Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Posted by Cyrus-Shepard
Recently, Moz announced the results of our biennial Ranking Factors study. Today, we’d like to explore one of the most vital elements of the study: the Ranking Factors survey.
Every two years, Moz surveys the brightest minds in SEO and search marketing with a comprehensive set of questions meant to gauge the current workings of Google’s search algorithm. This year’s panel of experts possesses a truly unique set of knowledge and perspectives. We’re thankful on behalf of the entire community for their contribution.
In addition to asking the participants about what does and doesn’t work in Google’s ranking algorithm today, one of the most illuminating group of questions asks the panel to predict the future of search – how the features of Google’s algorithm are expected to change over the next 12 months.
Amazingly, almost all of the factors that are expected to increase in influence revolved around user experience, including:
The experts predicted that more traditional ranking signals, such as those around links and URL structures, would largely remain the same, while the more manipulative aspects of SEO, like paid links and anchor text (which is subject to manipulation), would largely decrease in influence.
The survey also asks respondents to weight the importance of various factors within Google’s current ranking algorithm (on a scale of 1-10). Understanding these areas of importance helps to inform webmasters and marketers where to invest time and energy in working to improve the search presence of their websites.
These features describe use of the keyword term/phrase in particular parts of the HTML code on the page (title element, H1s, alt attributes, etc).
Highest influence: Keyword present in title element, 8.34
Lowest influence: Keyword present in specific HTML elements (bold/italic/li/a/etc), 4.16
Titles are still very powerful. Overall, it’s about focus and matching query syntax. If your post is about airplane propellers but you go on a three paragraph rant about gorillas, you’re going to have a problem ranking for airplane propellers.
Keyword usage is vital to making the cut, but we don’t always see it correlate with ranking, because we’re only looking at what already made the cut. The page has to be relevant to appear for a query, IMO, but when it comes to how high the page ranks once it’s relevant, I think keywords have less impact than they once did. So, it’s a necessary but not sufficient condition to ranking.
In my experience, most of problems with organic visibility are related to on-page factors. When I look for an opportunity, I try to check for 2 strong things: presence of keyword in the title and in the main content. Having both can speed up your visibility, especially on long-tail queries.
These features cover how keywords are used in the root or subdomain name, and how much impact this might have on search engine rankings.
Highest influence: Keyword is the exact match root domain name, 5.83
Lowest influence: Keyword is the domain extension, 2.55
The only domain/keyword factor I’ve seen really influence rankings is an exact match. Subdomains, partial match, and others appear to have little or no effect.
There’s no direct influence, but an exact match root domain name can definitely lead to a higher CTR within the SERPs and therefore a better ranking in the long term.
It’s very easy to link keyword-rich domains with their success in Google’s results for the given keyword. I’m always mindful about other signals that align with domain name which may have contributed to its success. These includes inbound links, mentions, and local citations.
These features describe link metrics for the individual ranking page (such as number of links, PageRank, etc).
Highest influence: Raw quantity of links from high-authority sites, 7.78
Lowest influence: Sentiment of the external links pointing to the page, 3.85
High-quality links still rule rankings. The way a brand can earn links has become more important over the years, whereas link schemes can hurt a site more than ever before. There is a lot of FUD slinging in this respect!
Similar to my thoughts on content, I suspect link-based metrics are going to be used increasingly with a focus on verisimilitude (whether content is actually true or not) and relationships between nodes in Knowledge Graph. Google’s recent issues with things, such as the snippet results for “evolution,” highlight the importance of them only pulling things that are factually correct for featured parts of a SERP. Thus, just counting traditional link metrics won’t cut it anymore.
While anchor text is still a powerful ranking factor, using targeted anchor text carries a significant amount of risk and can easily wipe out your previous success.
These features describe elements that indicate qualities of branding and brand metrics.
Highest influence: Search volume for the brand/domain, 6.54
Lowest influence: Popularity of business’s official social media profiles, 3.99
This is clearly on deck to change very soon with the reintegration of Twitter into Google’s Real-Time Results. It will be interesting to see how this affects the “Breaking News” box and trending topics. Social influencers, quality and quantity of followers, RTs, and favorites will all be a factor. And what’s this?! Hashtags will be important again?! Have mercy!
Google has to give the people what they want, and if most of the time they are searching for a brand, Google is going to give them that brand. Google doesn’t have a brand bias, we do.
It’s already noticeable; brands are more prominently displayed in search results for both informational and commercial queries. I’m expecting Google will be paying more attention to brand-related metrics from now on (and certainly more initiatives to encourage site owners to optimize for better entity detection).
These features relate to third-party metrics from social media sources (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc) for the ranking page.
Highest influence: Engagement with content/URL on social networks, 3.87
Lowest influence: Upvotes for the page on social sites, 2.7
Social ranking factors are important in a revamped Query Deserves Freshness algorithm. Essentially, if your content gets a lot of natural tweets, shares, and likes, it will rank prominently for a short period of time, until larger and more authoritative sites catch up.
Social popularity has several factors to consider: (1) Years ago, Google and Bing said they take into account the authority of a social profile sharing a link and the popularity of the link being shared (retweets/reshares), and there was more complexity to social signals that was never revealed even back then. (2) My experience has been that social links and shares have more power for newsy/fresh-type content. For example, a lot of social shares for a dentist’s office website wouldn’t be nearly as powerful (or relevant to consider) as a lot of social shares for an article on a site with a constant flow of fresh content.
Honestly, I do not think that the so-called “social signals” have any direct influence on the Google Algorithm (that does not mean that a correlation doesn’t exist, though). My only doubt is related to Twitter, because of the renewed contract between Google and Twitter itself. That said, as of now I do not consider Twitter to offer any ranking signals, except for very specific niches related to news and “news-able” content, where QDF plays a fundamental role.
These elements describe non-keyword-usage, non-link-metrics features of individual pages (such as length of the page, load speed, etc).
Highest influence: Uniqueness of the content on the page, 7.85
Lowest influence: Page contains Open Graph data and/or Twitter cards, 3.64
By branching mobile search off of Google’s core ranking algorithm, having a “mobile-friendly” website is probably now less important for desktop search rankings. Our clients are seeing an ever-increasing percentage of organic search traffic coming from mobile devices, though (particularly in retail), so this is certainly not an excuse to ignore responsive design – the opposite, in fact. Click-through rate from the SERPs has been an important ranking signal for a long time and continues to be, flagging irrelevant or poor-quality search listings.
I believe many of these will be measured within the ecosystem, rather than absolutely. For example, the effect of bounce rate (or rather, bounce speed) on a site will be relative to the bounce speeds on other pages in similar positions for similar terms.
I want to answer these a certain way because, while I have been told by Google what matters to them, what I see in the SERPs does not back up what Google claims they want. There are a lot of sites out there with horrible UX that rank in the top three. While I believe it’s really important for conversion and to bring customers back, I don’t feel as though Google is all that concerned, based on the sites that rank highly. Additionally, Google practically screams “unique content,” yet sites that more or less steal and republish content from other sites are still ranking highly. What I think should matter to Google doesn’t seem to matter to them, based on the results they give me.
These features describe link metrics about the domain hosting the page.
Highest influence: Quantity of unique linking domains to the domain, 7.45
Lowest influence: Sentiment of the external links pointing to the site, 3.91
Quantity and quality of unique linking domains at the domain level is still among the most significant factors in determining how a domain will perform as a whole in the organic search results, and is among the best SEO “spot checks” for determining if a site will be successful relative to other competitor sites with similar content and selling points.
Throughout this survey, when I say “no direct influence,” this is interchangeable with “no direct positive influence.” For example, I’ve marked exact match domain as low numbers, while their actual influence may be higher – though negatively.
Topical relevancy has, in my opinion, gained much ground as a relevant ranking factor. Although I find it most at play when at page level, I am seeing significant shifts at overall domain relevancy, by long-tail growth or by topically-relevant domains linking to sites. One way I judge such movements is the growth of the long-tail relevant to the subject or ranking, when neither anchor text (exact match or synonyms) nor exact phrase is used in a site’s content, yet it still ranks very highly for long-tail and mid-tail synonyms.
These features relate to the entire root domain, but don’t directly describe link- or keyword-based elements. Instead, they relate to things like the length of the domain name in characters.
Highest influence: Uniqueness of content across the whole site, 7.52
Lowest influence: Length of time until domain name expires, 2.45
Character length of domain name is another correlative yet not causative factor, in my opinion. They don’t need to rule these out – it just so happens that longer domain names get clicked on, so they get ruled out quickly.
A few points: Google’s document inception date patents describe how Google might handle freshness and maturity of content for a query. The “trust signal” pages sound like a site quality metric that Google might use to score a page on the basis of site quality. Some white papers from Microsoft on web spam signals identified multiple hyphens in subdomains as evidence of web spam. The length of time until the domain expires was cited as a potential signal in Google’s patent on information retrieval through historic data, and was refuted by Matt Cutts after domain sellers started trying to use that information to sell domain extensions to “help the SEO” of a site.
I think that page speed only becomes a factor when it is significantly slow. I think that having error pages on the site doesn’t matter, unless there are so many that it greatly impacts Google’s ability to crawl.
To bring it back to the beginning, we asked the experts if they had any comments or alternative signals they think will become more or less important over the next 12 months.
While I expect that static factors, such as incoming links and anchor text, will remain influential, I think the power of these will be mediated by the presence or absence of engagement factors.
The app world and webpage world are getting lumped together. If you have the more popular app relative to your competitors, expect Google to notice.
Mobile will continue to increase, with directly-related factors increasing as well. Structured data will increase, along with more data partners and user segmentation/personalization of SERPs to match query intent, localization, and device-specific need states.
User location may have more influence in mobile SERPs as (a) more connected devices like cars and watches allow voice search, and (b) sites evolve accordingly to make such signals more accurate.
I really think that over the next 12-18 months we are going to see a larger impact of structured data in the SERPs. In fact, we are already seeing this. Google has teams that focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning. They are studying “relationships of interest” and, at the heart of what they are doing, are still looking to provide the most relevant result in the quickest fashion. Things like schema that help “educate” the search engines as to a given topic or entity are only going to become more important as a result.
For more data, check out the complete Ranking Factors Survey results.
Finally, we leave you with this infographic created by Kevin Engle which shows the relative weighting of broad areas of Google’s algorithm, according to the experts.
What’s your opinion on the future of search and SEO? Let us know in the comments below.
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Posted by wrttnwrd
In spite of all the advice, the strategic discussions and the conference talks, we Internet marketers are still algorithmic thinkers. That’s obvious when you think of SEO.
Even when we talk about content, we’re algorithmic thinkers. Ask yourself: How many times has a client asked you, “How much content do we need?” How often do you still hear “How unique does this page need to be?”
That’s 100% algorithmic thinking: Produce a certain amount of content, move up a certain number of spaces.
But you and I know it’s complete bullshit.
I’m not suggesting you ignore the algorithm. You should definitely chase it. Understanding a little bit about what goes on in Google’s pointy little head helps. But it’s not enough.
I have this friend.
He ranked #10 for “flibbergibbet.” He wanted to rank #1.
He compared his site to the #1 site and realized the #1 site had five hundred blog posts.
“That site has five hundred blog posts,” he said, “I must have more.”
So he hired a few writers and cranked out five thousand blogs posts that melted Microsoft Word’s grammar check. He didn’t move up in the rankings. I’m shocked.
“That guy’s spamming,” he decided, “I’ll just report him to Google and hope for the best.”
What happened? Why didn’t adding five thousand blog posts work?
It’s pretty obvious: My, uh, friend added nothing but crap content to a site that was already outranked. Bulk is no longer a ranking tactic. Google’s very aware of that tactic. Lots of smart engineers have put time into updates like Panda to compensate.
He started like this:
And ended up like this:
Alright, yeah, I was Mr. Flood The Site With Content, way back in 2003. Don’t judge me, whippersnappers.
Reality’s never that obvious. You’re scratching and clawing to move up two spots, you’ve got an overtasked IT team pushing back on changes, and you’ve got a boss who needs to know the implications of every recommendation.
Why fix duplication if rel=canonical can address it? Fixing duplication will take more time and cost more money. It’s easier to paste in one line of code. You and I know it’s better to fix the duplication. But it’s a hard sell.
Why deal with 302 versus 404 response codes and home page redirection? The basic user experience remains the same. Again, we just know that a server should return one home page without any redirects and that it should send a ‘not found’ 404 response if a page is missing. If it’s going to take 3 developer hours to reconfigure the server, though, how do we justify it? There’s no flashing sign reading “Your site has a problem!”
Why change this thing and not that thing?
At the same time, our boss/client sees that the site above theirs has five hundred blog posts and thousands of links from sites selling correspondence MBAs. So they want five thousand blog posts and cheap links as quickly as possible.
Cue crazy music.
SEO is, in some ways, for the insane. It’s an absurd collection of technical tweaks, content thinking, link building and other little tactics that may or may not work. A novice gets exposed to one piece of crappy information after another, with an occasional bit of useful stuff mixed in. They create sites that repel search engines and piss off users. They get more awful advice. The cycle repeats. Every time it does, best practices get more muddled.
SEO lacks clarity. We can’t easily weigh the value of one change or tactic over another. But we can look at our changes and tactics in context. When we examine the potential of several changes or tactics before we flip the switch, we get a closer balance between algorithm-thinking and actual strategy.
At some point you have to turn that knowledge into practice. You have to take action based on recommendations, your knowledge of SEO, and business considerations.
That’s hard when we can’t even agree on subdomains vs. subfolders.
I know subfolders work better. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Let the flaming comments commence.
To get clarity, take a deep breath and ask yourself:
“All other things being equal, will this change, tactic, or strategy move my site closer to perfect than my competitors?”
Breaking it down:
A change takes an existing component or policy and makes it something else. Replatforming is a massive change. Adding a new page is a smaller one. Adding ALT attributes to your images is another example. Changing the way your shopping cart works is yet another.
A tactic is a specific, executable practice. In SEO, that might be fixing broken links, optimizing ALT attributes, optimizing title tags or producing a specific piece of content.
A strategy is a broader decision that’ll cause change or drive tactics. A long-term content policy is the easiest example. Shifting away from asynchronous content and moving to server-generated content is another example.
No one knows exactly what Google considers “perfect,” and “perfect” can’t really exist, but you can bet a perfect web page/site would have all of the following:
These 8 categories (and any of the other bazillion that probably exist) give you a way to break down “perfect” and help you focus on what’s really going to move you forward. These different areas may involve different facets of your organization.
Your IT team can work on load time and creating an error-free front- and back-end. Link building requires the time and effort of content and outreach teams.
Tactics for relevant, visible content and current best practices in UX are going to be more involved, requiring research and real study of your audience.
What you need and what resources you have are going to impact which tactics are most realistic for you.
But there’s a basic rule: If a website would make Googlebot swoon and present zero obstacles to users, it’s close to perfect.
Assume every competing website is optimized exactly as well as yours.
Now ask: Will this [tactic, change or strategy] move you closer to perfect?
That’s the “all other things being equal” rule. And it’s an incredibly powerful rubric for evaluating potential changes before you act. Pretend you’re in a tie with your competitors. Will this one thing be the tiebreaker? Will it put you ahead? Or will it cause you to fall behind?
Perfect is great, but unattainable. What you really need is to be just a little perfect-er.
Chasing perfect can be dangerous. Perfect is the enemy of the good (I love that quote. Hated Voltaire. But I love that quote). If you wait for the opportunity/resources to reach perfection, you’ll never do anything. And the only way to reduce distance from perfect is to execute.
Instead of aiming for pure perfection, aim for more perfect than your competitors. Beat them feature-by-feature, tactic-by-tactic. Implement strategy that supports long-term superiority.
Don’t slack off. But set priorities and measure your effort. If fixing server response codes will take one hour and fixing duplication will take ten, fix the response codes first. Both move you closer to perfect. Fixing response codes may not move the needle as much, but it’s a lot easier to do. Then move on to fixing duplicates.
Do the 60% that gets you a 90% improvement. Then move on to the next thing and do it again. When you’re done, get to work on that last 40%. Repeat as necessary.
Take advantage of quick wins. That gives you more time to focus on your bigger solutions.
Google has lots of tweaks, tools and workarounds to help us mitigate sub-optimal sites:
Easy, right? All of these solutions may reduce distance from perfect (the search engines don’t guarantee it). But they don’t reduce it as much as fixing the problems.
The next time you set up rel=canonical, ask yourself:
“All other things being equal, will using rel=canonical to make up for duplication move my site closer to perfect than my competitors?”
Answer: Not if they’re using rel=canonical, too. You’re both using imperfect solutions that force search engines to crawl every page of your site, duplicates included. If you want to pass them on your way to perfect, you need to fix the duplicate content.
When you use Angular.js to deliver regular content pages, ask yourself:
“All other things being equal, will using HTML snapshots instead of actual, visible content move my site closer to perfect than my competitors?”
Answer: No. Just no. Not in your wildest, code-addled dreams. If I’m Google, which site will I prefer? The one that renders for me the same way it renders for users? Or the one that has to deliver two separate versions of every page?
When you spill banner ads all over your site, ask yourself…
You get the idea. Nofollow is better than follow, but banner pollution is still pretty dang far from perfect.
Mitigating SEO issues with search engine-specific tools is “fine.” But it’s far, far from perfect. If search engines are forced to choose, they’ll favor the site that just works.
By the way, distance from perfect absolutely applies to other channels.
I’m focusing on SEO, but think of other Internet marketing disciplines. I hear stuff like “How fast should my site be?” (Faster than it is right now.) Or “I’ve heard you shouldn’t have any content below the fold.” (Maybe in 2001.) Or “I need background video on my home page!” (Why? Do you have a reason?) Or, my favorite: “What’s a good bounce rate?” (Zero is pretty awesome.)
And Internet marketing venues are working to measure distance from perfect. Pay-per-click marketing has the quality score: A codified financial reward applied for seeking distance from perfect in as many elements as possible of your advertising program.
Social media venues are aggressively building their own forms of graphing, scoring and ranking systems designed to separate the good from the bad.
Really, all marketing includes some measure of distance from perfect. But no channel is more influenced by it than SEO. Instead of arguing one rule at a time, ask yourself and your boss or client: Will this move us closer to perfect?
Hell, you might even please a customer or two.
One last note for all of the SEOs in the crowd. Before you start pointing out edge cases, consider this: We spend our days combing Google for embarrassing rankings issues. Every now and then, we find one, point, and start yelling “SEE! SEE!!!! THE GOOGLES MADE MISTAKES!!!!” Google’s got lots of issues. Screwing up the rankings isn’t one of them.
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Posted by Isla_McKetta
“How can I learn SEO?” is a deceptively simple question. The standard approach is to attempt to appeal to anyone who’s interested in SEO without any idea of your previous experience or the actual reasons you want to learn SEO. That’s fun. Especially the part about weeding through tons of information that might not even apply to what you want to learn.
So let’s fix that. This guide is written to help you choose your own SEO adventure. If you know very little about SEO and just want to learn enough to impress your CMO, start at the beginning and stop when you feel like you understand enough concepts. Or if you’ve been doing SEO for years but need a brush up on the latest tips and tricks before impressing a potential client or employer, there’s a path for you too. Be sure to follow the links. They refer you to resources that are much more in-depth than we could reproduce in one post.
You may know what a title tag is, but you aren’t quite sure how to use it or why. The SEO Newbie could be a web developing hobbyist on the verge of a new obsession or someone looking for the next growing career path. Regardless, you have the most to learn (and the most to gain) from this adventure.
Start at the very beginning with What is SEO? and explore as many paths as you can. You might be surprised at the bits of information you pick up along the way. For a guided tour, follow the teal boxes. Don’t forget to bookmark this page so you can come back and learn more once you’ve absorbed each batch of info.
You were doing SEO back in the days of AltaVista, so you know all the things to know. Except maybe you took a break for a few years or decided to swap that black hat for a gray (or even white) one and need to know what’s the what with the major changes in the past few years.
Make a quick stop at the Algorithm Change History to catch up on the latest updates and penalties. After that, we’ll guide you through some of the topics that are more likely to have changed since you last checked. Just look for the purple boxes.
You’ve heard of SEO. You might even have worked with a few SEOs. Now you’re ready to dig in and understand what everyone’s talking about and how you can use all that new info to improve your marketing (and maybe level up your career at the same time).
Start with What is SEO? and look for shortcuts in orange boxes along the path to gather highlights. You can always dig deeper into any topic you find especially interesting.
Whichever path you choose, don’t worry, we’ll keep weaving you in and out of the sections that are relevant to your learning needs; just look for the color that’s relevant to your chosen character.
For you table of contents types who like to read straight through rather than have someone set the path for you, here’s a quick look at what we’ll be covering:
First things first. It’s hard to learn the ins and outs of SEO (search engine optimization) before you even know what it is. In the following short video, Rand Fishkin (a.k.a. the Wizard of Moz) defines SEO as “The practice of increasing the quantity and quality of the traffic that you earn through the organic results in search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.”
Watch it to understand the difference between paid search and organic search and a few basic things about improving click-throughs from search pages.
A lot of different factors, from site speed to content quality, are important in SEO. These are, as far as anyone can tell, the factors that search engines use in determining whether or not to show your page to searchers. For a great intro to those elements and how they interact to affect your site’s overall ranking, check out Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors.
That’s all nice, but if SEO is starting to seem like a lot of work, you probably want to understand whether SEO is even worth it. The short answer is that yes, SEO is worth it, but only if you want potential customers to be able to find your site when they’re searching on Google (or any other search engine).
Yes, search engines are crawling your site, but those crawlers aren’t as sophisticated as you might like. SEO gives you more control over how your site is represented in those search engine results pages. Good SEO can also improve how users experience your site. Learn more with Why Search Engine Marketing is Necessary.
Who are these search engines anyway and why do we spend so much time worrying about how they see our sites? To get the best answer, let’s look at that question from two points of view: search engines and searchers.
First, it’s important to understand how search engines crawl sites, build their indexes, and ultimately determine what’s relevant to a user’s query. Some of the specifics are trade secrets, but this section of the Beginner’s Guide to SEO offers a solid overview. And for an introduction to how Google ranks pages, watch this video:
As you’re learning about SEO, remember that not everything you read on the Internet should be treated as gospel. Here are some common myths and misconceptions about search engines.
Understanding how people use search engines is as crucial to SEO as understanding their needs is to marketing. Learn about classic search query patterns and how people scan search results here.
So far we’ve dropped a lot of phrases like “search results” and “search pages,” but what does any of that really mean? Search Engine Land does a great job of decoding the standard search engine results page (SERP). It’s a strong foundation for understanding why everyone is shooting to be in the top ten search results. But one thing you’ll find the more you get into SEO is that SERPs are rapidly evolving. Ads move, knowledge graphs appear (and disappear) and sometimes local search results invade. Dr. Pete takes you on a tour of how SERPs have changed and why ten blue links are probably a thing of the past in this article.
And then there’s the darker side of SEO, because once there’s a system, there’s someone trying to game that system. Spend more than a few minutes talking to anyone about SEO and you’ll hear something or other about black hat tactics like keyword stuffing and unnatural linking.
If you decide to use these tactics, you might soon become acquainted with search engine penalties. These algorithm updates, like Hummingbird and Penguin, are implemented by search engines at various intervals. The official word is that these updates improve user experience, but they can also be effective ways to penalize SEOs using spammy tactics. Learn more about Google’s algorithm updates. That page includes not only a full history of prior penalties, but it’s consistently refreshed when a new algorithm update is confirmed.
SEO veterans, you get to skip ahead of the class now to learn about the current state of page speed, mobile web development, and competitive research along with info on the best tools available today.
As you can see, a lot of work can go into SEO, but the results can be pretty incredible, too. To track your progress in topping the SERPs, make sure you’re using an analytics platform like Google Analytics or Omniture. You can get by with something like Rank Tracker to track rankings on keywords as a start, but eventually you’re going to want some of the data those more sophisticated tools offer.
Brain full? You’ve just learned everything a beginner needs to know about what SEO is. Go take a walk or get some coffee and let all that info soak in.
Before you go, save this bookmark.
First of all, don’t freak out, you don’t have to build a totally new site to get something out of this section. But if you’re an SEO Newbie intent on making a career of this, you might want to set up a practice site to really get your hands dirty and learn everything you can.
Before you start worrying about site content and structure (aka the fun stuff), you have a real chance to set your site up for success by using a strong domain name and developing a URL structure that’s SEO and user friendly. This stuff can be hard to change later when you have hundreds (or thousands) of pages in place, so you’ll be glad you started out on the right foot.
While you’re decades too late to score “buy.com,” it’s never too late to find the right domain name for you. This resource will help you sort through the SEO dos and SEO don’ts of selecting a root domain and TLD (don’t worry, all is explained) that are memorable without being spammy. There’s even info on what to consider if you have to change your domain name.
Don’t skip the section on subdomains—it could save you from making some rookie duplicate content errors.
Oh the SEO havoc that can ensue when your URLs aren’t set up quite right. Learn what not to do.
Things to think about at this point are that your content is indexable (that the crawlers can actually find it) and that you don’t have any orphaned pages. Learn more about those issues here.
And then you’re going to need a sitemap. Sitemaps help search engines index your content and understand the relationships between pages. So where better to get advice on how to build and implement a sitemap than straight from Google.
Another vital way to show search engines what pages are most important/related (and to help humans navigate your content) is through internal links. You want enough links to show users what’s what, but not so many that it’s impossible to tell what’s really important/related. Read more about optimal link structure and passing ranking power.
How long it takes a page on your site to load (page speed) mattered when we were all using desktops, but it’s crucial now that so much Internet traffic comes from mobile devices, plus it’s one factor in how pages get ranked. So whether you’re new to SEO or looking for new tricks, page speed might be a good place to start.
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to get specific recommendations on how to speed up your site and then get crackin’.
Speaking of mobile traffic, is your site mobile friendly? Learn about the difference between responsive designs and device-specific solutions on our mobile optimization page. You’ll also see a list of don’ts for mobile design (ever tried to close a pop-up on your iPhone?). This only gets more important the more mobile traffic you get (and want).
Phew! That was a lot of information, but once you’ve absorbed it all, you’ll have an excellent handle on site structure (which will save you a lot of trouble down the line). Bookmark this spot, then take a well-deserved break. We’ll start back here together when you’re ready.
Now that you have that site framework all set up, it’s time to get to the good stuff—populating it with content!
Before you write or post too much of your own content, you might want to see what’s working (and what isn’t) for your competitors. This analysis helps you identify those competitors and then understand what their links, rankings, and keywords look like. It’s important to update this research occasionally because your competition might change over time.
Veteran SEOs, you can skip straight ahead to Schema structured data unless you want a refresh on any other topics related to content.
Marketers, this is your chance to learn all the basics for SEO-friendly content, so stick with us for a spell. You won’t need the same depth of understanding as someone who plans to do SEO for a living, so let your curiosity guide you as deep into any of these topics as you want to go.
You may feel like you just did keyword research in the last step, but it’s crucial enough that we’re going to dive a little deeper here. Understand the value of a particular keyword and see what kind of shot you have at ranking for it by reading Chapter 5 of the Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
We promised you’d get to actually create content and that time is finally here! Now that you have an understanding of the competitive landscape and the keywords you want to (and can) rank for, write away. Remember that while you’re really writing content for users, a few simple tips can help your content stand out to search engines too. Isn’t it nice when something does double duty?
Go the extra mile by incorporating Schema structured data into your content. This additional info gives search engines the data they need to include rich snippets (like review boxes) below your search results.
Veteran SEOs, it’s a good idea to skip ahead to on-site related topics now.
Duplicate content is the bane of a website. Even if you think you’ve done everything right with your content, there’s a chance that a dynamic URL or something else is surfacing that same content to crawlers more than once. Not only does Google fail to see the logic in “twice as much is twice as nice” but they might also penalize you for it. Navigate around the most common pitfalls.
Content doesn’t just mean words, but unfortunately, the crawlers aren’t (yet) sophisticated enough to parse things like images and video. If your alt attributes are in good shape, you’re covered for images, but there are some SEO tactics you need to incorporate if you’re using video on your site. The good news is that once your video SEO is in good shape, video content often gets better rankings than text.
So you’ve got all that content on your site, but how do you know if it’s actually helping your SEO? At the beginning is a good time to set yourself up to measure your success so you can establish a baseline. Learn more about what metrics you should be tracking and how.
Time for yet another well-earned break. Grab a nap if you can and then spend a day or so observing how these issues are handled by other sites on the web. For maximum learning, try practicing some of your newfound knowledge on a site you have access to.
Set your bookmarks before you go.
When you’re ready to continue learning SEO, Newbies should make a stop at on-site related topics to get familiar with Robots.txt and HTTPS.
Any veterans still hanging about might want to take a quick read through on-site related topics to see what might have changed with Robots.txt and to take in the latest wisdom on HTTPS.
Marketers, you get to sit that one out and head straight on over to link-related topics.
For the true SEO aficionado, there are some technical details that you must get right. We’ve all heard stories of people accidentally blocking their site from being crawled and then wondering where all the traffic is. To keep from being one of these, learn about Robots.txt: how it helps you get found and when blocking robots is not actually effective.
The other technical on-site topic you’ll want to master is the switching of your site from HTTP to HTTPS without slowing down your site or losing traffic. This is especially important since Google announced that HTTPS is a ranking factor.
See how far you’ve leveled up already by getting current on just those two topics? Bet you aren’t even tired yet.
Newbies, it’s time to dive straight into link-related topics.
Veterans, go check out guest blogging for a look at how that practice has changed.
You now know a lot about how to make your site SEO friendly. Now it’s time to look at how to bend the rest of the Internet to your SEO will. Don’t worry, this’ll be TAGFEE.
External links are a fantastic way to show search engines that your site is credible and useful. They’re also a great way for users to find you by navigating from sites they already use. In short, they build your authority with humans and bots.
There are two effective ways to get more links from external sources: you can either earn them or build them. Chances are that you’ll get the best results by focusing on some combination of those two tactics.
Notice how we didn’t say “buy them”? Don’t buy links.
One tried and true way to build external links is through guest blogging, although this tactic has evolved a lot in the past few years. What used to be an “I give you content, you give me a link” sort of exchange has given way to guest blogging with a purpose.
Veterans, go ahead and pop on over to conversion rate optimization unless you want a refresh on link-related topics like link nofollow and canonicalization.
When you’re out there on the Internet trying to build links, be sure you’re looking for good quality links. Those are links that come from sites that are trustworthy, popular, and relevant to your content. For more information on factors search engines use to determine link value, read this page.
Anchor text is simply the text that’s used in a link whether it’s a link to a site or within that site. The implications of anchor text, though, reach farther because while keywords in anchor text can help your site rank for those words, it’s easy for keyword-stuffed anchor text to look spammy. Learn more about best practices for anchor text.
“Nofollow” is a designation you can apply to a link to keep it from passing any link equity (that’s kind of like the SEO equivalent of an up-vote). What might surprise you is that links don’t need to be “followed” to pass human authority. Even nofollowed links can help you build awareness and get more links. So when you’re linking to a site (or to other content on your site) think about whether that link leads to something you’re proud to be associated with.
Every Internet user eventually encounters a 404 error page, but that’s just one of the many HTTP status codes found on the web. Learn the difference between a 500 and a 503 along with some best practices for 404 pages here.
One of the most useful HTTP status codes for SEOs is the 301 redirect which is used to tell search engines a page has permanently moved elsewhere (and passes a good share of link equity). Gather all the in-depth info you ever needed about 301s and other redirects.
Perhaps because it’s one of the hardest SEO words to pronounce, canonicalization has a reputation for being complex. But the basic concept is simple: you have two (or more) pages that have similar content and canonicalization allows you to either combine those pages (using redirects) or indicate which version of the page you want search engines to treat as paramount. Read up on the details of using canonicalization to handle duplicate content.
You’ve now mastered so much SEO knowledge that you could teach the stuff (at least on a 101 level). If you’ve read and digested all the links along the way, you now know so much more about SEO than when you started.
But you’re so self-motivated that you want to know even more, don’t you?
Newbies, read closely through other optimization to refine your knowledge and apply those newly-minted optimization skills to even more aspects of the sites you’re working on.
Marketers, you’ve done a fabulous job powering through all these topics and there’s no doubt you can hold your own in the next SEO team meeting. To take your understanding of optimization even further, skim other optimization.
Or scoot on ahead and test your skills with the SEO Expert Quiz.
There are many ways (beyond the basic SEO knowledge you’ve been accruing here) to give your site an optimization boost. Find (and fix) what’s keeping potential customers from converting with conversion rate optimization, get your storefronts found on the web with local SEO, and find out how to prep your site to show up in international SERPs with international SEO.
If shoppers are abandoning their carts so fast you’re looking around for the tornado, your marketing funnel is acting more like a sieve and it’s time to plug some holes. Stop the bleeding with Paddy Moogan’s five-step framework for CRO. And keep on learning by keeping up with the latest CRO posts from the Moz Blog.
Even if you do most of your business in person at a local shop, customers are still trying to use the Internet to find you (and your hours, phone number, menu, etc.). Make sure they’re getting the right info (and finding you before they find your competitor across the street) by investing some time learning about local SEO. On that page you can also sign up for the Local 7-Pack, a monthly newsletter highlighting the top local SEO news you need to know. Or, watch for the latest local SEO developments on the Moz Blog.
A global customer base is a good thing to have, but you want to use international SEO to make sure potential customers in the UK are finding your British shipping policies instead of your American ones. Master hreflang to direct Chinese customers to content using simplified Chinese characters while you send Taiwanese customers to content that uses the traditional characters they’re used to. And find out how your site structure and whether you’re using a country code top-level domain (ccTLD) (like “.uk”) affects your SEO and potential ranking in international SERPs.
SEO newbies, we really can’t call you newbies anymore. Congratulations! No one has read deeper into this blog post or learned more along the way than you have.
SEO veterans, you knew a lot of this already, but now you’re up to date on the latest tips, tricks, and techniques.
And SEO-curious marketers, if you’re still hanging around, bravo! You can safely add “speaks SEO” as a feather in your cap.
You’re all ready to test your skills against the experts and prove just how much you’ve learned, take the SEO Expert Quiz and brag about your score.
Feel like you’ve mastered SEO already? Take the New SEO Expert Quiz to see how you stack up.
Congratulations! You’re well on your way to SEO mastery. Bask in that glow for a moment or two before moving on to your next project.
The fun thing about a developing field like SEO is that the learning and adventure never end. Whether you’re looking for more advanced knowledge or just to learn in a different format, try Distilled U‘s interactive modules or Market Motive’s web-based classes. If you’re looking for a job in SEO, Carl Hendy might just have your roadmap.
Thanks for following along with this choose your own adventure version of how to learn SEO. Share your favorite resources and ask us about any topics we might have missed in the comments.
Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!
Posted by EricEnge
Today’s post focuses on a vision for your online presence. This vision outlines what it takes to be the best, both from an overall reputation and visibility standpoint, as well as an SEO point of view. The reason these are tied together is simple: Your overall online reputation and visibility is a huge factor in your SEO. Period. Let’s start by talking about why.
For purposes of this post, let’s define three cornerstone ranking signals that most everyone agrees on:
Links remain a huge factor in overall ranking. Both Cyrus Shepard and Marcus Tober re-confirmed this on the Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors session at the SMX Advanced conference in Seattle this past June.
On-page content remains a huge factor too, but with some subtleties now thrown in. I wrote about some of this in earlier posts I did on Moz about Term Frequency and Inverse Document Frequency. Suffice it to say that on-page content is about a lot more than pure words on the page, but also includes the supporting pages that you link to.
This is not one of the traditional SEO signals from the early days of SEO, but most advanced SEO pros that I know consider it a real factor these days. One of the most popular concepts people talk about is called pogo-sticking, which is illustrated here:
You can learn more about the pogosticking concept by visiting this Whiteboard Friday video by a rookie SEO with a last name of Fishkin.
OK, so these are the more obvious signals, but now let’s look more broadly at the overall web ecosystem and talk about other types of ranking signals. Be warned that some of these signals may be indirect, but that just doesn’t matter. In fact, my first example below is an indirect factor which I will use to demonstrate why whether a signal is direct or indirect is not an issue at all.
Let me illustrate with an example. Say you spend $1 billion dollars building a huge brand around a product that is massively useful to people. Included in this is a sizable $100 million dollar campaign to support a highly popular charitable foundation, and your employees regularly donate time to help out in schools across your country. In short, the great majority of people love your brand.
Do you think this will impact the way people link to your site? Of course it does. Do you think it will impact how likely people are to be satisified with quality of the pages of your site? Consider this A/B test scenario of 2 pages from different “brands” (for the one on the left, imagine the image of Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola, whichever one you prefer):
Do you think that the huge brand will get a benefit of a doubt on their page that the no-name brand does not even though the pages are identical? Of course they will. Now let’s look at some simpler scenarios that don’t involve a $1 billion investment.
Imagine that a user arrives on your auto parts site after searching on the phrase “oil filter” at Google or Bing. Chances are pretty good that they want an oil filter, but here are some other items they may also want:
This is just the basics, right? But, you would be surprised with how many sites don’t include links or information on directly related products on their money pages. Providing this type of smart site and page design can have a major impact on user engagement with the money pages of your site.
In the prior item we covered the user’s most directly related needs, but they may have secondary needs as well. Someone who is changing a car’s oil is either a mechanic or a do-it-yourself-er. What else might they need? How about other parts, such as windshield wipers or air filters?
These are other fairly easy maintenance steps for someone who is working on their car to complete. Presence of these supporting products could be one way to improve user engagement with your pages.
Publishing world-class content on your site is a great way to produce links to your site. Of course, if you do this on a blog on your site, it may not provide links directly to your money pages, but it will nonetheless lift overall site authority.
In addition, if someone has consumed one or more pieces of great content on your site, the chance of their engaging in a more positive manner with your site overall go way up. Why? Because you’ve earned their trust and admiration.
Are there major media sites that cover your market space? Do they consider you to be an expert? Will they quote you in articles they write? Can you provide them with guest posts or let you be a guest columnist? Will they collaborate on larger content projects with you?
All of these activities put you in front of their audiences, and if those audiences overlap with yours, this provides a great way to build your overall reputation and visibility. This content that you publish, or collaborate on, that shows up on 3rd-party sites will get you mentions and links. In addition, once again, it will provide you with a boost to your branding. People are now more likely to consume your other content more readily, including on your money pages.
The concept here shares much in common with the prior point. Social media provides opportunities to get in front of relevant audiences. Every person that’s an avid follower of yours on a social media site is more likely to show very different behavior characteristics interacting with your site than someone that does not know you well at all.
Note that links from social media sites are nofollowed, but active social media behavior can lead to people implementing “real world” links to your site that are followed, from their blogs and media web sites.
Think your offline activity doesn’t matter online? Think again. Relationships are still most easily built face-to-face. People you meet and spend time with can well become your most loyal fans online. This is particularly important when it comes to building relationships with influential people.
One great way to do that is to go to public events related to your industry, such as conferences. Better still, obtain speaking engagements at those conferences. This can even impact people who weren’t there to hear you speak, as they become aware that you have been asked to do that. This concept can also work for a small local business. Get out in your community and engage with people at local events.
The payoff here is similar to the payoff for other items: more engaged, highly loyal fans who engage with you across the web, sending more and more positive signals, both to other people and to search engines, that you are the real deal.
Whatever your business may be, you need to take care of your customers as best you can. No one can make everyone happy, that’s unrealistic, but striving for much better than average is a really sound idea. Having satisfied customers saying nice things about you online is a big impact item in the grand scheme of things.
While this post is not about the value of influencer relationships, I include this in the list for illustration purposes, for two reasons:
The web provides a level of integrated, real-time connectivity of a kind that the world has never seen before. This is only going to increase. Do something bad to a customer in Hong Kong? Consumers in Boston will know within 5 minutes. That’s where it’s all headed.
Google and Bing (and any future search engine that may emerge) want to measure these types of signals because they tell them how to improve the quality of the experience on their platforms. There are may ways they can perform these measurements.
One simple concept is covered by Rand in this recent Whiteboard Friday video. The discussion is about a recent patent granted to Google that shows how the company can use search queries to detect who is an authority on a topic.
The example he provides is about people who search on “email finding tool”. If Google also finds that a number of people search on “voila norbert email tool”, Google may use that as an authority signal.
Think about that for a moment. How are you going to get people to search on your brand more while putting it together with a non-branded querly like that? (OK, please leave Mechanical Turk and other services like that out of the discussion).
Now you can start to see the bigger picture. Measurements like pogosticking and this recent search behavior related patent are just the tip of the iceberg. Undoubtedly, there are many other ways that search engines can measure what people like and engage with the most.
This is all part of SEO now. UX, product breadth, problem solving, UX, engaging in social media, getting face to face, creating great content that you publish in front of other people’s audiences, and more.
For the small local business, you can still win at this game, as your focus just needs to be on doing it better than your competitors. The big brands will never be hyper-local like you are, so don’t think you can’t play the game, because you can.
Whoever you are, get ready, because this new integrated ecosystem is already upon us, and you need to be a part of it.
Today Majestic is proud to bring an interactive “Sankey” chart into both the Clique Hunter tools and an interactive Word Cloud into the Anchor Text tab of Site Explorer. These visualizations bring data to life and I was especially impressed when I saw the new Clique Hunter visualization because you can click on elements to…
The post New Hubs of Authority Chart in Majestic brings Data to Life appeared first on Majestic Blog.