August 2012

How Does Content Affect SEO?

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Years ago, when search engine optimization was in its infancy as a profession, you could build a bunch of back-links, get those keywords in the right spot on the page, and you had a pretty easy time getting to the top of the search engine rankings.  But, staying near the top of the search engine rankings is becoming increasingly difficult.  While back-links still remain the foundation for keeping you ranking high, the fact is content is quickly playing an increasingly strong role in how you rank.

How Google Evaluates Your Content

The most important thing for SEO as far as content goes is to have content meaningful for your audience.  Meaningful content gets shared, and sharing means you receive more back links.  Google simply cannot evaluate how meaningful your content is to your audience, but social signals such as Google +1s and retweets give Google a clue the content is liked by a certain number of people.

In addition to those shares, however, there are many other factors that go into how Google evaluates your content for rankings purposes:

  • Trust.  Domain names that end in .edu or .gov are automatically trusted by Google and receive a slight rankings boost over all other domain names.  This is because content at these sites tends to be higher in quality in the first place because it’s written by people who are already experts in their own niche.  PageRank is also another trust/authority signal.  If your site has a higher PageRank, its content is likely to rank higher than a site with a lower PageRank.  Notice, however, that the term “more likely” is used.  Just because one site has a higher PageRank than another does not mean that site will actually rank higher in the search engines – it’s just more likely.
  • Word flow.  Google does check how your content flows.  If it’s worded awkwardly, Google ranks it a little lower than content that reads well.  Yes, Google is that good at checking quality.  If you outsource your content to a foreign person or country, you may want to reconsider, as the quality of non-native English speakers is markedly different than the quality of native English speakers.
  • Spelling/grammar.  Spelling errors and grammatical mistakes hurt the rank of your content as well.  All of it should read absolutely perfect.  A spelling error here and there probably doesn’t hurt your rankings at all, but why even allow the opportunity for your rankings to take a beating?
  • Keyword density.  Overoptimize your content, and you’ll find you get nailed in the rankings.  What is the “right” keyword density?  There is no magic number, but if you’re around 1.0%, with some keywords in the title and H1, you’re good to go.  If you go any higher than 1.0%, you run the risk of overoptimization, but it’s okay to some extent.  Google will always need a method for understanding what your page is about, and which keyword to rank it for, so keywords will always be important – just don’t overdo it.

When you’re writing content with these points in mind, you’re maximizing the SEO benefit you’ll get from it.  Writing stellar content is not an easy process, so be sure to take it seriously when you develop your own.

If you enjoyed reading this article from Devenia, you might also enjoy Reasons Why Backlinking is Important (And How to Do It) .

Dan StelterHow Does Content Affect SEO?
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3 Reasons to Tune out the Hype about Social Media and SEO!

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If you follow search engine optimization at all, you’ve probably heard about Google’s increasing focus on social media signals and how they can affect SEO in a positive way.  Is social media necessary to ranking highly on Google?  Not at this point, but it will be interesting to see if that becomes the case in the future.  Can social media help boost your rankings?  It sure can.  Should you make it an absolute priority on a tight budget?  No way!  Here are some reason why you don’t have to get stressed out over the fact you don’t have a strong social media presence:

  • To be effective, it really takes a ton of time and hard work.  And, I do mean a ton of time and hard work when I say that.  Are 100 followers going to make a strong difference to your search engine rankings?  Not likely.  Would 1000?  Maybe a little.  How about 20,000?  Now, that might make a difference.  But, Google doesn’t care so much about your follower count as it does about the quality of those followers.  Quality followers share your stuff.  Did you know it’s possible for anyone to get 20,000 followers?  It is – there are agencies that will happily help you get 20,000 spam followers from Bangladesh, Indonesia, and other obscure parts of the world.  But, a high follower count does you no good if these people don’t care about what you say – which is usually the case when outside agencies make extravagant promises about follower counts.  It takes several years of hard work, and a little luck, to get high follower counts.
  • It’s hard to monetize social media.  Professionals themselves are still trying to figure out how to make money on social media.  The fact is that for most companies, it’s really difficult.  What do you post to keep people interested and engaged on a regular basis?  Will this lead to them making a purchase when you offer it in the future?  It’s hard to say, really.  To really do a social media strategy right, it takes a ton of time and dedication – at least several month’s worth.  And, you have to track everything so you know what works and what doesn’t.  If people aren’t sharing your stuff – it’s tough to figure out why and what action you need to take in order to encourage them to make the shares.
  • Back-linking is still king.  When it comes to boosting your rankings in a hurry, back-linking is still the foundation of any SEO strategy.  It is losing some of its strength, but how else is Google going to determine how important your site and its content are in relation to others?  Yes, social media are a factor, and yes, the quality of your site’s content is a factor.  But neither of those tell Google which keywords you are ranking for, or how highly you should be ranked.  Back-linking still remains supreme, although social media and content do provide a boost.

If you’re on a tight budget, a social media strategy just isn’t worth the time or effort – not for SEO reasons, and not for making sales.  The only people who can guarantee returns from social media are either 1) really popular in the first place or 2) have a certain amount of luck on their side.  If you have extra time and money to experiment with, go ahead and try out a social media strategy.  Otherwise, leave it alone.

Dan Stelter3 Reasons to Tune out the Hype about Social Media and SEO!
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4 Reasons Why Google Isn’t Going Away Anytime Soon…

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You probably already figured this, but Google isn’t going away anytime soon.  Sure, they’ll probably eventually fall away sometime, but who knows when that will be?  At this point, the most likely thing to stop this company from growing further is Congress…what if Google appears to be operating as a monopoly?  Other than potentially becoming a monopoly, Google has almost no chance of ever being taken over by another company.  Here’s why:

1.  Its incredibly well-thought-out algorithm.  While Google still doesn’t return perfect results, it does return the best results of all the search engines out there by far.  The algorithm is made of more than 200 factors, is kept totally secret, and they’re testing thousands of changes year-round.  People still talk about Yahoo! and Bing, but it’s hard to understand why, as Google currently owns 80% of the U.S. search traffic and 90% of worldwide search traffic.  However, Google could still improve, and let me show you one reason why.  I searched for the term “NFL jersey,” and here’s what came up:
nfl jersey Google Search 300x116 4 Reasons Why Google Isnt Going Away Anytime Soon...
See that visited link at the top?  At the time of this writing (8/9/12), that is the fifth-ranked term for “NFL jersey.”  If you follow the link, you are taken to a website with incredibly poor grammar – something a 10-year-old could easily have written.  I couldn’t locate a contact address, but Chinese companies are known for selling American sports products cheaply, so it’s a reasonable guess that’s what this is.  The conundrum comes in with position #6, which is a result from Nike, a global corporation!  You’d certainly think Google would rank Nike ahead of this Chinese outfit, but it didn’t.  Google is great, but its algorithm isn’t perfect!

2.  Manual support.  In addition to its algorithm, which isn’t perfect (yet), Google has 27,000 employees.  For many of them, their job is to manually review websites to ensure people aren’t trying to game Google’s ranking system.  27,000!  It’s going to be awfully difficult for another company to develop a sophisticated rankings system and hire the right personnel to support it.

3.  The average consumer loves it.  Google pisses off internet marketing professionals routinely, but the fact that it makes use of the American capitalist system by understanding what the market wants and delivering it to the market in a way better than anyone else can means it’ll be around for some time.  Look at how crowded with advertising Yahoo! is.  It resembles the front of a newspaper or magazine, not a search engine.  Bing’s look at least copies Google’s, but that’s as far as any resemblance of Google goes.  It doesn’t even compare in its ability to return relevant search results.

4.  Google isn’t just about search.  Although it dominates search right now, Google has so many other tech-related holdings that make it a beast to contend with.  You know about its office productivity suite.  You also know about Google+, which some predict will have 500 million users (Facebook has 900 million) by the end of 2012.  It also has Chrome, a competitive browser, owns YouTube, another popular social media channel, heads the development of Android, and finally, it’s coming out with new glasses to help you organize and stay on top of your digital life on the go!

When you look at it this way, Google isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and it’s not just because of its ability to provide unequaled search results.  What should you do now?  Learn how to make the most of its algorithm by ranking your site highly, so you can reach the most people in your target market!

Dan Stelter4 Reasons Why Google Isn’t Going Away Anytime Soon…
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Reasons Why Back-Link Building is Important (And How to do It)

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While the importance of back-links, as Google sees it, has diminished somewhat in recent years, there’s no doubt  back-links are still the most critical aspect of any SEO strategy.  Why?  Google needs some method of determining which sites are more important than others.

To help make this computation, it looks at the back-links from other sites to your site.  Each link counts as a “vote” for your site.  But, don’t be fooled, Google is not democratic – each vote/link doesn’t count equally.  In the past, when they were more equal (but not exactly equal), people would build links from all sorts of spammy/low-quality websites.  He who could put out the most links was the winner.

Over the years, Google has become much, much smarter.  So now, it looks at several factors regarding each page and link point to your site,  including the following:

  • If the site linking to yours is loaded with advertisements and poor-quality content, the link will count for next to nothing.  However, if the page from which the link is coming is reputable (PageRank reflects the reputation of a certain page), then the link is worth much more to your site.
  • The theme of the site linking to yours.  If your site is about car repair, and the link coming to you is at a site about computers, the link counts for a little something.  However, if your site is about car repair and the site linking to you is about cars, then the link is worth much more.
  • The anchor text on each back link.  If the back links coming from outside sites have anchor texts exclusively with your site’s keywords in it, Google will view your site as being “over-optimized,” and your rankings will suffer a little bit.  There is disagreement as to how many anchor texts should be exclusively your site’s keywords, but somewhere around 15 to 30% of all links pointing to your site should contain exclusively your keywords.
  • The number of links constructed over a period of time.  Google likes what it calls “natural link building.”  No one knows exactly what that means, but one thing known is that you have to have a consistent number of links built over a period of time.  When Google sees the same number of links being built, and then all of a sudden that number skyrockets in a short period of time, your rankings will suffer.  Steady, fairly-even growth is the name of the game for Google.

How do You Build Back Links?

There are about as many ways to do this as there are SEO companies doing the job.  Believe it or not, many SEO companies break the guidelines you just read!  In general, though, this is how you would build back links:

  • Contact websites related to, but not competing with yours.  Ask them if you can write an article for them, or offer to pay them to post your link.  Link exchanging is another tactic, but when you give them a link and they give you one, you are effectively canceling out any rankings boost you could receive.
  • Avoid directories.  There’s scores of free directories across the internet at which you can post more links to in a very short period of time.  However, Google is increasingly disapproving of directories, as they are typically not thematically related to your site and are often spammy or filled with poor content and other poor links.  Some directories are still valuable to Google, but you have to maintain a database of them and research them regularly to know their true value.  Long-term, most directories don’t provide a ton of link-building value.
  • Forums.  Forums are absolutely awesome, for three reasons:  there are always some thematically related to your website, many of them have great authority with Google already, and you can build a great amount of targeted traffic to your site.  Forum posting contributes great value to the back links of any website.
  • Free blogging sites/build-a-website domains.  Many of these are available, but the link value they provide is questionable.  You simply build a one-page website with links to your site.  They aren’t thematically-related to your site, but many of these sites do carry a good overall reputation with Google.  They can be included in an SEO strategy, but they should be just a small part of the strategy.
  • Article directories.  Article directories have a good rapport with Google, but Google has decreased their importance in recent times.  You can post as many articles as you want for free to many different directories.  Including these directories in an SEO strategy is a good idea, but the effectiveness of doing so is lessening.
  • Guest blogging.  Writing guest blog articles for other sites related to your niche is effective in terms of link-building, gaining new traffic, and building your reputation with different web communities.  However, it is very time-consuming.

Pulling it All Together

What an SEO company does is maintain a database of all the different types of websites from which you can receive back links.  Their job is to make sure the database makes the most effective usage of Google’s algorithm as it currently stands.  As you can imagine, doing so is a full-time job in itself and ideally, would take many people researching links to determine what is most effective.

Devenia’s specialty is back-link building.  If you would like to learn how we can help your site grow its search engine rankings, contact us and let us know how we can help.

Dan StelterReasons Why Back-Link Building is Important (And How to do It)
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