Search Engine Optimisation is, for want of a better phrase; a mystical beast. You can study it and you can learn it but if Google, Bing or Yahoo go ahead and change their algorithim, everything can change in a flash and your website can slip down the rankings in a heartbeat.
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I don’t claim to be an SEO expert and I don’t sell search engine optimisation as a service, but I do have a keen interest in it and have done for some years now. In this article I’ll share some tips and tricks, attempt to debunk some common myths and misconceptions and help you consider some new ideas and techniques. I also have another article on ways to help skyrocket your rankings here.
But without further ado, here are 10 tips and tricks (as well as some myths) that I’ve learned along the way about search engine optimisation.
1. Natural and Organic Is Better Than Robotic and Mechanical
Google likes things to appear to be natural and organic, even if they aren’t. When it comes to SEO, it’s best not to automate everything or become a keyword churning, content recycling factory. Take things at a normal pace and build over time rather than zooming off into the distance, burning out and slowing to a stop. If you begin building thousands of links over a short period, search engines will get suspicious. You will be much better off building ten or so, high quality, relevant links in the same timeframe.
The same goes for blog posts, if you’re recycling content from elsewhere on the internet and doing it over and over again, you’re less likely to see the results you want. Your time will be much better invested creating high quality, original articles and publishing blog entries less frequently (yet still often enough).
Keyword stuffing, content cramming and automating human processes will destroy your page rankings. There’s no substitute for the human touch. Treat your website like a marathon without a finish line. Keep on building, keep writing content, keep updating it, keep your website nice and fresh and relevant and Google will become your friend.
2. Even “nofollow” Links Work Wonders For Your Site
First things first – what is a nofollow link? A nofollow link is a hyperlink on a web page that is set by the web developer in a way to prevent search engines from crawling it. People do it to keep web crawlers on their page and maintain control over what content is and isn’t being crawled and indexed. If a piece of spam gets through your filter, this prevents Googlebot from crawling over it and assuming your website is associated with spam.
Dofollow links (links Googlebot is allowed to crawl) help boost up page ranking a significant amount as they tend to be placed within content and relevant. However, they’re much harder to obtain as bloggers and other influential online presences only link out to reliable, relevant and safe sources. When you’re working on your link building strategy, dofollow links are what you need, however, nofollow links are not to be ignored!
Popular blogs, bulletin boards and forums tend to have all of their links set to nofollow as spam leaks through the filter quite often with them. However, this should not stop you posting on them, if nothing else, it can encourage more traffic to your site.
If you only have dofollow links coming into your website, search engines get suspicious and it can do as much harm as good. Mix up your backlink strategy. What you need to remember is that Google prefers things to appear organic and natural. If you only have dofollow links to your site, you could be penalised as that looks too staged and mechanical. Vary things up, it will serve you well.
3. Mixing Up Your Inbound Link Keywords is a Good Strategy
Yes, you might want to rank top in the world for “design agency” but by only having “design agency” text anchor links, you could be hurting your website’s ranking. Mixing up your inbound link keywords will help you website blaze through the rankings to the very top.
Neil Patel of Quicksprout swears by the philosophy “you can be rich, but not filthy rich” when it comes to inbound anchor text. In his blog post 5 SEO Mistakes That Even Experts Miss talks about the success of Doctor650 building 13 links using different anchor links. “Within 54 days of the site launching, it started to rank in the top 4 for the keyword 650 credit score” showing you can rank for any term, but it’s very important to rotate your text links.
In your anchor text, try adding local place names or do a little outside of the box thinking to see what other terms you can use to link in. On the Canny Creative home page, I’m actively trying to rank top for the keywords “design agency Newcastle”. However, I have a multitude of anchor text links directed at my home page, including; design agency Newcastle, graphic design Newcastle, graphic design agency, Newcastle design agency, design portfolio and brand identity design, among others.
If the keywords you use as anchors are relevant to the page you’re linking to, they don’t need to be exactly the same as each other. By varying your anchor text, you’re keeping things natural and organic and that’s what Google likes to see.
Recently, we wrote a new blog post about SEO for hotels. However, there are a lot of handy tips in that post that would also apply here, especially when it comes to choosing keywords for your business. Keywords are vital to the success of your SEO campaign. Make sure you do your research properly!
4. Buying Links is a Bad Strategy
There are so many bad SEO techniques but this one has to be up there with the worst of them. Buying links of any kind doesn’t just cost a pretty packet, it’ll cost your site it’s ranking too as Google is now wise to people purchasing links.
Link farms are being shut down left, right and centre and people that are associated with link farms, much like spam, are finding their site is slipping down the rankings. This technique is labelled as black hat SEO, a term used within the industry to describe techniques which are sometimes illegal, immoral and punished by search engines.
Rather than wasting money and time buying links, you’d be better off investing the time in generating unique and original content and getting it in front of the right pair of eyes.
5. Linking Out Helps Too! (It’s Not All About Inbound Traffic)
There are many benefits to links going out from your page (provided there’s not too many and you don’t turn into a link farm). Here is how it works; if your site is linking out to other reputable sites within the context of your content, your ranking can benefit from being associated with other reputable names.
Linking to the home pages of sites probably isn’t the best technique, but if you quoted someone as reputable as Neil Patel talking about personal branding and marketing, then if you link to a relevant page over on his site from within your content, there’s a chance the search engines will see that as a positive.
Don’t go too heavy or crazy on outbound links as you still need to keep your readers attention and keep them on your own site, rather than getting sidetracked by others.
If you’re linking out, drop the person a link to your site, tell them why you’re linking out to them, ask them to share it. You could also ask them if they’d see any SEO benefit from specific keywords linking to them. Get people on your side and maybe in the future they’ll link back to you. It’s all swings and roundabouts.
6. The Google Adwords Keyword Tool is Invaluable
Whilst not the be all and end of keyword research and checking how many specific searches your keywords get every month, the Google Keyword Tool is a very solid starting point.
The keyword tool allows you to check monthly search volume for specific phrases. One of the best things about it is there’s no limit (that I’ve come across) to the number of keyword ideas that you can check with it. You can also check monthly searches by location giving you a great insight to help making targeting specific areas and countries with your campaigns much easier.
Another of the benefits of the tool is that it also gives you a string of keyword suggestions. So if you’re burned out thinking about unique and different keywords to drive traffic to your site have a look at some of the suggestions and see if any of them will work for you.
Google offer a great variety of tools. If you’re serious about digging into your website’s optimisation, I’d definitely grab yourself a Google account and make use of the Keyword Tool as well as Webmaster Tools and Analytics.
7. Traffic Isn’t Everything, Conversions Are
It’s no good having a massive footfall if nothing at all is converting. Once your blog has started driving traffic to your site, you need to find a way to convert your visitors in to paying customers.
There are a number of different ways to convert your visitors which should probably be saved for a different blog post, but one idea is to blog only about relevant subjects and what you want customers to buy from you, it’s no good blogging about horses if you want to sell design services.
I also find that it helps to have your contact details easily located at both the top and bottom of every single page, that way potential clients don’t have to look hard at all for your details. Making youself easily contactable will help bring your customers directly to your doorstep.
8. Don’t Try to Over Optimise, Maintain Focus
Trying to optimise your home page for all of the search terms you want traffic for is an impossible task. At first, I tried to make the Canny Creative home page rank for design agency Newcastle, graphic design Newcastle, Newcastle design agency, web design Newcastle and branding Newcastle amongst others. This was a costly mistake. My links were spread far too thin, the content of the page didn’t support the keywords I was trying to achieve ranking for and above all else, having all of your traffic click through to your home page isn’t the best of strategies.
I refocused my efforts and concentrated on getting the Canny Creative index page to rank solely for design agency Newcastle. I still used a multitude of anchor text links and as a by-product my website also started ranking well for Newcastle design agency and graphic design Newcastle too.
Maintaining your focus is difficult. You can keep your inbound link strategy focused by creating separate landing pages for each search term. This also helps visitors and potential clients as they’ll be more specific, better quality content which fits their exact needs.
9. It’s Not All About the First Page
A lot of businesses and websites try to optimise their site to appear on the first page of Google which is completely understandable. The first several positions on the first page of Google bring in a high amount of organic search traffic. However, recent studies have shown that you’re better off being top of the second page than bottom of the first.
With the Canny Creative website I noticed a dramatic drop in web traffic when the site broke through from the top of the second page onto the bottom of the first. My visitor count dropped off and only started picking back up when my page was making it’s way above the fold into the fifth to first positions of Google.
If you’re trying to rank for a highly competitive keyword such as design, design agency etc, and you don’t think you have a hope in trying to rank above the fold on page one, you should aim for the very top of the second page and try and maintain your rank there.
10. The Amount of h1 Tags Really Doesn’t Matter
The basic idea behind the h1 tag is to let Google know what your who you are, what you do and what your website is about. Something along the lines of “Canny Creative is a graphic design agency based in Newcastle Upon Tyne specialising in designing brand identities and websites.” It’s simple and sums up perfectly what my website is all about.
There are many an argument and forum discussion to be found about the usage of
h1 tags when building a website. A lot of people say that Google will punish your site for having more than one, others say use only one h1 tag and then multiple h2 to h6 tags. Then other people say it doesn’t matter how many you use, as long as you have at least one.
I started out believing that you shouldn’t use more than one h1 tag. However, after experimenting and discussing with other web designers and developers about the usage of the tag I changed camps. Nothing changes if you use multiple h1 tags. It makes styling CSS easier, and, it means you don’t have to set your logo in an h1 class and then use text-index:-999px; to make your site description disappear and appear to be replaced by a logo.
I’ve used multiple h1 tags on my last few client projects and the results haven’t varied at all. If you need more than one tag, then I say “go for it”. Like I said in the opening sentence of this post, search engine optimisation really is a mystical entity. There are so many different views and opinions to be had on the subject that it’s hard to decipher what will work and what won’t.
There are two fantastic resources that I can’t recommend to you highly enough. They are; the Google SEO Starter Documentation (can’t beat the words from the horse’s mouth) and SEOMoz’s brilliant Beginner’s Guide to SEO. Reading these is where my interest in search engine optimisation began and I can’t think of a better place to get a grounding as a beginner. Some of the advice in this post will contradict the linked documentation, but you learn to make your own mind up and you develop strategies that work with you.
Have you found any strategies that work for you even though they fly in the face of “SEO basics”? Or have you debunked any other SEO related myths?