The following is a guest post by Erik Deckers.
Google’s Panda and Penguin updates have sounded many a death knell for search engine optimization professionals and companies. The ones who relied on questionable backlinks, keyword stuffing, and spinning and respinning barely-acceptable blog posts into complete garbage were drummed out of the industry. The decent SEOs managed to right their collective ship, and wrote “how I recovered from Google Panda/Penguin” blog posts. Meanwhile, the really smart ones knew what was coming, and never had to write those posts to begin with.
The Google updates have caused many bad SEOs to declare that search engine optimization is dead, and that we should just all give up. That’s fine, let them go. They were the ones who ruined it for everyone in the first place, so I’m glad to see them leave, because what they’ve done is make it easier (and harder) for the rest of us. Now, Google wants us to focus on creating good content. That means coming up with good ideas and actually being a good writer.
Except this blog post is not about that. I hate blog posts that tell us to “be passionate” or “write good stuff”, because “write good stuff” isn’t a strategy. To call it a strategy is like a football team saying one of their strategies for a game is to win. It sounds optional, like they hadn’t considered it before. Writing good stuff and producing good content should be the entire reason you do what you do, not just something you try.
This is about what to do when you’re already writing good stuff, and creating the things that people want to read and share. This is about advanced SEO techniques you can use to help your search engine ranking.
1. Understand Google’s Algorithm
Here’s what Google actually looks at when they crawl your page:
- Time on Site: How long do people spend on your site as a whole? If people spend a lot of time, Google thinks it’s more interesting, and you’ll get a little bump. If they only spent a few seconds, Google assumes it’s crap, and you’ll be dinged accordingly.
- Bounce Rate: If people visit one page and leave, they bounced. More bounces could mean less interesting website. This is a danger for blogs, because most people read a single post and leave. Lower bounce rate means a more interesting site, and you’ll get a bump.
- Click-through Rate: When people found you on a search results page, did they even click to your site? Your meta description may be lacking, which means people won’t know your page is worth visiting. While meta tags don’t help SEO, they help people decide whether to visit.
This is a basic summary of what Google did with Panda (you can watch Rand Fishkin’s thorough explanation here), but you get the idea — the more people like your stuff, the longer they’ll stick around, read your stuff, and that’s good for you.
You can also help Google understand your site’s stats a little better if you use Google Analytics. While some people grouse about the privacy, this helps Google better understand your site, which will help them figure out better how to rank it.
2. Using Google Author Rank and Google+
Google wants you to take credit for the stuff you write. After all, the filthy, evil spammers stay hidden in the shadows, and the pure and noble writers will stand in the full light of day. Google wants you to wear your author badge with pride, smile brightly, and have the sun twinkle off your gorgeous teeth. (I may be exaggerating a bit. But not much.)
Claiming authorship of your work boosts your credibility and trustworthiness with them. That means if you’re producing good stuff on a regular basis, they’re going to give you the benefit of the doubt — and maybe even a little boost — on future work if you claim it..
SHIFT has already talked about how to set up Google Author Rank, so you can learn how to set it up via that link (I’ll also suggest to you more Author Rank reading here).
Basically, you want to do two things:
- You want a Google+ account, because that’s going to show Google where all your authored works are appearing. Fill it out completely, and use the rel=”author” and rel=”publisher” tag in every bio you use. Hyperlink your name to your Google+ account. This creates a sort of feedback trust loop where you tell Google “Look, I wrote this!” and Google follows the link to your Google+ account and sees that yes, you do in fact contribute to that site. And then the trumpets blare and the angels sing, and Google loves you.
- Connect with a lot of people on Google+. Google believes that your friends care about what you write and share, so they want to tell them. Whenever a Google+ connection searches for something you wrote/shared, they’ll pop it up near the top of the search results, whether it’s actually ranked that high or not. (And if they click it, that contributes to your clickthrough rate.
3. Embed YouTube Videos
YouTube is a powerful tool for a number of reasons. First, if you produce good videos, people will want to watch and share them. So if you’ve got the time and energy to create just a couple two minute videos per month, do it. It’s a powerful SEO boost.
Second, YouTube is the number three search engine in the world (it fell from number two after it got passed by Facebook a couple months ago). That means people search it for all kinds of reasons, but since very few people optimize for it, you can do some basic optimization and have a better chance of winning that search. And since Google owns YouTube, you get a bonus boost: if your video is optimized for YouTube, it could show up in the Google results as well.
(Hint: If you have a lot of views on your video, that also helps your video ranking. Promote your videos to your network a few times to get some views. Sadly, some people are buying views, so expect Google to put a stop to this soon.)
Finally, embed your videos in your blog posts. If you can get people to watch them on your pages, that will boost your time on site. Remember, anything more than just a few seconds is pretty good — 30 seconds is a decent amount of time. If you can get someone to stick around for a full 2 – 3 minute video, you’ve boosted your TOS.
The good and bad fallout of Panda and Penguin is that it made SEO work much harder. People can’t just cheat the same way they used to. They have to put actual work into it, writing interesting content, being a trustworthy author, and producing smart, funny, interesting videos. But if you take the time to do these things, you’ve got a bullet-proof system that will move you higher up the search ranks more reliably than any automated spammy system that Google continues to swat down.
Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself and No BS Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing. And you can bet he used the rel=”author” in this bio.