Google SEO Starter Guide Recap

Google recently released an updated version of their Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. I believe that Google has released this document for the purpose of keeping people away from snake oil SEO and to keep website owners in compliance with Google’s terms of service.

While there are no surprises in this document, it is important to reiterate to those website owners who may believe in myths. Google has made it clear as to the ranking factors. They have also updated the guide to incorporate the importance of social media.

In the document, Google states that, “search engine optimization is often about making small modifications to parts of your website.” SEO is not all about on page elements but the blend of on page and off page elements. The importance of on page optimization starts with a few elements of html, including title tags, meta descriptions, alt attributes and such.

To fully understand SEO you should first know how and what you are achieving. Google says it best in their starter guide, “search engine optimization affects only organic search results, not paid or ‘sponsored’ results such as Google AdWords.” A prospective client told me that he used pay per click (PPC) and thought that Google would rank him higher because he was paying them every month. That is a myth that had to be revealed. Paying Google for PPC does not affect your organic ranking.

Here are some of the on page elements that Google says will help make your site more visible on their search engine and easier to crawl.

Unique title tags I often see that a client’s site who is just starting SEO is not optimized. One of the first problems I see is that the site has duplicate title tags or only the business name. Duplicate content is an issue in and of itself but to only have the business name is more of a problem. Most users do not search on Google for a specific business unless they are researching the business. How would anyone know that Fake Business Inc. was selling a fake product unless they searched with the keyphrase “fake product.” Search engines are smart but you have to tell them what they are looking at so they know how to rank you. Meta descriptions Another problem I often see is clients simply listing their keyphrases in the meta descriptions. Your meta description is like an advertisement. It is usually what appears in the search engines and draws people in. The description should use persuasive language that also contains your target keyphrases for that page. Having an optimized meta description is an opportunity to connect with your customers on the search engine results page. The same philosophy for interior page title tags applies to interior page meta descriptions.

URL structures Google stats that you should, “provide one version of a URL to reach a document.” We had a prospective client tell us he had bought 10-15 different URLs in hopes he would rank higher. He used a different keyword in each URL, did not use a 301 redirect, and only had a link on the site hoping people would click through to the main site. Needless to say he was nowhere to be found on the search engines for his desired keyphrase. We politely told him to stop wasting money on more urls. Some prospective clients do not think it is important to inform us if they own different domains with identical content. The problem is that there will be a split of link building which could negatively affect their position on the search engines.

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