There are two aspects of SEO from a high level. There’s the on-page aspect, which is making changes to the content and meta tags via a CMS or in some other backend and also improving the search engine crawl-ability of the site. Improving your website for search bots and for your human visitors is called on-page SEO. Then there’s link building or off-page SEO, where you would go and figure out how to get other sites to link to your site to improve the rankings of the site. Backlinks are links coming to your site from other sites. That used to be what we did, and it’s still more or less what we do, but a lot of the tactics we use, particularly in the link-building arena, they’re just not as effective anymore.
Worse yet, a lot of the tactics are actually now penalized by Google. So actually in the last year or so, I’ve done a number of what we call link remediation projects, which is to go and get a bunch of backlinks removed because Google doesn’t like them. So there are still a lot of SEO consultants who will do these tactics, but the old practices just don’t work anymore. The best backlinks are the ones that you earn because your content on your website is so awesome that people will naturally link to it. So the SEO game today is to build a great site and then design marketing campaigns that get people interested in what you have to say so that they share it with their audience.
Great content attracts visitors and backlinks.
You need great content on your site. Here are some questions you want to ask yourself about your content: Is it really important? Is it unique? Is it fresh? Is it exciting and engaging? Or is it just like everybody else’s content? That’s really important. SEO is closely tied to content development efforts and marketing. No longer can you just tell your SEO person to go off and add links? Today SEO professionals have to work together with the site owners to come up with content that will result in links. It’s really a much more holistic discipline.
And even the on-page stuff, such as adding keywords to your page, has changed. These days it’s more about content themes than just keywords. It used to be a pretty simple thing, but now it’s a lot more tied to the success of the site overall.
Sofia: I had no idea that if people just got bored with your site and left quickly, then that would affect your SEO. So I guess it really matters what you put on your site.
Cara: It does. It matters quite a bit. Google’s a black box, so we speculate on exactly what Google looks at, but good SEO consultants test. They make changes on a website, and they notice how that impacts their rankings and traffic.
We also read the patents that Google files. We definitely have noticed that Google is paying attention to what we call user-engagement statistics (time on site, bounce rate, and how many pages visited). Content makes a big difference. The quality of your content really makes a big difference as well. All these things can be a factor in Google SEO.
Sofia: It’s good that you can talk to us about it because I think it’s still a mystery to a lot of people, including myself sometimes. I know basics, but I’m definitely not an expert. What are some of the top SEO mistakes you see business owners making?