Busting myths and keeping up with the evolution of search engines

It can boost your business or keep you up all night. It’s of vital importance — or maybe it’s not that big of a deal, after all? (It is.) It’s SEO, and if your business has a website — which it absolutely should — it’s crucial for attracting potential customers and building brand awareness. As Sabri Suby, founder digital marketing agency King Kong and author of “Sell Like Crazy,” points out, there are more than 3.5 billion search queries per day on Google, which is not just the world’s most popular search engine, but its most popular website.

With such an importance placed on SEO, and the evolution of search engine algorithms, it’s no surprise there is a lot of misinformation out there. Some of it might have been true at one time but has now become obsolete. Some of it is simply bogus but repeated often enough it has gained currency. Since this month’s issue is all about learning, we aim to provide a quick tutorial on SEO.

Duplicate content

Everyone knows duplicate content will kill you in search engine rankings, right? Well, not necessarily. Sure, if your website is just the same content posted over and over on several different pages, or your website is just a reproduction of someone else’s website, it will hurt you because you have nothing to add. But say you have a page listing categories of products you sell, then another page with product details. Odds are, some of that content will be the same, and that’s OK.

‘Content is king’

This isn’t necessarily untrue, but it’s important to offer value. It’s not enough to just throw up as many posts as possible. Search engines look for quality, authoritative content. As Suby says, “Engaging content gets read, and if your website packs a whole lot of value there is going to be a handful of positive knock-on effects for your website metrics and in turn your SEO.

“First and foremost, if your content is engaging, visitors will look around for longer so your bounce rate should decrease, your time on site should increase and so should your pages per visit and these are all incredibly important on-page ranking factors.

“Search engines reward sites that provide relevant information that gets read. And if you want to turn prospects that visit your site into customers, then giving them quality helpful advice that grabs their interest and trust is a good place to start.”

Guest Blogging

seo, the venture magazineFormer Google head of web spam Matt Cutts famously declared guest blogging “done” in 2014. What he meant was, don’t just post anything and everything from guest bloggers who barely string a sentence together to build links to your page. As with any content, make sure a guest blog post is well-written and by someone who knows what they’re talking about. As Suby, author of the occasional guest post for VENTURE, stated above, deliver value. With SEO, quality is better than quantity. Expert guest posts can be a great source of traffic, and search engines don’t necessarily even know a post is from a guest.

The Importance of Mobile

In mid-2015, mobile searches surpassed desktop searches, and they haven’t looked back. So if you’re not mobile-friendly, your site won’t fare well with search engines.

“Mobile phones are a huge part of everyday life with over 53 per cent of users accessing the internet doing so via a mobile device,” Suby says. “Meaning if your site hasn’t been optimised for mobile, your business is missing out hugely!

“In order to make your site user-friendly across all device types, ensure you develop a responsive site design, which essentially means your web pages will automatically shrink or expand across a variety of screen sizes.

“You can easily determine your site’s mobile-friendliness with webmaster tools like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. Simply enter your URL and it will tell you anything that Google doesn’t find mobile friendly.”

Be Fast

Slow loading speed doesn’t necessarily hurt you with search engines, at least directly. But that doesn’t mean speed doesn’t matter. No matter how interesting a link on your site might seem, people won’t wait forever, and having people leaving your site in droves will affect your SEO.

As Suby says, “People want things now — in fact, research indicates that 53 per cent of people will leave a webpage if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load! So it’s vital that you know your site’s speed — a great tool for determining this is Pingdom. By simply entering the URL and country it will give you a load time, your overall rating and it will tell you exactly what’s slowing your site down — be it oversized images, too much JavaScript etc.

“Another thing to mention is that website hosting plays a big part in site speed — so ensure you are with a decent provider such as Digital Pacific.”

Imagesseo, the venture magazineJust as people won’t wait a long time for a page to load, they want to see pictures right away too. We’re visual creatures, after all.

“Your site will be more successful with images but not if they take forever to load. No one is willing to wait 10 seconds to view an image! So where possible avoid using PNG images as they are naturally a bigger file size and instead opt for using JPEG files — particularly for big sliders and headers,” Suby says.

“Another way to decrease the size of your images and speed up your load time is by decompressing the images themselves. Use photoshop (they have an optimised for web section), or if this isn’t accessible, there are lots of other compressing sites you can easily upload your images to such as JPEG, Tiny JPG, or Compressor.io.”

Keywords

When Google launched Hummingbird, its latest algorithm, there was some chatter that keywords didn’t mean much for SEO anymore. That’s not true. What’s gone is the ability to game the system by stuffing pages with keywords. Because earlier search engine algorithms weren’t as in tune with human speech as they are now, web crawlers would be impressed simply by the frequency of a keyword, ranking those pages higher. Now, more sophisticated algorithms are looking at the context of that keyword to make sure it’s actually relevant.

No Quick Fix

Just because you don’t see immediate improvement in your search engine rankings after making a few changes to your SEO strategy, that doesn’t mean nothing’s working and you should give up. There are more than a billion registered websites out there, and you’re not going to appear on Google’s front page for every topic. On top of that, it can take months for search engines to reflect your changes. Build organically, use best practices, and be patient.

Create a Sitemap

seo, the venture magazine“A simple site architecture helps your pages get indexed faster by search engines and then ranked higher,” Suby says. “To create a site architecture, you need a sitemap. Most CMS platforms already have default sitemap software built in — for example, Shopify — or if you are using WordPress there are plenty of plugins you can utilise such as Yoast. However, just because the software does the heavy lifting for you, don’t forget that once you have done all your on page work and your site map is ready that you still need to submit it to Google Search Console.

SEO isn’t dead

Rumours of SEO’s demise have been flying around for the better part of a decade, but the reality is, SEO will be around as long as people are using the internet. It might look significantly different than it used to, and it will continue to evolve as technology improves. That doesn’t mean you need to re-optimise with every single change, but you should do so periodically and keep up with major changes, or risk getting left behind.