Recent changes to Google’s search ranking algorithms and highly publicized search penalization of well-known brands, have caused much angst in the SEO community. However, Google’s changes to its algorithms aren’t new.
Seasoned SEOs have experienced major algorithm changes over the last decade. In fact, Google has confirmed making on average at least one change per day to its search algorithms. Clearly change is here to stay.
How do you minimize the impact of these inevitable changes? Focus your efforts on the durable elements of SEO. These are the cardinal elements of SEO that will stay true regardless of Google’s ongoing improvements to its algorithms.
These eight durable elements will withstand the test of time because they are aligned with Google’s explicit statements and implicit motivations. Here’s a rundown of these elements and practical steps you can take to align your website with them.
1. Basic On-Page SEO Rules
The basic keyword SEO rules per the Google Webmaster’s SEO Guide are easy to communicate and easy to follow. Google wants you to follow these rules, because it makes crawling easier for their bots, which leads to better results for users, and in turn, helps Google with market share.
Make sure your pages are optimized for these basic SEO rules. Include target keywords in your URLs, titles, meta tags, H1s, etc. Determine which pages rank for which keywords. Then use the right keywords to double-down your efforts on these pages.
2. Inbound Quality Links
An inbound link from an external website to your website signals to Google that the content it’s pointing at is relevant to the subject surrounding that link. Quality inbound links aren’t easy to amass and they require your content to be good enough for someone else to reference. For these reasons, quality inbound links are believed to have the biggest impact on ranking.
Continue building your inbound links through white hat content syndication and promotions. Create unique content that others will want to reference and link to. Build relationships with other web writers, so they are aware of your content.
Google’s Internet is a meritocracy and authority is essentially your assigned status within this order. To date, Google has confirmed using only Google PageRank and social media authority as the two types of authority signals in their ranking algorithm.
A website’s authority is factored into rankings. There will always be those who attempt to game the system rather than advance on merit, so diminished authority is one way Google punishes fraud.
Build your authority by creating unique content and follow white hat practices. Build relationships with authoritative sites and users. Pursue links from them to benefit from their authority too.
4. User Experience
Google wants their users to be satisfied. If Google gives high ranks to bad websites, with terrible designs, slow page load speed, and difficult-to-navigate pages, users will look for alternative search solutions.
A fast page load speed and a low bounce rate are two measureable indications of a good user experience. Additional qualitative measures include a nice design, easy navigation and a good UI.
Basically, anything that makes a user remain on your site and read more. Keep your site updated, measure your bounce rate and page load speed, and create clear alignment between the keywords you target, your content and the experience you’re creating for your visitors.
If relevancy is the name of the game, then freshness is its nickname. The world is evolving and so is the web, and freshness of content will always be an indication of a site keeping up with the world. Freshness is a supporting factor to a site’s authority and plays a huge part in news ranking.
Keep creating new content as well as updating existing content. Link to it internally from indexed pages as well as syndicate it on social media. Register your site and submit a sitemap to Google. If you have a news site, register to be on the Google News Index.
To borrow from the capital investment world, diversification minimizes your systematic risk allowing you higher overall return on investment, and it would appear Google follows this rule. Google prefers diversity in the format and content of its results.
Use multiple formats to deliver your content on the same page – video, presentations, images – and publish unique pages for diverse content to optimize for long tail terms. Submit a unique sitemap to Google for formats other than text.
In order to gauge their effectiveness, Google must collect feedback on its work. From machine input, like click through rate and bounce rate, to human input, like human evaluators, Google’s “manual intervention” and Google +1, Google will keep collecting feedback to improve its results.
Use only white hat tactics, be relevant and optimize your pages to the actual content on them. In addition, syndicate, promote and give people an easy way to share their feedback.
8. Compatibility with Updated Technology
Being compatible with new technologies such as new browsers is important to the overall user experience. Freshness is always good practice when it comes to being on top.
As an example, consider mobile devices. With the emergence and rapid growth of the mobile market, we can see how and why, in the future, Google will discount sites that aren't mobile device-compatible.
These are the eight durable rules of SEO. Follow and implement them on your website to maximize your SEO results and maintain your website rankings over time.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!