HOW TO FEED THE PANDAS AND PENGUINS
In the ever-changing landscape of Internet search, it can be utterly frustrating to try to keep up with the changes Google makes to its search spider algorithms. Learning how to “feed” the Pandas and Penguins is the key to retaining a good ranking. This will help you avoid some of the more common offenses that land a page in the dreaded (yet unconfirmed) Google sandbox.
The key to search optimization techniques is found in organic search engine optimization. Organic methods are usually determined as “unpaid” results. This means that all advertising banners that you have placed out there do absolutely nothing for your search engine ranking. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use them, they still serve the purpose of driving high converting customers to your website. It just means this isn’t where you should spend the bulk of your advertising budget for long-term success.
Before we talk about how to improve your SEO, it’s important to understand who you are improving it for. Search engines use spiders to crawl websites all over the internet.These spiders are dumb. They don’t understand anything but the literal meaning of the words on the page. Being cute or using a play on words will not get you spider love. They are strict logicians. They are equipped with ranking algorithms that cover everything from the relevance of the domain name to the speed at which the page loads. Recent tweaks on Google have equipped those spiders with black and white assassins named Panda and Penguin.
Even though there are hundreds of search engines used daily, Google accounts for over 75% of all Internet searches. Consequently, despite how helpful this guide may be for Bing.com and Ask search engine optimization, this article will focus on Google.
Google has put a huge emphasis on relevancy as of the Penguin update. This means Off-Page SEO is just as important as On-Page. Backlinking from high PR sites is always a good practice and was the cornerstone of most Off-Page SEO projects in the recent past. Now things are starting to change, and Google is focusing on sites having a quick load times and being easy to navigate. This, in addition to several inbound links from social media networks will bring your rankings up faster than anything that can be done in the On-Page area. Still, On-Page is where most of the Google alarm bells go off, so that is what we will cover here.
On-page SEO refers to anything that can be physically accessed by someone visiting the site through a standard hypertext protocol connection. This includes all of the visible items on the page, the domain and page name and any scroll-overs. It is important to keep keyword usage around the 1.5% range. Any more will get you sandboxed, and any less will hurt your relevancy. We’ll start with the most important areas and work our way down to the items that separate the top two or three pages from the rest.
Using a keyword research tool like the one offered by Google can help you determine what the top searched-for terms are in your field. This will give you an estimate of the “local” searches for a particular term. By local, Google means by country. If you take this keyword and put it in the Google search engine inside of quotation marks this will give you the number of pages that are currently vying for that keyword. It is best to target keywords with high volume and low competition, but take note of the top three sites in the ranking. If they are .gov or .edu sites, you will have a hard time breaking the top three and perhaps should find a new keyword. Studies suggest that results in the one, two and three positions of a Google search return are clicked on over 80% of the time with ones below it only being accessed 10% of the time. Targeting long tail words is often the best way to go.
Long Tail Keywords:
Learning the importance of long tail keywords and how to target them is the key to generating business through SEO. While general Internet searches tend to be single- or two-word queries, when a person is actually interested in learning something or making a purchase the queries are far longer. Often they are full sentences. Targeting these specific searchers will generate the most business for a web-based operation.
Your domain name should include the keyword term that you are optimizing your site for. This is the single most important rating element on the page. Google ranks pages with exact keyword matches in the domain field at the number 1 position in search returns. If there are multiple domains with the same name, then the extension is used to rank them in the following order: .gov, .edu, .com, .org, .net. It is unclear where sites from different countries rank although it is assumed they are ranked equal to .com sites.
This is the page name. It should include the keyword that you are optimizing for as well. This is the second most important element in page rank. This is not the title of a document but the actual HTML name like www.thiswebsite.com/PAGENAME.
If you are a physical business looking to drum up customers, it is important that you include your city name in your keywords. By changing the keyword “plumbing contractor” to “Lansing, MI plumbing contractor” you will get higher ranking for searches. Most people will type in the name of a major city or geographical region to focus a search. While Google will usually put local results ahead of national ones, targeting a location will always get you nearer the top. In addition to city names, people also use ZIP codes to search. They are a bit harder to incorporate into a natural page flow, but there is one key area where they can be used without hindering page readability: title tags.
Just because meta descriptions are tailored for search engines doesn’t mean they should be randomly stuffed with keywords. They should read just like other text. The key here is to keep them under 160 characters. If you have more than 160 characters, the description will be randomly truncated and may eliminate your keyword from viewing. These are descriptions that can be placed under the search result in the results page, so it is better if they talk to the viewer and make them want to go to the page.
This is your main on-page title. It should use the keyword you are focusing on but be a different phrase than what is in your HTML name. If these values are the same, Google may start to consider it keyword stuffing and penalize your page for it.
H2 Tags, Bold and Italics:
H2 tags are the definition for subheadings. These still carry weight in the post-panda era. It is a good idea to use variations on the keyword here. Do not use the exact keyword you are trying to rank for in more than 25% of the subheadings. Alternatively bolding and italicizing your keyword phrase within the text will give it a little more weight in the spidering process.
Picture and image files all have two tags that accompany them, a Title tag and an Alt-tag. The title tag should be a description of the image in case it doesn’t load. This tag should not contain your primary keyword. Alternative or secondary keywords are the best method here. Being specific in your area of expertise is also helpful. Google will rank a page that says “plumber installing a new flow valve” higher than “plumbing repair.” This is also a good place to sneak in a ZIP code or two.
Alt-tags were originally designed to be read by screen readers, so blind users wouldn’t miss out on the image. This is a prime place for keywords to be used. If you are using long tail keywords, be careful not to use them in more than 25% of your Alt-tags. This will look spammy and cause you to suffer the bite of the Panda.