It’s damn hard work!
There you have it – that’s the truth.
But what hard work should you be doing? It’s not easy to know because there’s so many opinions out there. And many opinions are based on spammy and manipulative techniques Google will penalize.
What should you do?
Here’s the down-lo:
Provide a quality user experience
Ultimately, Google wants websites genuinely interested in providing a good user experience at the top of its rankings. Good user experience means high-quality, valuable content that solves people’s questions. It also means easy navigation and fast page load times.
Once you get into technical SEO, you still, even in the (not provided) era need to optimize every web page for 2-3 keywords. For ethical SEOs, Hummingbird is a good thing because now Google works hard to understand the relationships between keywords.
The benefit to you? Ranking for more phrases, and phrases that people use to find your website.
Are you targeting keywords that you can realistically rank for? If you use Google Adwords, you should be looking at keywords with around a few hundred to about 1000 exact-match searches monthly. You should be able to rank for these keywords within 6 – 12 months.
Update content every week
At the very minimum, you should have new content weekly. Usually this comes in the form of a blog article, but you can certainly add new static pages too. If you’re looking for ideas, write blog posts are centered on the most frequent problems and questions your customers have.
Guest-blogging is a great way to get these. You can still engage in link building, but it’s slowly going away. It takes hours and hours of hard work to do what once took minutes. You should have no more than 30% of your anchor text that exactly matches any one of your given keywords. Get as many links as you can from various root domains.
Make sure you have links pointing to the most important pages on your website. Internal linking doesn’t give a huge boost to your SEO, but it does help.
Theme your website
Google calculates your website’s theme by noting which words, and their variations, appear most often. To check which words Google believes your website is about, go to “Google Index” and “Content Keywords” in Google Webmaster tools. You’ll have a much easier time ranking for keywords related to those words.
Forget about keyword density
If you place a keyword in the <H1> or <H2> tags, it carries more weight than a keyword that appears in the body content. From a writing perspective, you can use the keyword less frequently but still be fully optimized for it. In addition, if you have that keyword right away at the top of the page, your visitors immediately know they are in the right place.
Use social to your advantage
Followers are important for your SEO, but shares are even more important.Right now, Google +1s are especially important. Even though few people use the network, Google makes them fairly important to your search rank (guess why?).
Site load speed
Your website should load fast, in less than 2 seconds. Ideally it loads faster than 1. Use Google PageSpeed to analyze your website’s load speed. If you have hundreds of pages, optimize the load speed for the most frequently landed-on pages.
The Net Effect? You’re Safe from Algorithm Updates for the Long-Term
If you do SEO white-hat like this, you’ll provide your users with a great experience, and you’ll give Google every reason to keep you high in its search rankings.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Catherine Singleton