Do you like traffic to your site? To achieve this, you should attract people by writing quality and unique content. But that is not enough!
You also have to apply a process called “SEO” called Search Engine Optimization to your website and inner pages to improve your site visibility in search engines for a “set of keywords“. There are two types of SEO in general – off-site optimization and on-site optimization. In 2015, the first process is losing its charm and people are more concentrating on the second process.
My Definition of SEO
SEO is the art of link-earning, doing semantic keyword research, making schema mark up of your content, highlighting the right words, doing internal linking of pages, building trust among your audience, improving authority of the domain, promoting in the social media etc to improve the visibility of your web page or web site in search engine’s “natural” or “organic” or “earned results.
Why SEO is Important?
In 2013 alone there were approximately 6 billion search queries per day. Google owns 97% of the search industry in India. In Google, we get more information, more transparency, and the search results are more visual. The queries also have become self-referential. They are longer and descriptive. They have become more time-sensitive. They are also crowd-conscious.
According to SearchEngineLand, it gives the meaning of SEO in the form of a periodic table. It is divided into on-page factors and off-page factors. It also mentions the key-success factors to make your SEO campaign a winner. On that table, it’s also mentioned, the more important factors that contribute to higher ranking in search results. It also tells which factors are not to be “violated” and can cause “harm” to your campaign.
Content Marketing is also key to SEO in 2015.
We all know that in 1998, Google started its PAGE RANK (PR) algorithm, where if site A has a page with 3 links to SITE B, C and D. Then the rank juice (which is generally given a number of 10) is divided among all the 3 sites. Now if SITE D, gets more and more links, from different sites having more PR, it would land higher in search engines. With 2006, this changed and the relevancy of the links also became important. So for example, if you have link from 1 high influential source, than links from 100 low influential sources, the former would rank higher.
In earlier days, you could pay some spam sites that are not ranking well in Google and include links with anchor text on those site pages, for better ranking. But this changed in 2015.
For example, if we take a sample query like “windows 8.1 start menu” and check it in Google.com for non-personalized search results, the first link will be – http://www.pcworld.com/article/2927609/how-to-find-the-secret-start-menu-built-into-windows-81.html.
If you check the number of backlinks for this page, there are about 58 backlinks, 14 referring domains, 13 referring IPs, 55 follow links, 3 nofollow links, 57 text links and 1 image link. Though this is a good number, the quality of the links also matters. Here, the relevancy (measured in terms of Page Score) of the source links is not that great, but it’s OK.
This shows the complexity and importance of link building.
In 2015 and coming future you need to “earn links” instead of building them. Though a recent survey states, that link building still has its effect, but if you want to concentrate on the future, “link earning” is the mantra. You need to build relationships. Social media can be helpful in this regard. Comments can build you relationships. A Friendly Email can build you relationship. Advertising is also a relationship.
So the goal isn’t links in 2015. The goal is to grow these relationships to such an extent that the quantity of interactions become so high, that the relationship becomes real.
Semantic Keyword Research
In 1998, if you just stuff your content with a keyword, you are good to go on the “higher altitude” search engine plane. This changed in 2009, where more related keywords if included, then you can rank higher. But from 2013+ onwards, you need to have semantically connected keywords in your SEO campaign. This means that words having a similar meaning are to be included in the content. Google has upgraded their understanding, so we also should upgrade our content.
For example if we take the same sample query as above and analyze the first result, we can understand the importance of semantics. On that page there are different words which are semantically related to the query. For example
- classic start menu
- windows 8.1 taskbar
- metro/modern apps
- file explorer
- notification area
- desktop programs
In addition to that the terms “secret Start Menu” and “Windows 8.1” are present in the title.
Instead of blindly counting the number of times a keyword is present in the content, Google started understanding the “user intent” in keyword query. The questions in Google’s search box are now classified as – navigational queries (e.g facebook, yahoo, apple etc) , informational queries (e.g how to do keyword research, how to write an epic story, what is the length of the football field, which is the highest peak in the world etc), transactional queries (eg. where to buy football shoes, where to buy Persian lime, where to sell umbrellas, the cheap and best bread in New Jersey etc).
- Navigational Queries – When people want to be directed to another website
- Informational Queries – When people want to learn something
- Transactional Queries – When people want to buy or sell something
Just see the non-personalized search results, for the query “nearby cheap and best restaurants with fish food in san Francisco“. The first thing you will notice is that, there are no advertisements. The first result is an authority website – tripadvisor.com. The page title stands like this “Best Seafood Restaurants in San Francisco…”. We didn’t mention anything about “seafood” in our query, but the result contains it. The next result is “Best inexpensive restaurants San Francisco, CA…”. Here also it’s a branded site – yelp.com. We just said “cheap and best”, but the answer contains results with the word “inexpensive” which is semantically related again.
Also on the right side, we see that there is a visual element, which gives information about another fish restaurant – “The Codmother Fish and Chips“. You can also see photos and street view about this restaurant. You can also find directions, with number of Google reviews, address, phone number, hours of open and closed, menu etc. This is all because of the “new Schema markup” introduced by Google, so that publishers can tell the specifics of their content and users can find relevant information more easily.
We also see a few reviews listed and other restaurants people search for. This is also part of the schema markup style, as and when Google thinks it is fit to include in its Knowledge graph.
For example, when we Google “The Codmother Fish and Chips” the first result is a yelp page related to the above restaurant. The contents contains a map, review ratings, photos, user reviews, business hours, business info etc. All these are marked up using the new Schema.org metadata.
Social Media Promotion
For the query “seafood in SanFrancisco” the first organic result is of the domain tripadvisor.com. So when you enter this domain name in “BuzzSumo” (a social analytics tool) you can find that there are lot of pages on this site which have lot of shares. For example an article from this site has 34.6K facebook shares. Though this looks little spammy as other network shares like Twitter, Google+, Pinterest are not to be seen.
Also there are 1025 pages that are having shares from different networks. If we take it’s competitor “yelp.com” it has 4304 pages that are having shares. The top most shared page is having 50.8k shares.
So this example, proves that, how social media influence is helpful in ranking your website. This gives a brand value to your website. And after the 2013 Panda algorithm update, Google made more emphasis on brands instead of small-time bloggers and SMBs.
Moz is an SEO company which offers products and other services relevant to search engine ranking. This company has developed two important metrics – Page Authority and Domain Authority to analyze web pages from SEO point of view.
Page Authority is a score (on a 100-point scale) developed by Moz that predicts how well a specific page will rank on search engines. It is based off data from the Mozscape web index and includes link counts, MozRank, MozTrust, and dozens of other factors.
Domain Authority (DA) is a website metric developed by Moz. It is one of the most important numbers known to SEOs. The greater your DA, the more likely you are to have strong traffic and high rank.
Since these two signals are again dependent on many parameters, improving these scores will also improve the “chances” of your page ranking higher in Google.
For example, for the transactional query, “where to buy laptops in india“, you can see the scores for the first 3 results and last 3 results on the first page.
The last 3 pages have PA scores of 52, 32, 34 respectively, while the first 3 pages have scores of 70, 46, 61. Similarly the DA scores for the first 3 pages are – 82, 58, 84 respectively, while the last 3 pages have – 70, 49, 25.
This is also an important factor of SEO. You should make a conscious effort to include images, videos, infographics, ratings, reviews, maps and other meta data in your content, so that the user experience is great in the eyes of Google. This will in-turn create a better platform higher search engine rankings.
This also matters most from the good-olden days. Even if Google says that it doesn’t give much relevance to PR, it does have some impact in certain queries. So if your domain home page has high PR value, let it pass to the inner pages. Also interlinking inner pages has a positive effect on your Google campaign.
SEO is an art which will never die, even after 2015. But for people who think it’s an exact science, it’s dead. The meaning and definition may change from time to time, depending on the changing algorithms and updates required to keep out spammy results from the answers to your query. You just have to adopt to Google’s way of thinking user intent and, how people will perceive search engine results.
Even in this age, there are black-hat ( “spam methods of ranking well in Google”) techniques which may rank you for some time. But if you are looking for long term rankings in search engine, you better follow the white hat (“natural way of building your rank”) guidelines mentioned by Google. From time-to-time you may get disappointed, if you don’t rank well, even if you have written the best quality article.
Though you should avoid artificially inflating these signals and are supposed to come naturally, according to white-hat SEO definition. But your competitors will not sit idle and use all sort of weaponry, to rank higher in Google. So it’s better to follow some grey-hat techniques (mix of white-hat and black-hat) to improve your position in Google. But these are to be adopted over a time-scale and should not construed as a magic weapon invented in one day.
Finally, SEO is not an exact science which cannot guarantee you permanent, immediate and stable results to all people. Since 2015 is more prone towards personalized search, you will get to see more search results based on your behavior, demographics and previous searches. You just have to understand the philosophy underlying this “creative” art.
It’s like “Medicine” where every new medicine, new doctor, new patient are different. One medicine may cure a particular patient, but it doesn’t work out on the other. Similarly, the same doctor can cure a patient with the same medicine, but he cannot with a different patient. But another can cure with the same medicine. There are lot of intriguing signals in Google’s algorithm, which make SEO more productive for companies and service offering consultants.