The Ultimate Digital Marketing Solution Guide to SEO for 2015 onwards.

By David Roche, Pixelghetto. 31 May 2015.

Introduction:

Sometimes it really does feel as if Google is deliberately trying to make the job of an Internet marketer more difficult. Just when you think you have everything working just right, along comes another search algorithm change and you are back to the drawing board.

Frustrating? Yes of course; however they do this for a good reason, they just want to provide the best user experience possible; which of course should also be the objective of your own website.

2014 was a good year for SEO particularly for online retailers and organic search was the primary starting point for businesses to put their services and products in front of their target customers.

It is widely accepted that around 60% of people looking to book travel begin their journey via search and across the board (almost every industry) organic search drives over 50% of all traffic.

SEO will continue to be a valuable tool in your overall Internet marketing strategy for many years to come; however old techniques need to be replaced with new and the following tips and techniques will help you to stay ahead of the competition.

Keywords:

Keyword strategy has been one of the most important elements of a successful SEO campaign since the birth of digital marketing in the mid 90’s.

In the beginning, it was a simple matter of stuffing a page with your target keywords in order to achieve a result; needless to say this does not work anymore and any attempt to do this will result in your website disappearing from search engine results (SERPs) altogether.

Google update the way they use & view keywords on a regular basis, with the last major update specifically affecting keywords being the Hummingbird update in 2013.

Many SEO practitioners now believe that the most effective keyword strategy is to optimise each page of your website with just one keyword, with this keyword appearing within elements such as the page title, headings (H Tags), image alt/title text and throughout the page copy.

Each of these items must be crafted for humans and not search engines so the rule of thumb is that if your page reads well once you have optimised it around a specific keyword; it will be OK. If it is obvious that a keyword has been repeated many times and feels like spam, then it is spam and this will get you into trouble. Your keywords need to flow within the content and this is why content writers and SEO teams should work closely together.

Using co-varieties of a keyword to achieve organic search results is important, we know this because Google told us in 2014 that their paid search service AdWords would no longer rely on exact match keywords. Instead AdWords would also take co-varieties of a keyword into account.

A successful SEO campaign cannot be measured by where your target keywords rank in Google. It is possible to rank number one for multiple keywords that have no real return on investment.

Focussing your keyword strategy around metrics that bring conversions is the ultimate objective so doing your homework and understanding; which keywords are likely to bring in the highest ROI is paramount.

The way that people use keywords during search has also changed over time. Nowadays a more conversational style search is conducted with people often using complete questions during the search process. This is why using co-varieties of keywords and a long-tail approach is so important.

 

long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are longer, more specific phrases consumers are more likely to use when they’re further along in the buying cycle and closer to making a purchase. If you are optimising an e-commerce store, then the use of long-tail keywords will be a real advantage to you, particularly if a consumer is looking for a specific product that you happen to sell.

 

long-tail keywords

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about LSI keywords; which stands for “latent semantic indexing”. It sounds complicated; however it is nothing more than the use of synonyms and plurals of your main keywords. LSI also tells Google what the relationship of one keyword is to another. If it sees the word “stones” along with keywords such as “ruby” or “diamond,” it understands that the page is about precious stones and not The Rolling Stones.

The advent of semantic search means that keyword research is more important than it has ever been. Yesteryear, we could focus on a few keywords and search phrases, today we have to take a look at the bigger picture and include LSI keywords and long-tail keywords in the equation in addition to conversation phrases searchers would use to look for your product or service.

Content:

For many years, everyone has known that in SEO terms, “Content is King” and nothing has changed. In fact, writing high quality content is even more important than it used to be because it is the primary generator and only reliable method for achieving high-value in-bound links. If your content is great, other websites will link to it. This is known as “Earned Media.”

Google’s search algorithm is more than capable of identifying unoriginal text and you will not achieve results by using it. Writing original, unique and interesting text is the only way! Do this and you will be rewarded with more traffic and more business.

URLs:

URLs have to be easy to crawl because a URL is one of the first elements that a search engine uses to determine page rank.

URLs should be kept short and include the page topic and keyword. For example: http://www.dreamholsireland.com/web-design/web-design.html

Page Titles – Title tags:

A title tag is used by Google and other search engines to display a page in search results and it can also be found at the top of your browser. The purpose of a title tag is to tell Internet users and search engines what the page is all about. Therefore, the more compelling the copy is within a title tag, the more chance that someone will click on it.

This is particularly important if your page is shown mid-page on SERPs because searchers will usually click on the top 3 results.

There are many different opinions about how long a title tag should be ranging from a minimum of 110 characters to between 50 and 60.

Google typically displays the first 50-60 characters of a title tag. If you keep your titles under 55 characters, you can expect at least 95% of your titles to display properly; however remember that search engines do not have to use the information within your title tag to tell users what your website is about. They will often provide searchers with a description that matches your brand or the user query.

page titles

The general rule of thumb for writing title tags in 2015 is to avoid using a string of keywords and instead, write your title in a similar manner to a newspaper headline with your keywords located towards the front of the text. If your page is product based, then use your long-tail keyword as the text for your title tag.

Heading Tags:

Websites that are constructed correctly utilise Heading tags <H tags> within the HTML code. Heading tags help to tell a search engine the level of importance of the content of a page. <H1> tags identify the content that is most important, followed by <H2>, <H3> and <H4> etc.

What H tags should do is clearly tell the reader and search engines what the page topic is.

Generic terms such as Our Services, Our Products should be avoided because they add no value to your SEO.

Image alt text / Image title text:

All images on your website should include either alt or title text, this is just sensible because you are giving the search engines further opportunities to find your keywords & co-varieties of keywords.

Links:

Quality inbound links to your website pages will continue to be an important ranking factor in 2015. The more quality links in, the higher up SERPS you will be and remember that links to inside pages (not just the home page) of your website are valuable.

Today, there really is only one effective method of getting quality inbound links and that is to write incredible, quality & informative content. Other methods can work but are usually very time consuming with little reward.

Historically, links have been used by SEO practitioners to manipulate search engines to obtain higher SERPs, Google knows this and they have adapted their search algorithm to identify links that have not been obtained organically (naturally).

There really is no point spending time or money investing in link programs, they just do not work and will likely result in your website being penalised. Write high quality content that is shared around the Internet and other websites will link to you.

Unfortunately, you can be penalised if you have bad links to your website. The best way to find out who is linking to your site is to use a monitoring tool (there are plenty available on the Internet) and then ensure that any negative links that could harm your ranking are removed.

As a last resort you could use Google’s Disavow links tool; however use this with extreme caution. If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your site's performance in Google's search results.

Site Speed:

In 2015, Google will be all about user experience. We have already seen significant algorithm changes to favour mobile-friendly (responsive) websites and we can expect Google to continue to favour anything that improves user experience in the future.

Google has stated that site speed does effect search rankings and with the emphasis on user experience becoming more important to Google, site speed will become a critical ranking factor in the future.

If your website does not load really quickly, users will not wait for it to load and will go elsewhere plus your position on SERPS will be significantly lowered.

Common reasons why site speed is too slow include: embedded videos or media, too many images, images that are not compressed in size, plugins and bad coding. The hosting company that you use can also effect the speed that your website loads. Overloaded web servers slow down load times so ensure that you use a company with a proved track record in delivering fast load times.

Mobile Search:

Mobile search in 2015 and beyond is so important that brands & websites should have a mobile marketing strategy including a solid SEO plan.

During 2014, nearly 40% of organic search originated from a mobile device and this is exactly why Google changed their search algorithm in April 2015 to favour mobile-friendly websites.

Smartphones and tablets accounted for 60% of total digital media time spent in 2014 and any good SEO plan for the future should include the creation of a mobile website or as Google recommends, a responsive design.

 

responsive web design

Re-designing your entire website into a responsive design is an obvious way to ensure that your website is mobile-friendly; however this is not always practical and a hybrid approach may be a more realistic alternative.

Many websites provide a mobile-friendly version of their content with users being re-directed to this version when the server identifies that the request to view the site is coming from a mobile device.

The hybrid version does come with problems however!

Common issues to look out for include: mobile configuration errors, slow mobile load times and faulty redirects.

More than Google?

The default search engine for Firefox is Yahoo; which accounted for around 25% of all browser usage in 2014. Safari currently have a deal with Google; however that is due to end sometime during 2015 and Yahoo and Bing are both trying to become the default search provider for this browser. It is therefore; also important that you consider these search engines during your optimisation process.

Google is the number one search engine and most of your efforts should be focussed on achieving Google SERPs, this is where the majority of your traffic will come from.

There is plenty of speculation in the Internet marketing world that Google will favour websites that use Google products such as an associated Google + page, embedded Google maps & embedded YouTube videos. The advice is to air on the side of caution and play in Google’s sandbox with their toys. They will probably like you for doing so!

Google + is quickly becoming a social media platform that cannot be ignored. If you do not have a Google + page, build one and encourage as many people as possible to join your circle and give you a +1.

Social Media:

Social Media platforms do include social media signals as a ranking factor and will continue to do so during 2015 and beyond.

Having your content shared widely on social media networks is very valuable and only good things can happen if more and more people visit your website or identify your brand.

As a minimum, your website should have an associated Facebook fan page, Google + page and a Twitter account. These three social media platforms will provide you with a solid network to help spread (share) your content, provide traffic to your website and get users to identify with your brand.

social media

Social media sites like Facebook are high-authority sites. So a Facebook or Google+ business Page has the potential to rank better than your actual website.

About the author:

David Roche is the manager and part-owner of Pixelghetto based in Warsaw, Poland. He is a Lead Designer and SEO specialist with over 18 years’ experience in many aspects of Digital Media including responsive web design. David has worked in senior management roles within prestigious organisations such as Trinity Mirror plc where he headed up the Digital Development team and Switch Media plc where he was responsible for building a SEO team and introducing SEO and Internet marketing as a product.

David has also worked as a SEO consultant on projects around the world including Dubai, Las Vegas and Majorca.

To contact David, please send an email to: david@dreamholsireland.com