Beginner’s SEO: How I Learned to Rank in Google Search

Since jumping into the vortex of SEO (having no prior experience with SEO or social media marketing as of July), I’ve learned quite a bit about how the Internet works, thanks to my mentor, Jesse Wojdylo, and a little self-education. During the early stages of learning the rather lucrative business of what it takes to rank in Google Search, what’s been apparent is that there’s huge power in gaining a coveted spot on the first page (pretty self explanatory in this culture of instant gratification–ain’t nobody got time to scroll past the first page), but the recipe to landing there is quite complicated and not necessarily easy. So, as a way to keep track of all of this new information, I’ve decided to compile a list of the things I’ve learned since apprenticing at WSM and navigating my way through the science of Google search.

 

1. Content is key.

More content = More credibility

The main goal in digital media marketing is building a strong online presence that the Google robot will see as a credible source and will therefore crawl and index for links and keywords, ultimately figuring these into its search algorithm.  So, the more content a site has, the more the Google bot sees as credible, and the more key words and links you’ll likely have within that content.

 

2. Consistency is also key.

Consistency = Greater visibility

Jesse gives a good explanation of consistency by using the example of leading stray cat (potential website visitors) to milk (new posts on a website). Leaving a fresh bowl of milk out attracts a stray cat, and continuing to put out fresh bowls will increase the likelihood of the cat’s return. Conversely, leaving bowls out inconsistently is less effective at getting the stray cat to return.

What this means: If you go three weeks without posting new content, it is argued that the Google Caffeine robot (which operates based on website content updates) will cause your Google ranking to drop. Not cool.

 

3. Keywords are important, but don’t forget about diversity.

The more phrases and keywords that point back to your site the better!

You want to build a portfolio of keywords, not just a limited amount of hit phrases. The more diverse your keyword (and link) portfolio, the higher your site is likely to rank.

 

4. Natural links over everything.

Perhaps one of the most damaging things you can do when attempting to build your link portfolio is to purchase links through a third party who promises “great, easy, quick results.” Oftentimes, these third parties, in an effort to build “great, easy, quick results” take the easy and quick (not the great) route by purchasing links from fabricated websites. The way to check for this is to utilize Google Webmaster Tools “Sites Linking To” function to observe which sites link to yours. If “www.caribbeangetaway.com” is linked to a Houston-based Orthodontist’s site, we’ve got a big problem. Since the Google algorithm is so advanced, the bot will catch onto irrelevant and spammy links and will penalize a site for these, dropping the site’s ranking.

In other words, the Google bot can tell when you’re cheating and will penalize you eventually.

 

5. Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools are your BFFs. 

Who knew numbers could be so fun? Google Analytics helps you track web traffic and let’s you break down visitors to your site, allowing you to track trends and better cater to your audience. Google Webmaster Tools is similar to Analytics in the fact that you’re able to break down numbers in relation to your site, but really comes in handy when trying to visualize how the Google Bots see your domain. Check your Google Index Status, Content Keywords (what you’re ranking for), and remove bad and/or spammy linking URLs if necessary on Webmaster Tools. See your total number of Sessions (visits to your site), Bounce Rate (how quickly users leave your site after viewing only one page) and Average Session Duration (user time on site) in Google Analytics.

 

6. Don’t worry about likes…

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are virtually useless in terms of digital media marketing since Google can’t crawl these websites. That means any likes, comments, or tags on these social media platforms don’t contribute to virtual credibility and ranking for Google Search, save for public pages on Facebook and Twitter.

So if Google can’t crawl these websites, why spend time building rather useless profiles unless your target audience is the platform’s main demographic?

 

7. …A social media presence is important though!

Using social media outlets that Google is able to crawl is an easy way to bring more traffic to a site. Building a presence on sites like Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Rebel Mouse, and Flipboard, increase the chance and create more links for your website, while also increasing the audience size. Talk about two birds and one stone.

 

8. Brand YOURSELF not (just) your profession.

Purchasing the domain “DetroitPlasticSurgeon” may seem the obvious choice when looking to rank high based on keywords, but BEWARE! In terms of establishing a unique presence, “DetroitPlasticSurgeon.com,” is the antithesis of originality and does not guarantee that your site will rank as the number one or two spot. Instead, other well established and websites, usually those that include the practitioner’s surname and the keywords in the domain, rank higher, especially in the professional services sphere. In this day and age, wouldn’t you rather have a face and a name accompanying a brand, rather than basic keywords? Thank spammy websites for that. Additionally, when linking to your sites, Internet users will likely use your domain name as anchor text when when establishing links. Thus, pairing doctor or practice name with ‘plastic surgery’ should help in establishing natural links back to your site. At the end of the day, oftentimes a name and a keyword is more credible than just a keyword.  For more on establishing a domain name, check out Moz’s blog post on exact match domains (EDM’s).

 

9. Google Trends is a great way to leverage trending topics on Google for the benefit  

Google Trends allows users to access the trending searches on Google Search and YouTube. The Top Charts feature allows users to research the most searched people, places and things on Google. Additionally, the Explore feature allows users to track trending searches on Google, which comes in handy for website and blog owners wishing to stay ahead of the game in terms of content. This tool is also really cool in terms of retroactively comparing trending topics to each other and over time.

This helps us lead into our next tip, try and be first on a trend!

 

10. “If you ain’t first, you’re last!” 

Well, only kind of. The quicker you are to create a well developed, content and keyword heavy resource on a trending topic, the better. It’s a cold, cold competitive world online, and the faster that you push out good content, the quicker your site will be indexed, visited, and (hopefully) linked to.

 

11. Long tail keywords are the way to go. 

Newsflash: Semantic search is huge in terms of SEO. As of now, mobile technology is really driving search engine innovation, and as more and more devices now come standard with voice technology, users are  able to operate their phones handsfree. This features has helped catalyze the import of long tail keywords, since more users are searching semantically now. Think “What is the nearest movie theatre to me in Asheville, NC” vs. “Movie theatres Asheville.”  Users ask Google questions now, rather than search keywords they think will lead them to their final digital destination as before. This is important, because the more you optimize your website for semantic search, the more visitors you should see rolling in.

 

12. Tailor your site to optimize user experience.

SEO 101. If users aren’t able to fully access and utilize your site for information because it is unorganized, has faulty links or lame infrastructure, then there is a 100% chance they will go else where and your position on the SERP will inevitably decline.

Remember Tip #5? Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools can help assess how users interact with your site. If you have a high bounce rate, chances are you’re due for an SEO makeover.

 

13. Create more landing pages.

More landing pages invariably translates into more information, and the more relevant information and pages there are for Google to crawl and index, the more valuable your domain. Think back to Tip #1.

 

14. Don’t forget about meta data! 

Ensure that your site has proper meta data tags embedded in the HTML. Meta data are the one to two sentence descriptions that are used to provide a snippet of information on SERPs. Though these won’t improve your ranking via Google bots, these concise descriptions appeal to users who are able to assess for themselves the relevance of the meta tag to their query. In other words, meta tags are important in improving your click through rates.

 

It’s important to remember that Google’s main priority is to cater to Google users because if the search engine fails to do so, users won’t come back, and where’s the money in that? Keeping a user’s perspective in back of your mind, while following the advice of the tips above, you should be better suited against potential harm of search engine algorithm updates.