Pittsburgh Technical Council

What You Need to Know About the Changes in SEO

What You Need to Know About the Changes in SEO

Article Published: October 20, 2014

By Neal Rabogliatti, Senior e-Strategy Consultant, Catalyst Connection

In the past few months, I have read several articles about search engine optimization that demonstrate the problem with what has become SEO. These articles fall into one of two mindsets: that search engine optimization is dead and we must accept paid advertising exclusively or de-optimize our site. At the other end of the spectrum is the “everybody knows SEO” model, which tends to oversimplify the optimization process as merely adding a few magic tags here and there. The truth is that both of these approaches are wrong and will result in the loss of valuable search engine visibility.

SEO is Not Dead:

SEO is still an important part of your overall on-line strategy
and is by all means not dead, it has however gone through a few changes which is why some believe it no longer works. This belief is the reaction to Google making striking changes to its ranking process through three significant updates known as Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird. 

The problem is that SEO became successful and drew the attention of on-line developers, marketers and advertisers. Because of this success everyone wanted optimization and along the way people started to figure out ways to short cut the effective methods with tactics designed to “Game the System.” People started to focus more on tricks rather than developing good content and relevancy. It became common to copy or paraphrase content from top ranking sites and build linking partners with any site, leading to the misconception that these these methods worked.

Google responded by created updates to eliminate sites that used tricks to gain ranking without really having quality content. The Penguin and Panda updates were designed to reduce sites exploiting duplicate content practices and bad links to gain page rank. The Hummingbird update is more a change to the Google algorithm in a way to better understand web page content and offer relevant content. The problem is that most people do not keep up with the updates and continue to serve up techniques and methods that have become outdated if not banned.

Understanding Optimization Post Penguin & Panda

Optimizing a website so that it appears in keyword searches is still attainable but you must understand how the process has changed. 

The first thing is to choose your keyword targets carefully, the days of broad single keyword targets have long passed. You need to intentionally choose words that are focused and relevant to what your page is about. It is also important to conduct proper keyword research and not just go with your gut reaction to choose words that your target audience would use and not what you think they may be searching on. 

Next, you need to create pages with unique and relevant content that is optimized for your audience and then optimized for Google. This means you still need to have the target keyword phrase as the focal point of your page just don’t get caught up in over optimizing the page with keyword stuffing. If you develop good copy that people will want to read that also includes sufficient keyword density to rank as relevant, you have appeased both your reader and Google. Many people ask how much copy is necessary, again you should create enough copy to provide a relevant body of copy, on average this should be around 250 words, but use that only as a guide. Don’t create 300 words of keyword stuffed fluff but at the same time don’t use a dozen photos and only four bullet points. Each page’s content should be unique, always review your content and see if an average reader will understand the point of the page.

Don’t Use Boiler Plate Content

Too many websites create great copy and then reuse the majority of it again and again across multiple pages. This practice is called boiler plate content, it is very similar to duplicate content and it hurts your SEO effectiveness and your audience as well. Remember to keep your content interesting and relevant to your reader—don’t just fill out a page for optimization purposes.

Titles & Tags

Think of page titles and description tags as important codes that help define the focus of your web page. A page title should act like the cover of a book or report; it should contain the target keyword phrase but also act as the titles that describe the page. Titles like home, about or products do little to enhance a pages optimization. A description tag should act like as a synopsis or abstract, and describe in 150 characters or less what the page is about, keeping the keyword and unique elements of page up front as this tag is displayed in the search results and significantly influences which site a user chooses. 

Technical Tidbits

There are other technical items you should be aware of when
optimizing your website such as speed and duplication, which are import factors in search ranking.  Websites like pingdom.com offer tools to check your site’s speed and offer recommendation for
improvement. To help reduce duplicate and boiler plate content on the mobile version of your site, consider using canonical reference tags to identify pages which have similar or duplicate content and avoid Google ignoring your pages.

There is certainly a lot more to search engine optimization than I can cover in this article, but I hope this information sheds some light on how important it is to address the research and planning needed to effectively optimize your website. If your approach seems to be less detailed you may want to do more research on the subject or consider hiring an experienced optimization expert with a good track record and a list of references. Then you will see that SEO is very much a live and when properly done will yield not only more traffic to your web site but more qualified traffic to your site. 

 About the Author

Neal Rabogliatti is the senior E-strategy consultant for Catalyst Connection in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, specializing in B2B on-line marketing strategies including search engine optimization, video marketing, keyword research and web usability for manufacturing  and business.

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