It’s no secret that SEO is changing. Search engines like Google are always on the lookout for better ways to rank websites. Sometimes no major changes are made for years, while at other times change after change is pushed out in rapid succession.
Today we’re in a rapid change period of SEO. First came the Panda update, then Panda 2.0, then an increased emphasis on social media. Using old-fashioned SEO tactics just won’t cut it in today’s competitive and fast changing SEO environment.
Here are six best practices for ranking in the search engines in today’s quick paced SEO world.
Practice #1: Social Cues Matter
Social cues play a significant part in search engine rankings now and experts believe it’ll only get more powerful over time. If you don’t already have a solid social media campaign in place, now is the time to start.
Practice #2: Natural Content vs. Keyword Optimization
Today, search engines will penalize you if you over-optimize for specific keywords. If you have too many links coming to your site with the same anchor text, if your one keyword is all over your title tags, meta tags and body content, you’re more likely to get penalized than ranked.
Instead of trying to create content around specific keywords, a much better strategy is to craft natural content that’s meant to be read by real human beings.
Practice #3: Unique, Quality Content is Still Key
As search engines get smarter, specific tactics that allow you to gain rankings artificially will fall to the wayside. Many such sites have already been pushed aside in the last few years, and more will soon follow suit.
The only real way to guarantee rankings in the long run is to give the search engines what they want: High quality, unique content that people will love.
Practice #4: Optimize for Metrics
One big change in SEO is the importance of metrics. Google now has a whole trove of data like bounce rate, average time on site, how often visitors return and so on. They get this data from Google Analytics, from their DoubleClick cookies, from Chrome users and all kinds of other sources.
In other words, Google can numerically figure out how much people like your website. You need to be watching these stats as well and systematically work to improve them.
Split test different versions of your site and see what gets the highest time on site. See what gets the lowest bounce rate. Constantly aim to improve your website’s stats.
Practice #5: Stay Ahead of the Curve
However, smart marketers were staying ahead of the curve by reading top SEO blogs regularly. Stay on top of new technologies and search engine ranking metrologies so you’re not taken by surprise.
For example, recently Google, Yahoo and Bing rolled out their Schema.org protocols, which make it easier for them to figure out what different types of content are about. If you haven’t embraced these protocols yet, now is the time to learn about and adopt them.
Practice #6: Think Local, If You Can
Finally, if you have a local business, do everything you can to get ranked in the local searches.
Local search results are starting to gain a lot more prominence in Google’s front page. Sometimes Google’s entire first screenfull of results are local results, pushing standard SEO results far below the fold.
Ranking for local is a different animal than ranking in Google’s standard search engines. It involves making sure you have a good description page, good photos and many high quality reviews. Of course, standard SEO techniques like backlinking still matter.
These are six smart practices to adopt if you want to rank and stay ranked in the fast changing world of search engine optimization. Remember that SEO is a long term game. To stay in the game, you have to pay attention to when the rules change.