Earlier in 2017, I launched a seminar called the “Google SEO: Googley Goodness of Great Gains” (what you need to be aware of when it comes to Google SEO, and your website performing its best one the search engine results page).
Since then, I’ve delivered this talk at many different venues, clients and syles, but all focused on helping businesses get the most from their own Search Engine Optimisation/SEO. To ensure that this information can reach as far as possible, and so we can help as many folks as we can – I thought it would be cool to share these slides and a little information about each one with you.
So, this is a kind of ‘what you need to know if you’re doing your own SEO’.
What you need to know if you’re doing your own SEO
Here are the slides –
Slide 2: Google uses ~200 ranking signals
Because Google uses an algorithm (a mathematical set of equations) to build the pages of its SERP (Search Engine Results Page), we need to be aware that these signals are the things that Google checks, but of course, they are the things that we – as webmasters – can change (or optimise). There are around 200 ranking signals that Google uses – some are easier to optimise than others, so I’m just going to dip into a few to get you started.
Slide 3: You must have your own domain
As obvious as it sounds, we need to start with this knowledge. Without a domain name (even if you’re relying on a different web presence), you’re going to be extremely limited in what you can control. Having your own yourname.co.uk or yourname.com is critical as it establishes your place on the internet. The scope it gives you in remarkable and you’ll have far more success than trying to get Google to rank someone else’s site.
Slide 4: Algorithms aren’t all that complicated
This slide is mostly here because I think it’s funny. It’s what most people think of when they think about an algorithm – complicated maths, calculators and scientific formula. The purpose of these presentations is exactly the opposite – to show you how easy things like these basic SEO principles can be to do.
Once you understand that SEO is demonstrably no different to cooking – follow the instructions, find out what works well together, experiment, learn…and enjoy.
Slide 5: Where’s the best place to bury a dead body? The second page of Google; no one ever looks there.
Some get it, some don’t. I think this is hilarious! But it’s a serious concern too – the reality is that most users don’t use the second (or beyond) page of Google. So the focus here is to aim to get your business onto the first page.
This is always a good segway into something that I still hear (from companies that really should know better). If anyone promises (or guarantees etc.) to “get you onto the first page of Google” they are either –
- Talking about Google AdWords – I don’t have anything against the product per se; rather it’s misselling as a solution to organic SEO. Whether you choose to invest any of your Pay Per Click (PPC) budget into Google AdWords is a different topic, but it should not be confused with moving higher up the organic SERP.
- Liars. Horrible, untrustworthy, avoid-them-like-the-plague, liars – No one can guarantee this. They can work really hard – but they should be able to articulate how they will go about achieving this goal. Any SEO that won’t talk to you about their process, isn’t one I would recommend you entrust your online presence to.
Slide 6: Keyword Representation
This is another issue that I think still plagues business owners. A concept we used to refer to as keyword density was often misunderstood to mean that the more often a word was used, the more relevance that word would gain in the overall article. It isn’t as simple as that, and largely, this led to a practice called “Keyword stuffing”.
So instead of “keyword density”, we now talk about “keyword representation”. Has your keyword (the word you want to rank for) been accurately and effectively represented on the page?
If you want to tank for a term/word, you, of course, need to use that term on your page. But don’t overuse it. A quick and simple test is to read aloud your copy (the text on your page) – if you sound like a numpty and you feel like you’re saying your keyword every other word…you may have stuffed your copy.
Slide 7: Long tail keywords
Chasing the dream is where many businesses go wrong. When I deliver SEO workshops, one of the first questions I ask is “Where do you currently rank in Google?”. I’ve probably been given every response conceivable – but it’s kind of a trick question. You see, the correct response is really “for which search term?”.
Knowing where you appear in the SERP is the other side to this proverbial coin – we have to first know what people are typing into Google (you probably don’t rank anywhere in the top 1,000 for the term “flibbertyjibbert”…but who cares?).
Focussing on search words/terms that may have smaller amounts of search volume – but by association, lower amounts of competition – can help you carve out a little niche for your business online. It also speaks nicely to intent – when people type “coffee” into Google, we can speculate, but we don’t have a strong idea about what they’re (specifically) looking for.
“Medium roast coffee bean vacuum pack” tells us that they’re looking for a specific product – that’s what we optimise for! Sure, there may be fewer searching for it, but each person that does search for it is [probably] looking to make a purchase!
Slide 8: Page speed
We ‘know’ that page speed is a huge concern and for good reason. Like with many SEO concerns, it relates directly to User Experience Design (UX Design) – the better the experience, the more people enjoy using the service (in this case both your site and Google’s search) – so it’s in everyone’s best interest to deliver a great experience. A big part of that is speed.
Loads of different factors can influence page speed, but to get an awesome start, check out these free tools –
Slide 9: XML Sitemaps
XML Sitemaps are to Google what an A-Z listing is to your driving navigation. It tells Google where everything is in a wonderfully granular level. Many iterations or website software provide XML Sitemaps for you – I’ve found that most people I speak to tend to have WordPress sites, so check out Yoast SEO for a super-simple method of enhancing your WordPress SEO and getting an XML Sitemap.
This XML Sitemap needs to be added to your verified Google Search Console property, so I’ve included instruction on how to do that too (see below).
- Yoast SEO
- Google Search Console
- How to verify your domain in Google Search Console using WordPress & Yoast SEO plugin
Slide 10: Mobile friendliness
April 21st, 2015 will likely be a date no SEO is going to forget. Essentially, sites that are designed to work on mobile devices would be given a boost and by association sites that were not would expect to be listed lower in search results. It’s still amazing how many businesses have websites that are not mobile friendly – and you are going to be running uphill the how way if you haven’t addressed this fundamental.
Google Search Console has a nifty little tool that lets you check your own (or anyone else’s) site to see if it passes this critical test.
Slide 11: Video content
Video content is really popular and for good reason. If a picture is worth a thousand words, just think what can be achieved using video for your online narrative. But it leads nicely to SEO – video content ranks well. This is largely because people like video content (and we’re back to our UX Design). Think about how your audience wants to engage with you, whether on social, websites, blogs or whatever medium you’re using – think about the content that you engage with.
Grab a camera and start thinking about how you can tell the story of your business with video. What problems can you solve, what help can you give – it doesn’t have to be polished, it just has to be helpful.
There’s some speculation as to where you should host your video content. I’ve also been a fan of the Google-owned YouTube – but you can experiment with other services.
Slide 12: Reciprocal links
For me, the overarching factor is ‘why’. Does that link need to be reciprocal? If so, great, don’t worry about it – but there are some scenarios where sites require a link to them in exchange for something. This could be a business directory that requires you to link to them in exchange for a free listing.
This is tantamount to paying for links, which of course, Google is pretty clear on being a no-no. The takeaway point here really is to be cautious if it’s a requirement – like a ‘if you show me yours, I’ll show you mine’ concept.
Slide 13: Domain registration length
Valuable (legitimate) domains are often paid for several years in advance, while doorway (illegitimate) domains rarely are used for more than a year. Therefore, the date when a domain expires in the future can be used as a factor in predicting the legitimacy of a domain
This one’s a little heavier. The above quote (taken from Google’s “Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data” patent from 2005) is an often confused reference that some have concluded to mean that Google is using domain registration length as a ranking signal. It’s really not as simple as that, and Matt Cutts clarified with –
To the best of my knowledge, no search engine has ever confirmed that they use length of registration as a factor in scoring. If a company is asserting that as a fact, that would be troubling. The primary reason to renew a domain would be if it’s your main domain, you plan to keep it for a while, or you’d prefer the convenience of renewing so that you don’t need to stress about your domain expiring.
It’s perhaps worth noting that most (all?) ranking signals of an algorithm tend to be small in effect. It’s only when you piece them all together, do they take on more impact.
In this case, renewing your domain is a good idea (you do not want to have a domain expire), but it’s not necessarily an SEO factor.
Slide 14: Social signals
This one’s an exciting signal as, in my opinion, they represent some of the greatest scopes for growth in SEO (and indeed, social). Social signals were, historically, an unused (or at least, very weak) signal. Since the inception of real-time results, Google has been using it more and more.
But, as we discussed with reciprocal links (or frankly, any one factor of SEO), you should tread carefully with this. Trying to game the system (in any way) is likely to result in either immediate (or very swift) penalties. The fact that social signals are used should not be confused with a carte blanche to go and start following a bunch of people on Twitter in order for them to following you back.
This is, without doubt, a quality of quantity value. Getting the right people talking about your brand, liking your Facebook Page, engaging with you is clearly what Google is trying to figure out here. Has it nailed it? No, I think we’re still going to see some expansion here, but it means that what we’ve been encouraging you to do on your social for years, is starting to map over into your SEO.
Slide 15: Blogging
There’s a couple of different factors in this one, but let’s start with the additional [potential] presence it gives you. For this, imagine Google working a bit like the old card index files in libraries.
These files would be ordered using an algorithm. This algorithm has 26 ranking signals; letters A-Z. Now I’m not suggesting that Google uses the alphabet as ranking signal, but the basic premise is the same.
Now, if you only have one card in the file (let’s say your homepage), then you’ll have one opportunity to be found. If you have written 20 blog posts and have 4 additional pages on your site, then you have the potential to have your homepage, the 4 pages and the 20 blog posts to be listed; so you now have 25 entries in the file.
I’m obviously massively simplifying how this works, but you get the idea. All too often, people think that SEO is like the film “Field of Dreams” (“If you build it, they will come”) – it takes effort, time and sometimes money. You can’t just expect all of the knowledge you have, to be deposited onto one page…can you?
Blogs afford you the ability to share that knowledge, answer those questions, solve the problems of your readers.
Slide 16: Get a 100% free SEO audit for your page
This doesn’t have to end here. This is just a snapshot of some SEO knowledge that I thought may help you as you start, or expand on, your SEO journey. By now, you know what we do here at Hypestar – we’re here to help. So, check out our free SEO audit tool.
You pop your details in –
- The page you want to check
- The keyword you want that page to rank for
- The email address you want the report emailed to
Boom! We’ll send you your own audit, review and action plan for bolstering that page!
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So that’s what I’ve been talking to folks about when it comes to their SEO. It’s far from an exhaustive list for sure, but it’s a place to start. If anyone has ever told you that SEO is hard and “you wouldn’t understand” – find a different SEO consultant/agency. It’s not hard, no harder than anything else. If you want to do it yourself, you can – if you don’t, you can find some amazing SEO agencies that will support you with your online marketing efforts – but they’ll be perfectly happy to share how, why and where they do what they do.