Old is Gold, with SEO
Flashback to when I started working in digital marketing
The SEO team was usually seated next to IT, sometimes in a cubicle all by themselves. No one knew what exactly they did, not even their friends in IT. The SEO team would be overheard talking about Serps and crawling, ranks and metas, headers and footers, links and trackbacks. It was rumoured that they ensured high ranks high on Google by making regular ritualistic tributes at Google’s altar. Marketing folks would wonder whether to ignore them or report them to the authorities.
Over the years, things changed. The windowless cubicle was demolished and the team ventured out and started making friends with the marketing department. Folks from PR, marketing and sales, customer relations now work with them. The SEO team is an important contributor in marketing campaigns and in customer experience projects. They discuss customer personas and information architecture and are invited to parties. They have asked the office manager for two pets – a Penguin and a Panda – as they think it would help them make plans better. The pets, it is suggested, will learn new tricks every few months and keep everyone in the office occupied.
While there is a lot of change in the way they work (and dress), the SEO still carries around some really old tricks up his sleeve. This post is about some of them.
One of the keywords that I have been tracking for a client is ‘location voiture paris’. It means “car rental in Paris” and understandably is one of the top keywords in France for a car rental business. The client is comparatively new in the market (less than 2 years old in France) and has no history of any SEO. When we started this project 8 months ago, the website did not rank on this keyword in the first 50 pages (or 500 ranks). We created a list of tech changes for the website. Some of the important items on this list are below:
1) HTML header tags
2) HTML sitemap
3) XML sitemap
4) Custom titles and description for each landing page
5) Review of any errors inside Google webmaster
Below is a snapshot of rank changes observed with this keyword.
The overall improvement was quite steady. I am reproducing the table with the details of the activity, which was done during this time.
What were these things and why do they still matter so much?
Custom title and meta tag
An often neglected value of meta descriptions is the fact that you can craft descriptions that have a call to action. Every experienced SEO will have its own way and objective of writing meta tags. We followed the basic rule - write meta tags for humans and format it for search engines. We optimised descriptions, included brand offers, kept the length between 150-160 characters (Google generally truncates anything exceeding 160 characters, including spaces), had the right mix of brand term and keywords.
In short, we crafted metas to function as our advertising copy for the search engine.
A site that's not updated loses value. Keeping both your content and website fresh is a key factor that determines your ranking on the web. Content freshness here is not to be taken as only text additions. Fresh content comes in many shapes and sizes. This includes images, infographs, video and other marketing collaterals. Here are some questions which will help you with your content freshness strategy-
- Is the content well articulated?
- Is it educational, engaging or perhaps entertaining?
- Most importantly, does it have strong calls to action?
If you could tick these check boxes, just like we did, you are most likely of climbing the ladder of rankings.
Interlinking on the website
Internal links help you establish your site's architecture and spreads link juice. Internal links should guide your audience to relevant pages and help them navigate through your site. Having said that, here are some measures that we took and strongly suggest you to take while implementing a good interlinking structure for your site.
- Know the search patterns of your site audience. Devise these in your linking strategy.
- Link the most important pages of your website with the most authoritative pages on your domain.
- Allow users to open new tabs/windows if necessary.
- Do not populate the header and footer with site wide footer links.
- All internal linking should be performed with a 'do follow' attribute.
- Avoid excessive interlinking on a specific term.
- Use breadcrumbs navigation to help users with their current position on the website.
- Run a check for broken links. Such links are bad for SEO.
Links on other sites
Someone said that guest blogging is dead. But we didn't close the coffin lid yet. Although it is correct to say that every SEO technique should be evolved with time. Similarly in the case of guest blogging and blogger collaborations, the focus should be on link bait rather than link acquisition. Link bait is content that other sites/people would want to link to. Not because you have asked them to, but because they want to. Great content will always serve as a link bait, but bloggers don't just want great content, they look for something more than great content. Assure them with content that gives a new perspective. Give them content which helps them generate traffic, shares,comments etc. and they'll be happy to link.
The time gap between the change and the change in rank was almost immediate. It was quite fulfilling to know that some things inside Google’s search algorithm haven’t changed much.