First a bit of history about Search Engine Optimisation
SEO can trace its history way back to 1994 when the early pioneers discovered that they could use the Internet to drive traffic to their sites and hence sell their goods. As this idea became more accepted, people started competing with each other for traffic and that meant that they had to ‘convince’ the Search Engine of the day to list their site for appropriate terms.
The Search Engine of the Day has changed over the years, Alta Vista, Ask Jeaves and Yahoo all being the top dog at some time. However, today, the big player is Google and thus that is the engine everyone wants to get listings on, and that of course means you have to understand the rules.
The Rules of The Old SEO
The rules that the Search Engines use have altered drastically over the years, as they have become more and more sophisticated. At the start, it was easy to ‘trick’ the Engines, all you needed to do was to stuff the pages with your keywords and get some links to the site (Google’s first stab at SEO was based on something called PageRank which basically is all about the number of links to a site – and not much else).
These ‘old’ rules however had one big problem, in that the SEO professionals of the day kept finding ways around them and thus the Engines had to keep taking steps to close these ‘holes’ in their rule sets.
This process escalated over the years, especially since 2010, and basically Google decided that enough was enough and decided on a whole new approach, one that could not be
tricked and relied on one thing, perceived quality.
The New SEO and Perceived Quality
Today, with the advent of something called ‘SEMANTIC SEO’ (the meaning of a site, what it is really all about), things are a lot different, it being all about the quality of the content of a site.
But Why use the term Perceived Quality?
I use this term as I believe that there are limits to what Google can do, in that its computer algorithms cannot ‘really’ decide on what is real ‘quality’ content and what is not. Also, as mentioned above, links had, and still have a vital role to play in how Google decides what site to list for what. But it cannot always tell if these links are ‘real’ or have been created, thus in all cases Google looks at a page/site and decides (using it’s rule sets) if it is quality or not.
This is why I say it is the quality that Google perceives in a site that is important. So how can you convince Google that your content is good enough to get a top ranking??
The Rules of the NEW SEO in Detail
Despite all the changes that have taken place in the world of SEO since 1994, but all of them are based on four things, one of these only recently coming to the fore.
The Four Things SEO is and was Based Upon
The way a site is built is important as if it is constructed in the wrong way then Google cannot (or may just not want to be bothered to) find all the pages in a site. Also if the site is built in such a way that it is very slow, or is not mobile friendly, then too Google will downgrade the site in various ways.
One thing that does not cause so much of a problem today is that of the ‘Code to Text’ ratio (the amount of code that is used to build a site versus the number of words visible to the visitor). In the old days, too much ‘construction code’ was an issue, but today, with the advent of WordPress and the like, Google has been ‘forced’ to ignore this area, virtually all sites being very code heavy.
You MUST however ensure that the site can easily be navigated, a failure in that department being very serious indeed. Plus you should also use a fair number of internal links (not just the navigation) to highlight to Google what each page is about.
Words, Pictures and Videos
This is the area most affected by the new SEMANTIC SEO, it being vitally important to use all the ‘right’ words in a page. Gone are the days of just stuffing a page with the words you want to be found for. Today you need to understand what words Google wants to see and then make sure you include them in the copy, also making sure that you include pictures and where possible audio and video content on the page.
Reverse Engineering is the Key
This is where reverse engineering can help, the idea being that if you know what words are being used on the top pages (for a given term) then by including them (using correct grammar of course, as this is also checked) you must be getting closer to the perfect page.
In the early days of SEO Links were vitally important, in fact they could, all by themselves get a page listed. However, today things have changed a lot. Links are still important counting for some 40% of the reason for a site getting a rank, but they are not as all powerful as they used to be.
Google is Watching You
Besides not being as important as they used to be, the links to a site are now carefully checked by Google. Their aim?, to make sure that the links to a site are ‘natural’ and not all built by an SEO company (although they know of course that the practice goes on all the time).
This checking is carried out by Google, the process being labelled as ‘Penguin’. Basically this checks a sites linking structure to see if it complies with the ‘rules’ and is hence seen to be natural. Here the number of links using the domain or URL of the site as the anchor text (the bit we humans click on) are checked, as are the number of links using ‘money words’ (the terms that a site wants to be found for) and those ‘noise’ links, like ‘see this site’, or ‘click here’. If the balance is not right, or they seem to have been created too fast, then a site can be heavily penalised.
This means that a site’s links have to be built very carefully over time and not all in a rush.
This is very new in SEO terms and the amount of ‘power’ that social media chit chat, comments on Facebook and Twitter provide is not fully understood. In my view, the importance of Social Media is more to do with other marketing channels, but nevertheless, obtaining links via things like ‘Social Bookmarks’ can be useful.
Putting it All Together – Scientific SEO
So, what does all this mean?? Basically, it means that you must
- Find the words you want your site to be found for – KEYWORD RESEARCH
- Find the words you need to include in the copy of the page(s) using Reverse Engineering – CONTENT RESEARCH
- Build the links to the site, CAREFULLY
- If you can get some Social Media comments going (more important for sites selling direct to the public than B2B sites)
- Monitor the progress and make changes to improve matters further
I hope this helps you understand how the matter of SEO has to be approached today.