SEO is a cruel mistress very few people know about. Here are the notes on a talk I did recently, sharing knowledge on SEO Basics.
What is SEO?
SEO is, for want of a better term, the art of getting search engines to like a site. There are a million different ways that SEO can penalise a company, and SEO is partially the art of knowing that and understanding what to avoid. To use an analogy - SEO is the backbone to a body. User experience is the truss or skeleton. Development are the sinew and muscles. Finally, design are the skin.
As pointed out by our CFO, this makes the finance team the wallet.
SEO Basics: The Google Zoo
For those who do not know, Google is famous for four algorithms in particular. These all have cute animal names, and are fairly easy to get your head around. These are, what I call, the Google Zoo of Animal Algorithms.
Google Panda is the content quality algorithm, ensuring content is relevant and making sure that it is "thick". For this it is important to remember keywords, headings, mark up, and proof terms. Images need metadata. Schema are also worth thinking about if you have a developer who can help put it in.
The quality of content is incredibly important for Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird (more on these later). This cannot be emphasised enough. The Matt Cutts meme below may seem comedic but the point is very valid.
Great content can create great conversations. Great conversations can create great conversions. Great conversions can create great customers.
These I shall call the four Cs of marketing.
Content > Conversation > Conversions > Customers
Google Penguin is an interesting algorithm as it safeguards Google against spammy sites. It is incredibly useful as it marks down rubbish sites (sites that have no interest in helping searchers find answers to their queries), making sure the honest SEOs get through. That is the theory behind it and it works.
Buying links has often been the bane of my life. Why? Do I do it myself? Are you mad? Of course not. What I have ended up doing though, more times than I would like to admit, is fix the detriment of "Search Experts" who have purchased links. Let's just say I am very aware that I will never get those hours of my life back. Disavowing toxic links is not a fun task for anyone to do.
Of course, Penguin looks at more than just toxic backlinks. It also looks at keyword spamming, hidden text, and all the kinds of things you squint at thinking "is that right?"
Pigeon is Google's local search algorithm, making marking up of data in Webmaster Tools and Google My Business Dashboard a must. Pigeon is the reason local searches appear within the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). It is the reason that Pigeon has moved from a "nice to have" to a "must have" in Google search, making it an essential tool for marketing.
Read More: What Does Deep Learning Mean For SEO?
Hummingbird is Google's semantic search algorithm and probably the hardest one to get your head around. Semantic search is how Google tells the difference between relevant content and rubbish content online. Hummingbird, along with Panda, looks at proof terms (and a few other factors) to ensure that content is relevant and verify that it is what the searcher is looking for.
Hummingbird is subsequently the easiest algorithm to please as if you are doing everything else correct then Hummingbird friendly search just kind of happens. This being said it is one of the most difficult algorithms to recover once it has been displeased.
So there you go, those are the basic algorithms. One thing worth noting is that Google makes algorithmic changes almost every single day, which is why it irritates me so much that there are books on Amazon promising SEO secrets for 2016 (YOU CAN'T KNOW!) and the major algorithms get an update about once a year.
Let's look at basic SEO on the page.
SEO Basics: On Page
H tags are one of the key forms of SEO tagging. H tags are heading tags helping visitors to the site and search engines alike knowing what the most important data is. For this H1, H2, and H3 tags can be used. They go all the way up to H6, but Google gives up long before then at H3. One important note is:
NEVER EVER EVER EVER USE H1 TAGS AS STYLISTIC CHOICES! This will mess up SEO for no reason. This is just lazy development.
As mentioned when talking about Google Panda, there is very definitely a word limit for content. To test this, try convincing someone in fifty words that you are an expert at anything. Hard, isn't it? The same is the case with Google. Fifty words just won't cut it. Try 300 instead. You will not find an article that is less than 300 words on Underhood as a blog. We just don't do it. You shouldn't either.
Images are images, right? No. Wrong. Images are not readable by Google and so we need to tell the Search Engines exactly what an image is. This done through metadata. This goes for the title of the image, the description behind it, the tags associated with it, and even the language the image is in.
One of the best ways to imagine this is by think of Google as a mole. He can just about see a blurry outline (or the insertion tags) but he has to physically interact with the code to understand what the image is really about.
Read More: What Happened To Google PageRank?
Keywords have often caused much controversy in the SEO world. The simple truth is that no two SEOs ever agree on their usage and this has caused much pain.
Keywords are not as important as they used to be. Google no longer considers them in and of themselves. That being said, they are still important as a page focus. Keywords can help emphasise the page, from a reader and Search Engine perspective (it is worth noting that Yahoo and Bing still use keywords). They help as proof terms and can be important to both Panda and Penguin.
The easiest way to work out if a keyword is good is by using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool where it will lay search volume against competition. For this the graph below shows what can be considered best practice:
This was tackled earlier when talking about semantic search, however, let's touch on it again. Use proof terms for all the reasons mentioned above. They should come naturally, so ensure that they do. Simple.
Vital Information Positioning
Although it is becoming less important over time, it is still important that information is positioned correctly on a page. Google reads pages like people read pages, top down, and expects to hit some of the information straight away. It is because of this that it is still important for information to be above the fold.
So there you go, these are some of the very basic SEO explanations. I hope this has been helpful and, as usual, if you have any questions feel free to contact me at CAB Studios. I will be uploading more explanations over the next few weeks so keep an eye out for those. Until then please feel free to start your journey by clicking on the button below.