Ah, Google. The undisputed cool kid of the digital playground. All the other kids are desperate to get noticed, and yet only a select few ever make it to that coveted first page.
The omnipresent search engine’s algorithms have changed countless times over the years, and exactly what the so-called spiders or crawlers look for remains the subject of speculation.
The relentless quest for Google’s attention has given rise to an entire industry dedicated to cracking the code and making websites cool enough to hang out with Big G. And if you can get a website to number one, then the two of you are practically attending senior prom together. That’s, like, totally a big deal. Kids still talk that way, don’t they?
But, despite Google’s remarkable, almost supernatural affinity for emulating human search behavior, the fact remains that Google in its infinite wisdom is still no substitute for the real thing. According to the latest available data, there is more value in writing for real human beings than trying, mostly in vain, to please some inscrutable search algorithm.
But therein lies the interesting dichotomy because, as it turns out, writing for humans is exactly what Google wants you to do.
Google’s success can mostly be attributed to serving up content that is highly relevant and, in most cases, credible. You may recognize those as two of the properties that most people want their search results to have. Google gets it right for the most part, which is why it owns the lion’s share of online search volume.
So where does that leave SEO?
Historically, one’s ranking on search engine results pages, or SERPs, relied heavily on stuffing one’s content with relevant keywords (see my article on working for a content mill).
Of course, this resulted in search engines serving up content that was not necessarily of the highest calibre since webmasters and content creators just filled pages with keywords without giving much attention to the quality of the content.
Not on Google’s watch.
The search algorithms were soon modified to detect unethical behavior in the context of search engine optimization, and unscrupulous practitioners had their pages heavily penalized. Oh snap!
The point is, as long as people keep using search engines, SEO will be relevant and should form an integral part of your online strategy.
With regards to what you should be paying attention to, here are some pointers:
- Write proper meta descriptions for your web pages. Meta descriptions are the short snippets of descriptive text that come up when a page is displayed on a SERP. These snippets should be as descriptive as possible, limited to 160 characters and contain your primary keyword.
- Use images. Search engine spiders like a good balance between text and other media.
- Give your images alt attributes. Incorporate your primary keyword into your images’ alt text. This can be the title of your blog post.
- Incorporate video. Not only are visitors more likely to respond to video content, but incorporating rich media is also beneficial from an SEO perspective.
- Be sure to include one or two outbound links in your content, and link to related content on your own website.
- Build backlinks. This may require some effort, but it really does help to build credibility. If you know of sites that mention your brand, send them an email asking to please link to your site. A keyword monitoring service like Monitor will make your life a bit easier.
- Post fresh content regularly. Google is watching, and it knows when your website stagnates. Don’t make Google angry!
- Quality! Quality! Quality! There really is no substitute for great quality content. If your content is good, you’ll start getting more visitors which will automatically lead to better standing with search engine algorithms. Which will lead to more visitors. It’s a reciprocal relationship, you dig?