Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just write content for our blogs and websites and not worry about SEO? Is SEO even important in 2015? What if you don’t do anything special about optimizing your content for the search engines? What if you just write?
Sure, your content may or may not show up in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) but if you totally ignore meta-tags, descriptions and alternate text tags, would it matter?
If you don’t pay attention to backlinks (both to and from your site) are you putting yourself at risk of a Google penalty or a manual webspam action or being totally de-indexed by Google? Let’s take a step back today and look at the overall picture of SEO through a #FridayFinds round-up of some great articles that I found for you.
Basic SEO Skills:
For starters, do you know the answers to these four questions?
- What is SEO?
- What’s the difference between organic search results and PPC (pay-per-click) advertising?
- How can you use “internal linking” to increase the visibility of your site?
- What are meta-descriptions and snippets?
If you can already answer those questions, good for you! Let’s move on to some of the more complicated topics. If you have questions (or want to validate what you think you already know), check out: What SEO beginners need to know: a basic skills guide by Christopher Ratcliff on Econsultancy.com.
Do you know what “semantic search” is or ever heard of “structured data markup” and “rich snippets”? Last September, I invited Jeannette Paladino, from WriteSpeakSell.com, to share her research with us. Now, Jeannette is not someone who normally blogs about SEO. She’s actually a social media writer who works with businesses on building their brand awareness.
When Jeannette offered to write Are You Confused by Google Semantics? SEO Tips You Need (for my blog), I immediately said yes – please. Instead of trying to impress us with a lot of SEO techniques, Jeannette shares tactics such as being aware of phrasing rather than keywords when you write. Her focus is on having a conversation with our readers and not writing for the search engines (while still incorporating current SEO techniques).
Post Titles in the SERPs:
Did you know that the best length for your blog post title is now only 55 characters max? (It used to be recommended to use up to 70.) Did you know that this recommendation started after Google redesigned their SERP (Search Engine Result Page) format? Are you interested in a title tag preview tool where you can paste a blog post title and sample keywords in to preview your results?
If you’re curious how a simple Google format redesign affects how your title appears in the SERPs, or want to try experimenting with your title tag using that preview tool, check out New Title Tag Guidelines & Preview Tool by Dr. Peter J. Meyers on Moz.com.
Headlines & SEO:
Do headlines matter to SEO? In his article The Real Reason Headlines Are Important for Improved Rankings (on SEMRush.com), David Shiffman explains that to rank well in the search engines, bloggers need to master the art of writing better headlines. Why? Well to quote David:
So what makes a great headline? How can you write a keyword–rich headline that will entice a reader to click on it (and read it) while still ranking well enough to appear in the first page of the search results? (As David said, it’s an art.)
Headlines that Get Clicked On:
Have you ever heard of the EMV (Emotional Marketing Value) analyzer tool? Well, if you’re interested in writing better blog post titles and headlines, you won’t want to miss reading Emotional Headlines Get Shared More On Social Media [Conclusive Proof] by Garrett Moon on CoSchedule.com. (This is one of the older posts that I promised you.)
Emotional marketing value is not a new concept and it actually dates back to the 1960s and 1970s. In Garret’s article, he talks about the enormous database of headlines (over one million) that CoSchedule had access to. They analyzed a bunch of those headlines and came to the conclusion that “Posts With A Higher Emotional Value Get More Shares”.
Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer:
How can you calculate the emotional marketing value of your headlines? It’s actually easy to do. The Advanced Marketing Institute offers a free tool that they’ve developed called the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer.
I started using this tool back in July of last year and I believe it has helped me write better headlines. It makes me think and test my headlines. Since I started using it, readers have been mentioning that my title has made them click on my posts. Looking back at the titles that I’ve written over the years, I believe that there is a big difference.
In the Emotional Headlines Get Shared More On Social Media [Conclusive Proof] study by CoSchedule, their data showed that the average EMV of the headlines they analyzed was between 30% and 40%. When I first wrote about this topic last year, I ran the title of that post through the EMV headline analyzer tool and found that it ranked at 50%. Then, I tested his headline without the words “[Conclusive Proof]” and it dropped to 37.5% (huge difference).
One thing that you need to do when you use the EMV headline analyzer tool, is to select a category. (I always select the “Business & Professional Services” category.) When I was testing the title for this post I tried a few and then came down to choosing between (#1)“Does SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Confuse You?” or (#2) “Does SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Confuse You? #FridayFinds”. My first title (#1) ranked 57.14%. My second title (#2) ranked 50.00%.
The explanation of my 57.14% score was
In addition to ranking a higher score, my first title (#1) only contains 50 characters. Whereas, my second title (#2) contains 63 characters. (Earlier in this article, I mentioned that Dr. Peter J. Meyers’ recommendation is to limit our titles to 55 characters.)
So, why did I decide to use the second title (with my #FridayFinds hashtag)? Brand awareness. I’ve been branding that hashtag and other bloggers are recognizing it. Some of them are talking about this series and others are asking to be featured.
As with everything, tools are helpful but bottom-line, they’re only tools and your blogging strategy needs to prevail. Besides, the worst that could happen is that my #FridayFinds hashtag will be truncated in the results. So, there’s no real concern there.
Google Panda & Quality Content:
Google maintains that its mission is to provide meaningful results in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Essentially, when someone clicks on a URL and they find what they’re looking for, it’s a win-win-win situation where Google, the web user and the site owner are all winners
So, it’s in Google’s best interest if they deliver search results that meet the needs of the person who is searching. Google’s Panda algorithm was intended to target quality content. Panda was first rolled out in February of 2011 but it was probably Panda 4.1 (rolled out in September of 2014) that had the biggest impact on bloggers.
Writing Quality Content:
In his article The 12 Essential Elements Of High-Quality Content, (on Forbes.com), Jayson Demers provides tips on improving the quality of your website content. You really should check out this one for yourself but I will share with you the twelve key points on Jayson’s checklist:
- Content Length
- Embedded Video, Infographics & Other Media
- Grammar & Spelling
- Page and Text Formatting
- Your Readability Score
- Authoritative Content
- The Credibility & Reputation (of Guest Authors)
- Social Signals
- Internal & External Links
- Domain Quality
- Comment Quality
- Value (solves a problem, entertains, etc.)
Manual Webspam Actions & Backlinks:
In 2013, many bloggers were hit by Google with manual webspam actions. A lot of those bloggers discovered that they were being penalized because they had links on their sites to spammy sites. (Two common causes of this are broken links that deliver 404 errors and the other is domain names that changed hands and now point either to spammy or parked domains that are riddled with AdSense ads.)
One concern that has been raised is that do-follow enabled CommentLuv sites (like this one) are particularly attractive to spammers. Yes. They are. That’s why many of us have tightened up our settings. For example, on this site, the do-follow tag is only enabled after someone has left ten approved comments. That discourages most spammers.
Keep in mind though, that the no-follow attribute is merely a suggestion and Google’s bots may follow a link anyways. So, whether you’re running the CommentLuv plugin or simply leaving your links on CommentLuv enabled sites, be cognizant that you are associating your site with the other site.
The truth is that there are good ways to build links and bad ways. We have to diligently monitor the links that are left on our sites and those that we leave on others. Even if you don’t use the CommentLuv plugin and you don’t allow links to be left in comments, you’re not entirely safe. Links left in the website field of comments can be followed by Google and can get you into trouble.
Have you ever received a plea from a webmaster who is trying to recover from a Google penalty and they send you the link to the offending comment (on your site)? Chances are that comment was left by someone who was getting paid to leave links to their site.
We need to be diligent in not accepting spam. Not only could that link potentially hurt the webmaster who contacted you but it can hurt you as well.
One of the things I look for in determining if a comment is spam is relevancy. Is it obvious that the commenter read my article or is it a generic comment that could be dropped anywhere? For example, this is a generic spam comment:
While that comment is (relatively) well written, it has absolutely nothing to do with my blog post. It could be left just about anywhere (and probably is).
While a newer blogger may be tempted to accept it, comments like those set off alarms for those of us who are more seasoned. They’re exactly the sort of “spammy” comments that Google’s algorithms and webspam team target as “unnatural” links.
I know this is an older Matt Cutts video, (from August 2013) and I included it in an earlier post where I discussed “unnatural links“. Still, if you’re looking for additional insight, this is worth watching.
SEO & Link Building:
Can link building harm your SEO efforts? According to Joshua Steimle in his post Why Google Says Building Links Can Harm Your SEO Efforts (on Forbes.com) it can.
You may have already heard that John Mueller (Google’s webmaster trend analyst) recently made a statement in a Webmaster Central office-hours hangout.
In the hangout, John Mueller was asked “is link building in any way good?” His response was “In general, I’d try to avoid that.” His full response was:
“In general, I’d try to avoid that.
So that you are really sure that your content kind of stands on its own and make it possible for other people of course to link to your content. Make it easy, maybe, put a little widget on your page, if you like this, this is how you can link to it. Make sure that the URLs on your web site are easy to copy and paste. All of those things make it a little bit easier.
We do use links as part of our algorithm but we use lots and lots of other factors as well. So only focusing on links is probably going to cause more problems for your web site that actually helps.”
Here’s the full video. You can view John’s response at 55:40.
As for Joshua’s post, I’m not going to go into great detail. Instead, I’ll list his bullet points and you can read his article yourself. Basically, he answers three questions:
- What Makes Link Building Bad?
- What Makes a High Quality Link?
- What’s the Right Way to Build High Quality Links?
The crux of what Joshua is saying is what we’re hearing over and over again. Write quality content. In one sentence, his advice is:
Over To You:
What are your thoughts? Do you feel that you have a solid understanding of SEO that not only can keep you out of trouble with Google but will also drive organic search traffic to your site?Are you concerned about commenting and links?
Which of the articles today did you find most helpful? Please let us know your thoughts, ideas and concerns in the comments. I’d also like to hear what parts of SEO you would like to know more about.
Thanks for visiting. If you would like to connect with this week’s featured authors on Google+, you can find them here: Christopher Ratcliff, Jeannette Paladino, Dr. Peter J. Meyers, David Shiffman, Garrett Moon, Jayson Demers, Joshua Steimle, and me (Sherryl Perry).