Is SEO really always changing or have the core elements of SEO remained the same, and our perception changed due to the tactics many find work for a short time. Furthermore, are their Google rules for great SEO that we can follow to get the most out of our investment and make our site as future proof to tactical swings as possible.
In many cases it becomes hard to define what great SEO looks and feels like, or a set of rules that should be followed. There are many people that say that SEO is all about crawlabilty, others say content is king, many look at the experience a website provides, and yet others say that inbound links drive everything when it comes to SEO. To this we yes, yes to all of it.
When we break down SEO strategy, examine its evolution over the years, and look at in regards to Google’s rules for great SEO, we find that things are not “always changing” as many claim. There are a set of basic rules that, if a website follows (correctly) they can lower and eliminate their chance of being affected by changes to the Google algorithm.
Google SEO Rule #1: Have A Great Website Design
Great website design can be a very subjective thing. Some businesses feel they have a great website, and yet when it is shown to their visitors or designers, there is alot of criticism. There are some basic things that we look at when analyzing a website’s design.
- Does it provide value to your users
- It is organized well, having a user-focused information architecture that Google also values
- Does it have valuable content
- Is there a brand consistency across visuals and design elements
- Is the font esthetically pleasing and easy to read
- Does it look great on a mobile device
- Does it load quickly on all devices
- Is the website optimized and designed for mobile devices
- Is the website engaging for users – It is no secret that Google is using engagement metrics and user metrics to help shape its search result listings. Having positive user metrics such as low bounce rate, and high click through rate can help give your website a rankings boost, or keep it in a top position even when traditional metrics show it should not be there.
Google SEO Rule #2: Have Great Content
For a while now, we have been trying to define what is meant when we say “create great content”. We have narrowed it down to a few primary aspects which are listed below, and which align with the rules of great SEO.
- In-depth Content – means it covers the topic well enough that a user would not need to return to Google to perform another search for the same information
- Trustworthy Content – is written by industry experts and includes data, as well as links to other authoritative resources.
- Relevant Content – is the content relevant to what the user expects.
- Optimized Content – does it have the basic seo components that can help a page rank better in the search results.
- Consumable – Is the content written and structured in a way that is easily consumable by the user. A recent study by Nir Grinberg looked at the ways we read online and introduced a novel measure for predicting how long readers will stick with an article. The study concluded that users consume information in five different ways and have five types of reading behaviors: “Scan,” “Read,” “Read (long),” “Idle,” and “Shallow”. This new data makes understanding your user even more important.
Google SEO Rule #3: Optimize Your SEO Tags
Title tags are still a vital part of an SEO strategy. Traditionally they were used for keyword targeting, but have more advanced uses for modern day SEO and messaging strategies. Title tags should be used for:
- Messaging Strategies
- Keyword Targeting
How – Write your title tags in a way that is conversational and includes a primary keyword and branding statement.
Alt attributes within <img> tags are used by search engines to understand the contents of your images. Not using alt attributes, not only can have a negative impact on rankings, but also negatively affects the experience of visually impaired users and those who have disabled images in their browsers.
How – Make sure all your images include descriptive and topic relevant alt text.
H1 and H2 Tags
Header tags not only help with SEO, but they also have a big impact on user experience and content consumption.
Make sure you are creating a consistent hierarchy with your content, in a way that makes it easy for Google to determine page relevance for the target keywords, as well as making it easy to consume by users.
How – Each page should include 1 H1 tag (your primary topic of the page), and a few H2 tags (sub topics to the H1 tag).
Google SEO Rule #4: Attract Inbound Links
Inbound links are one of the primary signals that Google uses to rank a webpage. Have a strong link-graph and inbound link profile will prove to Google that your website is authoritative and trustworthy resource for the topics you are trying to rank for.
To learn more about link graphs please read What is a Natural Backlink Profile.
Because inbound links are such an important part of Google’s algorithm, they [Google] need a way to organize and analyze links to better understand what they [The Links] are saying about a website. In short, a website’s link graph is a fancy way of saying an organized and scored list of all the sites currently linking to your site, which then can be used to influence rankings (positively or negatively).
So what determines if a links is valuable and gives it the best chance of positively impacting your rankings? There are a few key components:
- Valuable Inbound Links – Is the link on a page that would elicit a click.
- Relevant Inbound Links – There has been much debate over the value of contextual relevancy with inbound links. What we mean by this is that a link that resides on a page about the topic of the page being linked to is more valuable that being on a page that is not relevant to the content being linked to.
- Naturally Given – was getting this link a surprise to you? Did you suddenly see it show up in your analytics as a referral source? If so, it was probably natural. Google made a comment awhile back saying, ” the best links are the ones you didn’t even know you received.”.
As you can see these rules are not all that complicated, and if we look back over time, they have not changed all that much either. Where businesses get in trouble is when they try to fine the “next big thing” or “quick win” to try and rank quickly with little effort.
The key to SEO is having a cadence and process, and trusting that process to deliver long term results. Simply put, “create great content, wrap it in a great experience, and market that experience for inbound links.”.