The changing face of SEO

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Content Marketing

There have been so many changes to Google’s operating practices in the last three years, that the whole industry built around Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has been turned on its head – and many  specialist practitioners in the formerly dark art are no more to be found. A raft of techniques that were once used to artificially boost rankings will not now work – in fact they are actively bad for your company’s standing and visibility.

The ‘on page SEO’ factors for success used to include overstuffing keywords onto pages so as to make them virtually unreadable, and writing meta descriptions was critical. Then there were the multiple sites with different URLs but identical content, just to elbow other sites out of contention. As we shall see, there are still some on page techniques that still work, but the key message now (and it’s a welcome one) is that virtue is being rewarded. High quality content will, ultimately, get high rankings.

Off Page SEO Takes Off

The other big sea change is that ‘off page SEO’ is much more important than formerly. You may be at the mercy of a machine rather than an individual deciding on your fate: but the machine has been told that reputations are based on fame. And true fame is defined as having a site that is recognised by others in terms of inbound links being made to it: plus now, the incidence of people sharing your content and URL on social networks.

Back on the page, there is the huge importance that is now being placed on making your site – or failing that, its most important pages – mobile friendly or in the jargon, ‘responsive’ to tablets and smartphones. I have written about the immediate need for this, and at Hannon Digital we can help you rebuild your site at reasonable rates to ensure that you are working properly on any device, as well as keeping the Google bots content.

But what else now works? What’s left for SEO? Here’s a quick rundown.

  1. Meta Descriptions – they may no longer directly help your ranking, but don’t ignore them. By filling them out correctly you can make sure that they pop up for searchers’ needs, such that people arrive at the right place on your site. This is likely to improve your bounce rate and visit length. And doing it correctly means keeping it down to 150 characters and writing good wording that properly describes the page’s contents.
  1. Page Titles – these are shorter (keep them under 70 characters) and they do affect search results. So make them relevant but also include the key keywords, ideally early within the line of words.
  1. Content – as I pointed out earlier, this should be well constructed (and if you are not a natural wordsmith, don’t be proud: bring in professional copywriting assistance). Be aware that when you create headings throughout the body copy, they are not only useful for the reader but they are also picked up by search engines. Which means that it is smart to include (in a natural, non-robotic way) your important keywords.
  1. Images – a picture may be worth a thousand words but it means nothing to a search algorithm, more’s the pity. The trick to making your carefully crafted photo, graphs and other imagery noticed is to include “alt text” plus a description of the item in HTML, incuding keywords as appropriate. This is the way to ensure that you can be found in the important Google Images section.

Online Marketing

What’s your next step? I strongly recommend that you proceed directly to your own website, and analyse it in the light of the above. Does it measure up? Are you sitting pretty on Page 1 or does your visibility leave a lot to be desired? Has your ranking deteriorated lately? Many people will find the answers discomfiting. Time for a second SEO opinion…