What Google rewards in terms site structure and quality content has remained the same for years. Therefore, the SEO basics have remained the same for many years. A site that is easy for people and the Google's spiders to navigate with content that engages people.
The original paper detailing a prototype of what became the Google engine was written by Sergey Brin and Larry Page while at Stanford. The boiled down version was that if you looked at scientific and engineering journals you would find that some papers were referenced all over the place while other papers were referenced only by future papers of the same author. Clearly the papers that were referenced by everyone were the seminal works in the field. The web doesn't have references but it does have backlinks - links on one site that point to page on another site. Google was started with the idea that these backlinks were like the references in scholarly papers. The more backlinks a page had the authoritative it must be for that topic.
Over the years people caught on to this and so it has been a race for Google to weed out the garbage that manipulates their algorithm while keeping the quality content.
A few years back an SEO technique called Article Marketing was all the rage. The technique can be boiled down this: 1) write articles on a niche topic, 2) post articles on your site, 3) post slightly altered versions of those articles on other sites, 4) rinse and repeat. The guidelines for the articles were:
Number of Headings
Minimum 3, 2 should have keyword in them
Number of Paragraphs
Keyword Density is the number of times you keyword shows up divided by the total number of words in the article. It is given as a percentage. For example, if you have 100 word article where the keyword shows up 2 times the article has a keyword density of 2%.
For SEO purposes, the ideal article had 4-6 paragraphs, 400-500 words, and at least 3 headings with the keyword in 2 of the 3. Then I would put the keyword in the first sentence of every paragraph. Occasionally, if the paragraph read better with the keyword in the second sentence I would put the keyword there instead of the first sentence. When I was done I typically had a keyword density in the 1.5% range so I would then find a 2-3 places where adding the keyword would make my sentences more explicit and replace a pronoun with the keyword. This would bump the keyword density to over 2%.
Today 1.5% to 2% is a better keyword density for SEO purposes. The just reads better and doesn't look so forced. Beyond that the article marketing guidelines still hold for every blog post you write. Google does expect that a non-SEO optimized site will contain occasional very long blog posts - 1000+ words - so don't avoid longer blog posts.
I have found that following these guidelines has improved my writing style and, in the past, been rewarded with better rankings. So I still consider these Article Marketing guidelines to be valid SEO advice today.
The latest SEO craze appears to be the use of YouTube videos to rank quickly. YouTube has been used by internet marketers for years now to push products. Typically this involved creating a review video for some new product and including a link in the video description on YouTube. That link either pointed at the marketers landing page where they pitched the product or directly to the product's landing page. The marketer was attempting to drive sales of the product through their affiliate link
When information products are released to the public they are often accompanied by an affiliate program. That affiliate program pays the affiliate a percentage of any sale that affiliate creates. The sales a given affiliate generates are tracked through use of a link which is unique to that affiliate. When a visitor goes to a sales page through an affiliate link a cookie is put on their computer. If that visitor comes back within 30 days the sale gets credited to the affiliate who owns that link.
This may sound iffy to some of you but it is pretty common practice on the web. Amazon runs one of the biggest affiliate programs. Google had an affiliate program but I'm not sure if they still do. Many major retailers have affiliate programs as well.
Always be careful of the online reviews you read. Most reviews out there are there to sell you product. Not all are completely made up. Many reviews these days are just someone reading the Amazon reviews and creating their own review blog post from those Amazon reviews. Many are also just made up garbage to sell you a product for the commission.
In 2015, YouTube is used for SEO purposes as well. For very local keywords like "boulder best haircuts" a video can rank in minutes. With the correct details in place that video can help you rank a page on your site. Depending on the competition for a given keyword the YouTube video might not be enough to rank any given page. But it is still one more quality link to your site raising it's overall profile with Google.
The fast ranking of a given page via this particular YouTube SEO technique often relies on Social Signals which I describe below.
Social engagement is about having a legitimate and active presence on all the major social platforms - Facebook, Twitter, Google+ to name a few. That engagement is through giveaways, coupons, special events, and polls of your followers/customers opinions. Try to be a human being and not a corporation when engaging.
You might ask why you should do this? Many internet marketers have foregone SEO in favor of social networks. Remember SEO is about driving traffic to your site. Active social engagement on the biggest platforms can accomplish the same thing - namely lots of traffic. The interaction is more natural as well. There is no need for keyword research; simply engage with your customers about your products and what people do with those product. You sell tents? Tell a story about the last great camping spot you went to. Or get one of your employees who is an avid camper to do it. You don't need to pitch the product in every post you are trying to engage your customers on a personal level to build loyalty. Then when you have a sale or provide them coupons watch the results. No Google slaps for aggressive SEO and someone else's server handles most of the load from the traffic.
Social signals are the link spam of 2015. Link spam used to be all there really was to SEO. Now link spam gets you de-indexed. Social signals, however, are a different beast. The conjecture among SEO gurus is a logical one and it is that no high quality popular site is going to have lots and lots of backlinks without also having lots of social signals - Facebook likes, Tweets, etc. These social signals are easily manipulated with the right software and hundreds of fake accounts on all of these sites. So create the social signals with automation and give the Google algorithm what it expects to see for a quality site.
This is not an SEO technique I recommend on scale. However, using the automation plugins with your own legitimate social accounts - 1 per social site - is appropriate. Just make sure that the automated content isn't the only thing that every shows up on those social accounts. Engage with your potential and current customers. Use the automation to simplify your life so when you write a new blog post you don't spend the next hour logging into the social sites to simply create an entry (via copy and paste) about the blog post.
It's a mutually beneficial relationship internet marketers have with these social sites. For SEO purposes the marketers require hundreds of accounts. All very active accounts. For the sites, their stock price or IPO price is largely due to the number of registered users they have and how active those users are. These fake accounts inflate the number of registered users. The activity level of the fake accounts is also above average. The end result is that all of the sites will ban your account if you are obviously just link spamming them. But take any effort at all to disguise your link spam and they will look the other way.
When I started my online journey the self-proclaimed successful SEO people spoke of a time before Google algorithm updates. A time lost to the ravages of the early 2000's. A time where SEO was simple and few people knew the sacred text. They were modern men with sales pitch in hand in a land of eCommerce savages.
Then the glories of the SEO god were revealed. FREE traffic. FREE sales. Easy money with no work. And life was good.
The sacred text, written by Apostles Sergey and Larry in the land of Standford, and would reward those with more backlinks to their sites. Reward them with FREE traffic. More traffic than a simple server can ever handle. So the modern men, with knowledge of the sacred text, offered the SEO god his backlinks. And the SEO god rewarded them.
But the SEO god tired of the backlinks the modern men offered. For they were only link spam. Nothing of substance. So instead of being satiated the SEO god got only gas.
The SEO god became displeased and SLAPPED the modern men for their wicked ways! De-indexing their very profitable sites and causing great sorrow in the hearts of the modern men's wallets. So the modern men tried once again to please the SEO god. For a time, it worked. But they had not learned their lesson properly for they continued their link spam ways only hid it better. When the SEO god realized this he SLAPPED them again.
The modern men took this as a sign that their wicked ways would no longer be tolerated. Realizing their Free Traffic was at risk they transformed themselves into SEO gurus. Claiming to speak for the desires of their SEO god without having any proof of those desires they created throngs of disciples. And so the sacred profits were saved not by the SEO god but by the enthralled SEO disciples. Disciples who spread the word of Free Traffic and East Money to anyone with enough money to buy their guide to pleasing the SEO god.
Google's founders - Brin and Page - wrote a paper in which they describe the underlying mechanism for determining the best search results.
If you've read scientific or engineering journal articles you will notice that certain books and journal articles are referenced over and over and over again. They are seminal works that every references. So you can use the number of papers that reference a paper as a measure of it's authority on a topic.
The short version of the Google paper is that they used the number of backlinks - links from an outside site to your site - as a substitute for those journal paper references. The more backlinks a website page has pointing to it the more likely it is an authoritative page on a given topic.
People figured that out and posted links everywhere. Google started assigning a quality to each link as a counter to this. But Google's efforts were incomplete and people figured out how to get backlinks the algorithm still liked. This led to a shortened time between updates.
In 2009 the updates came every year or so. Then the updates starting coming every 6 months. Then it looked like it would be every 3 months. But Google had a surprise in store. The updates came faster and faster with a wrinkle. Now the updates include a little artificial intelligence makes adjustments continuously.
SEO is much harder now. The expense of good SEO has gone up. The time to get ranked has gone up for most of the profitable keywords. Google's updates are coming faster and faster. The ROI just isn't there like it once was.
Now SEO is hard, time consuming, and highly likely to get you de-indexed from Google when done wrong. The best approach is to listen to Google not the SEO disciples. If you need good traffic now, buy it using AdWords or some other traffic source. Don't rush your SEO.
SEO now is about good quality content to your site, frequent & consistent additions to that content, the right site structure for easy crawling by the Google spider, and a broad & active social profile. A well tended and loved Facebook page can generate both good social signals for SEO and it's own traffic and sales.
Engagement on social sites is part of what we refer to as your Digital Presence. Your social engagement needs to broad - Twitter and Facebook at a minimum, Google Plus and several others should also be considered. Your social engagement, like you new content for your site, needs to consistent and frequent.
This social engagement produces backlinks with the profile Google wants. These backlinks are reinforced by your social presence and your followers/customers.
Gabe Spradlin Gabe has a BS in Mech Eng and an MS in Elec Eng. Control Systems was the emphasis of my Masters. The Master culminated in a very long and esoteric thesis about automatically identifying anomalies in International Space Station telemetry. Eventually he ended up using Controls to point lasers very precisely at targets a long, long way away. Some lasers were used to talk; others to put holes in things. In 2009 it was time to start an aerospace consulting business. By 2010 it was time to shift from aerospace to online entrepreneurship. He has worked in his pajamas .... errrrr .... basement ever since.