Today’s post is about 20 things you either forgot or never knew about SEO, including behind the scenes insights covering SEO techniques and tactics and how they all relate in the grand scheme of producing viable, repeatable results.
With search engine algorithms being more difficult to impress, creating websites that holistically reinforce themselves both internally from site architecture and internal links as well as receive sufficient peer review via links from other topical websites (in the proper proportions with an acceptable link velocity over-time) determines the strength of the website and which keywords emerge with a dominant presence in search results.
Google and other search engines are programming their algorithmic “rules engines” to sift deeper into the composite layers of multiple link profiles to ascertain the relevance and/or validity of the site providing links.
The sole purpose of these algorithms is to seek out mixed-fruit or off topic links or devalue their contribution to the ranking algorithm to prohibit them from passing ranking factor (unless the on page SEO factors can compensate) for both the site proving the link or the site receiving the link.
In other words, Google changed the game on those trying to game their ranking algorithms by increasing how stringent the filters are to gain an A+ and/or pass it along to other pages.
Creating topical alignment of the specific landing pages (through thematically aligned content), using keyword-rich category structures and naming conventions, augmented by tiered supporting articles within a website (while ensuring each type of content is fitted with the appropriate template and page/link profile) is what expedites the underlying objective of SEO; page level and domain level authority.
Once that “authority” is cultivated, then search engines will start to rank the site in question with various intentional and unintentional keywords (which are a combination of the contents of collective pages).
A substantial percentage of traffic comes from the long-tail of search (key phrases comprised of three words or more), which means that while you are focusing on top level keywords, you should also bake in modifiers (keyword variations) buyers are more prone to use in search queries.
By setting the stage with the primary keywords (at the top) by integrating them into your primary navigation this lets search engines know that these phrases are very important to your website.
Taking the above considerations, how should you structure your website to make sure that it is holistically reinforcing itself topically?
A prime example would go something like this.
- Pick your primary keywords.
- Conduct keyword research to determine which version of the keyword has the most search volume.
- After settling on the primary keyword, structure a hierarchy with the most competitive phrases (1-3MM competing pages in search engines) comprising the primary navigation and the more popular keywords (less than 1MM competing pages functioning as categories) and augmented by supporting articles (less than 100,000 competing pages).
- On primary pages (like the homepage and category pages) make sure you are using a template that is not bleeding ranking factor from excessive links on sidebars or primary navigation.
- On supporting article pages, make sure they only “link up” to their parent category and augment the primary objective of the category’s keyword or keyword variation.
- Primary pages rank categories, categories link to product, make or model pages and supporting articles link to product/model pages using contextual links as well as link up to category pages or the homepage to augment rankings.
- Primary pages should have 750 words or more (preferably with unique content free of excessive stop words).
- The outbound link to text ratios should be one internal link for every 100 words for an internal link (or 2 internal links for every 200 words to create a stronger, contextual / internal link profile).
- Pages with excessive sidebar or primary navigation should be consolidated to category pages which can house more links to (a) pass ranking factor to other nodes of the website and (b) serve as secondary navigation hubs.
- Instead of using all text links, you can also augment site architecture and supporting articles using images and alt attributes or use images on category pages to feed product level pages with link-flow from your more important pages.
- Implement footer links or links in the sidebar on supporting article pages to augment long-tail keyword variations for related pages or augment the on page relevance profile for a page.
- Title tags should be succinct (65 characters or less) and contain the primary keyword first in the order or prominence, as well as incorporate some singular or plural variation and a modifier to broaden the range of queries that will correspond to the page (when searched).
- Meta data and URL structure should also mimic the title tag as much as possible and URL structures should try to avoid coding parameters such as id or query strings and create “clean” SEO-friendly exact match slugs, i.e. words that mirror the title and primary keyword focus.
- Use server side includes or custom navigation (depending on the page you are on and its function to the whole). For example, the category pages and supporting articles should NOT have the same navigation (as each has its own unique function within the site).Some pages are meant to rank, others to help other pages rank, those that are designed to augment others should have less links leaving them and seek to have inbound links that also support them.
- Build links to category pages or primary landing pages; those pages act as hub pages to rank other critical pages (so make sure every link has a purpose) no dead links, links to privacy policies, log in, shopping carts, etc. with do-follow status, add a no-follow tag to those to ensure they do not leak.
- If you cannot create enough unique content for a page to (a) rank on its own or (b) act as a stable supporting page, then consider using the robots meta tag to add a noindex, follow command (don’t index the page, but follow the links).
- If your website has multiple products, then consider making category specific sitemaps and linking to the category specific sitemap from the category that is relevant.This way, instead of cluttering the navigation with links, every theme relevant page is linking to the sitemap (which can also be noindex, follow) which in turn feeds dozens or hundreds of other pages “silently” in the background (without hemorrhaging excessive link flow from itself) from having one link to a sitemap rather than dozens of links on the sidebar.
- The beauty of #17 is, the sitemap creates a strong profile for product-centric pages, which in turn rank in search engines “when people search for them”, making navigational exposure less important as a means for them to find the page. Always link back to categories (using breadcrumbs, custom navigation or internal links) but also use sitemaps as an irrigation method to pass ranking factor to multiple pages simultaneously (by building links to them).
- Make sure each page that is intended to rank has 3-5 backlinks to (a) increase the likelihood of indexation and (b) sprout page rank or page level authority.
- If you ensure each critical page has inbound link flow, when that page matures and develops authority, it’s PageRank and trust can augment dozens of other internal pages, thus lessening your need for off page ranking factor.
The layers of tactics above only represent the outermost layer of a holistic SEO strategy; however, they serve as a starting point to get your pages in order with the underlying premise to create cohesion within your collective site structure, while selectively strengthening critical pages while ensuring they all have the appropriate on page signals to channel link equity and relevance contextual links where it’s needed the most for the sake of producing rankings.
Stay tuned for more SEO tips and tactics designed to distinguish your website in search engines from SEO Design Solutions. We will be releasing a series of videos in the upcoming week as well as have some updates for SEO Ultimate and our new WP Ultimate theme (scheduled to launch shortly).