You are probably tired of listening to all the Penguin news, the talk that SEO is dead, and that link building is over. Good, me too.
I personally think that talking about all of the changes in Google and ranking penalties have blocked the SEO community from seeing what has remained unchanged.
What changed then?
I will start with the most interesting part (I think) of the latest trends in on-page SEO.
New trends in on-page SEO
On-page factors and technical SEO have not really changed as much as some of you may have thought in the last few years. I think it is safe to say that Google is slowly shifting more and more towards user experience factors. The recent Searchmetrics Ranking Factors 2014 study seems to confirm this theory. The main goal of Google Panda was to filter out all the low quality sites and keep only the best ones.
No more bloated websites – less is more
In 2012, Google loved content. Any content. The larger your index, the better you could rank. After a few Panda updates, they got much smarter. Panda’s diet includes not only bamboo, but also FAT WEBSITES. So in 2014, get as lean as possible.
How to do it?
- Remove all the duplicate content pages (ex. – by correctly using rel-canonicals).
- If you have pages that aren’t ranking nor getting organic traffic, then it is clear that Google considers them low quality. You have 3 options: de-index it, remove it or rewrite it.
Create landing pages for topics, not keywords
Yeah, Google will figure out topics just fine. This isn’t completely new, but it’s clearly moved beyond just a concept. I can confirm that Google is doing much better with topics now.
How to do it?
- Divide your content into clear topic “buckets”
- Try to interlink only within one bucket
- Create clear landing pages for each topic
- Support those landing pages with awesome content linking to it
Your main page shouldn’t be your main landing page
Probably 90% of you will say, “Yeah, I have done that for years now.” Are you sure? I would go through your main keywords and check the pages that are ranking for those. I still see (too) many websites targeting all kinds of different keywords with one or two landing pages (usually main page + an offer page).
For example, let’s say you are trying to rank for “motorcycle repair” and “secondhand cars” and “carburetors repair.” It is quite clear that you will not be able to optimize for SEO or conversions with just one landing page. If it is confusing for humans, it surely will be confusing for Google, too.
How to do it?
- Just as in previous statement, create separate landing pages for each topic group (in the case above, for each service you are offering).
- Use your main page for brand building and brand awareness (general information about who you are and building trust). Get your branding from landing pages that are also easy to reach from your main page.
You can read more about site structure in my article here: http://www.linkresearchtools.com/case-studies/how-to-create-right-link-building-strategy/.
Reject unwanted rankings
This is not a popular statement. I strongly believe that ranking for the wrong keyword can bring Panda’s wrath upon you.
Let me give you an example. I have a customer who sells police lights. They were also ranking for terms like “cop games” and “police games.” All the traffic to their site from those keywords was bouncing back to Google where users then clicked on other websites that better corresponded to their query. This is clearly a terrible user experience. I wrote about SERP bounce rate being a ranking factor in my summary of SEO workshop with ex-Googlers.
So far, when I mention this idea, I get mixed reactions from the SEO community. Still, I strongly believe it is crucial to only rank for the right keywords.
How to fix it?
- De-optimize for the keywords you don’t want to rank for. Sometimes simply changing a few headers can solve the problem.
- If the page is ranking only for 1 (wrong) keyword, simply remove it.
Help users solve their problem with your content
Google is getting much better at guessing if a user is willing to simply find and buy your product or just gather more information. When you are creating content, it is quite important to create content answering your user’s questions and solve their problems.
In my opinion, Google is now rewarding websites that are answering many queries that remain unanswered by other websites.
Google’s goal is to terminate searches!
If your website is going to be the best in the niche in terminating searches, it is a really strong signal about your website’s authority. By “terminating searches,” I don’t mean that you replace Google. I’m saying that someone stops their search on your site because you can answer their question.
How to do it right?
One of the best ways to find, inform and then monetize your visitors is by answering their questions and then showing them an offer fitting their search.
Nowadays, it is actually quite easy as we have powerful solutions at our fingertips. Let me give you a nice example of a great and simple marketing plan used by many eCommerce sites right now.
Example conversion flow for an online store:
Create a nice in-detail page with all of the information needed to solve your customer’s problem. For example, give them detailed information about getting an LED TV.
Based on this visit, we’ve got our most important data. We know exactly what pages he visited and which links he clicked. We’ve got the 2 most important things we need to sell our product.
- User (cookie)
- What he/she wants to buy (e.g., model, size or kind of a TV)
Now, with the right remarketing campaign we can reach out to the user by feeding remarketing ads to the sites he frequents.
With the data you’ve got now, you can display only the product that your customer is willing to buy. It is really great for conversions!
As you can see, SEO and online marketing is constantly changing. Google is just a part of that. Now, just having a lot of traffic for the “LED TV” keyword is not the main goal of webmasters. Without the right content, website structure supporting your link building efforts, great link building, and perfect on-page SEO, you are risking losing sales and being outranked by your competitors.
Fortunately, for those of you who are scared of all of the new SEO trends, there are a few things that remain more or less unchanged. If you are still wary about on-page SEO, start with these SEO classics!
On-Page SEO classics
This is something that you’ve probably heard million times already, but I dare you to find the top 10 results for any keyword where all 10 pages have these right.
I will not explain implementing and using these because they are pretty straightforward and easy to learn about online. Let me just list them one by one:
- Meta Title
- Meta Description
- H tags properly implemented
- Alt image tags
- Image names
- Correct sitemap
- Server response time
- Site load time
- Internal 404 errors corrected
- Duplicate content issues fixed
- Clear and correct website structure
- Click Through Rate from Google
- HTML/Text ratio
- W3C validation issues
Do SEO like Gordon Ramsey
Once you have solved all the problems above, you have a good chance of outranking your competitors with just that list. To understand it better, let me compare Google to Gordon Ramsey.
Pretend you’re Gordon Ramsey and your job is to choose the top 10 restaurants from New York. Obviously, even with gourmet food, if your kitchen and dining area is a mess, you have no chance of ranking at all.
It is the same with SEO – if you have a clear and organized website, Google will probably have an easier job evaluating your content. And that will help your site get into its Top 10 lists.
I feel quite strange writing about supporting off-page SEO with right on-page structure when it should be the other way around. In a time like this when one good link often costs a few hundred dollars to get (not build), using its potential to the max is not only a good idea, it is crucial.
For a while, on-page SEO wasn’t sexy because most SEOs were building links. Now I think that more and more effort will go towards optimization of the whole SEO process.
On-Page SEO may still not be sexy, but it will make you more money because it holistically improves your site to appeal to Google and users.
Bartosz Góralewicz specializes in fixing Panda and Penguin problems. With his team of specialists currently working with top 500 companies as well as with small to medium businesses. Bartosz is really passionate about creating great SEO strategy by merging off-page efforts with a great on-page structure.