Misconceptions about SEO

You must have heard the term SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) before (if you’re reading this article) and if you think it’s a kind of magic that can be used to push the sites up in search engines (such as Google), then read on. You need to rethink about SEO today.

After few recent updates by Google, a lot of people also think that “SEO is dead and there is nothing I can do to make sure it ranks well in search engines”. That’s simply not true. But certainly, the rules of SEO have changed. It’s more tough for spammers to game the system, in other words, it has evolved into something better that focuses more on value.

So, what is SEO today ?

Now, you can think of it as a process of optimizing the website for user’s happiness, rather than the search engine bots or a way to game the system for a better rank. (SERP) Creating great content that is relevant to your website users is the most natural way to get visitors from Google or other search engines. (via organic search)

There are some other factors too (In fact, there are 200+ factors in Google Page ranking algorithms and you don’t need to know that), such as meaningful content structure (title tag, h1 tag, meta description etc, it’s explained later in the article) but in the end, all points to one thing => creating value for the users.

Backlinks or Page Rank(PR) is not something you should be worrying about (theoretically, you’re not even supposed to think about that), if you create valuable content for the users, it will automatically happen. Just focus on your business and do what you think is good for long term, win-win for everyone! (Google wants to promote quality website, users get quality product/service and your business booms) :-)

Why SEO is important ?

So, you’ve a small web based business or maybe just a website or a personal blog but you want more visitors from the Search Engine. For a online business, more visitors means more leads or more sells, which directly means more profit.

For an online business, the visitors coming from the organic search results hold more value as compared to visitors coming from any other channels. The conversion rates are usually better as compared to other kinds of visitors (from Google Adwords or similar ad networks or from the social media sites).

In short, here are few things you should remember

###1. Creating great content is crucial!

Content is King. That’s really true! Create useful content (any kind of content - articles, videos, podcasts etc) for the people visiting your website.

No matter what your business is, you can do some research (use a free tool such as Google Keyword Planner, earlier it was called Google Keyword Tool, Google Search suggestions are also helpful) and find something relevant for your customers. It will naturally attract visitors from the Search Engines, It also creates more trust in your business, which is good in the long run. And of-course, it’s much more effective than the traditional interrupted marketing, but it needs time and lots of patience.

###2. Improve the user experience for your website

Having a great content is not enough if users have difficulty using your website – reading the content (poor or cluttered design, not tested across various browsers/devices etc), browsing relevant article (due to poor navigation) or so. If you can’t figure out what’s wrong with your website, then collect feedback from the users and improve it.

So, good user experience is important. If the users hit back button – just after coming to your website, then something is wrong, you can’t expect #1 position on Google, with that kind of experience.

###3. Some technical details you should be aware of When creating the website or writing articles you must pay a close attention to few most important things (comes under On-Page SEO Optimization) :

  • title - Page title is very important and it’s also displayed in the search results. It should be relevant, meaningful and should contain the primary keyword.
  • meta - Meta description tag is also very important. It’s displayed in the search result (by default). Describes the content in very short (less than 160 characters).
  • h1 - Usually it should be equal to the title of the page. No more than one h1 heading is recommended, however you can have multiple sub-headings in the form of h2, h3, h4 etc.
  • text rich content - Even if you’re using videos or flashes(you should avoid flashes) you must have sufficient text contents on the pages. Unique, useful and relevant.
  • site map - You can provide two sitemaps - one for users (HTML version) and other for Search Engines (xml version)
  • alt - For images, you should use alt tags.
  • anchor text - When you’re linking to your other page or a third party website, the text should be meaningful like “read more on topic xyz” instead of “click here”.
  • url - The url of your pages should well formatted (e.g a url generated from a title slag - example.com/your-page-title-here) instead of something like this : “example.com/?p=420”.
  • robots.txt - Using robots.txt, you can control the way Search Engine crawls your website.

###4. Getting natural backlinks Once you’ve created some great contents, you can try to promote it, in a natural way. The natural buzz will help you in getting some attention in social media sites or some backlinks or mentions by other bloggers.

Few most common way to promote the content :

  • Promote on social media sites, relevant to your business. You can also join relevant groups and communities.
  • You can offer some help (e.g by answering some questions) in relevant online forums or communities.
  • Offer some freebies/promo, useful to your audience. e.g Free Ebook on a niche related to your business, special offers for your facebook fans etc.
  • Participate in local, offline groups/events related to your business. It seems like an odd suggestion but it works great because you get backlinks in a natural way by connecting directly to the people in your niche.
  • Create useful videos for your users and upload it to youtube. You can do the same thing for podcasts and other kinds of content.
  • You can also promote on your personal website(s)/blog(s).

###5. Measure After doing so much work, it’s very important to measure the SEO results. You can use a free web based solution such as Google Analytics or a self hosted one Piwik (a free and open source web analytics software). Analyze traffic, measure your seo efforts, set goals and try to understand - what is working and what’s not. Then, you can easily make changes and improve things as required; focus on things that yield better results.

Finally, here are few things you must avoid

  • Never buy any paid links, sometimes, that may work in short term but it’s not good for genuine business, in the long run.
  • Avoid promoting content aggressively, do it in a way that it won’t be labeled as spam.
  • Do not use any hidden links or hidden contents or keywords on the pages, these tactics are outdated :( and it won’t do any good for SEO, but it may causes some penalties in major search engines. (even a complete ban!)
  • Do not participate in any link exchange networks
  • Do not lose patience. SEO takes time, usually from a couple of months to 6 months or so. So, just relax and focus on creating value!
  • Outsourcing SEO to spammy companies (that usually claims : #1 ranking in x days), as it may lead to complete ban from major search engines. Even if you outsource SEO to big companies you must be fully aware of what they’re doing, get full report (analytics, progress, links) on a recurring basis.