How does SEO work? How do you get your site to rank top ten for the keywords most relevant to your business? It all starts with understanding search engine algorithms.
If search engines cannot crawl (index) the site, nothing else really matters. So a critical component to content strategy must be clean, compliant HTML content:
- XML site map submitted to search engines and tested for errors
- Meta Keyword strings should be avoided, they don’t work and may actually hurt
- Meta Titles should be 50- 60 characters and no more than 512 pixels wide
- Meta descriptions use appropriate keywords and are less than 165 characters
- No missing title tags
- No missing alt tags
- Page load time less than 5 seconds
- Image sizes less than 100k (affects page load time)
- Primary keywords used in page titles, H1’s and contextually in page content
- Descriptive, optimized URL structure, avoid query strings
- No duplicate content, one URL for each piece of content
- Site can be loaded via the SSL protocol
- Homepage links to category pages
- No broken links
- All redirects are single hop 301’s (permanently moved)
- Canonicals established through 301 redirects
- Responsive design or mobile site redirection (not as reliable)
Pagerank was the method used by Google’s initial foray into search. Named for Larry Page, it was more effective than its competitors in the day, Yahoo, Altavista and Lycos. Why? Its index was (and still is) based on how many authoritative pages link to the site: Method for node ranking in a linked database US 6285999 B1 , US 6799176 B1 and US 6285999 B1. Interesting reading, but the bottom line is high quality backlinks are critical for high keyword rankings.
Spammy backlinks, excessive listing in online directories or other tactics used to increase the number of backlinks may draw a penalty from Google. This algorithm is constantly being tuned to reduce the effectiveness of “Black Hat” SEO practices that attempt to game the algo. See Google’s Webmaster Guidelines for the down low on how to avoid a penguin penalty.
The Panda algorithm measures site content quality. If you are interested in the theory, the Patent is posted here. The Cliff notes: quality content = high rankings. For detail on how it works head over to SEO Theory.
Google started using Hummingbird in August 2013. This update to the algorithm added additional nuance to SERPS by considering search context, search phrase vs. keywords (semantics), social network presence and offline entity importance. Read more about Hummingbird at SEO By the Sea.
It’s no secret that mobile devices are conducting the majority of searches today. However, many sites still do not prepare content appropriately for small screens. Recently, Google announced that it will be tagging “mobile friendly” sites in its search results. To qualify as mobile friendly the site should:
- Avoid software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
- Use text that is readable without zooming
- Size content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
- Place links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped
This can be accomplished using a responsive web design (best option) or by having a separate mobile site.
Effective Content Strategy = Great SEO
An effective content strategy must take into account how search engines index and rank content. If you make sure that your site is clean technically, is respected and linked to from other influential sites, has high quality content with contextually relevant keywords and is mobile friendly you will be rewarded with great SERP rankings.
CDS Digital Marketing Services is can conduct a comprehensive SEO audit on your site and help you remediate the issues we find. Contact Kevin Reynolds for more information.