Which factors are really most important in search engine rankings? How do search engines treat different forms of keywords? How can you get the most of out of Google’s free webmaster tools to improve rankings? What other tools are worth checking out for keywords, linking and website analysis?
Find the answers to these questions and others here in more of the best SEO blog posts from this year.
Guide to Search Engine Ranking Factors by HuoMah SEO Blog
The brilliant—and entertaining—David Harry provides an exhaustive list of the primary and secondary factors affecting search engine rank, from link-related factors (link text, relevance, PageRank) and header data through trust-related factors (domain history, outbound links) and “dampening factors” (poor coding, duplicate content and URL issues).
Q&A: A Few Things You Need to Know About Keyword Usage by Search Engine Guide
Stoney deGuyter offers valuable insights on how search engines treat keywords, such as that capitalization (usually) doesn’t matter, keywords have more weight if they are used in a title or header tag or are bolded, and search engines are getting better at recognizing forms of a word (e.g. sites including “kayaks” or “kayaking” will show up on a search for “kayak”). On that last point though, keep in mind that for popular search phrases, even a single character can make a big difference. For example, one website shows up at #2 on Google for “business services management,” but at #23 for business service management.
Build A Great B2B Search Engine Marketing Campaign by The Milwaukee SEO
This post combines useful information about setting up b2b SEO and SEM campaigns (such as getting the website information architecture right to start with, choosing keywords carefully with an eye toward the long tail, using PPC advertising effectively, and targeting local search) with humor—at least to those of us who live and breathe b2b marketing, and are amused by how perplexing it can be to b2c marketing agencies. Another noteworthy post from this blog is Get Keyword Rank Data from Google Webmaster Tools, provides detailed step-by-step instructions for analyzing website performance using Google’s webmaster tools. This is geekier than even most search marketers will go, but can supply valuable insights.
SEO Basics: 6 Tips for Google Webmaster Tools by TopRank Online Marketing Blog
Thomas McMahon serves up more tips for using Google’s webmaster tools, including how to spot site errors such as broken links, analyze meta and title tags, and identify a site’s top keyword search queries.
Domain Name Forwarding and Search Engines by Best Domain Names
Dan LeFree explains how properly set up forwarding for multiple domain names to a single website without being penalized by the search engines for duplicate content. The site looks a little spammy, but the article is a helpful, quick read.
Five Tips for Avoiding Deceptive SEO Companies by Small Business Trends
An excellent piece from Janet Meiners Thaeler on manipulative practices to watch out for when hiring an SEO firm, such as “guaranteed” rankings, use of hidden links, and duplicate content on multiple domains or subdomains. For more on this topic, see Just Say No to Bad SEO on SEOmoz.
SEO Tools 101, Part 1 by Search Engine Watch
Ron Jones reviews several keyword, site grader and linking tools. His favorite keyword tool is the SEO Book Keyword Suggestion Tool; as Ron explains, “I like this one because it links to most of the other existing keyword tools, such as Wordtracker, Keyword Discovery, and tools from Google, MSN, and Yahoo. This one tool lets you explore many others.”
B2B Marketers: Setting Expectations For Your SEO Campaign by Search Engine Land
What’s the magic formula for SEO success? Julie Shumaker writes that “Setting realistic goals, measuring the right thing, and establishing a baseline” are all key parts of the process. She emphasizes that SEO is a long-term project, that getting on page one of Google isn’t always realistic (at least in the short term), and that ultimately, traffic and conversions are what matters—not just rankings. Another excellent SEO post from Search Engine Land is The Evolving State Of Social Media & SEO. Eric Enge notes that “social media will be a major source of ranking signals for the search engines in the future,” both due to its link-building potential and the emergence of real-time search.
Setting Expectations for Search Engine Optimization by Search Engine Watch
Following on the same theme as the post above, Mark Jackson writes a case study on setting realistic expectations with SEO clients. It’s very difficult for small websites to outrank large ones, particularly for highly competitive phrases. Among his conclusions: more content helps. Blogging helps. Social media works. Link buying isn’t supposed to help, but it does, and some large companies spend big bucks on this, which is difficult for smaller firms to compete with. Focusing on longer-tail terms can provide respectable traffic and conversions without huge costs.
Aaron Wall explains that because new or small sites without a large number of external links pointing to them are unlikely to rank well for highly competitive search phrases, it’s better to focus on longtail terms first, building up trust, links and traffic gradually. This post includes a couple of excellent graphics showing the differences in how search engine algorithms treat highly competitive terms from more specific longtail phrases.
For those new to SEO, Rand Fishkin provides some excellent advice on mistakes to avoid including reciprocal linking (it doesn’t work, and it looks spammy), targeting the same keyword on multiple pages, and not using XML sitemaps. My only quibble would be with his advice to use the nofollow attribute for PageRank sculpting; the nofollow tag is insidious and the value questionable.
SEO Quality Indicators & The Heap Paradox by Search Engine Journal
Ryan Caldwell ventures from the philosopical to the practical in this post, providing 10 key indicators of website SEO quality, from “lean code and meaty content” along with proper tag usage to listing a physical address and toll-free phone number. Another notable post from Search Engine Journal is There Is No Secret Sauce in SEO! , in which James Morris debunks several common SEO myths, such as that there is “mystical secret formula” or “complicated scientific method” to achieving SEO success. He closes with advice on where to begin, and the missions of an SEO including a clear understanding of goals up front and collaborating with developers and writers to optimize content.
Mike Keller offers a helpful set of tips for new bloggers to optimize their blogs for search, covering basics such as variable title tags in Blogger (note: this won’t work with all templates), meta tags and setting up RSS feeds.
Blog SEO Tips: Top SEO Mistakes to Avoid by Blogsessive
Alex Cristache details five common SEO mistakes bloggers make that cause their sites to fare more poorly than necessary in search engine rankings. Among the mistakes are ignoring (or improper use of) h1, h2 etc. title tags, and viewing SEO as a one-time process rather than an ongoing discipline.
5 Client Pitch Tips That Score Contracts by Search Engine Journal
Dev Basu provides five tips to SEO consultants on how to successfully sell their services, such as asking good questions, focusing on solving client problems, and identifying exactly what the prospective client needs to know (and then not wasting time by telling them everything under the sun). Great tips for SEOs who know their craft but may struggle with business development.
SEO Trends and the Future of SEO by SEO Theory
In this extensive and thoughtful post, Michael Martinez discusses the impact of trends such as personalized search, universal search and social media, and advises SEO professionals to focus on optimizing for query spaces (all the queries and content relevant to a specific topic) in order to capture traffic for long tail keywords.
The Answer To All Your SEO Questions! by Search Engine Land
Jill Whalen exposes the simple two-word answer that applies to nearly any question about SEO, including how quickly Google indexes new pages, what to do if your search position suddenly drops, the benefit of including keywords in URLs and more.
How to do a 301 redirect for a website by Revenue Robot
This post, which belongs in every SEO consultant’s bookmarks on technical topics, explains how to create a 301 redirect for PHP, ASP .Net, Java, ColdFusion and other environments.
6 cures for common SEO mistakes by iMedia Connection
Brian Easter runs down six common SEO mistakes—such as ugly URLs, duplicate content, and a disconnect between SEO and PR—and explains how to correct or avoid them.
Rand Fishkin extols the virtues of and details the process for using the cannonical rel parameter to resolve duplicate content issues with less technical muss and fuss than implementing a 301 redirect. He outlines the tag’s purpose, operation, and treatment by search engines as well as answering common questions. The incredible number of comments this post generated is a testament to the tag’s importance in the SEO toolbag.
Minor Miracles And Major Feats of First-Page Rankings by MediaPost Search Insider
David Berkowitz reports on how critical video is to attaining a first-page ranking on Google, reporting on a study showing that “Videos are 53 times more likely to appear on the first page of search results than text pages.” He also quotes a finding from Nate Elliot of Forrester that there are “an average of 4.7 million text pages competing for a place on results pages with an average of just 9.4 text results—giving each text page about a 500,000-to-1 chance of appearing on the first page of results.” Every SEO who’s ever achieved this feat should be proud.
Danny Dover updates one of the most indispensable guides to the SEO craft anywhere. Though written for beginners, even fairly experienced SEOs are likely to find at least a few new ideas, and helpful reminders, in this detailed guide to the robots.txt file, search engine tools and more.
Check Your Search Engine Rankings, Why Your Competitors in Organic Search Might Not Always Be Who You Think They Are by The Internet Marketing Driver
In this extensive post, Glenn Gabe points out that the competitors for a keyword in SEO are often quite different from a company’s real world competitors; they can include reference sites, blogs, publications, review sites, directories and other websites that a business owner wouldn’t normally identify as “competition.” To support his point, Glenn uses example searches for flat screen TVs (only two manufacturers listed in the top 10 sites), HD video cameras (only Canon at #4), cabernet sauvignon and fuel efficient cars (no makers listed in the top search results).
Understand Google’s Guidelines by Alibaba
Jon Rognerud reveals what matters to Google when indexing and ranking pages, and what doesn’t. He provides tips on design (how to get Google’s spider to read your text before your menu links), how to get your site indexed in 24 hours or less (though you need to be careful with this technique), and what Google ignores (e.g. the meta keywords tag, duplicate links, and graphics—except for the alt tag assigned to them).
6 SEO steps for a website redesign by eVision Online Marketing Blog
George Aspland offers an excellent primer on incorporating SEO considerations from the start when doing a website redesign, from the initial site audit and keyword research through navigation, linking and URL structure changes.
Dirty SEO tricks you should avoid by iMedia Connection
Rich Cherecwich delves into the details of two “gray hat” SEO practices that are best avoided: link buying and domain buying. He also gives advice on what to do if your site does somehow get blacklisted by the search engines.
Why do SEOs forget about REAL marketing? by HuoMah SEO Blog
In this long guest post, Ben McKay starts off with the contention that “with market research, planning, implementation, creative flare, and an ongoing feedback loop of course, you can do just that –(SEO to draw the right kind of traffic) the same way you attempt to carry-out more traditional marketing campaigns.” He then goes on to discuss the art vs. science of SEO, ROI measurement, what SEO practitioners can learn from traditional marketing, before concluding “A more fulfilling and professional online presence could be found from thinking along structured lines—both in the way you operate with clients and also the way you achieve your SEO goals.”
DoFollow Links vs. NoFollow Links by The Minority Report
Supporting my recent post on the insidious nofollow attribute, this post notes that “the entire Internet is built on the premise of hyperlinking and as The Pasty Muncher says it here: ‘Links form the chain that holds the web together.'” The writer notes that WordPress blogs are nofollow by default, but again you can fix that with the dofollow WordPress plugin. Just say “no” to nofollow.
How Yahoo Might Automate SEO by SEO by the Sea
In this controversial post (just read the comments!), Bill Slawski reports on a patent from Yahoo! that seems to suggest the search engine can “optimize” pages automatically. Bill outlines what’s in the patent, then points out a number of obvious flaws in any such approach, including “A site owner might want to target less popular search terms on pages that are a few directory levels deep in their site and have those pages rank well for searches that their audience will conduct rather than target more popular terms with those pages, and rank very poorly.”