I still remember the first time I saw the Internet or even heard of it as it is today. I was in Japan and had been for a while so I was a little out of touch with things. A friend of mine wanted to go to the big Sony store/showroom while we were in the electronics district in Osaka. I thought “why not?” and we went there to see all the cool new gadgets. Once we got to the Sony store he told me he wanted to check on the basketball game scores from the night before. I was not sure how he was going to do that in an electronics store but what the heck. He went over to a computer and did some typing and in a few seconds he showed me my first web page. It was the Sonics home page; it was very simple–basically just showed recent game scores. But I was blown away. Fast forward 5 months and I was helping my dad set up dial up Internet service in his home. Once we got it set up I had no idea what to do. I didn’t know any web addresses I wanted to go to so we started a search. It was slow going and hard to find anything of interest but it was new and exciting. Search has come a long way since then and with SEO being used more and more, finding websites with the information that you are interested in is becoming a lot easier than the good old days.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has come a long way over time and has gone through a lot of changes. It seems that every time SEO pros have it all figured out Google cries foul and changes the rules and heaven forbid you break a rule, because if you do Google will sick one of it critters on you–like Panda. Keeping up with all the changes can be a tall task, so let’s take a look at some of the key factors that effect SEO one page at a time. Best Practices for One-Page SEO from our friends at Moz.com are as follows:
• Accessibility or Crawl-ability
• Content worth the users time
• Basic Elements – keywords, URL’s, internal links, headers, etc..
• User Experience
Now, if you look at this list, half of them are techie stuff like tags, links and other formatting stuff and half are about having good content. It makes sense—first, you need to have something of value to say, say it clearly and in a manner that grabs and keeps the attention of the user. Second, you need to make sure it is all tagged properly, is easy for user to understand and is done the way search engines want it done. Both sides of this coin go hand in hand and it is tough to say which side is more important. When you look at it all, I think the most important thing to remember about SEO is to keep it simple, don’t try to get fancy or find short cuts to cheat the system, create content that you yourself find important, keep it interesting and fresh so users don’t get bored and make sure people can find it. When someone comes to your site looking for specific information make sure they can find it quickly and easily and make sure it is the best content you can make it.
It seems pretty straightforward and should be simple, yet SEO is an area that gets botched all the time. To better understand what not to do, Barry Schwartz, the editor for Search Engine Land, boiled down the most common mistakes–according to Google’s Matt Cutts– into a Top Five list.
• Websites not Crawlable
• Not having the right words on the page “The example Matt gave is: don’t just write, “Mt. Everest Height” but write, “How high is Mt. Everest?” because that is how people search.”
• To much focus on link building and not enough focus on compelling content and marketing
• Lack of effort on the part of titles and descriptions
• Not using Webmaster tools and learning how Google works and what SEO is about.
Again, it comes down to having good content and following the rules, so if you ask me the biggest mistakes people are making with SEO is not having good content and trying to hide that with flash tricks they are trying to call SEO.
Another issue facing anyone trying to do SEO is over-optimization. The classic example of this is over use of key words. I am sure you have seen the sites that feel like every other word is a keyword and the text is hard to read. If you have not seen keyword stuffing don’t worry, you will recognize it when you see it. Let’s dig a little deeper at things to avoid. Take link profiles–we all know that creating links is a big part of the technical side of good SEO but you can take it too far. Last year Google started cracking down harder on linked networks with low quality links. To me, link networks are just another way people tried to scam the system by making big groups of links to use over and over again. Some of them were even offering links for sale–all in the effort to not have to put the work in. However, bad or junkie links don’t really help and Google said enough is enough and took action. Not to mention cramming links into your site to try and bolsters ranking is detracting from user experience so it can become a vicious little circle. To learn more about over-optimization Cyrus Shepard did a great Whiteboard Friday on Moz.com
With the discussion of links comes the question of External Links or a link that point to an external domain. I think the issue people have with external links is that they feel if they make it easy for user to go to another website then that’s exactly what the user will do. That is the wrong way of thinking. If you are creating worthy content and are focused on user experience by showing the user other valuable information they will think higher of you and are more likely to become loyal to your brand. If you look at what the expert at Moz.com are saying you will find they are supporters of the practice. “Many top SEOs agree that getting external links is the single most important objective for attaining high rankings. This stems from the idea that external links are one of the hardest metrics to manipulate and thus, one of the best ways for search engines to determine the popularity of a given web page.” It should be said here that the value of any external link is still important. You want to link with other sites that are trustworthy, relevant to your message and that are popular. I guess we will never get past the popularity issue; people want to hang out with the popular kids whether in the halls of school or in cyber space.
By this point it should be very clear to you that content worth of viewing is important in the world of SEO. You can do all the technical things well but if your site does not keep the attention of the user then it may all be for not. When it all comes together and you have interesting content, great user experience and solid SEO practices, the result can be amazing. A great example of that to me is Spotify.com. I am not a big fan of their music player and prefer Pandora for function but hands down for websites Spotify.com wins. It seems to me that the folks at Spotify.com have the technical side of SEO down and the website takes user experience to new level. The design and flow of the site is simple yet compelling. They have used the “less is more” attitude and have little text on the page instead they let images tell the brand story. One thing I find interesting with the page is the need to scroll down. A lot of websites are trying to stay above the fold but not this site. The magic of the page is it makes you want to scroll the page because of the experience of it. Well-played Spotify.
In the end if you have a website worth having then make it the best you can, publish amazing content, make sure it works is tagged and described properly, and learn to play well with the search engines so the world can see you killer webpage and find the value in it that you intended. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
“Perfecting Keyword Targeting & On-Page Optimization” by Rand Fishkin on August 17th, 2009 on Moz.com (http://moz.com/blog/perfecting-keyword-targeting-on-page-optimization)
“The Top Five SEO Mistakes According To Google’s Mat t Cutts” by Barry Schwartz on April 29, 2013 on Search Engine Land (http://searchengineland.com/the-top-five-seo-mistakes-according-to-googles-matt-cutts-157574)
“How To Stop Over Optimizing And Start Creating For SEO – Whiteboard Friday” with Cyrus Shepard on April 5th, 2012 posted on Moz.com (http://moz.com/blog/stop-optimizing-and-start-creating-whiteboard-friday)
“External Links” posted on Moz.com (http://moz.com/learn/seo/external-link)