seo-algorithms

What You Need to Know About SEO for 2013

SEO is an ever-changing marketing channel due to the consistent updates to the search engine algorithms, innovations in social media and the constant shifts in the way the web is comprised of information.

According to Search Engine Journal, 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. Therefore, it is crucial to stay on top of the latest updates affecting the industry to focus on the key areas impacting search engine optimization.

What was the old way of optimizing for the search engines that no longer works today? Well, many websites used to (and still do) optimize by crafting multiple long-tail keyword phrases in blog posts or landing pages that work together towards ranking for one shorter, high-trafficked keyword phrase as seen below. It was robotic, obvious and didn’t put user experience at the forefront of the strategy.

Framing your SEO strategy in this way doesn’t provide quality content or an authoritative perspective on a topic helping readers gain value from a website, therefore the search engines look down upon this and no longer support websites using these tactics.

Today these are the categories that are important on your website in terms of SEO:

  • Technical (12% of the total search engine algorithm)

  • Content/On-Page Optimization (26% of the total search engine algorithm)

  • Social Media/Backlinks (62% of the total search engine algorithm)

Lets take a look at how to keep the experience of your website focused on the user, without neglecting the search engines in each category.

Technical (12% of the algorithm)

The technical aspects of your website as defined by SEO are the facets that ensure your website functions quickly, effectively and as easily accessible for users as possible.

This includes how long you’ve owned your domain, as well as the presence of keywords related to your business in your URL. These are factors that are set in stone for most businesses, but important to consider if you’re starting a new web property in the future.

Site speed or page load speed is critical to the way Google and the other search engines take your website into consideration. The quicker your various web pages load, the better the search engines will consider this factor into your overall rankings.

Use a tool like Pingdom’s website speed test to see how fast your website loads as compared to other websites across the web. It will scan your entire website and grade its performance. The most important metric to take into consideration in this instance would be how it compares to other test websites. If your website has fallen below 70% of all tested websites then it is time to make some changes.

To prevent slow page load, be sure to compress file sizes when possible, reduce the total number of CSS and JavaScript files by combining them into fewer files. Using browser caching and CSS Sprites when possible, will also help to decrease your load time by a few seconds. The page load speed could also be affected by errors in code validation across your website, conduct a scan using the W3C markup validator to detect any errors or warnings that need to be corrected for your website to properly function across all browsers.

Also including an XML sitemap on your website, then submitting it thru Bing and Google webmaster tools will help the search engines better map out every page of your website to understand the structure of the property from a technical standpoint.

Lastly, focus on avoiding duplicate content throughout your website by consistently producing relevant content that is original or curated from multiple sources with attributions and can only found in one place on your website. Correct any broken links or web pages on your website by updating them or properly using 301 redirects to point any traffic from the old and broken pages permanently to either your homepage or another relevant page on your website.

Content (26% of the algorithm)

The content strategy for your website is probably one of the most important things to focus on for SEO in 2013. Yes, links, tweets about your website, the site’s speed and other factors have a total impact on your rankings but producing quality content consistently is what really helps your website gain traction and make use of the other factors like attracting links, tweets etc.

First off, in terms of on-page optimization it is important to utilize keyword-rich title tags, have keyword friendly URL’s and meta descriptions on all of the pages and content across your website. A title tag is the text in blue as seen above in the search results that indicates the main subject of a webpage on your website, which can also be found at the top of a browser when viewing that particular page. When crafting title tags keep the text simple, concise and under 65 characters. Accurately label the page, while trying to include relevant keywords when applicable. If there is space available, add your company’s name to the end of the title tag to ensure that the most important keywords are front-loaded. The search engines take the title tag into consideration when trying to decide what the subject of each page on your website is about.

The URL of each page on your website, as seen in green above, should be defined as simply as possible, making the experience as easy for users to navigate. For instance: yourwebsite.com/blog/june-recipes is a much better experience for a person and easier for the search engines to understand then a URL like this yourwebsite.com/9324394/blog/june–kf93d–reci.html, which is confusing and unclear as to what is the destination will be once a person clicks on it.

The meta descriptions are the sentence below the title tag that isn’t taken into consideration by the search engines but is an important part of how a person decides to click on your a page from the search results. Keep the description under 150 characters and focused on offering a quick summary of the page, as well as incentive to click using a teaser or open-ended statement.

Once you’ve mastered these still relevant milestones in on-page SEO, now it is time to develop content in various forms throughout your website but mainly on your blog. Consistently producing relevant content on your website is an indication by Google and the other search engines that you’re a reliable source for your industry and the keywords your content ranks for.

Previously, many websites just created content that focused on the long tail keywords that would drive rankings and not necessarily value for readers. It is possible to do both now by educating your audience by answering key questions and concerns about your industry, while including long tail keywords that are relevant to the subject areas you cover in that content organically.

To start this process, write down every question a customer or prospect has ever asked you, while making sure to focus on negative phrases a visitor would look up when considering your product, service or expertise. Create content around these questions with engaging headlines that will answer the questions of your web visitors better informing them about their industry and your expertise. In the long-term, both the search engines will pick up this content and customers will begin to associate your expertise on the subject that you know best, your business and industry.

The main function of the search engines today is to give the best results to people looking for information. By creating engaging content that is relevant to your audience in the form of infographics, visuals, videos, slideshows, articles, blog posts, white papers and eBooks you’re helping the search engines reach their goal and people solve their problems and answer their questions. Quality content is also a technique for receive love on social media and gaining links to your website.

Social Media (31% of the algorithm)

Social media is so heavily weighted by the search engines as a factor for authenticity, quality and value because it is not a channel website owners can control. Yes, a business chooses what content to share on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn but whether that content gains traction is out of their control and is dependent on many different factors.

Take this two step approach when using social media to positively impact your SEO efforts overtime, start simple and make your content as easy as possible to share. Often businesses get overwhelmed with the amount of channels they feel like they need to be active on but to cut through the hype, the most important thing to do is update the main channels where you audience is active a few times a week as often as you have the chance with quality content.

For instance, gaining traction on Twitter has a big impact on your SEO rankings over time so optimizing your tweets to get the most visibility is crucial for the times you decide to post each week. Typically, tweeting on 9am, 12pm and 5pm EST is effective for getting the most visibility to your tweets in the Twitter feed and the most amount of retweets from followers. These optimal times differ for every user and industry, but starting with some best practices is a great place to begin and then experiment from there going forward.

To save time with social media, use a tool like Buffer App or HootSuite to easily schedule content on an editorial schedule ahead of time to simplify the process and continually experiment with what times work best for reaching your audience. It is important to get the quality content your business has worked on substantial reach on each social channel that your audience is active on in a unique way. Don’t post the same one sentence post across your social networks about a recent blog article, but cater the message each time it is posted to the right audience, catered to the channel it is posted on and testing out new variations in copy.

Secondly, add social plugins to the content on your website to make it as easy as possible to share it across the social web with no effort on your end, other than adding the social sharing buttons to your website in the first place. This is a method for driving more social sharing of your content across the web, which the search engines take into consideration as a testimony for value and authenticity. Check out this case study on a tweet’s effect on search rankings for more info on why this is beneficial for SEO.

Add Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and other social networks sharing buttons to your blog and other content destinations on your website in a few different ways. Most of the major social networks offer a resource dedicated to adding their different sharing buttons to your website using simple HTML like FacebookLinkedIn or Twitter for example. These can be hard coded into your website or added using a plugin like FlareDigg Digg or AddThis that often offer additional functionality that is easy to customize.

Backlinks (31% of the algorithm)

Lastly, backlinks are still a very important method of driving rankings in the search engines but the method in which a website can look to earn more diversified backlinks from other websites has dramatically changed.

 Old methods like using link farms, writing comments for links, link exchanges, buying links and other tactics previously used by SEO marketers no longer work and are flagged by Google and the search engines as indication of poor quality websites.

Today when it comes to building links, it is important to utilize both quality content to encourage websites to link to you and utilize a guest blogging strategy. Like discussed before, content is king when it comes to SEO and marketing your business online but with the right context in place. The right context will both ensure that your content is useful for your users and interesting for other bloggers, website owners and social media users to share with their network.

The time it previously took to research websites to exchange links with should now be put into crafting the right content that will drive people to link to it. This is a strong example of link bait below from the Monterey Bay Aquarium since it is a visual collection of guides to seafood all across the country that fits in your pocket. This is exactly the type of link bait your company should create because it offers real value, it is visual, simple, related to your expertise and has mainstream appeal.

For instance, infographics and slideshows as forms of content do really well when it gaining links for a website. Visual content often resonates more and therefore, gets more quality links and helps build your trust and authority in the search engines. This type of content is referred to as link bait, while social media is often referred to as the new form of link building.

Building a strong guest blogging strategy is also an important method of gaining links to your web properties in 2013 because it is a way of exchanging expertise and valuable insights on a topic, while sourcing the originator of the content with a link.

Guest blogging on other related websites that are well-trafficked can draw some traffic and subscribers to your blog or website, but in actuality inbound links are the biggest benefit. The benefits can take time to generate results, but it is worth the time and effort of taking link building into your own hands.

Be sure to write about relevant topics when you guest blog to ensure the connection between this blog and your website is strong and clear. Use anchor text in your byline of a guest blog post to drive relevant keyword searches to your website overtime, but be sure to vary what anchor text is used to make it more natural, see above for one example of how to utilize your guest blog byline effectively. Also be sure to not just link to your homepage on your website, but link to sub-pages like your blog or other relevant sections of your website that may directly relate to the subject of your guest blog post.

How are you using SEO today and in the future to drive long-term results and conversions to your website? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below.

Images courtesy of Search Engine LandPingdomIndiana UniversitySmart Insights and BitrebelsThemesKingdom.

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Brian Honigman

Brian Honigman is a marketing consultant, freelance writer, and speaker. He’s an active contributor to Mashable, the Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Forbes, and others. or Twitter @BrianHonigman.

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