Recently, Search Engine Journal published an article about how SEO has drastically changed. The article hits some very relevant points on what SEO looks like today. There’s no denying that search engine optimization has changed over the years, but one thing that people tend to dilute when they’re waxing poetically about the death, decay or evolution of SEO is that in many ways SEO hasn’t changed.
Now that you’ve read my obligatory intro paragraph, here are 4 ways SEO has not changed.
Website Crawlability is Key
If search engines can’t crawl and index your website, it will rank for nothing. All the content marketing, PR efforts, infographic creation and authorship markup will be a huge waste of time if search engines can’t crawl your website. It always amazes me how many websites still struggle with maintaining a crawlable website. They either inadvertently orphan 50% of their content or somehow block their entire site from being crawled in their robots.txt file. It’s true that PR and content marketing are what typically move the organic needle, but having a crawlable website will always be step 1 in SEO.
Tips on Ensuring Website Crawlability:
- Consistently check your robots.txt file
- Run a spider tool on your website at least once a month
- Verify your website using Google Webmaster Tools AND LOOK AT THE DATA (at least weekly)!!
On-page Content Counts
More and more I see people paying less and less attention to the mechanical details of on-page content. This worries me. Of course keyword stuffing doesn’t work anymore and quality of content outweighs quantity of on-page content, but you shouldn’t assume that just because a web page was written by an in-house copywriter or brand manager that all is well with the content. Great content can work against you if it’s not structured in an optimal way. Elements like alt text, image and video summaries, above-the-fold content and headers should be present and checked. Don’t abandon simple on-page optimization checks just because everyone’s talking about content marketing (it could be nothing but hype).
On-page Content Elements to Check:
- Alt tags: check that they’re filled out
- Image and video summaries: do you even have them?
- Above-the-fold content: make sure your content isn’t buried by banner ads, cross promoted articles and unnecessarily large images
- Header tags: use them where possible
Meta Data Matters
For us old timers, we’ve seen the death of a few meta tags as ranking factors. First the meta keywords tag; then the meta description. But just because meta tags aren’t as gameable as they once were, it doesn’t mean they should be ignored. Meta tags still have an effect on organic search performance. Meta descriptions can still influence click-through rate. Meta keywords have been replaced by meta news keywords (something specific to those accepted into Google News). Title tags (although technically not a meta tag) are still a ranking factor. So don’t forget to check your meta data!
Meta Data Checks:
- Title tags: Should be unique and specific to each page; no longer than 66 characters (or it may get cut off in Google SERPs)
- Meta Description: Need to be unique and specific to each page; no longer than 156 characters (or it may get cut off in Google SERPs)
- Meta Keywords: If you still have them on your pages, make sure they don’t appear to be keyword stuffed.
- Meta News Keywords: If your site has been accepted into Google News, use them (but don’t abuse them)!
Organic Search Success Takes Time
One of the challenges with website optimization is that the results are never instantaneous. Although Google is much quicker at identifying website changes and making updates to its index, because of the drastic change in ranking factors and various Google updates, it still takes a significant amount of time to see the fruits of your SEO labor. SEO is a journey, not a potato sack race. If you want to see instantaneous results, go signup for Google AdWords.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Any challenges with crawling your website will delay your changes from being seen in Google.
- You’re fighting a constant and ever changing battle (new competitors, algorithm updates, etc.).
- Having a strong SEO foundation is necessary for success, but only the beginning of achieving true organic search success.
It is true that SEO has drastically changed. It takes much more to get on the first page. However, if you only focus on what’s changed and disregard what hasn’t, you’ll be missing a big piece of the SEO puzzle.