SEO, the agony!

SEO used to be easy. Just throw in a few keywords that Google can magically find and bingo! You’re at the top of the rankings!

Ah, the good ol’ days…

Those days are long gone now. Sure, keywords are still important and probably always will be. Google (and Bing and Yahoo and other search engines) still look for them, but they search them differently now.

But let’s stop here for a second to make sure we all understand what we’re talking about.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. (Most of you probably knew this already, but let’s bring the rest of class up to speed just in case)

The purpose of SEO is to display your site higher on the page when someone searches Google for products or something related to what you do.

For example, if you sell running shoes, some of your keywords might include: running, shoes, cushioned outsoles, cushioning, men’s shoes, women’s shoes, and any trademarked technologies your shoes offer, to name a few. The list could include a ton more, and that’s just for the products themselves.

If your site also includes additional information they would find helpful – and the best sites do – for running-related activities, then a keyword list should be built around terms commonly associated with the running lifestyle and any ancillary activities associated with running.

Most of this extra content is typically housed in CMS and appears as additional pages kind of buried behind the main content pages. The fun part (yes, that was sarcasm) of CMS SEO if you run an e-comm site is the challenge of tying the extra goodies in the CMS content into the products you’re trying to sell.

Why is it a challenge? Why not just use the same keywords in both a product description and an article where the product is mentioned?

Because Google is smarter than that.

Google isn’t fooled by double references to the same keyword. It used to be. In fact, that’s how SEO worked back in the good ol’ days I mentioned at the top. You could dump a whole bunch of keywords onto your page and you appeared to be the authority on that subject.

But not anymore.

What Google realized was that content marketers were getting smarter and trying to bilk the system by randomly inserting keywords in key places just to get Google’s crawlers (the little e-spiders that crawl the web looking for content) to latch onto their site and raise the ranking in search results. In a way, sites were being rigged to fool Google. Needless to say, Google didn’t take too kindly to that.

But it was more than just Google’s ego at play. What the really smart folks at the search giant realized was that the system was hurting truly authoritative sites, such as brand-sponsored sites and officially licensed retailers, and artificially raising the rank of bad sites that really had nothing to offer for consumers.

So they messed around with the algorithm (the mathematical magic behind the search process, although I’m still convinced it’s elves) and added some new rules to make sure the right sites got the right search treatment.

For example, duplicate content (using the same phrase with a keyword more than once) hurts your SEO because Google now views that as more or less trying too hard and therefore dings the site for trying to fool it.

Also, the new algorithm reads sentence structure more like a human, so it judges whether the use of a keyword sounds forced or too much like a computer wrote it.

This is great news for writers. And for consumers.

For writers, it means more liberty in composing copy that will sound more natural and still rank high on the search page.

For consumers, it means they are getting what they ask for: real results for their searches, finding exactly what they ask for faster.

For marketers, it means a mindset change, which can mean trouble for an organization that refuses to budge from the “we’ve always done it that way” mentality. The times, they are a changin’!

The new rule changes weren’t driven by Google. They were driven by consumers. Consumers want good search results. And any company that refuses to play by the new rules can kiss their bottom line goodbye.

So how do you optimize your site?

Here are some basic rules, brought to you by Kissmetrics, that every site manager should follow when working through SEO issues.

SEO is critical to any organization’s success. Learn it and succeed!

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2 thoughts on “SEO, the agony!

  1. During the recession, I was reading Time magazine and found my cobbler being quoted. I wondered why he was so famous. When I asked him, he said that it was because his site was on the top in a Google search.

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