Over the summer, Google has quietly been testing some changes to its algorithm. Many of these changes are now permanent and it’s increasingly clear that they will have a big impact on how some people practice SEO. Going forward, off-site SEO in the form of effective social media marketing will now play a more pivotal role. The primary focus of on-site SEO must shift to creating good quality content that will attract visitors via social media optimization and, by extension, will attract good quality inbound links. Content has never been more important for good search engine results than it is right now.
As we reported last week, personalized results based on user activity is having a profound effect on what visitors see and by extension, on the methods used for search engine optimization. Google’s algorithm is even more focused on the human factor and it is clear that they are working to refine their results based on true signals that a site is popular with visitors. It will be even more difficult to trick them with stuffed keywords, misspelled keywords, sneaky redirects and fabricated link networks; which we would never advise doing anyway.
One big change has been in their handling of misspelled words. Approximately two months ago, Google watchers started seeing unusual results from Google’s “Did you mean?” spelling correction suggestions. For example, this result was posted to Digg in August:
Notice that not only does Google suggest the alternate spelling; the top two results include it.
Over the last couple of weeks, some pretty dramatic changes in search results have been reported by Google watchers like Patrick Altoft and Danny Sullivan. Along with the new focus on personalization, these changes to the way that they handle misspellings may have a sharp impact on traffic to sites that formerly ranked for these spellings because that all important number one spot has been shifted two spots lower on the page.
Depending on the perceived importance of the listing, Google may give the top ranking spot to the listing with the spelling that Google thinks you mean (as the “baby” versus “babby” listing above shows). On the one hand, this is a positive move as it puts a serious kink in the practice of deliberately misspelling words to try to capitalize on that small subset of searchers who don’t provide the right spelling for their search term. Searchers are now more likely to find what they are really looking for even if their spelling is not perfect and unscrupulous site owners can’t “steal” visitors by purposely targeting their site to misspelled brand names in an attempt to steal visitors searching for your brand name. In particular, buying up misspelled versions of popular domains will no longer be an easy way to get traffic to your site for a popular keyword. As long as Google gets it right, this actually makes SEO easier — no more having to find a creative way to include a popular misspelling on the page. Google will figure out it out. Unfortunately, Google may not always get it right.
The principal problem comes when Google decides that your brand name is a misspelling of a more popular brand. For example, Google has decided that anyone searching for Soni must be looking for Sony:
If you actually were looking for SONI (System Operators of Northern Ireland), you have to scroll pretty far down the page to find them. While this definitely puts an end to the strategy of trying to poach visitors by targeting site misspellings, it’s a little tough on any site whose brand name is tagged as a misspelling of another more popular site. Of course, personalization should quickly bump the true site to the top of the page for any Irish system operators out there who may be worried about getting good results but all the same, this is a concern if your brand name is similar to a more popular one.
For most sites, this will be a welcome change and if you have been creating good keyword relevant content on your site and building high quality inbound links from trusted and relevant sites, you may notice little change. For any sites that have been counting on Gray Hat techniques like targeting misspellings, it looks like it’s time to change your strategy. To do that here are three good tips for making sure that these new changes don’t negatively impact your site:
1. Target your brand name both on-site and off-site particularly if it could potentially be interpreted as a misspelling of another brand name. In other words, include your brand name in your title tag and in inbound links to your site as well as your keywords. If you’ve been using brand misspellings as a tactic for SEO, you can stop now.
2. Cultivate good quality inbound links for your site from other sites that are specifically relevant to your brand. In particular, boost your authority rating for that keyword so that it holds its own and has less chance of being considered a spelling error.
3. Create quality content that will appeal to visitors. In particular, make sure your title tags and description tags are high quality content that will encourage visitors to click on your link. Even better, other site owners in your sector of the internet may want to link to your site specifically for the content and make no mistake, quality links are more important than ever.
Making your site more attractive to visitors will elevate your rankings in the visitor’s personalized search results and they may even vote your site up in Google’s new Search Wiki. While speculation that this will be used by Google to rank websites is premature, we need to consider the possibility that any time Google has data about site popularity that they can trust, they will use it. Does this mean that you should vote up your site in the search results? Well, it probably can’t hurt for you to vote your own site up in the search results but don’t count on that having any big effects at the moment. Google has undoubtedly figured out that this can be easily abused and any use that they make of the data will take this into account.
So, the bottom line on Google’s new changes is that for honest site owners, by and large, these changes will work to protect your brand and make it easier for searchers to find the results that they are looking for. Even so, these new changes may have unexpected effects on search engine rankings depending on each website’s individual situation and every site owner should take a good look at their recent results in case a change in strategy is required. As with any algorithmic change, there will be bumps in the road, but sticking to Best Practices for SEO and above all remembering that Content is King will carry you through.
As we all know, the benefits of inbound links to your website are paramount. What’s more important than the “amount” of inbound links? “Quality” inbound links. These quality links can have a positive effect on both your rankings in Google as well as your PageRank. The only catch is getting good links. Of course, the most obvious answer is to just create good content on your website that can inspire people to link to it. Another obvious answer is to merely create a “Link To Us” page. Unfortunately, it really isn’t as simple as that.
In addition to having that exceptional content that people want to link to, the content on your blog or website should have a point of view; a perspective that’s controversial, funny or that really takes a definitive side of an argument. Anything that separates your content from the rest of the pack is always beneficial. Being original can really get you noticed as an authority in your field and will make attracting those natural links that much easier.
While social media may not be great for getting “link juice” or a “vote” from another site (most links from social media sites like Twitter or Facebook are nofollow), they are a helpful way to get your website or brand noticed and drive some traffic. This is done simply by placing a link to your site in your profile. Also, don’t forget to link your social media profiles together by saying something to the effect of, “Come visit us on Facebook!”. Social bookmark “widgets” are good too and are free and quite easy to implement.
Of course, if you haven’t done so already, submit to directories like DMOZ or the Yahoo! Directory and make sure that you are in the correct categories for each. These directories, as well as a few others, are considered to be the most trusted and links from there are considered highly important. This also goes for any kind of link from an .edu or .gov site. Any links from a relevant site with that kind of domain should help your site’s PageRank and rankings exponentially. To find these types of websites, simply type “site:.edu keyword” on Google. Substitute “keyword” for the most targeted, indicative and descriptive keyword of your site.
Lastly, having fun content like “Top Ten Lists”, contests or free widgets are great for tempting people to link to you. To get inspired, look at the websites of some other websites in your field and see what they are doing. See what kinds of backlinks they have to get an idea of who to target and, above all, write your content for the user, not for the search engines. A human being will be reading your content and you need to write with that in mind. Remember, you can never have too many quality inbound links.
Good keyword research is essential to the optimization process. You can think about the keywords that you choose as the building blocks for the entire SEO effort. The better the keywords you choose, the stronger the foundation you will have. To help you choose keywords for your site provided are some free keyword tools that you can use to research phrases you might be using to optimize your website. These tools show different information regarding search volume, competition, and synonyms for the keywords you are searching.
This tool is the trial version of the subscription based WordTracker website. It allows you to get a sampling of what people are searching for in relation to the word you type into the box. The results will show you the approximate daily searches for the results. Example:
While this tool was originally developed for PPC advertising, it still gives people insight as to what people are searching for on the Internet. It allows you to type in keywords and get results with search volumes, competition and synonyms much like the free WordTracker tool. But this tool also has another great feature. If you are looking to retarget website content, you can simply copy the URL of the page you are analyzing into the free tool. It will scan the page and give you results based on the word choices you have already used. It may give you some less common phrases to use, thus increasing your competitive edge.
If you wish to analyze keywords, leave the radial button checked by “Descriptive words or phrases”, and enter the keywords you wish to research. If you would like to analyze the page content of a specific URL, change the radial button to “Website content” and copy and paste the URL into the appropriate section.
Once you have picked keywords to optimize your website, you will need to begin writing, or “tweaking” existing copy to incorporate the chosen keywords. MoreVisibility recommends that you write your content to a 4.0% keyword density. This number is not the Silver Bullet of SEO content writing, but it will give you a workable goal to have when writing your content. Keyword density should be adjusted to the readability of the content. Longer keyword phrases will not read correctly at that density level. If the content you are writing starts to sound “spammy” or could turn off your reader, reduce the occurrences of the keyword until it reads well. Tools you can use to help monitor keyword density include the following:
This tool has a simple copy, paste functionality. Copy the text and the keyword you would like to analyze into the provided fields, and the tool will show you the keyword density as you make changes.
This tool allows you to analyze current copy as well as new copy you are writing. Analyze text either by using the URL of the page, or by copying the new text from a document and pasting it into the provided field.