14 Do’s and Don’ts for Better Search Rankings for Your Content

14 Do’s and Don’ts for Better Search Rankings for Your Content

SEO eminence grise Bruce Clay’s Bend WebCAM sesh “SEO for the Non-SEO” was full of practical advice and simple explanations of what the search engines want — and full of surprises.  (Check out his free guide for persuading your boss of the value of SEO here.)

Noting that Google makes its money ($13B last quarter) on pay-per-click ad sales, Clay says Google makes nothing from organic search and could care less if your site ranks well or not.  With Google claiming more screen real estate for itself (42% of website pages now have Google annotations, going up to a projected 70% in the coming year) ranking high will just be getting harder.Space taken by Google annotation

So if you’ve been getting the feeling it’s hard to keep up with what Google is rewarding, your intuition is correct.  In 2012 there were over 525 changes in Google’s search algorithm, and there are around 200 weighted variables that determine where your brand shows up in search returns.

Clay says the only way digital marketers win is a two-pronged approach; boost your traffic and beat your competitors’ content in the search game.

Here are 14 tactics suggested by Clay to get it done:

  1. What Google penalizes:
    • A high percentage of bad links.  Remove links with content that has nothing to do with your brand’s topic.
    • Using only one word variation.  Be sure to use all tenses of words on the same page (smile, smiles, smiled, smiling).
  2. Give each web page a theme.  Think of pages as information silos on different themes.  Ford Motor Co.’s site has 46 themes, one for every make and model.
  3. Try not to link to your own pages within your site.
  4. Use text, not images for important names, content and links.
  5. Try increasing your click rate by bolding a few keywords above the fold.  People click on bolded words in search results because they are trained to.
  6. To rank for a keyword, put it in your page title and bold it; you get up to 70 characters.
  7. Make sure your links state what the page is about.
  8. Segregate your content into research and ecommerce.  Google’s search system first figures out if it’s shopping or research that’s being requested, second determines if local matters, and third provides search returns.  Too many comments in the discussion area of your ecommerce site make a shopping site look like a research site–then the query intent (Google’s determination on whether a site is for shopping or research) is changed.
  9. Clay says the spiders that crawl sites and determine rankings aren’t as concerned with what’s fresh as with what’s quality.  Quality as determined by the 200 or so variables in Google’s search algorithm.
  10. Repurposing identical content could be a problem.  Google may penalize your search rankings if it sees the same content across all your platforms.
  11. Use only JPEGs, no other photo formats.
  12. Add the rel=nofollow code to links to make sure they don’t appear as spam.
  13. Get listed in Google Places.
  14. Publish material worth linking to and people of quality will link to it and publicize your content.
Merry Ann Moore
merryannmoore@gmail.com

I'm a comms pro who brings the romance and excitement of digital to the old standbys. Like just picking up the phone and calling a reporter after retweeting a story. I cover the waterfront (communications strategy, content marketing, web content, branding, email marketing, more) but don't pretend to be an expert in it all. After work, I'm probably cycling, walking the dogs, chaturanga-ing or watching international soccer or the USWNT. Pet peeve: overuse of the word "passionate" in every business profile you read.

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