5 Ways Your SEO Can Fail

There are as many ways to fail at SEO as there are ways to succeed. And many times there is a very thin line that holds the two apart.

What I mean is, one technique can help one website succeed while employing a similar technique could be the death knell for another website. But if a particular SEO tactic is questionable, then it will likely sooner or later lead to an algorithmic correction that could land the website at the bottom of the search engine results. Or at least shift the results around.

The search engines like to shake things up from time to time.

Here are 5 ways your SEO can fail. Be sure to look for ways in this list to succeed.

  1. Focusing on keyword densities. The search engines don’t care how many keywords you use. Your website could rank with a low keyword density while another website might require a higher one. Your best bet is to simply write great content using your keyword phrase naturally.
  2. Spending an inordinate amount of time on link building. Links are good, but they aren’t the holy grail of SEO as some people imagine. Don’t spend all your time chasing links.
  3. Not including a sitemap. A sitemap can point search engines to pages that might not otherwise get crawled. Ensure your website is crawlable with a sitemap.
  4. Not enough content. With the Panda update, Google killed a lot of websites that were filled with pages of low quality and low quantity content. Make sure each page has adequate content on it.
  5. Relying only on one method of content distribution. Today, you have to branch out. Get your content out there via social media, e-mail marketing, link building, e-books, video marketing, iphone apps, and any other way that is feasible and practical for your website and niche.

SEO is not a zero-sum game. One website can succeed using one tactic while another succeeds using another. Do what’s right for your website and business and quit following everyone else.

May 30th, 2012 / Search Engine Optimisation

How Long Does It Take For SEO To Catch On?

If you’re starting a new business in Scotland and you open your doors, especially your new website doors, with a solid SEO strategy, how long will it take for your SEO to kick in, deliver great search engine results, and drive you some targeted traffic? Answer: It depends.

One thing you have to understand about SEO is that it’s a game of relativity. Depending on how many other websites are going after the same keywords, how often they post content related to those keywords and quality of that content, and several other factors, it could be a long while or it could be a little while. One thing is for sure – it won’t happen overnight.

SEO is not immediate. Not at first, at least. You have to put your time in and pay your dues. But once you do, it’s very well worth it to see the results. Just remember that yours isn’t the only company playing the game.

Even if you do all the right things right, you’ll still have to wait to see results. The search engines care about quality, but they also care about consistency. If you just post occasionally good content, then it will take longer. If you post solid content on a regular basis (like, every day), then it won’t take as long. But just posting content every day won’t do the trick either. It has to be quality content.

There are two things that drive long-term SEO success. The first is frequency of posting. The second is consistent quality of producing content. Work on those two things and you’ll stand a chance at succeeding with SEO.

May 29th, 2012 / Search Engine Optimisation

Keyword Density Vs. Content Quality

Remember when SEOs and webmasters went crazy over their keyword densities? Some still do. But it’s not nearly as bad as it was in 2003. Most SEOs were teaching their clients to ensure they didn’t use their keywords too often, and for godsakes don’t use them too little. Use them somewhere in the neighborhood of 2% to 5% of your total content. That was the party line.

We know now of course that this advice is just bunk. It might have been good advice at one time, but it’s lousy advice now.

The most important thing to know about website content is to make it outstanding. Quality content is the most important thing. You can have a 10% keyword density if your content is natural, well written, and valuable to readers within your niche. Provide value and everything else takes care of itself.

I’m a big proponent of natural writing. That is, natural writing with keywords peppered in to keep the search engines happy.

Keyword density is a false measure of success and a narrow measure of content quality. Do your keyword research, but in the end you need to settle on the keywords that are right for your audience.

In other words, the keywords that get the most searches each month may or may not be the right keywords for your audience. Think in terms of what language your readers use. Then use that language. And if you use a lot of keywords in your content because that’s what it takes to communicate value, don’t be afraid to use your keywords. Just don’t be a spammer.

May 25th, 2012 / Search Engine Optimisation

Are Reciprocal Links Killing Your SEO?

Around 2006, or maybe 2007, Google updated its algorithm to diminish the value of reciprocal links. What was happening in SEO at the time is webmasters would send an e-mail to anyone and everyone within their niche offering to link to them if they linked back. So everyone had reciprocal links and a lot of them were spammy. Google killed them.

Now that Google has gone through the Panda update and the Penguin update, SEOs are back at condemning reciprocal links again.

The fact is, reciprocal links in and of themselves were never really bad. What was bad was how those links were being implemented. They were, in a word, spam.

Any link is bad if it is spammy. Non-spammy links are good. Some are better than others, but they’re good just the same. The problem with reciprocal links is that they aren’t one-way links. In other words, if you consider that each link offered is worth 1 SEO point, then an inbound link and an outbound link cancel each other out. BUT – and this is a big but – that inbound link also gets you points for other things, like relevance, age, anchor text, authority of the page linking from, etc. The outbound link doesn’t negate any of those factors.

So are reciprocal links OK? Yes, I think they are fine as long as you don’t have too many of them and you aren’t linking to and from spam sites and other bad neighborhoods.

You have to be careful where you link from, and you where you link out to, but don’t kill your reciprocal links just because you think they’re all bad.

May 23rd, 2012 / Search Engine Optimisation

Internet Marketing Is Changing

Change is a constant state in today’s Internet marketing climate. How change will take place within search engine algorithms and how those changes will affect individual websites is quite unpredictable. That’s why it is as important as ever to focus on quality content rather than spammy techniques to help your web pages rank better in the search engines.

Google has always tried to encourage webmasters to produce quality content. Recent algorithm updates like Panda and Penguin are designed to address quality issues.

The bottom line is that low-quality content will be penalized – eventually.

Many of the websites, such as the two mentioned in a recent Wall Street Journal article, that have fallen under the algorithmic bus are being penalized for practices they thought were acceptable. After all, they weren’t violating any search engine guidelines. However, whilst following search engine guidelines by the letter they have missed the spirit of those guidelines by publishing low-quality content and links.

Just because a practice has been a common practice for 10 or 15 years as article marketing has, that doesn’t mean that the practice will hold value forever. The landscape changes and wise webmasters and business owners must change with it.

When it comes to publishing your content and links on the Web, think in terms of quality. Don’t hire SEO firms that specialize in low-quality links and content. Instead, pay a little more for the long-term benefits of your online marketing strategy.

May 20th, 2012 / Search Engine Optimisation

The Meta Description Dilemma

Meta descriptions are behind-the-scenes page elements that cause a lot of conflict. There are two extreme SEO positions related to the meta description that are often debated and lead to more confusion among people who are webmasters and not professional SEOs.

The first extreme position is the meta descriptions aren’t necessary. The second extreme position is that they are always necessary and should conform to a specific keyword-based format, length, etc.

The “not necessary” position is based on the premise that Google does not always use the meta description. That’s a true statement. Sometimes Google takes content from the page itself to use for the search snippet and ignores the meta description altogether. However, sometimes it uses the meta description and that’s why this position is so destructive.

The second position is equally destructive simply because any page of content can rank for several hundred search queries, some of which are beyond predictability by the person writing the page. Google will most definitely not use your meta description for every one of those search queries.

So what should you do about your meta description?

First, you need to understand that it won’t be used for every possible search query. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t write a meta description that targets a particular keyword (preferably the primary keyword of your web page) and give it a good call to action.

The primary purpose for the search snippet, which your meta description has the potential to become, is to get the searcher to click on the search result and visit your page. Optimize your meta descriptions for search, but give them a good call to action.

May 19th, 2012 / Search Engine Optimisation

On-Page SEO Getting More Difficult

If you haven’t noticed, on-page SEO is getting more difficult all the time. There are several reasons for this.

No. 1, Google tweaks its search algorithm multiple times a day. On a low-tide day they could update their algorithms 50 times in one day. They’ve been known to make such tweaks a couple of hundred times in a single day. That’s way too many updates for anyone to keep up with. You can’t track them all.

Another thing, the on-page factors themselves keep growing. It used to be that all you had to do was write a page of keyword-based content, give it some meta tags, and build a few links. Today, you need to do a lot more than that. In fact, if you do today what you did in 1998, then you are likely not to get your pages ranked because you are likely spamming the search engines and they don’t like that.

To top it off, there are new data pieces that not all webmasters use but that Google sometimes uses to give certain pages a boost in rankings. These include schemas and structured data.

Whilst these are not necessary for on-page SEO, they can be helpful. However, simply using them isn’t going to guarantee that your pages rank better. There are still more than 200 ranking factors that Google looks at to rank its pages for any particular search query.

SEO is an ever-changing game. The best that you can do is experiment, test, and measure everything you do. If you get stuck, try consulting with a professional SEO.

May 17th, 2012 / Search Engine Optimisation

Are You A Link Spammer?

Surprisingly, after all that has been written about link spam (on this blog and all over the web), there are still a lot of people who will spend time and money creating links that won’t benefit them in the least. In fact, many of them could hurt their business.

Here are 5 common link spam tactics that can hurt you. Avoid them at all costs.

  1. Blog comments – This one is the most obvious. How many times have you seen a comment on your own blog that had nothing to do with the content of your post? And it included a perfectly constructed anchor text link in the middle of it? Don’t do this. It doesn’t work.
  2. Forum comments – Many people still think you can join a forum and immediately start spamming the boards. If the forum administrator doesn’t discipline you for doing it, it’s not a good forum. Don’t spam the forums. Add value instead.
  3. Articles – Articles are a good way to boost your reputation and present yourself as an expert. They can also provide great inbound links to your website. But low quality articles sent to article directories just to get a link are old hat SEO that no longer works. Save your money.
  4. Social bookmarking – Social bookmarking has value if done correctly, but all those social bookmarking sites that were started just to provide webmasters with inbound links are now no longer useful. You’re wasting your time.
  5. Web directories – Like article marketing, at one time Web directories provided high value links. Today, very few directories are good link building opportunities. The ones that are probably are specialty niche directories and/or provide paid listings.

Not all link building techniques are link spam. Find the good opportunities and leave the bad ones alone.

May 16th, 2012 / Search Engine Optimisation

What Is Content ‘Quality’?

Content. Everyone thinks they know what it means. And when you add the word “quality” to it, then you are changing the very nature of the content. Everyone still thinks they know what it means.

So what is meant by “quality content?”

In the old days of search engine optimisation, many webmasters figured out that you could rank higher in the search engines if you counted your keywords. Keyword density became a buzzword and webmasters used it as a measure of quality. But it didn’t really produce quality. It simply produced rankings.

Later, link building became a common practice. SEOs and webmasters learned that you could focus on building lots of links. Then you had to make sure you got the right links from the right websites. And you had to make sure your anchor text was just right. Over time, the search engines have forced webmasters to change how they sought search engine rankings. All of the changes in search engine policy have been geared toward one end: Quality.

So what is quality then?

In a word, quality as it pertains to content is how you write about your topic with your reader in mind. Quality content is content that reaches your audience with a message they are interested in reading. If they like it, it’s quality. And it doesn’t matter how many keywords or links you have pointing to it.

The SEOs job is to ensure that your content is quality content that seeks out the best opportunities to rank for key terms you want to rank for. The practices have changed. The nature has not.

May 14th, 2012 / Search Engine Optimisation

What If Facebook Had A Search Engine?

A new study shows that Facebook might have 22% of the search market if it were to launch a search engine today. I’m not so sure about that.

The numbers are predicated upon a survey of respondents and include an aggregate of the responses from three categories:

  • Definitely
  • Probably
  • Don’t know

I don’t think you can count “don’t know” as a positive. I’d discount those numbers and just use the first two categories of responses. That would only put the Facebook search engine at 17% of the market, still enough to be the second most used search engine online.

Interestingly, 27% of the respondents with no search engine loyalty said maybe they’d use the Facebook search engine, “but only if it was better than Google and Bing.” Duh.

I think the reality is that no one would use it unless they receive search results at least as good as Google and/or Bing.

Nevertheless, taking these survey results at face value, what would happen to search engine optimisation if Facebook did have a search engine? Obviously, they’d have to make their website crawlable so that it could be indexed by the search engine. Would that mean all the walls would fall down? Would Google then be allowed to crawl Facebook or would Google’s bot be blocked? How would searchers feel about that?

This study actually brings up a lot more questions for me. It’s not easy to build a successful search engine. Just ask Yahoo! and Ask. Heck, just look at how long it took Bing to come up with something that was halfway competitive with Google.

So what do you think would happen if Facebook had a search engine?

May 11th, 2012 / Search Engine Optimisation