One of the most frustrating things in the life of a web designer is trying to navigate the minefield that is SEO (search engine optimisation). There is more utter rubbish written about this topic than probably any other topic on the web in my opinion.
But why is there so much rubbish written about? Because of course there’s money in it. If you make the claim that you can get people on page one of Google, people flock to you and pay you some very good money. Even if, as it turns out, that claim is worthless. Often the people making the claims are American. Never get between an American and a big pile of money made from fraudulent claims.
So why the frustration today? Well because in my quest to be the best I study guide after guide on SEO. One of the people churning out this rubbish is a self proclaimed “kind of a big deal” (you have to admire the front of the guy). On his site he has the “Advanced guide to SEO”. He claims to have worked with major companies to give them huge amounts of traffic. He has an “SEO university” area in which he supposedly gives his advanced stuff. If it’s anywhere near as good as his free guides – ignore it.
So what’s the beef with the stuff this guy puts out? Well he’s writing as if he’s an authority, but the tips are from the state of the art of SEO in 2012. Now let me explain something about SEO. Google doesn’t like attempts to game their search engine. As a result they spend inordinate amounts of time and energy on updating their algorithms to ensure that people can’t do dodgy techniques that lift their rankings unrealistically. On average Google makes 500 changes a year to their algorithm. So anyone still churning out SEO advice from 2012 is 2000 algorithm changes behind the curve. And if they make the claim that this is current and relevant, let’s call them for what they are; a shyster.
So why are these people churning out this rubbish, piles of steaming crap, and calling it gold dust? Because there are two things that really do work when it comes to rising in the rankings with Google, and this simply will not change. Content and traffic. The guy writes a guide with 30 tips. Number one tip is content. The next 29 tips are of varying relevance and reliability, but it doesn’t really matter. The big one is content.
Thing is, people like me are constantly seeking an edge for themselves and their clients. So of course the guy who writes this content know it’s self perpetuating for him. He claims to have content that will give you the edge. As a result he gets lots of traffic. And as a result of the traffic he ranks highly in Google.
It’s like those diet pill ads. You know the ones with the fine print where they say to be used in conjunction with diet and exercise? Anyone with any sense will know that it’s the diet and exercise that’s doing the job, not the magic pill.
So to take away from this – content, content content.
A lot of energy and money is being expended by a lot of people on getting to page one on Google for their preferred search terms. I have heard of people “guaranteeing” page 1 of Google for a pretty handsome fee.
In the meantime I’ve just gone about and got my first page one
I knew that to have any credibility in the SEO field I had to be able to show that I could improve my own visibility, so that’s exactly what I did.
Late September, early October I was looking at the best ways to market my business. The obvious answer that kept coming back to me was to improve my ranking on Google.
I believe in just going for things, whether you are ready or not and then getting better via the school of hard knocks. So when I first launched my business, I think my website could have looked better, and the SEO could have definitely been better.
I was nowhere on Google.
Since September though, I put in a lot of work on my site and now have been able to see my web pages slowly climbing the rankings for various search terms. The important one for me is “Web Design Adelaide”. In Google terms I am still nowhere, since page one is where it’s at, but I’m heading in the right direction. For that particular search I have gone from around page 30 on Google 6 weeks ago to page 14. In SEO terms that is great.
I check regularly using Google’s Webmaster tools to see where I am at. Webmaster tools shows all the queries that you are ranking for and where you rank. It’s an essential tool for people with websites.
So I was checking over the weekend, and sure enough, there I am on page 1.
There was my own business on page one of Google for the term “custom website design Adelaide”. Very pleasing to see.
So anyway, what this means is that, yeah, I do know SEO. What I did for myself I can do for you. If you’re not ranking for important searches, get in touch. I can help you at a price tailored to your budget.
Apparently Google make 500 changes to their search algorithm each year.
The reason they do this is because when someone searches for something, they genuinely want to provide the user who is doing the searches with the search result most relevant to their enquiry. Now that means that techniques that used to work, such as keyword stuffing (where you loaded up your page with as many search terms as possible) no longer work. Google is onto such things. They don’t want manipulation of search results, they want pages that give people what they are really looking for. They want people to be writing web pages for people, not search engines.
So what makes site rank higher in 2014?
Well, surprisingly enough, real content. By that I mean actual things that visitors to your site want to read. It’s why I blog at least once a week now. And when I blog I need to make the content both informative and entertaining, because one of the things that Google also look for is traffic to a site. It makes sense really. If people are visiting a site, it must mean it has value to people, so therefore by definition the site naturally goes up the rankings.
Then there is speed. Google like sites that are fast. There are ways to test this and improve this (I happen to know them by the way).
Next is mobile optimisation.
Yes your site has to be mobile ready. Google wants to provide users (Its customers are your customers) with the best user experience possible. Naturally if your site isn’t providing a great experience for users, Google doesn’t want to send them there. So if someone searches on their phone for a site in a particular category and a competitor’s site is mobile optimised and yours isn’t, you can guess whose is more likely to come up.
Page titles are as important as ever. You know, the little thing in your browser heading that when you click on it, it has a little description about the page contents? Well that is considered very important to Google, so make sure your titles are optimised.
Internal links in my view are really important. How do I know? Because I can check my own rankings and see the improvements in where my pages sit on Google. (I will tell you how to do this in another post, so keep reading my blog). What do I mean about internal links? well an example is that instead of simply “BLOG”, the link to my blog now reads adelaide-web-design-services-blog. And that means that each of those keywords improve your search results.
Backlinks are links from other sites to your site. Google counts them up, so the more you have the higher your site ranks.
Images and headings in articles.
If you look back at my earlier blog posts, what I didn’t have on the page was secondary headings or images. This stuff makes it more attractive to a human reader, so is marked up by Google.
After these key things come all the other things that have been around for ever, but are not as important now as people think they still are.
For example, these things called meta tags – they are on your page in the headers of your HTML files. And keywords of course. With keywords though, there comes a point when if there are too many keywords, Google penalizes you. It’s known as keyword stuffing.
By the way, give it time.
This is really important. I had a client who asked my why they weren’t ranking on the search engines.. a half an hour after their site launched. It takes a while. Search ranking improvement is something that happens gradually (but it’s exciting to see).
Why am I giving this information away?
Well for the same reason a mechanic can give me detailed instructions on how to rebuild a carburetor. It doesn’t matter. I’m not using them. So, having said that, if you feel like you would like to improve your search rankings, get in touch. I can tune your site.