Has SEO Become A Dirty Word?

There is no question that the world of SEO is and always has been one of the most rapidly changing area of digital marketing going. Today however it seems that the SEO landscape has changed irrevocably, at least that’s what some website owners believe, with many now arguing that SEO may be a thing of the past.

So, Is SEO Dead?

Recently a growing number of webmasters have declared SEO’s passing; they say that ranking factors have taken on such a mysterious make up that it’s no longer possible to estimate, manipulate or work towards ranking and it has reached a level of sophistication that means it’s just best to create great content and leave the internet to decide what its value is and where it should rank.

However, this actually isn’t the first time that SEO has been declared ‘dead’ or changed beyond all recognition. This relatively recent announcement is usually a sign of mild panic and misunderstanding as to what the latest Google guidelines or ranking patterns mean.

Great Content Deserves Great SEO

The old adage of ‘Content is King’ is a pretty simple yet overly accurate phrase to summarise the world of SEO. So what role then does SEO serve? If we were to imagine the longest, most enlightening and engaging pieces of writing that was enhanced with videos and images, is it true to say that this would still benefit from SEO?

To answer this question we must regard the content as an attraction and the optimisation of such content as the marketing and tickets to such an attraction. Promoting your content through social media, content marketing and through relationships within industry networks are all invaluable tasks that should, but sometimes are misunderstood not to fall under the umbrella of ‘SEO’.

Black Hat SEO

SEO has never had as bad a reputation as it does today. Unfortunately there has been many cowboys within this industry since day dot, today however they have become more and more apparent as the Google algorithm is now blacklisting websites that have previously used (sometimes unwittingly) black hat SEO techniques. Mass spam commenting, hiding links, cloaking, keyword stuffing and duplicate content are just a few examples of the out and out SEO no no’s in 2014 and beyond. If you’ve suffered and are still suffering the effects from such techniques then all is not lost. You should contact an SEO professional who can advise you on how you can turn your fortunes around with remedial SEO work.

SEO is not dead. Whilst searching algorithms continue to change (and arguably sometimes not always for the better) a concerted effort to be SEO friendly is and always will be valuable. A perfect end example would be the product or service that you’re selling: it could be the best out there and unlike anything else on the market, however without advertising to get the word out there, you’ll likely see only limited results.

Semantic Markup & Your Rankings

Semantic markup, also known as schema or rich snippets, refers to structured data that works as a companion to HTML. The idea behind semantic markup is to define a website’s content so a search engine is able to understand what information a particular page has to offer an online user.

How Can Semantic Markup Improve a Site’s Ranking?

Firstly, it’s important to note that semantic markup is not an easy way to get your website ranked, it must be used with a number of other strategies to ensure that the site is fully optimised. However, ensuring that your semantic markup clearly describes the content of your web page can ensure that your website’s visibility is increased. So while sites such as Google imply that semantic markup may not be used as a ranking signal, it does help your website appear more prominent within search engine results.

Semantic markup can also help with a website’s click-through rate, as online users will be able to see a synopsis of what information the website contains. Ensuring this information is correct will greatly increase your CTR, as online visitors are evidently interested in your content because your website has been put before them within their search results.

How Does Semantic Markup Work?

Like many factors in the world of search engine optimisation, semantic markup can be deemed a little tricky when faced for the first time, but when looking at how semantic markup works, it’s best to take a simplified view in the first instance. Semantic markup uses microdata and data classification that communicates with search engines. Just like HTML and CSS communicate with the web browser as to how your website should be displayed, microdata and data classification will talk to search engines and tell them what your content is and how it should be indexed.

What Kind of Sites Benefit from Semantic Markup?

Semantic markup is a common practice used for SEO, so generally all sites can benefit from it. However, there are a number of different types of semantic markup that can be used, depending on your target audience and website niche.

  • Facebook Open Graph: Facebook plays a large part in promoting online content. Although it’s not unusual to see online stores and service providers advertise on Facebook, you generally find that the majority of posts containing website content will be based on an interest. Think movies, music and humour and you get the general idea. Facebook Open Graph allows users to define how a website will be displayed in Facebook, as well as other social networks. In this regard, it is important that a social-specific headline is used so content can be shared successfully via social networks, and acquire the right kind of engagement.
  • Products and Ratings: This type of markup will benefit those with an e-commerce store, as it allows you to specify products and their related data to search engines. This means that when online users enter the relevant keywords and your content is put in front of them, not only will they be greeted with a clear and concise description, but they will also be able to see recent reviews of your products. This again will improve your CTR dramatically.
  • Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumb navigation is often neglected, but breadcrumbs can be very useful to those who have a website with a lot of information. Ensuring you implement breadcrumb navigation will give online users the option of where to begin their search on your site. Not only does this provide the user with relevant information, but it can also lead to more activity on your website.

Overall, semantic markup alone won’t be a major factor as to how your website is displayed within search engine result. However, if used correctly with other SEO strategies it can help your page rank well, as well as providing your audience with clear information which in turn will help increase your CTR.

Getting Meta Tags Right

image-of-meta-tags-codeSearch Engine Optimisation can be something of a minefield to those who are taking their first steps into the online world. It is however a necessity in today’s technological world if an individual or business wants to be seen online. Meta tags play an important part when it comes to being found via search engines and providing an attractive call-to-action. When search engines crawl a website, a meta tag will tell that search engine what that particular page is about. The information garnered from the meta tag will then allow search engines to display your website when the relevant keywords are entered by an online user.

The information found within meta tags is never displayed visually, but rather sit inside the code of the website. They are solely in place to provide relevant information about your website which is shown within the search engine results. This is why it is important to ensure that the information contained with a meta tag is relevant to the content. We spoke to some London SEO experts to get a better idea of how you should be using your meta tags more effectively.

What is a Meta Title?

The meta title is effectively your page title which is shown on search engine results when your content is deemed relevant to the keywords that have been entered. When completing a meta title, you should ensure that the title is limited to around 55-60 characters, as more could just see half of your title cut off, thus alienating your potential visitors. If you have a number of different pages, then ensure each have their own unique title. Many may be tempted to simply name all web pages the same, but this can be confusing to the algorithm that search engines use, meaning that your pages may not even rank at all, as well as leaving your potential audience confused.

An important aspect of bringing visitors to your website is to include relevant keywords, and while you should aim to use these keywords in the title where possible, do not force them in. What this means is that if you create titles that effectively lists all the keywords, but makes very little sense to the visitor, then the whole process overall is pointless. Keyword stuffing is also frowned upon by search engines, so you could see your website rankings fall rather than rise if you decide to use this method.

You should also ensure that the description that is used for your meta title reflects the content, as trying to fool search engines will again have a detrimental effect on your search engine listings. Algorithms used by search engines will always seek out relevant content, but recent updates to search engine algorithms means that websites that are attempting to lure in visitors under false pretences are often ignored.

How Does a Meta Description Help Promote Content?

The way that search engines rank your website can come down to a number of different factors. One important factor is the meta description of a web page. Many disregard this aspect of optimising a website, and it can have a detrimental effect on a website’s ranking.

A meta description allows the owner of a web page to give a brief overview of their website or website page. While this information isn’t shown on the website itself, it will be listed within search engine results. Having a clear and concise meta description matched with relevant content can see your click-through rate increase accordingly. This in turn help your search engine optimisation, as your website will have more activity. Websites that have traffic frequently are more likely to be placed above those that don’t.

A successful meta description should be descriptive and persuasive, but avoid link baiting. Ensure you have included keywords where they are relevant and try and inspire curiosity when writing your description. This can be a little tricky, but the secret is to give potential visitors enough information for them to be curious enough to click through to your content. Think of it like a movie, where the trailer will give you highlights, but you need to go and see the movie to find out more. Visitors will be more likely to click on content that is relevant to them, rather than a meta description that is stuffed with keywords which says very little about the content.

Getting the balance right can be difficult, especially if you’re new to optimisation and how to get ahead in a Google world, but there is help out there. Asking the right questions will enable you to find out more about any potential SEO partner you’re looking to work with, and using the information you’ve gleaned from our site, you should be able to at least get a good impression for whether they know what they’re talking about and will be able to help you.