while the relentless pace of those updates — and the churn of the competitive landscape in your industry — may make SEO feel like a game of whack-a-mole, attention to the fundamentals can make all the difference to your SEO success.

Focus on SEO Fundamentals to Start

No surprise, the first things you should examine are the fundamentals. Your page titles and headers should be keyword rich, as should your copy. (Particularly the copy nearest the top of each page.) Meta descriptions should be informative and enticing, as they’re a key factor in encouraging clicks from the search results pages.

Alt tags — and accessibility more broadly — should also be a part of your pre-publication checklist for all content. There has been increased scrutiny on accessibility compliance over the past few years. This may require a shift in your approach to coding, design, and content. It’s not directly related to SEO success, but quite a bit of accessibility compliance best practices overlap with SEO best practices.

Technical performance counts, too. Search engines use page load speeds and other measures as factors in their rankings, knowing that how quickly a page loads contributes significantly to overall user experience.

Finally, be sure you understand your analytics data. Ask the questions that get you information you can turn into actionable insights. Get your analytics team to set up reports to include those data points on your dashboard.

Do Your Research

There’s keyword research, of course, which will tell you what language your prospects are using to find the information they want. Don’t forget that the same research can also paint a useful picture of what your prospects’ pain points are.

You should also be doing competitive research. Identify which of your competitors are having SEO success and understand what keywords and kinds of content they are producing to help them win.

Chart Your Own Path with Great Content

Once you’ve identified your most successful competition and their methods, it may make sense to zig where they’ve zagged. Carving out your own niche is often preferable to trying to unseat the incumbents. Just be sure the niche you create still serves the needs of your audience.

Then, it’s all about the quality of the content. It must be useful, actionable, and engaging. No one expects your B2B content to be as entertaining as the latest Netflix sensation, but it’s wise to remember that no matter how boring your industry, your prospects still go home at night to Netflix, Hulu, and other highly entertaining diversions.

The bar is lower for us as marketers, but only if our content helps our prospects succeed.

4 SEO Best Practices of the Past That No Longer Apply

Are you following the latest SEO best practices? Here are four tactics that used to work, but now will only get you into trouble with Google.

Are you an old school SEO still using methods from 10 years ago? If so, you may want to consider upgrading your strategy. Even if you’re still seeing results, with all of Google’s algorithm updates, it’s likely those results won’t continue for long.

Change is good. Sure, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s the discomfort that makes you stronger and more successful.

Since it can be hard to know what are no longer SEO best practices, I’ll walk through four “old school” tactics that you can safely ignore.

1. Obsessing Over Keyword Optimization

Keyword density was all the rage 10-plus years ago. As long as you added keyword phrases people were searching for, your site would rank. Now, it’s not that simple. With so much competition, just using keywords won’t get you ranked high in Google’s search results.

It’s time to start keyword obsession recovery. You should absolutely still do keyword research, and you should still use those keywords in your content. However, don’t obsess about how many times you’re mentioning a keyword on any given page.

Copy should flow. Readers shouldn’t pause because there’s an awkward keyword phrase inserted into a paragraph.

Write content the way you would speak to someone in front of you. Take the keywords you have and treat them more like topics rather than bait for ranking.

2. Obsessing Over Anchor Text

This is a big no-no now. Back in the day, we would hyperlink the keyword phrase we wanted to rank for in Google. For instance, if you’re an orthodontist in New York City, you would try to get as many links as possible that use “NYC orthodontist” as the anchor text.

This is no longer a good strategy. Google’s algorithm is much smarter now, and that means Google knows when you’re trying to manipulate it to rank your site for what you want.  The result of this strategy is that your website will likely be penalized and you’ll lose your rankings.

3. Page for Every Keyword Variation

A good tactic many years ago was to create a different page to target each keyword variation.  For example, you would create a page for “NYC orthodontist” and another page for “orthodontist in NYC”.  It sounds a bit ridiculous now, but that used to work because you were giving Google a page that was 100% optimized for each keyword variation.

But those days are long gone…

Google’s algorithm is much smarter than it was ten years, five years, and even one year ago. Google understands that a single page can be relevant for similar keyword phrases and even some synonyms.

4. Paying for Links

Google’s algorithm looks at the quantity and quality of websites that link to your website.  In simple terms, ranking high in Google is a popularity contest. The more websites that link to your website, the higher you’ll tend to rank because that’s a sign that your website is trustworthy.

However, if Google determines a link was paid for, then that link will not be counted in their algorithm.  Paying for links is like buying votes, which obviously shouldn’t be allowed.

The problem for Google is that it’s not always easy to determine if a link was paid for, and that’s why so many websites were able to get away with buying links for so many years. But just because Google didn’t catch those websites years ago, doesn’t mean it’s a safe strategy.

As Google’s algorithm improves, websites that relied on paid links will lose their rankings because those paid links will no longer count toward their “popularity score”.  This is great news for all the websites that play by the rules because they’ll be able to move up in the rankings to replace the “cheaters.”

What It All Comes Down To

This is what it comes to – the user. It’s not as much of a game as many people believe. Ten years ago, it was a game. It didn’t matter if the content didn’t make sense because it would get ranked anyway.

The problem is that the Internet wouldn’t be what it is today if that continued. People wouldn’t get all of the information, support, and entertainment online because it would all be low quality.

Google has identified what its users want from them and the Internet. And they are working to make sure they deliver it by only showing websites that have exactly what their users want on it. Not only does the webpage content matter, but so does the reputation of the entire website.

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