Since 1998 when Google first unleashed its algorithm on to an unsuspecting and fledgling internet, and industry has been building up around it. At first that industry was build around optimising your website for SEO or Search Engine Optimisation. Later, as Google moved in to a Return On Investmnet mode for it’s original backers, it built what would later become the most powerful and well-used ad platform the planet has ever seen. And another industry started to take shape. The SEM or Search Engine Marketing industry. And you can be guaranted that when a new industry pops up, the snake oil salesmen start moving in.
The Death of Link Farms
Remember Hotfrog? They were this “link farm” project that was designed to scrape lists of businesses from existing online directories like the Yellow and White Pages directories and offered a data structure that was designed to get the attention of the Google algorithm when it came to listing local businesses. Hotfrog and others like them boomed as links to their business listings attracted mountains of traffic across the internet. If you were smart back then, you would have paid for a premium listing with Hotfrog as almost every time you looked for a plumber or a cafe on Google in your area, you would get links to Hotfrog and other link farms for the businesses they listed in those categories.And then Google got smart. Directories like Hotfrog and an entire industry of Link Farms disappeared from Google Search Results. In one fateful update to the algorithm it was like this entire industry ceased to exist.But this didn’t stop the industry from finding other ways to game the system in their favour.
Submitting your site to hundreds of search engines
Next was the Reputation Hack. This is what I called the proliferation of companies that were offering to “Submit your website to hundreds of forums and search engines to boost your traffic!” For a little while this worked too. Businesses flocked to this new industry of Search Engine Optimisers to get them to boost their businesses to take advantage of this new internet thing.Fast forward a year and Google added another tweak to their algorithm. This time, punishing websites that had seemingly had their link listed in other websites that were flagged as “suspicious” by Google for offering link-backs for money from businesses and this new industry of “Optimsers.”And another industry was disrupted as Google got smarter.
The trouble with SEO Experts
Despite these and so many more lessons that Google has been teaching dodgy SEO and SEM operators since 1998, there is still an ecosystem of “SEO Experts” and “Google Adwords Superstars.” And they all seem to claim that only they seem to have found some “special sauce” that boosts your listing on Google, beats your competitions and gets your ad on the top of the pile.Except they can’t deliver this. And event if they seem to deliver it on Week 1, they seem completely unable to deliver it in a sustainable and ongoing way withoug tweaking site structure, key words, adding dozens of new articles a day to the site and continually be placing links on other websites all over the internet, social networks and news sites.You see, Search Engine Optimisation is a time and labour-intensive task simply because you are trying to make something natural, like the sharing of great articles and content, in to something unnatural, like cheating a system to get artificial interest in a website that frankly, isn’t producing much of anything interesting at all.
There is no magic SEO formula
There is no magic formula to ranking well in Google. There are, however a number of basic principles that you must get right to even have a chance at ranking well in Google.
- High Traffic – if you get high traffic, you will rank better, leading to more traffic, so work on ways to ensure that you can get good, solid and consistently high traffic. Not with SEO tricks, but with good content that people actually want to read.
- Unique content – this means that you need to produce your own content. Not copy someone else’s. Write your own stories and news. Trust me, Google will know if you’re simply lifting gear from elsewhere… and they’re punish you for it.
- Clear and clean site-structure – use H tags and text styles like “Heading 1” for titles and “Heading 2” for subtitles. You’ll notice we did it for subtitles in this article.
- Regular updates – you can’t just set it and forget it. A site that is updated often with good, unique content is indexed better by Google every time.
- Have an AMP version of your site for super-fast viewing on mobile devices. AMP, or Accellerated Mobile Pages helps Google know that you care about useability and speed for the end-user, and they will reward you for having AMP pages in your site.
- Credible referencing – this is where your site is linked-to by others on credible sites. It’s where bloggers mention you and link back to you, or where a news story quotes you and links to you. But be careful, as your link being on non-credible sites can be bad bad news and Google will punish you.
- Guest-blogging – invite people to write on your site and have them invite you to write on theirs. This kind of cross-linking is healthy and seen as community-building activity by Google. The more you provide real and unique content on other’s sites that you use to link back to yourself, the better you’ll perform online.
- Time – you’ll need plenty of this, because you’re coming in to the game a long time after the best in this game did. They’ve been around a long time, did the hard yards ten years ago, and as such, your little blog or product catalogue isn’t going to rank just because you think it’s cool. You need plenty of time to build reputation, traffic, authority and a whole lot of quality links from others.
- Well-written titles and content – Your article’s title is essentially an ad on Google for people to click through to your website. So be clever. But not too clever. Playing with catchy rhymes and alliteration isn’t going to get you clicks. But having a title that describes clearly what your article is about and entices someone to click on the title is paramount. You may need to get some help from a professional copywriter like Word Dynamics to help you out.
And finally you can’t downplay the value that spending a bit of money on some Google Adwords ads plays in helping your site to perform better – even just for the fact that it drives some initial traffic to you so that you can get some momentum on at least one of the list above when it comes to SEO.