Keeping up to date with SEO ranking factors is a must for any business serious about their online presence. Here’s a checklist of the most important SEO considerations for 2013.
In the past, keywords in a website’s URL had a strong correlation to higher SERP placement. However, the recent Exact Match Domain (EDM) Google update severely decreased the value of domain name keywords. This means if you sell green widgets, for example, a domain name such as www.greenwidgets.com will not automatically rank well. This major update prevents websites that lack relevant content from outranking competitors solely based on their domain names. The playing field has been leveled once again, forcing those who build websites to carefully consider on-page and technical requirements for satisfying Google’s algorithm.
User engagement with content via social media sends signals to Google indicating that the content is gaining popularity. This has been known to play a role in boosting SEO performance. While Facebook and Twitter activity once served as the main social sharing outlets, Google is boosting the importance of its Plus network, largely due to the obvious tie-ins with its search platform. In fact, recent studies show that “+1’s” via the Google Plus social network have significant impacts on search engine rankings.
In order to satisfy Google’s demands for original and unique content that is sharable and relevant to search queries, brands must invest a lot of energy into content creation and content marketing. Gone are the days of keyword stuffing and duplicate content plastered all over the web. In order to maintain itself as the gold standard for search, Google has responded to its user’s desire to find relevant and meaningful content that helps them find what they need. Good content must be unique, well written, optimized for SEO and easily shareable.
Contrary to what many think, backlinks are still a strong ranking factor. However, quality, not quantity, is the name of the game. Diversified anchor text and a blend of branded vs. non-branded keywords is necessary to avoid penalization. Backlinks are now under the Google microscope and need to be built with care in order to garner SEO value. In the days of the SEO wild west, marketers got links by buying them, placing them in blog and forum comments and submitting to thousands of low-value directories. Penguin and Panda upset the apple cart and severely punished sites with spammy backlink profiles, leaving marketers scrambling to cover up their tracks.
Google likes Brands. Why? Because people trust them. For this reason, branded keywords have become preferred and Google is starting to pick up signals that correlate brand names with associated keywords within content. Back to our green widget example: if your company name is often associated with the term green widgets, Google will begin to recognize that people trust your brand as a reliable source for green widgets. Earning Google’s trust is a sure way to increase search engine rankings.
One thing that hasn’t changed, is Google still demands well optimized pages. From title tags to hierarchy of headings and keyword density, a properly structured web page is essential for achieving high search engine rankings. Always obey Google’s Webmaster Tools Guidelines and have a sound understanding of the pertinent ranking factors considered by Google’s search algorithm.
The history of Google’s Panda and Penguin updates is much too broad to cover in this post. But adherence to the standards and best practices put in place by Google are mandatory in order to ensure long-term SEO success. Sure, there are black hatters that have gotten away with bending the rules, but punishment can range from temporary to permanent de-listing, which is simply not worth the risk.