On page SEO isn’t dead, it is just different, and in a bad way for scammers and fast buck artists, AKA the underbelly of internet marketers.
“BEWARE! “SEO is, if not dead, surely dying, and marketers are FLOCKING to YouTube with…”
That was the opening line of an email I got this morning from a well-known internet marketers’ forum that sells all kinds of tools (read: “Big Shiny Buttons” that are mostly wasted money. Don’t ask me how I know this!). Many…no, MOST… internet marketers are good, ethical people who are trying to make an honest, better than average income and are willing to work at it, but like most things that involve real, live people, the barrel has a few bad apples and make the whole barrel stink.
The fact is…and it IS bad news for the fast buck guys…SEO is not dead, but it HAS changed and how you respond can make all the difference in having visitors to your site or you putting up content that no one ever sees. Rather than dead, the new version of SEO…SEO v-2013 if you wish a version number, now does something outrageous…totally off-the-wall…
It has the nerve to actually expect a blogger to Constantly Create (Quality) Content! The nerve of Google!
Google’s demands for a “quality user experience” are actually good…for SEO’s health and your blog as well. I read a line the other day which sums up what many seem to believe and that is totally wrong:
SEO is dead. Long live content!
They aren’t mutually exclusive, you know. SEO lives on even with content being king. It is how you approach SEO, how you deal with it, that has changed. In another post I explained how keywords came to lose their importance as they were being (ab)used, not overall, and keywording is just one example of SEO changing, not dying. Let’s look at an example that shows how your keyword use should have changed:
Let’s say your blog is a food related blog…a cooking blog. You decide to write a post about 1,) grilling, 2.) a steak, and 3.) a great bleu cheese sauce that goes with it. You want the title to “work” for you and you want the post to be “findable” for folks searching for steak, grilling, grilled steak, cheese sauce, and uses for bleu cheese.
Old SEO practice (pre-2009, pre-Panda, pre-Penguin) Would have you write a catchy title, hopefully but not necessarily with a longtailed keyword string. Keyword stuffing might have produced a title like “Bleu Cheese sauce under a grilled steak…yum!”, or for the truly lazy keyword stuffer, “Bleu Cheese and grilled steak…yum!” This got all the keywords in the title, thus in the post’s URL (if your permalinks are set up correctly) and the rest of the content could be almost anything as long as you used the keywords “grilled, steak, bleu cheese, grilled steak, bleu cheese sauce, uses for bleu cheese” or even just “grilled, steak, bleu cheese” over and over, as much as possible.
It didn’t even have to be readable. You could write almost anything using the above template and making sure your post was at least 300 words.
Finally, you would use the same keyword string in the meta_keyword field below the content in the post editor and be pretty much good to go. For those who wanted to do a little extra you could have categories set up for “Sauces, Grilled Foods, Cheese” and tag the post with “grilled, steak, bleu cheese, sauces” and your post would be good enough. Not great, mind you, but passable.
Today, SEO changes things, but its still there.
On page SEO still exists, but here are the differences in how SEO should be addressed for the same article:
Write a title for humans, not search engines, which means it needs to be catchy and a teaser, enough to get someone curious about it when they see nothing BUT the title. After you have a catchy title, tweak it for search engines, still in a naturally readable manner. Perhaps your blog targets country folk, and has a humerous bent. You might start with “BubbaBob’s Hillbilly Grillin” Meat”. Its catchy, but lacking in keywords, so tweak it a bit: “Grill With the Hillbilly: BubbaBob’s Bleu Cheese Steak!” or even better, “Grill With the Hillbilly: How to Grill Steak With Bleu Cheese Sauce, the BubbaBob Way”. Its catchy, topical, and full of keywords without being keyword stuffed. The difference between full and stuffed is whether it flows naturally or looks written just for search engines without considering human readers.
- And no, its NOT too long. Google has given a , but I still suggest that you write what you need, not tailor the title, subtitle, or content to a search algorithm.
In the past, subtitles carried little more importance to search engines than the actual content. Frankly, until the last several months or so I had never used a subtitle on a blog post. While a subtitle technically gets weighted in importance for search engines in the same manner as before, because of changes in search algorithms a subtitle’s relative importance has dramatically increased and is now a tool that should be used regularly and correctly, which begs the question, “What does “used correctly” mean as it relates to subtitles and keywords?
Remember, every word in a blog post, from the first word in the post title to the kast word in the last sentence, gets inspected by a search engine, and is weighted in importance by a LOT of criteria, and one of those criteria is how each word is configured and styled. Think of those tags as font sizes for simplicity. This is VERY technically inaccurate, but will simplify understanding how the h1, h2, h3, etc tags (font size…sorta) effect your SEO: Search engines think that you consider the importance of something you write to be in direct porportion to the size of the letters relative to other text in a post (not exactly, but it gets the point across, OK purists?).
Search engines see the h1 tag in the title and assume that is what you consider THE prime statement about your posts. If you are using WordPress, the title has the h1 tag applied automatically. Moving down through your post, the next thing you write should be a subtitle, as this gives search engines another item to look at that you want to carry more importance that the standard text throughout the post. For example, after the title example I gave above in the Post Title section, “Grill With the Hillbilly: BubbaBob’s Bleu Cheese Steak!” you might subtitle the post, “a grill, bleu cheese, and BubbaBob, all you need for great hillbilly cusine”. In both the title and subtitle you have incorporated keywords you are trying to optimize bothyour site and your post for…a two-fer, always a good thing, and since you worked BubbaBob and hillbilly into both you have gotten the extra boost for your branding.
note: As much as possible, while keeping it readable and with a natural flow, keep your keywords as close as possible to the beginning of the title and subtitle.
Write what needs writing and write it for human eyes, not for a search algorithm. When you get right down to it, a good blog is simply a personal journal on a subject or subjects that interest you and that you share with the world. A great blog on copywriting is and Copyblogger describes a good post as I prefer a description that is a little more descriptive but that carries the same message…
Write “visceral” posts. Write posts that come from your gut, that you are passionate about, and use your head as an editor while that passion, that “in your gut” feeling about the topic provides the content. There is no right length for a blog post other than writing what needs to be written. SEO best practices will tell you that you need to write posts that are at least 300 words long, and that is technically correct, BUT don’t write for the word count, write for what the reader wants to know about your topic. As great a CMS as WordPress is it has one item that is considered by most WordPress users a benefit, a “feature”, that I think helps make for bad posts, and that is the Word Count feature in the lower left of the content editor. Don’t write for the word count, write for the reader.
Besides making your blogging more enjoyable, as they are topic(s) you enjoy, there are SEO benefits as well.
First, if it is a subject you are familiar with, you can impart personal knowledge of how to, or why, or when to do something and be something of an “authority” on the subject, instead of simply regurgitating what someone else said, and Goolge LOVES originality in content, even if it is something covered somewhere else. You can bring “fresh eyes” and a slightly different perspective than others,even to well worn topics. Creating authoritative content is one key to fulfilling the HayleStorm Interactive mantra of Constantly Create (Quality) Content. The personal touch that an intimate knowledge of a niche…lets get rid of the marketing term “niche” and just say “subject instead, OK? “Niche” just s sounds so…I dunno…pretentious. Its like “Look at me, I can talk marketing talk, I know a few of the right words so I must be an expert, right?”…an intimate knowledge of a subject turns a blog post into a conversation with your readrs, rather than a lecture, and THAT will bring readers back, over and over.
That kind of intimate knowledge also makes your job of writing easier. The more you know already, the less you have to research, and that shows and lends more authority, in turn snuggling up to more Google Love since Google just loves authority sites. It also makes Constantly Creating (Quality) Content via epic posts, visceral content…easier.
It doesn’t seem to fit with the topic of on page SEO, but make liberal use of graphics…pictures, videos, and graphics images…to improve your on page SEO. This can improve SEO in two ways. First, by adding graphic elements with descriptive file names that a search engine can read, along with a descriptive alt text, because when Google sees a file name “the_acropolis.png” and “An exterior view of the Acropolis at midnight” it considers the images as descriptive text, while img_1882640926937.png along with no alt text tells Google nothing useful. Remember, the file name of an image or other graphic you upload is going to end up in the URL to that file, and search engines read ALL the URLs on your site, including graphics files.
Graphics also create more interest in your posts as well, keeping readers engaged longer, which improves what comes next, Time on Site.
Time on Site
You may not really pay much attention to two blog metrics, time on Site and Bounce Rate…I know I didn’t until recently…but Time on Site and Bounce Rate have become very VERY important metrics post Panda and post Penguin that have a dramatic effect on how Google’s search engine views your blog.Time on Site is exactly what the name of the metric implies. It is a measurement of how long a visitor stays on your site once they enter it. While it is obvious that longer is better…the longer your visitor stays on your site the better chance there is that they will respond to whatever call to action you present them with in a way you want them to…in these post Google Zoo days it becomes a metric that has a much greater effect on your search results than it previously did.
In its search for sites that give users a “Quality user experience” Google has decided that the longer a visitor stays on your site, the better their “user experience” must be. By staying longer than usual the user is telling Google, “Hey! This is a cool site…I found just what I was looking for!”…and the Google love flows. In addition to Google’s paying attention to Time on Site when judging the quality of a site, writing epic posts that take longer to read than the wham-bam, barely 300 word posts improves your on page SEO.
This is another metric many folks who weren’t SEO “experts” or specialists didn’t pay too much attention to until the post Zoo era began. Sure, we knew it had an effect on out search results, but we didn’t think it was THAT big of a deal and besides…unless you really got down it the weeds about SEO it was one of those “it is what it is” sort of things, with little we could do about it except keep writing and hope it got better, right?
Wrong…but first let’s look at just what “Bounce Rate” is:
Bounce Rate is when a visitor finds their way to your site, reads the content of the page they land on, then leave your site without ever going to another page. (Yes, Matt Cutts from Google DID release a video saying bounce rate had no effect on search results, but that was several years ago, pre-Google Zoo. Bounce rate definitely DOES effect search results now.)
Bounce Rate is that simple…and it can be extremely unfair to a site and in the post Google Zoo algorithm updates it can severely hurt your site’s search results.
Here are two example;es of what constitutes a “bounce”, the first of which is appropriate but the second of which is unfair, and what to do to improve each.
If a search result sends a visitor to a landing page that shows snippets of the last several posts along with the post titles and none of the titles interest the visitor and theygo to a different site because nothing they saw drew their interest to read a full post, then that visit can fairly be considered a bounce as the visitor recieved nothing of value from the visit to your site:
A visitor landing here is great…as long as one of the post titles engages them OR they are curious enough to explore your site further, but if not, they land, they look, and then the next click of their mouse is to leave your site…bad news…another bounce, and bounces count with search engines far more than they did pre-Zoo.
Now for the bad news on “bounce rate”. For all of its talk about a “quality user experience”, Google’s use of bounce rate in its search algorthm actuallt can punish those who are Constantly Creating (Quality) Content, who write those epic posts filled with visceral content. If you do your job perfectly…you write a keyword rich title and subtitle that are both relevant, on topic, and catchy…you write visceral, informative content that answers a readers questions that started them searching, you use graphics to catch and hold their interest, your post is long enough to take a while to read, and your reader is satisfied that they don’t need to search any longer to get the information they were looking for, your in content use of keywords, along with proper categorization and tagging of the post brings visitors straight to your post, not your landing page with several snippets…well, then what happens?
They come, they read, they go…one page on your site visited, and then gone from the site, satisfied, with their questions answered…but to Google its not a “quality user experience”, its a bounce because there was only one page on your site visited before the reader left.
Its not fair, it peanalizes you for doing exactly what a good blogger SHOULD do…but its Google, and rather than tilting at the Google windmill, adapt. There are a few things you can do to combat this…and those things will be the topic for the next post.