Search engine optimization (SEO) is continuously evolving and changing. With recent Google algorithm updates like Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, the way pages originally ranked has changed in Google’s attempt to weed out internet spam. Major search engines like Yahoo, Bing and others typically follow suit. Organic search results use to rely on SEO campaigns that focused on target keywords and inbound links. In Google’s pursuit to enhance the user experience, the new SEO has become more about strategy than tactics and has evolved into a more consumer-centric experience that addresses the needs, wants and problems of consumers.
Search engine optimization has a lot of moving parts. Your SEO strategy should be split into two categories; on page and off page. The techniques and tactics implemented in both on page and off page efforts should complement each other in your overall SEO marketing strategy.
Content Marketing: Content marketing has essentially become the new SEO. Often you will see the two terms used in conjunction with each other. The key is to create engaging content that people will want to share with their network. Common examples of content are: blogs, images, videos, podcasts, webinars, etc. Good content will help you build your brand, grow your audience, and establish authority in your field. Producing quality content is no longer an option, it’s a necessity.
URL: There are four things to keep in mind when selecting your URL when optimizing your site for SEO.
1) Using your brand or your name
2) Including keywords in your URL
3) Being descriptive of your product or service
4) Keeping it short, easy to remember and easy to type
Meta Tags: Despite what others may have been saying, meta tags are still a relevant component of SEO in 2014. They are used as a way of telling search engines what your pages are about. Meta tags that you should include are:
1) Title Tag: Your page titles weigh heavily by search crawlers when determining the relevancy of a search query in relation to your page. It is also the first thing people see when they perform a query and should be appropriate and relative to your page content.
2) Meta Description Attribute: Although meta descriptions do not have a direct effect on SEO results, they do appear in search results. Providing a good description of your page’s content with a call to action will improve your click-through-rate.
3) Meta Keywords Attribute: It is recommended that you do some research on keywords and phrases that you want to include. Do not use keywords that are not included on your page or you will likely get penalized by search engines.
4) Meta Robots Attribute: Using the robots meta tag is a granular, page-specific way of instructing search engines how to crawl, index and show your pages in search results.
Structured Data: Structured data enhances your meta tags when search engines crawl your site by helping interpret your web page’s content. Your SEO visibility can be greatly improved with structured data by using rich snippets to enhance your SERP (search engine results page) listing. Most importantly, structured data, when properly implemented will increase your CTR and ROI.
Heading Tags: Since the Hummingbird algorithm update, some search engines look past the keyword attribute and extract data from the page to decipher what the page is about. Heading tags provide search engines with information about the content included on your web page as well as enhance the user experience.
Alt Image Tags: The alt image tag is like the text equivalent for the images used on your webpage. Besides the SEO benefits, alt image tags provide a chance at appearing in Google image search as well as help the visually impaired.
Keywords: This is a given; include keywords and phrases in your content throughout your page. Keywords should also be included in your headings, alt tags and meta tags.
Social Media: Social media sharing accounts for a large percentage of all traffic to websites. Good marketers know they need to take advantage of social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and many others in order to remain competitive in today’s continuously changing and evolving world. Not only does social media help create brand awareness it also sends social sharing signals to search engines. The key to a successful social SEO program is to build a strong profile, grow your network and create awesome content worth sharing. Social media plus content marketing have become crucial components of SEO marketing strategies.
Quality Link Building: Inbound links (the number of external web pages linking to your site) are a major factor in the ways search engines rank your website. Search engines use this to determine the importance of your website. Not all links are created equal. A link from a reputable site ways much more heavily and has a greater impact than a link from a newly created site. Use keywords in your anchor text when possible. Building links to your site is a very time consuming process. Be careful of black hat tactics; Google and other search engines may end up penalizing you, doing more harm than good.
Local Search: If your business has a physical location, it's important to register your site and business in local directories, especially Google Places, Yahoo, Bing, Yellow Pages, etc. Many of these sites will also give you a quality back-link as well as send signals to search engines. Get positive reviews wherever you can. It is essential to instill trust and build your brand. Having a location on any of your social media profiles should also be a part of your local SEO strategy.
Search Engine Submissions: Your sites will eventually get found and indexed by search engines but you never know when that will happen. Submitting your website along with a sitemap to major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing will speed up the process of getting your website indexed.
Guest Blogging and Article Submissions: Guest blogging and submitting articles to niche sites are excellent tactical strategies to grow your audience, build your brand and establish thought leadership in your field. Not only does this form of content marketing build your audience and reputation, it's also a way to obtain inbound links to your website.
Public Relations (PR): PR and SEO now go hand in hand. Establishing relationships with editors, journalists, thought leaders and influencers has become a necessity. PR pros know how to pitch your business and media exposure will create brand awareness as well as generate thousands of tweets, shares and visits to your website.
Search engines like Google and others are continuously evolving. They are no longer about the company but about community and the consumer. As algorithms continue to develop and become more people centric, focus will be on conversational topics rather than keywords themselves. Keywords and links are still relevant, however to stay ahead in your search marketing efforts, emphasis should be placed on creating fresh, original and engaging content that addresses the wants and needs of your target audience.
SEO is not dead and is still very alive and should continue to be part of your overall marketing strategy.