RankBrain SEO has become the newest big thing in the SEO industry and there are many professionals stating that there are certain actions you must undertake in order to make your SEO practice RankBrain compatible. However, before following any of these advices, take a minute to understand what RankBrain is, how it works, and –…Details
On this page, you’ll be introduced to all basic and current SEO guidelines and, if you scroll down, you’ll find a rich library of resources on specific SEO topics. Additionally, you can use the search field to the right to research a topic of your interest.
What is SEO?
SEO is short for search engine optimization. SEO is a part of SEM (search engine marketing) focusing on website optimization. The goal is to convince search engines that your site’s resources are better than the competition and more relevant to search queries.
You do that by complying with a long list of optimization requirements, where most of the work can best be described as a process, not a single task.
The requirements for SEO are dictated by search engines themselves and, more specifically, by the globally dominating Google. They are defined by changes in search algorithms and are thus changing frequently.
Search algorithms are, roughly said, mathematical equations that attempt to match search queries with the most reliable and relevant results by assessing them with the help of predefined rules.
Even though search algorithms are based on very precise rules, SEO has never been a straightforward task. This is due to search engines keeping details about search algorithms secret to avoid algorithm manipulations.
What we know about SEO today, is based either on official information or on third party’s research of the activity online. MOZ, for example, keeps a close eye on the internet and reports often about “detected spikes in activity” that, backed by feedback from publishers, are attributed to algorithm changes.
“Evergreen” Basics Of SEO
To optimize your site for search engines, you have to start as deep as your site’s code and go all the way to the user interface. Here are the first tasks on your list when starting to work with SEO:
If you want your blog to rank well in Google, you have to make sure that the code of your theme and plugins is valid and meets W3C’s web standards.
One way to do that, is to use the markup validating service provided by The World Wide Web Consortium, W3C.
Coding errors can cause multiple problems with the back- and frontend of your site, including slow page load times, malfunctioning of widgets, returning errors or locking you out of your site due to an internal server error.
If you aren’t the one responsible for the code of your site or don’t have coding skills, you can still use the markup validating service to find eventual problems. Such problems can easily be solved by changing your WordPress theme or a plugin causing the issue.
Be aware that the mentioned errors affect not only user experience but also your site’s SEO score. Especially slow pages or pages returning errors, can destroy your efforts to rank high.
Remember therefore to regularly test your site’s performance. You can do that with a free tool as GTMetrix. It provides you with a complete report, supplemented with easy-to-follow recommendations.
- Setup and maintenance
Even for those who can’t code, there are some technical SEO tasks to take care of. Updating WordPress, your theme, and plugins regularly is an important task directly connected to the security and stability of your site.
Additionally, you should learn to set up your links and redirects, make sure that markups, as Schema.org, are implemented without errors and language tags are set correctly.
Maintaining a working robots.txt file and instructing search engines to only index and follow what needs to be indexed or followed, are also some of the most important technical SEO tasks you have to continuously work on.
Last but not least, you should schedule a regular checkup of your site and monitor everything for broken links, not working media, malfunctioning widgets, etc.
It’s more than recommended that you register with Google Search Console, a quite useful management set of tools for webmasters and bloggers allowing you to submit a sitemap, monitor, and manage the performance of your site. In addition to daily monitoring, you get security warnings from Google, if suspicious activity is detected on your site.
To comply with the current SEO guidelines for quality content, you must continuously work to deliver quality.
You have to strive to publish regularly, as this makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site in a timely matter. This is quite important as untimely crawling can result in long delays in indexing of new content. Needless to say, this makes it much more difficult for you to market your site.
Additionally, your content should be optimized for the right keywords and with the right combination of meta data.
You can get help with SEO finetuning of your site’s pages from a tool as All in one SEO pack or SEO by Yoast, two industry-wide recognized SEO plugins, allowing you to manage everything from custom titles for your blogs posts to meta data and keyword saturation.
Last but not least, text content should live up to standards as length and depth of content, inclusion of media, proper language, topical focus, etc. These are reviewed in more detail further down in this post.
User experience means a lot in the eyes of Google and they have included it as a part of their algorithms. Therefore, details as content type, size of page elements, distance between them, etc. are today an important part of SEO. For example, you should restrain from using too many colors or fonts and from displaying too many commercials to avoid that your pages are classified as spam.
General recommendation here is to consistently use a small set of fonts, font sizes, and colors site-wide.
Your site must be easy to navigate. Poor navigation or missing internal links lead to high bounce rates, affecting your SEO score negatively.
Best practice is to structure your menus in a way that follows the site’s logic and to place them prominently on your pages.
It’s recommended to display your main menu in the header and to display an additional menu either on the side of your pages, or in the footer.
Most important is though, that the menus make it easy to navigate through your content and fit the site’s logic and design.
- Social signals
Social signals are for example likes and shares that your content triggered. Even though Google doesn’t index activity on social media, as social shares for example, they’ve become pretty good at registering social actions on your pages. This means that every time a person pressed a share or like button on your pages, it got registered as social activity by Google.
These social actions are then translated into an appropriate SEO boost. The importance of social shares for SEO scores is one of the two major reasons, why marketers and site owners have been urged to introduce prominent social sharing buttons and additional sharing options, such as Twitter quotes. The other major reason is that social shares, even though not registered as backlinks, are a powerful tool for driving traffic.
Backlinks have been one of the most prominent SEO factor since the rise of search engines and their importance hasn’t decreased since. The way Google interprets them has, though, changed significantly.
While, before in time, it was most important to generate a high number of backlinks, today it’s much more the quality of backlinks that matters. Google looks at factors as the referring site’s domain authority, whether the links are natural or not, whether the referring site is relevant to your site’s field, and, only then, how many relevant and high quality links your site has in comparison to competition.
Links are interpreted on two levels: domain and page. On domain level, all the backlinks, generated by a page on your site, are calculated to give the domain authority as a SEO factor. On page level, individual pages compete with similar pages from other sites for a position on SERP, based on a combination of the site’s domain authority and the number of backlinks the page in question has generated.
It’s therefore important to work on building high quality backlinks, both on site and page level. The best way to do this is to deliver consistent quality on every page.
Artificial intelligence (AI) becomes fast a big part of SEO. Google introduced machine learning back in 2011 and has worked on developing it ever since. BrainRank, that was introduced in 2015, seems to be only the beginning of a new era in the SEO world, where AI plays increasingly important role.
Direct implications for SEO in the first stage of AI’s implementation are the use of natural language in search queries and the new way of matching these queries to search results. Additionally, AI has made it possible for Google’s algorithm to update itself upon collection of enough information.
With the ultimate goal to use AI to evaluate content “the human way” by interconnecting and processing data about different factors, SEO in the new millennium will change a lot – or will disappear as we know it today. Instead, focus would turn to user experience and value of content from a human perspective.
Note, that this doesn’t mean that, for example, backlinks won’t be important anymore. Backlinks, as many other of the “classic” SEO factors are perceived as quality signals from a human point of view as well.
- Site age
Site age isn’t one of those SEO factors that you can manipulate but it’s quite important just the same. The reason is that having survived as a business or information source of sorts for some years, is perceived as a sign of reliability. Therefore, an older site will always have an advantage when competing with a newer site.
Note that it’s not your business’ age that counts but the age of your domain (time since you registered it). It’s therefore highly recommended to restrain from changing domain name, as long as it’s not absolutely necessary.
Current SEO Guidelines As Of 2017
The current SEO guidelines build on top of the “evergreen” essentials reviewed above and represent the current path to success with SEO. This means that you cannot choose to only implement them, while disregarding the basics.
Here’re the current SEO guidelines as of 2017:
- Structured data:
The implementation of structured data has long been important in relation to features as, for example, Google News or the general ability of search engines to understand the structure of your site’s content. In 2017 and on, you have yet another reason to ensure that structure data is properly implemented: the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project. There’re strict requirements about which structured data elements must be present in order for your posts to be eligible for inclusion.
- Mobile first index
Google is currently testing – and potentially moving to – mobile first index. So far, it’s always been the desktop version of sites that has been crawled and indexed but now this is going to change. If the test of the mobile index goes well, Google will start to index the mobile versions of websites with priority and base site ranks on them.
Mobile first indexing can have big implications for those without a proper mobile version of their site or with a lightweight version that features less content. It’s therefore a must to put some hard work into your mobile site today to avoid serious shakeups later on.
As this update is still in the testing phase, there’s a chance that your site still isn’t affected by it. Chances are, however, that, if you postpone this task a few more months, you’ll experience serious drop in ranking and traffic.
The change shouldn’t affect your desktop-generated backlinks but you should double-check your canonical links between desktop and mobile pages and keep an eye on backlink stats in Google Search Console, just in case.
- Depth and quality of content
Depth and quality of content have been measured in many different ways throughout the years, as Google hasn’t been able to actually understand and evaluate content as a human. This is, though, about to change.
For now, your first priority task is to drop superficial posting and dig deep to deliver comprehensive quality content. Set it as your goal to cover all topics from all possible angles and add value when working with content curation. Adding value means that you should always provide site visitors with something they can’t get anywhere else, maybe a new piece of data or a new turn of events.
When it comes to technical details, make sure your language is proper and your posts are longer than 2000 words. Especially length seems to be very beneficial to SEO scores.
- Topical authority
While you might think that topical authority and quality content are one and the same, you can’t be more wrong. Quality content is what you try to deliver on every single page. Topical authority, on the other hand, is a term covering a total revamp of your site, resulting in a more holistic and topic-oriented website.
Topical authority is still the new kid on the block but its importance grows quickly due to a number of user-experience- and algorithm-updates-related factors. Now it’s a must to rethink your website strategy and find your specialization.
- Personal branding
Branding has been very important for business for hundreds of years and now we observe that its importance in relation to individuals grows fast as well.
Due to the many websites and blogs out there, it’s very difficult for internet users to find true specialists on a topic relevant to them. Via personal branding you can demonstrate your knowhow and lead relevant traffic to your site.
Making a name for yourself or the authors on your blog, might be difficult and time-consuming but it’s really worth it. It will help you attract loyal followers and will accelerate your marketing efforts by adding word of mouth, social shares, and backlinks to your marketing mix. All those will, in turn, boost your SEO score due to more traffic, more backlinks, lower bounce rates, more social interactions, etc.
You can brand yourself by, for example, getting in touch with a community from within your field and using your knowledge to help others.
- App integration
Apps are great for so many reasons but reasons, relevant to SEO in 2017, are: bypassing SERPs, reaching potentially passive users, motivating them to take an action, and providing the demanded ease of use.
While this isn’t a typical SEO task, the tendency of people being heavily dependent on their mobile devices makes it a must to introduce an app.
It’s not absolutely crazy to look 5-10 years in the future and predict that search of information or products/services in the form we know it today, won’t exist anymore. Instead, we’ll always shop through apps and ask Siri about whatever’s on our minds.
Keep also in mind that a person, who downloaded your app, is much more likely to become a loyal customer than a person, who ended on your web shop, while looking for something.
As you can see, there’s a lot to take care of in terms of SEO in the moment. Not only is the field changing faster than ever but we are possibly on the verge of a completely new digital reality.
It might be that we still don’t know, exactly how things will turn out to be a few years from now, but you can always start with the current SEO recommendations and try to keep up with the development within the field.
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