Urgent SEO changes you need to make

Stuart Garlick

Getting up Google — it’s enough to be an obsession. Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is often considered to be a kind of Jedi art - out of the reach of mere mortals, up there with being able to mind-trick Stormtroopers into letting your droids go past. Is it, though?

No, not really. The ability to get a high-ranking search listing, whether your search engine of choice is the biggest, Google, or a competitor like Bing or DuckDuckGo, is within the reach of anyone, if your content meets the necessary - and shifting - criteria.

This article will look at the ways you can make your online content, everything from landing pages right through to blog posts, work well not only on the page, but also on the pages of search engines, thus attracting new traffic from a multitude of places.

Also, a proviso. We want you to be aware that while these are good general principles in order to sharpen up your content and get it looking the way search engines like it to, SEO is a constantly changing discipline, and you need to make sure you, and your content, is adaptable like a chameleon in order to be effective and to stay at the top of those searches.

Focus on quality

It might sometimes seem like, when tuning into conversations about SEO, that quality takes a back seat to “having the words that people like to type into search bars” - but this isn’t true, or at least, it isn’t true any longer. This is because Google, and in turn all the other search engines, have got way more intelligent with how they look at sites.

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The principles of how they do so are the same as they always were - code known as ‘crawlers’ are sent out to check on websites, and they return the results that Google’s algorithm uses to decide which links go where, and why.

One of the key updates in this respect was Panda, the algorithm that made content creators look at SEO with a fresh pair of eyes. What it essentially said was that Google could, from that point on, understand, through machine learning, whether a text demonstrated “quality” or not. The basis for deciding what is and isn’t quality content may seem subjective, but it is based on a good general organisation of text, clarity of thought, logical use of paragraphs, and a series of other factors.

Break your work up

Sub-headings are what encourage all of us to read on in a long article - that’s human nature. It’s because the human brain gets tired of reading an endless wall of text. Sure, we used to devour 500-page novels as a matter of routine back in the day, but people have changed, and so too has the internet.

I really hope you don't recognise yourself on this picture and this post is a little more engaging. 

You can’t expect people to absorb all of your content if you don’t provide clear signals where it is going and what it is referring to, and the same applies to search engines, too. Yes, it’s true that when it comes to search, it’s not a fickle, time-poor human reading your text, but rather an algorithm, but still, algorithms love sub-headings.

Why is this?

It’s because if you look at most of the top-matching posts on Google, they’re broken up into sub-categories that users can click on.

Take, for example, Voog’s own Google search match, above. You can see that we’ve optimised the main link that users click on, so that it mentions the name of the product and also a short tag-line that explains what it does. Below that is a very short product description (more on those later), and those links to other parts of the site. Thanks to logical placement of links on Voog’s landing page, Google was able to detect that those four pages were the most important to list.

The same principle applies to articles. If you show, through your subheadings, how you want to explain a topic, then it will follow that Google will interpret it as being a good, readable article, and while this is not the only factor that goes into SEO optimisation, it definitely helps your cause as you look to get more articles listed higher up for key search terms.

Keep to a decent number of words with blog content

This might at first seem a bit nebulous, so allow us to explain further: blog posts are meant to tell the reader something, whether it is about something your company has learned in a certain process, or something you want to tell readers, or you want them to think about. There are many reasons for writing a post on your blog, but a blog post is just a whistle in the wind if it doesn’t reach anyone.

When it comes to SEO, search engines never release their algorithmic information to the public, because why would they? Do that, and they lose the ability to remain in control of their own product, and to keep the element of surprise. Search engines are also fiercely protective of their intellectual property, because they all believe they offer the best service to end users, and if sites contributing to their listings knew their secrets, in theory anyone could replicate the algorithm.

What all this means is that there is no ‘ten commandments’ for SEO, because the rules change and shift over time.

What can be said with some degree of certainty, though, is that article length plays a strong role in deciding how high your blog post can get on Google or any of its rivals. It used to be that you could write something that was 250 words long, stuffed with as many keywords as possible, and it would do at least moderately well on search engines.

Now, that’s simply not the case. SEO experts are divided on the exact number of words needed to keep an article relevant to search engine algorithms, but it is commonly thought that 800 is okay, but 1000 or more will all but ensure good performance in the long term, provided it’s all meaningful, quality content on a specific topic. Remember that it may take as long as six months for a good-quality article to get the SEO results it deserves, depending on the topic being discussed, its popularity, how well-organised the site is, and many other factors.

The basics still matter like they used to

All this is not to say that SEO basics are not required. None of what we’ve already mentioned will matter if your site and page descriptions (the text that search engines display in results to show what the site is ‘about’) are not correct and well-targeted. Ensure the description sums up what your product does, and what it’s for, in one line or about 12 words.

This is so important, and although you can change the description, once search engines have captured it, they won’t reflect changes in real-time, you’ll need to wait for them to filter through. This is yet more reason to think carefully about what you want your description to be. “Voog is a mess-free platform that enables you to build awesome websites with a creative flow” is our description - we chose it because it uses our common voice and mentions all of the most important things about our website builder.

For your description, use a whiteboard or a piece of paper, and write down the two or three words that you would most want it to be associated with. You then have the basis for your description. It’s very important that your description doesn’t seem to plagiarise others - this is something Google and other search engines look out for.

What about keywords?

They used to be the only thing that most people ever associated with SEO, and so enterprising webmasters would ensure that they would stuff even the least-relevant piece of work with words or phrases taken from Google’s Adwords keyword tool, or keywordtool.io, or another such application. These days, we still recommend you identify a series of keywords and phrases that most people search for when looking for information related to your website or article (for example “how can I join Netflix?” or “10 best website builders”), but use keywords sparingly. Spread them through your paragraphs, don’t make frantic pivots in your writing style or subject matter to fit them in, and ensure they do not interrupt the flow of your content.

Google, in particular, is so intelligent nowadays that it can smell an attempt at SEO fraud a mile off - and if it does smell one, it might delist your site, which is a harsh penalty to pay. Write with quality, stick to your subject matter, and give someone who searches for you what they want to see, and your popularity with readers, along with your site’s innate searchability, will help you rocket higher and higher up search engine listings.
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