My SEO Journey, Part 2

By John Eberhard

[This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Here is a link to Part 1.]

SEO refers to Search Engine Optimization, which is the activity of getting a web page or site to rank as highly as possible in search engines for a given keyword or group of keywords. The goal of SEO is increased traffic to a website from search engines.

My R&D Project

In the fall of 2015 I began the most intensive research project that I have ever done, to find out the best avenues for conducting SEO into 2016 and beyond. The reason I did this was because my priority as an SEO consultant, and really with everything I do in Internet marketing, has always been to deliver the best possible results to clients.

The Findings

What I found out was that on-page optimization has not really changed all that much, though I will detail below the highest priorities.

But off-page optimization, and specifically link building, has changed drastically over the last 5 years. As mentioned above, Google has conducted a step by step campaign to eliminate all the actions that SEO consultants have been doing in terms of link building.

But links pointing to your site from other sites are still one of the most important factors in determining how well your site will rank for any given keyword. So it’s still important to have links. So how do you get them?

I have had to search far and wide for any credible data on what link building can still be done today.

But I finally cracked it. So what’s the answer? Patience grasshopper. First we’ll cover on-page optimization.

On-Page Optimization in 2016

On-page optimization, or SEO that you do specifically to your web site has not changed that much over the last few years. However, based on my research, here are the top priorities:

  1. Conduct keyword research to find keywords with as high searches as possible, but with lower numbers of sites competing for those keywords.
  2. Write titles and descriptions utilizing the best keywords you have selected.
  3. Attach alt tags to your graphic and picture content utilizing your targeted keywords. These are tags that one can attach to picture files, and are just another valid way to put keywords onto a page.
  4. Use keywords in your H1, H2, and H3 tags, which are used to indicate headlines and sub-headlines.
  5. Ensure your site is mobile friendly, with responsive being the format that Google prefers. This will positively impact your ranking and negatively impact it if the site is not. You can test your site here.
  6. Your page loading speed should be low, under 4 seconds. If not this will negatively impact ranking. You can test that here.
  7. Ensure there is no duplicate content within the site, i.e. multiple pages with the same text.
  8. Put the primary keyword for a given page somewhere within the first 100 words of the main page text.
  9. Popup windows negatively impact rankings.
  10. Create a sitemap and submit it inside the Google Webmaster Tools interface.
  11. Having a “terms of service” and “privacy” page are considered a positive for rankings.
  12. Include your targeted keywords in the URL of the page, which in most cases means include the keyword in the name of the page.
  13. Longer text content is a positive and is shown in studies to cause pages to rank better. By longer we mean 1,500-2,000 words. This is a new one in that it used to be that SEO people recommended a minimum of 300 words per page. But research now shows that pages with 1,500-2,000 words do rank more highly. That’s not to say you are going to write 1,500 or more words for every page. But if you can write longer copy for several pages on your site, they will have a better chance of ranking more highly.
  14. Some experts are now saying that if you link FROM your web pages, to other high authority sites, that search engines interpret that to mean your site is more legit or authoritative. They say you should include 2-4 links per 1,000 words.

Off-Page Optimization

Google pioneered the method of using the number of links to a website as the primary criteria for determining the ranking of that website. The idea being that if a site had lots of links to it from other sites, that meant it was important.

When Google came to prominence, SEO consultants began finding ways to proactively create links to their sites from other sites.

Google despises this, and they have spent most of the work on their algorithm over the last 5 years in trying to prevent SEOs and website owners from doing link building. They have penalized people for certain types of links. They have stopped certain types of links from having any value. And they have preached, over and over and over, that you should not do ANY type of proactive link building. Instead, you should just put up good quality content on your website, and because it’s good quality, people will of course naturally link to it.

For years I have been seeing a major problem with this Google sermon. Because any time I have tried to follow it, i.e. just putting up lots of good quality content on a website, without doing any type of proactive link building, NOTHING has happened. No links. Lousy keyword rankings. Little traffic.

And as I have said in other articles, let’s say you are a local type of business in a competitive market, such as a dentist. What type of content is a dentist going to put up on his website that will cause people to link to him? Even if it is “amazing,” how many other sites will actually link to him?

So as time has gone by, Google has sort of modified their sermon from saying “put up good content,” to “put up great content,” to “put up remarkable content,” or even “put up amazing content.”

So why is that? And does putting up content alone, without any efforts to disseminate the content, work?

Content Saturation

The answer is: NO, it doesn’t? And the reason it doesn’t, lies in the factor of topic saturation. In other words, how much content already exists online for a specific topic? If there is a lot of content already, it doesn’t matter how stupendous or miraculous or mind boggling your content is. You can put up amazing content all day long and no one is even going to notice it, let alone link to it.

Just to be fair, let’s take a look at how Google’s scenario CAN work. Back in 2003, I wrote an article called “The Tytler Cycle,” and posted it on a new website I had created for political commentary. Alexander Tytler was a Scottish historian who came up with a concept that democracies go through about a 200 year long cycle of different phases with different characteristics.

At that time, there was basically no scholarly content online about Tytler. Subsequently, my article was linked to from Wikipedia, I wrote several more articles about it, and now, if you Google “The Tytler Cycle,” my political website occupies the top two positions, even above Wikipedia. And my website gets about 2,000 visitors a month from search engines, mostly going to my articles about Tytler.

But that’s a pretty obscure topic, one that isn’t saturated with content even today. But unless you are in a business related to an obscure topic, chances are good that your topic is well saturated online with tons of content already. So if you follow Google’s advice, and put up jaw-dropping content but do nothing else, I’m sorry to have to tell you that nothing is going to happen.

In Part 3 I will cover exactly what you CAN do today for link building. Sorry to drag it out but this journey was pretty long.