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Stop Practicing On-Page SEO Like It’s 2012

 

We hope you have a minute, because we have something for you today that you do not want to miss.

You know how important keywords are to helping people find your page, but what you probably do not know is that most people, even supposed experts, are confused about how to use them correctly. To optimize your page so that it ranks well for your targeted keyword, you are probably going to have to make some changes to your strategy. Specifically, there are five things you need to correct, now.

 

Forget Keyword Density

The prevailing wisdom is that you shoot for a specific keyword density, usually around 0.5% or 1%. That means for every 100 words that appear on your website, 1 of those words will be your keyword. This supposedly helps your site rank well when people search for that term, and you can find many sites that force a high keyword density even at the cost of awkward writing. The truth is, keyword density only matters up to a certain minimum amount. It should appear in the site’s title and metadata and a couple times in the body text, but beyond that, repetition is more annoying than useful and search engines just ignore it.

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The MozBar plug-in can give you some good guidelines as far as keywording, but is misguided when it comes to repetitions. Remember that at its heart, all a keyword is, is a way for you to tell search engines what your page is about. You only need to use it a time or two to accomplish that. Also, keep in mind that search engines will lower your ranking if users click on your site and then quickly leave. If awkward, keyword-laden writing is lowering the quality of your content, you are only going to hurt your ranking in the long run.

 

Think About People, Not Keywords

SEO does not mean looking up search trends and then filling your site with trending keywords. You need to give people a reason to come to your site and stay there. Say you notice “window repair” is a popular search term. Before you start a site about window repair, take a moment to think about why people would search for that. Most likely they are interested in an actual business or service that can repair their windows. If you create an academic site about the history of glasswork, they probably will not be interested.

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Before committing to a keyword, do your research. Use a tool like Keyword Explorer to figure out exactly what people are looking for when they type in that term. For a free alternative to Keyword Explorer, try Ubersuggest or AdWords. Seeing the context in which people are using a keyword should help you figure out what they are actually looking for. People searching for “window repair companies” and “window repair DIY” are looking for very different things. At the end of the day, SEO is and has always been about giving searchers what they are already looking for.

The best strategy, of course, is to focus first and foremost on creating content. Sure, people who search for “window repair” are probably not looking for a history of the glass industry, but if that happens to be your passion or you are starting a business selling history books, go for it. Rather than trying to take advantage of the existing popular search term “window repair”, which is used by people who do not want what you are selling, stick to keywords that are actually relevant, like “history books”. Instead of getting a lot of frustrated visitors, you will get a few visitors who are happy they found you.

 

Stick to the Subject

Search engines are getting smarter all the time, and simply repeating keywords over and over again is not going to fool them anymore. Their algorithms are now able to examine the content on your page to make sure it is actually relevant to a search, contains answers to explicit and implicit questions in a search, and contains true and reputable information. In other words, if the content of your site is irrelevant or just does not make sense, your site will be buried.

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Currently, Google’s algorithm places such a high emphasis on relevancy that a site which nails this aspect can outrank sites that beat it in every other respect. It does not matter if the site has no external links to it and no media brand. If Google decides that it contains the most relevant response to a given user’s search, it will show up on the front page.

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Relevancy is a more difficult tool to use than something simple like keyword density, but with a little practice, you can make it work for you. Tools like MozBar or SEOZoom can be a huge help if you need it. These plug-ins crawl the web just like search engines do, looking for pages that contain a given keyword and then looking for other words that tend to appear on those pages. By making sure you hit all those same terms as well, you can signal to Google and other search engines that your content is relevant to a given topic.

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Try to optimize your “snippet” as well. When you type a search into Google, results come up in the form of a title with a small snippet from the body of the site underneath. If you include a short, dense sentence or paragraph in the body of your site that is highly relevant, search engines will be likely to pull that chunk of text to use as your snippet. If this text provides a short concise answer to a searcher’s question, they will be very likely to click through to see what the rest of your site has to offer. This trick takes a little practice to get right, but the good news is very few sites are doing it well right now. If you can master it, you will have the edge over the rest of the SEO world.

 

Focus On-Page

Links and anchor text used to be key factors in determining a site’s ranking. They were powerful enough that irrelevant or nonsense pages could outperform high-quality sites as long as they had the right link networks in place. This is not the case anymore, and it has not been the case for a long time, but a large portion of the internet never caught up. Search engines learned the hard way how easy it is to abuse off-page SEO, and they took steps to correct things. Now on-page SEO is king. The goal of search engines has always been to bring searchers the most relevant, highest quality content possible, and they get better every day. You can try to keep up with the latest tricks and cheats, but the search engines will always be working against you. On the other hand, if you focus on actually giving searchers what they want – relevant, high-quality content – then search engines will be working to bring your audience right to you.

 

Authority Matters

It used to be that sites earned high rankings through link authority. In other words, if a lot of other websites linked to one specific website, search engines decided that website must be an authority and therefore deserving of a high rank. Authority still matters today, but what a lot of people do not realize is that it means something a little different now. Today, search engine’s value topical authority.

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Links still matter, but only if they come from sites that are about the same topic as yours. If your website is about dogs, then a link back from a site about football will not count for much while a link back from an online pet store might count for a lot. It is not just links either. Even if that pet store does not actually link to your site, it might mention the name of your site alongside important keywords like “dog” and “pet”. When a search engine’s crawlers notice that, they will take note that other sites have confirmed your site is an authority on the topics of dogs and pets.

How should you go about gaining authority status on a given topic? To put it simply; by being an authority. First and foremost, make sure you are consistently producing content that is topical and relevant. Go about networking as you would normally, but do not fret about getting links. Just get people talking about your site as an accurate source of information, and you will be well on your way to dominating the rankings.

 

Join the Conversation

We like to think of ourselves as experts, but we would never claim to know everything. SEO is a dynamic, evolving field, and everyone can help move things forward by contributing their own experiences. If you have any tips of your own, want to expand on something we said, or even if you disagree with us, we would love to hear from you!

 

1 Comment

  1. Emmerey Rose

    Hi Sam! Yet again, another great post. I particularly like when you said “Think About People, Not Keywords”. I have read a few articles and they always emphasize the users. And Google is starting to focus on UX. So UX and SEO should go together.

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