Search engine optimisation is absolutely vital to positioning your business at the top of Google rankings, but whatever you’ve been told about SEO is now almost irrelevant. Before mid-2011, Google had a simple, predictable algorithm that chose the top positions. This predictability allowed SEO companies to manipulate Google’s system by using a very simple technique – they paid cheap, outsourced workers to create thousands of ‘backlinks’ in other sites, to give the impression that your site was ‘popular’.
This distorted Google’s results, and Google introduced a completely new ranking system, called ‘Panda’, which is designed to rank sites on the basis of ‘authenticity’. In other words, Google now rates each site by evaluating the quality and content of the site, and also what people say about your site in social media platforms such as Facebook.
But the good news is that if you follow Google’s new ‘rules’ then you will be pushed to the top.
Here’s a list of the top rules to get you ranking high on Google:
Continual improvement: SEO is not a “set and forget” concept. Remember, there’s a lot of jostling for position – and some companies put a lot of effort into constantly fine-tuning their site, then monitoring the results. But all sites will slip down the list if no work is done. So you need to be pro-active.
Technical quality: Your site should be technically ‘clean’. Google rewards sites that are fast, lightweight and obey the rules of technical quality. Systems like WordPress and Joomla (which form the backbone of most small-business sites) are already optimised, but can be optimised further.
Identify the keywords: Google Analytics, a free tool, gives you a complete set of invaluable reports, which form the basis of any SEO. It shows you the main keywords that visitors use to find your site.
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Focus your marketing: Depending on your specialisation, only some keywords will be relevant. If your business depends on its locale, then your suburb would be a top keyword. However, if Google identifies an “overuse” of specific keywords, it will actually penalise your site because it considers the copy to be unreadable or uninteresting (Google says that keywords should not make up more than five to seven per cent of the copy).
This means you need to choose your keywords carefully, so they most accurately reflect your preferred market position. By using the right keywords, you attract the type of customer that you’re looking for. If you include every keyword, it will actually weaken the SEO, because competitor businesses will have a higher repetition of specific keywords and yet remain under the recommended percentage of use.
Consider using a copywriter: A good copywriter can give your site the authenticity you need to engage with your customers, and will also be able to weave in the keywords without it sounding stilted or repetitive.
Build your content: This means, literally, make your site bigger. Each page should be well written and compelling, essentially to build trust and engagement. Google also measures the length of time a visitor spends on your site, and the longer they stay – the better quality Google deems your site to have.
Create compelling headlines: Every page has a heading tag, which Google uses extensively; this headline should feature your main keywords; however, the headlines also function as a key marketing tool. If the headline is simply a string of keywords, it will be punished by Google. Your headlines need to be marketing statements, which also contain keywords.
Social networking: Expand outside your website to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Google references Facebook for every search conducted. The more often your business name or website appears in Facebook, the higher you rank in Google.
Test and evaluate: Google Analytics allows you to make strategic changes and then measure the results. You can experiment with keyword combinations in your headlines and body copy.
Use your SEO: That means, understand that a top ranking is useless if no-one ever ‘converts’ into a customer. The conversion process is a mix of psychology and marketing, and if you are just guessing, or experimenting – get a copywriter.
Start following these latest rules for Google Panda and Penguin, and your website will rank up the top of the SEO food chain in no time.
This article has been adapted from its original version, first published in Bite Magazine.
How was your website impacted by Google’s Panda and Penguin updates? Have you adapted to the new rules for SEO?