Powerful SEO Advice Straight From The Horse’s Mouth
When it comes to learning SEO (search engine optimization) on the internet, there’s a lot of fluff out there. There are experts who claim to know everything and know very little, and there are people with hidden agendas – one of which is to make money off of you by promoting a product or getting you to opt into their e-mail list. We accept this reality, and many of us embrace it.
That’s why it’s a breath of fresh air when the masters of SEO – the search engines themselves – provide guidance. They have no hidden agendas, or at least, none that really bother us. They want to create useful search engines and meaningful results, so it’s in their best interest to come up with a ranking algorithm that accomplishes these objectives.
A Hidden (Yet Not So Hidden) SEO Gem
It’s funny that sometimes all the noise that surrounds the internet actually drowns out the most authoritative voice – Google. If you follow Google’s webmaster blog, you know that they often provide a lot of useful content with respect to SEO. Because this information comes straight from Google, I have full confidence that it is accurate information. No, they won’t spill every secret (after all, they don’t want you to exploit their search engine ranking algorithm), but they also won’t lie to you or take guesses about what might be important.
Therefore, I decided to compile an entire blog post dedicated to highlighting all of the wonderful SEO advice Google has published over the past weeks and months. If you’re unsure of what to believe about SEO, you know you can believe this.
The SEO Starter Guide
One helpful resource that Google has published is an SEO starter guide that goes over the basics of SEO. If you’re new to SEO, or still a bit fuzzy on the basics, this is an awesome resource. This 32-page resource covers a lot of information, and its focus is primarily “on-page SEO,” or SEO that can be done within the confines of your website (i.e. it doesn’t involve backlinks). Here’s the table of contents, to give you an idea of the exact topics covered:
- Create unique, accurate page titles
- Make use of the “description” meta tag
Improving Site Structure
- Improve the structure of your URLs
- Make your site easier to navigate
- Offer quality content and services
- Write better anchor text
- Optimize your use of images
- Use heading tags appropriately
Dealing with Crawlers
- Make effective use of robots.txt
- Be aware of rel=”nofollow” for links
SEO for Mobile Phones
- Notify Google of mobile sites
- Guide mobile users accurately
Promotions and Analysis
- Promote your website in the right ways
- Make use of free webmaster tools
One thing I really like about this guide is that they use an example website throughout the guide, so that you can see exactly how each concept applies to an actual website. Although this is a “basics” guide, it covers a lot of things that I don’t pay enough attention to, like optimizing images. Even if you think you know everything about SEO, it’s still worth reading this guide to refresh your memory on some simple concepts that you may have forgotten.
Google’s Tips for Good Backlinking
As you probably know, the most time consuming (and perhaps the most difficult) part of SEO is building backlinks. Backlinks vary widely in strength, relevancy, and overall quality. A small amount of high quality backlinks is often more effective than thousands of low quality, irrelevant ones. In this article, Google speaks a bit about backlinking. I’ll highlight some of the key points here.
1) If your site is new or unknown, get involved with a community. Google’s point here is that if you contribute positively on forums and/or blogs, it can help build your reputation. Not only will this get you traffic, but it will often cause people to organically link to your site (without you asking for links or building them yourself). Writing great content is one thing, but actually getting involved somewhere on the internet is going to be what allows people to even know your great content exists. For example, if you’re looking to network with other people who are into internet marketing, you might join Warrior Forum and participate in various discussions there.
2) Publish tutorials, find solutions to problems, or develop a tool. These types of content are very share-friendly, and have a much higher liklihood of being linked to by other sites. I don’t think Google is implying that you need to develop the next Market Samurai software or a massive 120-page tutorial. Sometimes it’s as simple as a post about the top free WordPress plugins. When you find solutions that you put time into explaining, you give people a reason to link to it – it saves them time.
3) Create humorous and amusing content. This is the type of content that is more likely to “go viral,” so it makes sense. A funny cartoon or infographic, a funny video – there are several possibilities, but it really depends on your niche.
4) “Any legitimate link building strategy is a long-term effort.” Google makes some great points here, so rather than paraphrase them, I’ll quote them:
“Buying PageRank-passing links or randomly exchanging links are the worst ways of attempting to gather links and they’re likely to have no positive impact on your site’s performance over time. If your site’s visibility in the Google index is important to you it’s best to avoid them.
Directory entries are often mentioned as another way to promote young sites in the Google index. There are great, topical directories that add value to the Internet. But there are not many of them in proportion to those of lower quality. If you decide to submit your site to a directory, make sure it’s on topic, moderated, and well structured. Mass submissions, which are sometimes offered as a quick work-around SEO method, are mostly useless and not likely to serve your purposes.”
5) Make your site easy to link to. This one is a fairly obvious one – by providing social networking/bookmarking buttons at the beginning and/or end of your posts, you make it easier for your content to be shared.
Great SEO Videos by Google
In addition to blogging about these SEO tips, Google actually puts out a number of surprisingly helpful videos about SEO. Normally, I would embed these videos (they’re from YouTube) right into this post, but Google actually disabled that feature for their own videos, so the best I can do is link to them. Here are several videos that I think are helpful (UPDATE: I have added a short one line summary of each video’s content or answer to the question):
- Is it still important to offer a sitemap to users?
- Yes, they help show visitors what’s important, and they can help distribute PageRank to your other pages.
- What are other important ranking factors besides PageRank?
- Anchor text, title, URL, header content, body content, proximity of keywords, and more – the secret is how Google weights each factor. Don’t become obsessed with PageRank.
- Is there a such thing as building too many links?
- You shouldn’t worry about it if you’re building links in an organic way and “playing by the rules.”
- Does Google see automatically generated content as a bad thing?
- Generally, Google doesn’t like it, but there are some exceptions (e.g. Google’s search results are “automatically generated” and are still helpful).
- Does the number of subdirectories of a URL affect its ranking?
- In short, no.
- How can a site rank for keywords that aren’t anywhere on its pages?
- This is primarily due to the anchor text of a site’s backlinks.
- Why are links used in ranking when they all have the nofollow attribute?
- Only a small % of links have the nofollow attribute. There are lots of opportunities for links that are followed.
- How do PageRank updates work?
- PageRank is computed continuously, but is publicized (updated for us to see) every few months (or roughly four times per year).
- Is it better to have keywords in the URL path or file name?
- From the search engine’s perspective, there really isn’t much of a difference.
- Do tag clouds help or hinder SEO?
- If there are too many tags, it could look similar to “keyword stuffing,” which Google doesn’t like.
- Will adding my Twitter feed to my website increase my PageRank?
- In short, no.
- Can a purchased domain’s history affect its trust in Google?
- Yes, it’s possible that if the domain was used for “blackhat” tactics previously, Google may have flagged it as a domain that it doesn’t want to index. Always research a domain’s history before purchasing.
- How important is the frequency of updates on a blog?
- Quality of content, not frequency of posting, is a more important factor with a blog with respect to how search engines view it.
- Is a sale page “duplicate content?”
- If it’s just a single page, you shouldn’t worry too much about duplicate content issues. If it’s several pages that are duplicated, you may run into some issues.
- How many search algorithm changes were made in 2009? Is content still “king?”
- There are about 350-400 changes per year. Quality content is necessary, but not always sufficient.
- How does URL structure affect PageRank?
- It’s not a big deal to Google (with respect to PageRank), but may be to other search engines.
This is really just a small sample of the videos available – I tried to just compile links to the ones that I think would be relevant to you. There are many more, and not all of them pertain to SEO. I’d definitely recommend going through the videos that interest you. Most of them are very short, so it won’t take a lot of your time!
Hopefully this compilation of SEO tips from Google helps you out a bit, especially if you are new to SEO. It’s good to pay attention to those who are experienced in SEO and have great tips to offer, but it’s critical that you pay attention to those who actually drive SEO (i.e. Google)!
Do you know of any other “authoritative” sources on SEO? I’d love to hear about them.
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