Considering that the average b2b website gets about 40% of traffic from organic search, with some sites getting as much as two-thirds of all visits via search engines, effective search engine optimization (SEO) remains a vital strategy.
But precisely what constitutes “best practices” in SEO is a continually (and lately, rapidly) moving target. Yesterday’s on-page optimization and link building tactics—even those used with the best, non-manipulative intentions—may get a site penalized in search rankings today for being “over-optimized.” (You can’t be too rich or too thin, but apparently you can be too optimized.)
So what’s a marketing manager, PR professional or SEO specialist to do? Keep up with SEO trends and changes. Optimize off-site content (for example, on YouTube and other social platforms). Use effective SEO tools and marketing metrics. Create link-worthy content. Use social signals to boost rankings. Learn how to do all of that and then some here in more than three dozen of the best SEO guides and tips from the past year.
General SEO Tips and Guides
When Search Becomes Invisible by MediaPost Search Blog
Laurie Sullivan explores how online advertisers and search engine optimizers will adjust to a not-too-distant future “when the act of typing keywords into a search box to create a query becomes invisible? The act of searching for information will blend into voice-assisted programs, with geolocation targeting supported by data.” She reports on how Google, Ask, online ad platform vendors and others are simultaneously creating and adjusting to these changes in technology.
4 questions to ask when hiring an SEO consultant by iMedia Connection
Louis Rix recommends four questions that marketers ask before hiring an outside SEO consultant or firm, such as what kinds of reports they provide and how they build links (great question). His fourth suggested question is a bit tricky however, as even the author notes that “Nobody can promise you a No. 1 ranking.”
10 Elements of a Perfectly Optimized Page by Search Engine Watch
Gareth Owen presents 10 important elements for on-page SEO, though he acknowledges that “perfect” may be stretching things a bit (“It’s worth noting that the ‘perfectly optimized page’ above won’t be perfect for all verticals, or for all brands – not everyone has the ability to add customer reviews to their product pages”).
4 Enterprise SEO Trends to Watch in 2012 by ClickZ
Adam Audette outlines four trends he sees in SEO, among them “Further Corporatization of SEO in the Enterprise: The trend over the last several years has increasingly shown SEO teams ‘go within’ at large companies. This is a trend I’ve long supported and recommended, for example in my piece on in-house SEO teams. In fact, for enterprise companies to realize exceptional results in SEO, they almost always require a dedicated internal SEO team. That’s the case today primarily because incremental gains are harder to achieve.” True perhaps, but this is not necessarily a trend in small to midsized firms yet.
5 big SEO changes you might have missed by iMedia Connection
Going beyond the usual SEO guidance, Lisa Wehr explains how to capitalize on mobile and local search, Google encrypted search results, and even Google+ and Facebook: “Where on a social site can you insert keywords? From Google+ profiles to Facebook info sections, you can display keywords and all of your business web properties (website, Twitter, YouTube, corporate blog, etc).”
SEO Strategy for New Domains by Search Engine Journal
Writing that “When you first launch a new website, it’s a blank slate in the eyes of Google and the other search engines,” Sujan Patel serves up a five-step plan for gaining search ranking, from “make sure that your site is set up as effectively as possible from an internal SEO standpoint” to planning for ongoing optimization.
5 Best Practices for Global SEO by ClickZ
For websites that are truly global in terms of their market targeting, Crispin Sheridan offers a handful of helpful tips for optimization, among them engaging in local link building: “Link building, whether through traditional efforts such as outreach programs or guest blogging, social media, and leveraging partnerships, will always be one of the strongest ways to obtain more favorable rankings. In addition to helping with rankings, the search engines will look at the origin of the links to help determine local relevance. For example, a Chinese site that has a large number of links coming from other China-based sites will have a stronger authority within the local China search engines.”
7 Signs That You’re Overvaluing Search Engine Optimization by MarketingSherpa
Reporting that nearly a third of b2b marketers “consider search engine optimization to be very effective — more than email marketing, content marketing, and most noticeably, paid search,” Daniel Burstein outlines warning signs that a company may be overvaluing SEO, to the detriment of considerations like providing valuable content and optimizing for conversions.
Create A YouTube Traffic Jam With These 4 Simple Optimization Tips by KISSmetrics
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While it’s not SEO strictly speaking, optimizing your YouTube videos for search is a great way to increase brand exposure, and to (indirectly) drive website traffic. Brian Honigman provides an outstanding, comprehensive guide to optimizing videos from tags and titles to playlists, annotations and channel branding.
Confirmed: Google+ Is Critical To Your Search Rankings by Sean Clark
Sean Clark contends that “Keywords (are) a thing of the past,” and that social media signals (particularly from Google+) are the future of search engine ranking signals. True? Perhaps. Carefully consider Sean’s arguments and those of his commenters.
Scott Gilbertson reports on DuckDuckHack, “a developer platform that allows anyone to add new features to the search engine.” The platform enables anyone to write plugins (to go along with current “goodies” like time-based queries and unit conversions) for the search engine and share them. Is this article really one of the best SEO guides of the past year? Maybe not, but it’s hard not to love DuckDuckGo.
9 Lessons from 1,000 SEO Questions by SEOmoz
Dr. Peter J. Meyers distills the answers to 1,000 private questions asked of SEOmoz into this compact summary of SEO wisdom, such as “One-trick Ponies Make Good Glue…People naturally get comfortable with one aspect of search marketing (link-building, on-page, social, etc.) and then want to ‘perfect’ it, but at best they hit diminishing returns fast.”
Google Webmaster Tools: An Overview by Search Engine Watch
Simon Heseltine offers a helpful guide to the features in Google Webmaster Tools, from getting started through navigating the dashboard, messages, configuration, assessing a website’s health (e.g. through crawl errors), search queries, internal links, sitemaps and more.
Rand Fishkin dispels myths that shouldn’t be keeping SEO practitioners awake at night, such as having a large number of backlinks from a single domain (unless the linking site is really spammy or the links were built manipulatively) or keyword density that’s “too high.”
10 SEO measurements every marketer should know by Biznology
Noting that “80% of people who visit a website get there from typing a keyword in the query box of a search engine” (seems a bit high, your mileage will vary) and “90% click on websites on the first page” (of search results), Rob Petersen defines 10 imperative SEO metrics for marketers, from the number of keywords driving traffic to the number of pages indexed by search engines.
7 Small Business SEO Tips by Search Engine Watch
Adam Stetzer suggests “seven small business SEO tips to help earn more business through traditional organic search rankings,” among them understanding that onsite SEO is necessary but not sufficient; that creating engaging content is critical; and that content marketing should be used to earn backlinks (“Quality content containing humor, information, controversy, politics or training usually brings backlinks – and is definitely considered acceptable SEO”).
SEO Tips for Panda and Penguin
Interview of Jonah Stein by SEO Book
Aaron Wall has a long, detailed conversion with SEO expert Jonah Stein about the impact of Google’s series of Panda algorithm updates, and how to respond to penalties. One key line from Jonah: “It is short sighted to believe that any of the SEO niche strategies are going to survive if they are not supported with PR, social, PPC and display.” Which is pretty much what the web presence optimization (WPO) framework is designed to address.
What is your SEO Social Signals Strategy? by iMedia Connection
Krista LaRiviere reveals, in her words, “how Google’s algorithm changes impact both backlinking and social signaling; how to build an SEO social signals strategy; how your SEO backlinking and social signals strategies come together in your content strategy; (and) how to measure it all.”
Google Plans SEO Over-Optimization Penalty by Practical eCommerce
Jill Kocher provides some details about Google’s throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater approach to penalizing “over-optimization.” For example, one sign of over-optimization to Google is reportedly “Linking repeatedly from body copy to a handful of key pages with optimized anchor text. If 33 of my 100 pages link to www.jillsfakesite.com from the body copy with the anchor text “Jills Fake Site,” that should count as over-optimization.” Never mind that there may be perfectly legitimate reasons for doing this, and it may improve the user experience.
6 Changes Every SEO Should Make BEFORE the Over-Optimization Penalty Hits – Whiteboard Friday by SEOmoz
Speaking of over-optimization, Rand Fishkin (again) here reviews half a dozen ways to avoid Google’s “over-optimization” penalties, including this on in-content text links: “go with logical, useful, change it up when you’re linking to pages, maybe a couple of times, in some spaces. You have a blog post and it mentions a page on your site that you want people to actually go to and that you think is useful in context. Great, link over there. Fine, use the anchor text. Maybe use a modified version of the anchor text, a little longer, a little shorter, a little more natural sounding, and you’re going to get these same results, but you’re going to do it in a much more effective way. You’re not going to be at risk of whatever is happening with this over-optimization penalty.”
James Mathewson outlines four ways Google is killing SEO, including semantic search: “How do SEOs traditionally optimize pages? By advising their clients to put keywords in strategic places on a page. When Google goes to semantic search, it won’t be as much about keywords at all, but on the meaning of the words you use. This might be the biggest SEO killer of all. If tuning our content for keywords our users care about is no longer an effective strategy, what is left for SEOs?” He believes content strategy is the new SEO.
SEO & Content Marketing: Getting The Most Visibility For Your Valuable Content by MediaPost Search Insider
Observing that “with recent algorithm updates, Google has noticeably placed renewed emphasis on unique, relevant, and timely content. Clearly there’s a marriage between SEO and content marketing,” frequent best-of honoree Janet Driscoll Miller explains how to capitalize in search on difficult-to-optimize content such as information that’s behind a registration wall, infographics and PDFs.
How to Identify Search Engine Penalties by Search Engine Journal
Reassuring that “Not all search engine penalties are permanent, and with a little detective work and remedial action, you should be able to restore your previous rankings and rebuild the flow of organic traffic to your site,” Sujan Patel (again) outlines a five-step process to determine if your site has been penalized, and it so, recover from it.
For those concerned about Google’s Panda update (which is to say, anyone involved in SEO), Lisa Buyer highlights a number of resources for help including guidance on optimizing beyond Google, including advertising, socializing, pinning, profiling, twittering, and more.
Laurie Sullivan (again) reports that “Content shared from Facebook and the amount of backlinks appear to influence organic search engine results most, but Google +1s have the strongest impact on rankings,” and that recent analysis of Google ranking factors in the post-Panda-and-Penguin era suggests that social signals will play an increasing role in site ranking.
6 Months with Panda: A Story of Complacency, Hard Decisions, and Recovery by Search Engine Journal
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In this must-read case study for any site hit by Panda, Glenn Gabe explains how even a large, mature, well-respected website with a stellar link profile can get hit with Panda penalties, what caused this to happen, and the single most important thing that needed to be done to regain ranking and traffic.
7 Achievable Steps For Great SEO After The Penguin Update by SEOmoz
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This post from Chris Warren would be a must-read for anyone struggling with search traffic issues in the post-Penguin era even if it only contained steps one (“Understand your link profile…The biggest risk factors are a combination of lots of low quality links with targeted anchor text”), two (“Learn what makes a good link…there is a lot of evidence that these high value links are really the main drivers of a domain’s link authority”) and five (“almost never change your URLs”).
Understanding Penguin 1.1: Be Safe from Updates in 3 Easy Steps by Search Engine Journal
Muzzammil Bambot steps through some of the biggest negative factors in post-Penguin search ranking and how to correct those, from getting rid of paid links and excessive links from a single domain to having too many exact-match text links (solved by increasing the diversity of text link variations).
3 Ways to Use Social Media to Improve Your Search Rankings by Social Media Examiner
AJ Kumar suggests strategies for using social media to improve search rank, but just as importantly to “future-proof” your site from still more Google algorithm changes by using social media to reduce your reliance on organic search traffic, for example by including “prominent social sharing buttons at both the top and bottom of each blog post on your website (or use a scrolling option that moves down the page alongside your readers).”
10 Ways Coding Can Help Your SEO by Search Engine Journal
Sujan Patel (once again) provides an excellent collection of SEO tips, here focused on technical factors that can affect rankings. Among his recommendations: use a search engine spider simulator to validate your code for spider-friendliness; create search-optimized page URLs; and combine script files to speed up page load times.
How Google’s Panda and Penguin are affecting your site’s rankings by iMedia Connection
Kent Lewis does a commendable job of explaining how Google’s Panda and Penguin updates affected search rankings, and practical steps for avoiding penalties and regaining rankings (e.g., “Cancel or remove unnecessary footer links. Take it easy on the internal ‘SEO’ linking”), though his contention that “A minority of those sites (negatively affected by these algorithm changes) may be legitimate, but a majority of those impacted were consciously in violation” is questionable, particularly given the experiences of other experts noted above.
10 Old SEO Methods You Need to Stop by Search Engine Watch
Greg Habermann warns against 10 SEO “techniques” that no longer work (or never really did), including Ezine Articles submissions, “news” release without any real news (produced just for links), link exchanges, thin content, and spider-unfriendly web design.
Top 1 SEO Tips for 2013 by SEOmoz
Pete Myers (again) shares his single most valuable SEO tip for 2013, writing that: “While I can’t tell you Google’s next move, I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty – there’s more to come. So, how can you protect what you’ve built in 2013? I was going to write a long list of suggestions, but I realized that they almost all boiled down to just one idea. I’m not going to toy with you – my top tip for 2013 SEO is…”
Best SEO Infographics
On page content SEO Puzzle #infographic by WordPress Hosting SEO
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Writing that “SEO is a large and dynamic puzzle…to have a successful SEO strategy, you will need to all of the pieces of the puzzle together,” Berrie Pelser presents an easy-to-grasp infographic covering the basics of on-page optimization, coding, site architecture, social factors, reputation, links and more.
The History of Search Engine Marketing by Erik Holladay
Erik Holladay shares an infographic from Markus Allen that details the major ranking factors used by the leading search engines and the significant changes and upgrades made to ranking algorithms from Lycos and WebCrawler in 1994 through Google’s Panda algorithm update.
A Simple SEO Audit For Your Website by Soulati Media
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Jayme Soulati share a helpful infographic outlining the process for a basic website SEO audit, from content (fresh? Keyword-stuffed? Easy to read?) through technical considerations (navigation, crawl issues, broken links) to backlinks (spammy or paid vs. relevant and high-quality).
Infographic: The New Face of Search Engine Optimization by Marketing Technology Blog
Douglas Karr presents an excellent SEO infographic contrasting what used to work in terms of keyword targeting, user experience, on-site content (e.g., “stuff title tags with keywords”), anchor text, directory submissions, news releases, and more, to what works today (e.g., “social traction correlates with links…Google+, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest are the most important SM platforms to SEO”).