SEO 2015

Why is it that company XYZ who isn’t even a player in my industry is ranking higher than I am? The short answer is because the other guy has been at this for longer than you and has been paying an SEO company to help improve their ranking. The longer answer, do they have different title tags for different pages? Are they using Meta tags and H1 tags? Without putting any time into a real competitive assessment would be that they’ve probably optimized their site. Okay let’s do a quick comparison of back-links. So they have 157,367 links and you have a couple thousand. Again, they have been at this longer than you and have been paying someone to do this work.

If I’m willing to pay, why can’t I have it by Monday? Let’s discuss Google’s rules. Google, Yahoo, MSN are competition with each other. Their single most important Key Success Factor is Relevance of Search Results. If you search on Google and consistently don’t find what you’re looking for then you will switch search engines. If everybody does that, they’ll go out of business. If they budge on their policy of not allowing advertisers to manipulate the organic search results by paying their way to the top, they will go out of business. And your $10K, $100K, whatever you’re willing to pay isn’t worth risking the BILLIONS that they’re currently making. So no. You can’t have it by Monday.

If Google doesn’t make money from Organic Search then how do they make their money? They make their money from Paid Search. Think of it as Bait and Switch. People use Google because they trust that they are going to find what they’re looking for. The search engines know that roughly 20% of people will click on the paid search results above and to the right of the organic results. Some people don’t know that those results are Paid Ads.

You’re telling me that organic is a long term strategy and I probably won’t see results for 6 months to a year. Why should I pay you for a year before I see any return on my investment? Why won’t you give me a guarantee? Because that’s how long it takes. We are not going to tell you what you want to hear to get your business. There a few people in our industry that may be willing to offer guarantees. In our business those people often have a bad reputation. Usually we end up helping the client after the other SEO is done and even if it didn’t cost the client much money at the time, we both know that it did cost them a lot. It cost them the opportunity cost of working with the wrong company for a year and ending up unhappy with the final results. We don’t have control over the search engines we can just affect them. We understand it is a leap of faith to begin your SEO Campaign. That’s why you invested so much in the selection phase of the process way back when. That’s why you checked our other client’s rankings and spoke to our referrals. That’s why we put together both a Strategy and Tactical Plans outlining how we were going to implement that Strategy. That’s why we have regular meetings and progress reports so that you can be assured that we are moving towards our agreed upon objectives. But yes, in the end it does come down to trust.

Perhaps we should spend a few minutes discussing this algorithm thing. The algorithm is really complicated with 100’s of different variables. But we can group all of these variables into 2 big buckets In-Page Factors and Off-Page Factors. Think of the In-Page factors as all of the stuff that you can do to your website to make it more search engine friendly. You can program it in a language that the search engines can read (not flash). You can make sure that the spiders can crawl from page to page by including navigable links and minimizing password protected areas. And you can have a content rich site with lots of different pages that use keywords to tell the search engines what these pages are about. If you do all of this you will probably rank well for Non Competitive Keywords. But please keep this in mind. Optimizing your site just means that it is possible for your site to rank well in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS). It doesn’t mean that you necessarily will. In fact, we look at it as table stakes. You have to optimize to even be in the game but it doesn’t mean that you’re going to win.

All of this to say that it takes a long time to do all of this, especially if you want to do it right. And if you want to rank for competitive keyword phrases then you have to do it all. Short cuts are not a sustainable strategy.

12 Valuable SEO Rules:

0: Do Not Cheat. Period. If you walked into a room full of genius scientists with PHDs, do you think you could outsmart them all? No. Google has hundreds of rooms full of genius scientists with PHDs, and their job is to work 60 hours a week to make sure you can’t fool Google. You can’t outsmart them. Ever. Ignore any advice on trying to cheat the system and focus on making great web sites with great content and your sites will show up fine in searches.

1. Stick to Your Keywords. Pick a few keywords or phrases that describe your site. Use them, and words related to them, whenever it’s natural to do so. Repeating them uselessly is no good (rule Zero); use them in sentences, headlines, and links.

2. Content is King. Users don’t search for design, they search for content. If your site doesn’t have content people want, no one will look at it. Every page on your site should follow the Inverted Pyramid. Each page should lead with a relevant H1 tag with one of your keywords, and the first paragraph of text should be a summary of the rest of the page.

3. Clean Code is Searchable Code. Build your sites in a text editor, and write clean, human-readable HTML. The HTML should follow the conceptual structure of the page, navigation first, followed by the H1 tag, then the first paragraph, etc. Try to use descriptive tags when possible. Use UL for lists, P for paragraphs, H tags for heads and subheads, and STRONG for bolded text. Don’t overuse Divs. Your site can still be artistic and cool, that’s what CSS is for.

4. The Home Page is the Most Important Page. Your home page is the key to your site being found by search engines. It should summarize the rest of the site, and give a clear, compelling reason for a user to look at the other pages in the site.

5. Links Have Meaning. Search engines pay a lot of attention to the links on your site, and the words used in those links. Never use “click here” or “see more” for a link. The link text should describe where the link will take the user, such as “more examples of CSS web design” or “learn how we can improve your SEO.” The more relevant the links on a page, the more findable the page becomes. Don’t go overboard, and don’t link to anything irrelevant. If your page is focused on minimalist web design, a link to the Design Meltdown page on minimalism will boost your SEO. A link to a hilarious picture of a cat will not.

6. Title Tags for the Win. Every page in your site should have a title with the site name and a short description of the page. About 60 letters total. Include a keyword. Remember that the page title is what appears in search results, it should give users a clear reason to click on it. Your navigation links should have title attributes that match the titles of your pages. This looks like <a title=”name of page” href=”link”>. It’s a small thing, but it will give you a significant SEO improvement.

7. Alt Tags Matter. Every image on your site should have an alt tag. Especially images that is relevant to the page. If your page is focused on CSS tricks, labeling a screenshot “example of rounded CSS corners” will improve your page’s find ability. Labeling it “screenshot” or “image” will do the opposite.

8. Ignore Most Meta Tags. A long time ago meta tags were the secret to SEO. Those days are gone. The only meta tag that really matters now is the description tag. Search engines may use it to provide the text under the link to your page in their results. Make sure it describes the page in a way that explains why a user searching for your content would want to look at your page.

9. Have a Site Map. Make sure you have a site map. This is an xml file that describes the structure of your page. Make one, and give it to Google.

10. Design for Humans. Search engines are designed to find what humans want. That means the best way to make your site findable is to design it for humans. Your job as a designer is to solve a problem, not make art, prove a point, serve your ego or break a boundary. In this case, your problem is to provide your users with a site that is easy to use and full of what they’re looking for. If you can do that, the search engines will find you.

11. Include a mobile version.

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