It’s episode 13 of the Visceral Concepts Podcast! Today, join Visceral Concepts Founder Michael McNew as he shares the real secrets to great SEO.
For those of you who can’t listen, we’ve broken down the podcast below.
Search is the highest source of traffic for any website. It’s the core of all the leads your site should be bringing in, making SEO the most important work you’ll do on your site. Making sure your site gets found in search can be the difference between success and failure.
It’s also insanely confusing for most. Information about SEO available on the web is both contradictory and mostly antiquated, leading people to wrong conclusions that hurt their rankings long-term. Knowing the right way to optimize your site is crucial if you’re going to be found on the web, so we want to shed some light on this mystery.
SEO Is The Most Valuable Website Process
SEO leads are the highest closing leads available to a business. According to Search Engine Journal, 14.6% of SEO leads will close, compared to only 1.7% of leads from outbound sources (like print ads and direct mailers). That’s a huge difference that you can’t afford to miss out on.
Couple that with a good content strategy and you could see up to 82% more conversions with 39% more quality leads than outbound strategies. It’s easy to see how great SEO can take your business to a whole different level if it’s done effectively.
The World Of SEO Is Muddled And Confused…Intentionally
Google’s #1 source of business is search. Their job is to get people to use their site, which means they need to deliver quality, relevant results for every search query passed through their algorithm. To do that, they’ve got to keep the key ingredients secret. Otherwise, unscrupulous individuals will game the system to control the top rankings.
As a result, Google muddles SEO. They make it very difficult to understand all the factors that make a page rank high. They use metrics that change the rankings daily. More than anything, keep the secret sauce of their algorithm a secret from the world.
That makes SEO difficult to learn to do correctly.
SEO Takes Forms You Wouldn’t Expect
Despite Google’s cloak-and-dagger methodology, there are a huge number of search factors that they clue us in on. Many of those factors revolve around usability and quality. Google also lets us know about factors they’ve removed, decreased the importance of, or blacklisted. With that information, it’s easy to craft content that the search giant will favor, even if you don’t know everything they want.
Let’s dig into some of the things you need to know about SEO that nobody is telling you.
Backlinks Are Garbage
For years, SEO gurus everywhere have been telling you that backlinks are key to a great SEO strategy. The problem began, however, when companies began to offer backlinking services as a product. These companies used methods that Google now penalizes, planting hundreds of links all over the web every day. They would create accounts on forums, leave comments on blogs, and create whole “throw-away” websites meant specifically for adding these backlinks to.
Whenever someone figures out how to game the system, search results deteriorate into absolute garbage. People discovered that the sites ranking high in Google search were of little relevance to what they were looking for. In response Google shifted, focusing on the quality of backlinks instead of the quantity.
Maybe backlinks themselves aren’t garbage, but the adage of quality over quantity now applies.
SEO Is No Longer About Keyword Density
Like backlinks, keywords used to be a huge measurement of search relevance. SEO started as a matter of keyword density, and more meant better. Back in the early days of Google, sites used to be utterly filled with the keywords they thought might get them found. In fact, they put so many keywords into the site, there were often “keyword blocks” at the bottom of the site and hidden in the background so they would improve their rank further.
It didn’t take long to figure out that keywords alone were a bad measure. The algorithm was changed to include the keyword’s relevance in the content. Relevance has been the focus of all search since. Google is constantly working further away from keywords, trying to find the other measures that determined relevance.
For now, you’ll need a few keywords in your content. However, you should never sacrifice the quality of your content to include more keywords. That’s not quality SEO.
Meta Keywords Have Lost Their SEO Impact
Meta tags are hidden bits of code on a website that are meant to interact with other sites, like Google search. When Google began using them to signify what the site’s keywords were, it became yet another way for unscrupulous SEO “gurus” to game the system. And game the system they did, “stuffing” the meta keyword tag to capacity with yet another keyword block.
This is one of those areas that Google has been clear on. Here’s a convenient list of what Google actually pays attention to in the meta tags, and meta keywords aren’t one of them. Check the date on that, too. It’s from 2007, meaning that anyone still trying to stuff a meta keyword block is a decade behind.
Use Google’s own suggestions on meta tags to help structure what it does see, but don’t think that these hidden HTML codes can be used to improve your search rankings.
ALT Tags Are About Accessibility
ALT tags are a part of the code for images on a website. Always intended to create a placeholder for the times that an image didn’t load, alt tags were often yet another place to hide keywords. Because Google can read these tags (an early method to see if the images were relevant), these added keywords used to help that early search.
As the world evolved, technology became more accessible for those with disabilities. The alt tag now has a better purpose. According to ada.gov, the alt tags should be used to offer text descriptions of the image for screen readers. Those descriptions help those with vision impairments to understand what’s happening on your website.
Google is paying attention, and with web accessibility becoming a larger focus of society, your site’s rank will eventually be impacted by how accessible it is.
Mobile Design Matters In SEO
I warned clients a decade ago that their sites needed to be mobile friendly. Those who listened got a leg up on their competition. The clients that didn’t believe that their customer base wouldn’t be using their phones to access their websites. Surprisingly, that belief still holds true for many, despite the world we live in 10 years later.
Mobile design is now a huge factor in Google’s search ranking. That means you’ll need to start your SEO strategy there, or you can kiss the rest of your SEO goodbye. Your site must be visible, usable, and fast enough for a mobile experience to be seamless.
Quality Content Is The Best SEO Tool You Can Have
While all the SEO guidelines out there are great additions to your search strategy, the best possible thing you can do to optimize your site is to create frequent, quality content that’s relevant to your product. When you produce content that interests your client base, Google notices, and they’ll serve it up to others who are looking for the same.