SEMA News—April 2013
By Joe Dysart
Your Strategy for 2013
The single most critical factor to search-engine optimization (SEO) success is creating amazing content—‘share-worthy’ content that is so useful, meaningful and interesting to your target audience that they want to consume it, share it with their own audiences and talk about it,” said Susan Gunelius, author of Content Marketing for Dummies.
SEO is critical to the success of your business, given that websites not optimized for search engines are generally much less trafficked—and often all but forgotten. With SEO, you’ll give your website the best chance possible to be found by the search engines and also the customers you’re looking to acquire.
“If you publish amazing, share-worthy content, people will share it with their own audiences across the social web, which leads to more incoming links to your site and more traffic,” Gunelius added. “People will stumble upon shared links to your content on social networks, social bookmarking sites, Pinterest, Twitter and so on, and they’ll click through to read it. If they like it, they might share it even further.”
Indeed, share-worthy content also often gets covered on blogs, which results in even more “quality” links back to your business site, Gunelius said. “Over time, your site develops tons of quality incoming links that are vital to boosting your site’s authority and search-engine traffic. Again, look at it through a long-term lens rather than a short-term one.”
Jon Rognerud, founder of Small Business SEO, agreed. “Assuming you have a foundation, the most important thing you can do for SEO success today is ‘content creation plus content marketing,’” he said. “Some may not call this search-engine optimization, but really, SEO is all about building pages and content for the best user experience.”
SEO experts said that the new emphasis on “share-worthy content” has been rolling out during the past year as Google has tweaked its search engine to punish websites that use digital tricks to appear more popular and important than they really are. Essentially, businesses that heed Google’s crusade to rid the web of posers—and provide regular, fresh content that is truly valuable to the web—should do well on search engines. Those that persist in the digital black arts will not fare as well, the experts said.
“The old tactics of blog spamming, random social bookmarking and spinning content for article directories and blogs are dead,” Rognerud said.
Moreover, Google has been giving higher ratings to businesses and other websites that are heavily involved in social media—a trend the SEO experts expect to continue for the foreseeable future. The upshot: Getting good rankings on the search engines is becoming more about creating an authentically interesting and valuable business website and less about how good you are at cyber trickery.
While the practice of SEO can seem daunting at first, experts said that business sites should do well on the search engines if they follow these basic best practices:
Create Share-Worthy Content: SEO experts recommend at least three posts per week, which ideally should include gripping text, stunning images and irresistible video. If you’re not a natural-born digital entertainer, consider hiring a good copywriter with graphics skills.
Get Social: For starters, join Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Those are currently the Big Five social networks. Interact successfully and regularly on those, and you should see better returns on search engines.
Nail SEO Minutia: Proper keywords, page titles, tags and the like are the SEO fundamentals upon which all other SEO is based. It’s tedious, technical work—and it pays off. For a great guide on getting the techie stuff right, check out Google’s SEO Starter Guide.
Solicit Quality Links: Google is heavily rewarding business sites that have links from other extremely popular and valuable websites. Try to score as many links from these types of sites as possible. One way is to offer to guest blog for a popular site in exchange for a link back to your business site.
SEO-Optimize All Video: Web-marketing experts said that the future of the web is video—in the sense that most people logging onto the web will be consuming video more than any other medium. Google has seen the writing on the wall and is heavily rewarding business sites that optimize video properly. “Video optimization is one of the fastest ways for visibility in Google results,” said Small Business SEO’s Rognerud. For a guide, Google “SEO optimize video.”
Use Google Analytics: This is a free, powerful program that will analyze visitor activity on your business site and offer insights on how to improve the site experience and its popularity, and it is recommended by Brian Rotsztein, founder of Internet Marketing and an SEO expert. “It’s easy to find out things such as unique visitors, visitors from search engines, what pages are receiving the most traffic, where the traffic comes from, how users navigate and the ability to track for conversions,” he said. “It also integrates easily with Google Webmaster Tools and Adwords—Google’s pay-per-click advertising platform.”
Use SEOMoz: “It includes all the things you need as a beginner and/or a more seasoned SEO,” said Rognerud. “Google’s search algorithm has hundreds of variables, and things change often. In fact, more than 500 changes were made last year, according to Google. Keeping track of this is not easy. The SEOMoz platform helps you to understand what is going on beyond just factors on your website, but also technical issues such as broken links, redirects, robots issues and traffic stats as well as external factors.”
Consider Using WordPress: If you’re designing a new site or you’re willing to try something new, seriously consider using WordPress as the platform for your website. The reason: WordPress is designed, to a great degree, to automatically SEO-optimize your website. In fact, the auto-optimization is so powerful that the platform is regularly recommended by Google.
Get Educated: Give yourself a running start by accessing some time-tested guides that give you the inside track on SEO done right. To create an instant, free beginner’s SEO library, Google the following: “Google Webmaster Academy,” “Another Step to Reward High Quality Sites,” “Google’s SEO Report Card,” “Best SEO Tips and Practices for 2012,” “Search Engine Land’s Guide to SEO” and “How to Fix On-Page SEO Problems Using Bing Webmaster Tools.”
Once you’ve got the SEO basics down, you may be tempted to use your new digital prowess to start gaming the search engines. As previously mentioned, this can easily morph into a fool’s pursuit. Here are some sleights-of-hand that can easily send you to the bottom of search-engine results, courtesy of “Content Marketing for Dummies” by Gunelius:
Don’t Stuff Keywords: Keyword-stuffing is the practice of unnaturally repeating keywords in text and articles on your site—generally resulting in stilted and boring text. This technique used to work back in the early days of the web, but Google has long been wise to the ruse and now mercilessly punishes sites trying to foist this one on unsuspecting visitors.
Forget About Hidden Text and Keywords: Some website owners are under the impression that Google will not detect heavily repeated keywords or text that is hidden to the naked eye. No such luck. Again, Google and the other search engines became aware of this ploy years ago and punish any and all that attempts to game the system in this way.
Skip Posting Duplicate Content: There was a time when the multiple posting of the same article with links back to a website could result in higher search-engine returns for that site. No more. Again, Google frowns on the practice and punishes businesses seeking to unnaturally inflate the importance and value of their websites.
Avoid Worthless Content: Believe it or not, search engines can also auto-analyze content that pretends to be informative but is instead little more than advertising or a page filled with links. Do this, and you might as well post a banner reading “Banish me to the netherworld, Google” on your home page.
Don’t Pay for Links: There are any number of promoters on the web willing to sell you hundreds or thousands of paid links that will lead back to your site and artificially inflate you’re site’s importance to search engines. If you’re caught, you’ll also become a web pariah this way. “Buying links is one of the biggest mistakes you can make,” Gunelius said. “It might give you a short-term traffic boost. But ultimately, it will end up doing more harm than good for your site.”
Don’t Hire the Wrong SEO Expert: Be wary of who you hire for SEO. “The SEO industry is becoming diluted with amateurs who are out to make easy money at your business’ expense,” said Internet Marketing’s Rotsztein.