As Geddy Lee of Rush sang in the band’s 1981 hit Tom Sawyer, “changes aren’t permanent. But change is.”
While he wasn’t referring to SEO (which wouldn’t really exist for another 16 years), the lyrics certainly apply.
Search engine algorithms are constantly being updated. SEO practices which may be very effective one day are useless the next, and then actually invite penalties, before being once again ignored.
So what’s an SEO professional to do? Which tactics are most likely to stand the test of time–and which should be avoided? What needs to be done to recover from search engine penalties? What’s most important–on-page optimization, link building, or technical SEO? What are the current best practices (and which aren’t worth spending time on) in each area?
Find the answers to those questions and many more here in four dozen phenomenal SEO guides, tips and tricks from the past year.
Guides to SEO for Beginners
The Complete Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Buffer
***** 5 STARS
Before you turn up your nose at yet another beginner’s guide to SEO, check this one out. The practice of SEO has (of course) changed considerably over the past few years, and Courtney Seiter recognizes those changes in this noteworthy guide explaining what exactly SEO is today, how search engines rank content, and what SEO professionals do now to optimize websites for search.
SEO for Dummies: Learn SEO in 10 Simple Steps by Social Media Today
SEO isn’t easy, but according to Brian Hughes, it is simple. He walks through 10 basic steps for site optimization here, from getting the foundation right and doing keyword research through on-page content, meta tags, and link building (“Focus on link building through content marketing, blog writing, guest blogging, infographics, site directories (CAREFULLY), and other tools that allow you to leave online footprints leading back to your site”).
Infographic: Search Ranking Made Simple by Sword and the Script
Frank Strong showcases an infographic from Neil Patel that provides a simple, widely accepted explanation of how Google’s search algorithm (probably) works, including the importance of keyword domains, image optimization, domain age, social shares, title tags, keyword repetition, content length, and other factors.
15 Step SEO Checklist for 2015 by Social Media Today
Jason Parks serves up solid advice “to ensure that you are well prepared for 2015” in SEO terms. Among his 15 steps are title tags, on-page content (keywords used naturally, not stuffed), video, site audits, and otpimized photos (“use alt tags to help describe your image. Google image search only gets a half a percent of Google’s overall traffic. But due to blended search results, images actually get a lot more traffic than that half a percent”).
Expert SEO Guides, Tips and Tricks
Alex Schultz, the VP of Growth at Facebook (and formerly marketing manager at eBay) “has no educational background in marketing, instead opting to get his masters in physics at University of Cambridge.” In this fascinating post, he shares strategies for growing website traffic, the importance of customer retention, finding your “north star metrics,” and SEO (“the single most important thing is to get valuable links from authoritative sites. Then you need to internally link effectively”) among other topics.
How Long Does SEO Take To Start Working? by Forbes
Joshua Steimle writes that the answer to the tragically common question “How long will it take me to get ranked #1 for my keywords?” is not simple, “because the question itself is misguided.” SEO has changed, with searchers now making much greater use of longer phrase and natural language search (driven in part by the use of Siri and other voice-based tools). He goes on to state that it takes roughly four to six months for SEO efforts to start showing results, but to “bear in mind this is when you start seeing results, and SEO results grow over time.”
Lauren Polinsky summarizes “the most important and interesting issues” which may face SEO professionals in 2015 and beyond, from multichannel reporting, local search, and mobile optimization, through monitoring brand citations (“brands will want to work on building more citations, linked or unlinked, from authoritative websites”).
The SEO “Food” Pyramid by The Elumynt of William Harris
Creatively using the traditional “food pyramid” as a metaphor for SEO, William Harris places architecture (proper coding, optimized page titles, correct use of headers, an XML sitemap, etc.) at the base, with a healthy SEo program layering on smaller portions of content creation, promotion, UX, and social signals–topped off with (careful) link building.
Content Quality Score: Google’s Best Kept Secret For Rankings by Mace Dynamics
**** 4 STARS (would be five if not for the popups)
Contending that “Every page indexed by Google has a content quality score assigned to it. This score directly influences how well a page ranks in Google. This however is not promoted by Google and few webmasters or SEOs are even aware of it,” Terence Mace supplies an in-depth post covering quality signals, page purpose, “Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages…(which) are pages that can impact a person’s future happiness, health or wealth,” quality factors, EAT (expertise-authority-trust), and much more.
How To Use SEO To Boost Your Brand’s YouTube Channel by MediaPost
Writing that “YouTube, the second most-searched site with one billion monthly unique users, delivers a massive potential impact for SEO to drive visitors to a brand’s video channel,” Jeremy Walker shows how to optimize your YouTube channel to maximize your brand exposure on the site, from video element optimization (title, description, locations, etc.) through integrating your YouTube channel with your Google+ account.
5 Keys to Improving Search Rankings with Duane Forrester of Bing by Stone Temple Consulting
Eric Enge talks to Bing’s Duane Forrester about the keys to improving SEO rank on Bing. Link building is somewhat surprisingly at #4 of Forrester’s five top areas. Content remains number one, though he warns, “The reality is that it’s not up to you to decide if (your site has) quality content. The quality is determined by the interaction of the visitor to your website. If they’re interacting with it, if they’re finding value in it, then there’s quality to it.”
7 Things That Will Improve Your SEO More Than SSL by Search Engine Watch
Erin Everhart deconstructs Google’s announcement late last summer than SSL may impact organic search rankings. She concludes that while SSL may indeed play a small role in SEO success, many other factors carry far more weight; she details seven of those here, including consistent URLs (“the link you use in your internal linking strategy, and the links you use in your XML Sitemap need to match”), relevant content, and CTA-friendly title tags (include “action words — Shop, Buy, Apply, etc — in…title tags”).
Laurie Sullivan reports that enterprise marketers generally view SEO as critical to achieving their ojectives, but also challenging to be successful with. Among the specific research findings here are the top SEO challenges businesses face: “41% find link building one of the more difficult strategies, and 39% call out keyword research management as a close second. Some 33% admit that quality content creation proves challenging, followed by 30% for social media integration; 28%, frequent blogging; 26%, frequent Web site updates; 22%, mobile search optimization; and 13%, local search optimization.”
SEO Tutorial. The ultimate SEO 2.0 guide by Seolution
***** 5 STARS
Albert Mora compiles one of the most valuable and comprehensive guides available for SEO in 2015. One warning though – at nearly 6,000 words (plus a lot of pictures), this is no quick read, not a post to skim. It’s one to bookmark as a vital reference. Not every resource or tactic cited is appropriate in all situations. It’s also a lot of work–but then, successful SEO always is.
Cyrus Shepard presents “a simple framework for on-page topic targeting in a way that makes optimizing easy and scalable while producing richer content for your audience” in this graphical guide covering keyword research, keyword relationships (position, frequency, distance), internal links, semantic markup, page titles and more.
The Ultimate Guide to Enterprise SEO by SERPs
Enterprise-level SEO–optimizing thousands of pages, often across multiple subdomains and interlinked microsites as well as a mothership site–is different from working on smaller sites. Activities have to scale, there are more people involved, more politics, more planning, etc. This comprehensive guide details the elements of enterprise SEO, the environment, and the unique challenges, as well as providing additional useful references.
Dealing With Onsite Duplicate Content Issues by Search Engine Watch
Navneet Kaushal clarifies the causes of on-site (common in ecommerce) and off-site (caused by content syndication, as one example) duplicate content issues, and how to deal with them using tactics like 301 redirects, the “rel=canonical” tag, meta tags, and a consistent internal linking strategy.
Asking “Does SEO boil down to making a site easily crawlable and consistently creating good, relevant content?,” Rand Fishkin answers–no. He lists some of the variety of inputs and tactics that go into successful site optimization, noting these are “why SEO is neuropsychology. SEO is conversion rate optimization. SEO is social media. SEO is user experience and design. SEO is branding. SEO is analytics. SEO is product. SEO is advertising. SEO is public relations.” And more.
The Truth about Video SEO by acSellerant Studios
Bob Leonard transcribes his interview with video SEO expert Daniel Loeschen of LT Creative Media on how to search-optimize video content. Among Daniel’s advice: “Videos that are meant to drive traffic to your site should ONLY be hosted on your site. If you want to create a video that is specifically for branding and getting your name in front of people, then YouTube, Vimeo, etc. are great for that…(for on-site video) add the video to the most recent site map of your website and update Google webmaster tools with it.”
10 Clever Strategies Content Marketers Use To Earn Links by Shareaholic
Danny Wong forwards tips from the Young Entrepreneur Council on how to get high-quality links through content (other than guest blogging), such as by creating highly sharable content like infographics; developing quizzes and contests; writing controversial content (certainly a strategy to use with caution); and developing blog-based courses using expert interview videos.
7 Hot SEO Tips and Tricks for Blogs by RazorSocial
Ian Cleary passes along seven helpful tips for improving blog rank in search, among them internal link building (“When you write content on your website, find relevant articles that you have already published on your site to link to. As the value of the new post goes up, the value of the link goes up too”); revisiting older posts that aren’t ranking quite as well as they could; and strategic (not spammy) guest posting.
The Complete Guide to Google Webmaster Tools by Positionly
***** 5 STARS
Kristi Hines delves into “why you need to be using Google Webmaster Tools to monitor the health of your website in Google search and to learn more about your search engine optimization efforts” and how to make the best use of all the site’s capabilities in this highly bookmark-worthy post. The Search Queries section is popular with SEO pros, but not everyone knows that “If you click on a keyword, you’ll be shown which pages rank for that keyword, along with details about those pages.”
Rae Hoffman collects her live tweets from the “Meet the Search Engines” session at SMX last year, reporting among other interesting tidbits of SEO news a kindler, gentler Panda release from Google; the impending scale-tipping of mobile over desktop searches; Google’s premeditated attack on MyBlogGuest; and that ranking well on Bing is a matter of “content, usability, social signals and link building”–in that order.
How Top Ranking Brands Like Moz and HubSpot REALLY Do SEO by Social Media Today
Noting how crucial earned links are to SEO success today, Chad Pollitt explains how some high-ranking brands have achieved their search visibility, and outlines a four-step process companies can use to emulate them–essentially a combination of research-driven content creation coupled with social and traditional media promotion, in line with a web presence optimization (WPO) approach.
18 Social Media SEO Resources to Improve Your Search Ranking by Social Media Examiner
Patricia Redsicker explores how social media impacts search and then shares resources that support “best practices for social media SEO,” such as How to Customize Your Social Share Buttons for Increased Traffic, which “walks you through the process of pre-populating social media share buttons for Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Facebook with links to your own website.”
Though content marketing is unquestionably valuable for SEO, it’s not by any means the only tool in the box. Here, Rand Fishkin (again) explains “six out of probably 600 ways that you can earn higher rankings without investing in content creation or content marketing,” from using rich snippets and compelling page meta titles to fixing or deleting low SEO-value pages across a website.
Chris Lake provides an outstanding and comprehensive summary of user experience signals that help with search rankings. Most of these are just good UX practice, so the SEO benefit is a bonus. What’s surprising is the sheer number of signals that can affect search rank, from site speed and mobile-friendliness to button size, navigation, broken links, readability, and other factors.
21 Industry Experts Share Their SEO Tips For 2014 by Reginald Chan
Reginald Chan compiles the responses of 21 SEO pros to questions about how SEO is evolving and their favorite techniques. Adam Connell, Brent Carnduff, Eric T Tung, Kristi Hines, Neal Schaffer, and Tad Chef offer observations and tips like “SEO will…become more professional…content has always been at the center of…efforts (but) being an SEO who also masters UX and CRO can be a competitive advantage now.”
How Social Signals Impact Search Engine Rankings by QuickSprout
Writing that “Just because Facebook and Twitter aren’t driving you a ton of sales doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leverage them…both Google and Bing use data from social sites in order to determine how high to rank your website,” Neil Patel presents an infographic showing real-world examples of how social shares impact search results, along with a few tips on how to get more social shares.
How to Audit Your Website for Improved SEO and Conversions by Proven Rankings
Matt G provides a detailed guide to assessing the content and technical optimization of a website, asking questions like: Is your website optimized for maximum usability? Is it optimized for lead generation and conversions? Does it use responsive design? And are your website URLs optimized?
Brian Dean shares clever techniques for improving search rank by finding broken-link building opportunities on Wikipedia, discovering untapped keywords on Reddit, finding link prospects on Delicious, and 18 other tactics, including using “best of” lists to “find awesome link targets.” Hmm, “best of” lists…wonder where to find those?
11 reasons SEO is a science; 15 reasons it’s an art by BarnRaisers
Rob Petersen lists more than two dozen reasons SEO is both a science (e.g., “Value of the [back]links, whether they are high or low value authority, can be determined by SEO Majestic and Marketing Grader”) and an art (e.g., “Titles that convince people [to click] have clarity, creativity and imagination. The right keywords and key phrases just happen to be in them”).
The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO by Matt Cutts
If you somehow missed this—or perhaps blocked it from your mind due to intense mental anguish—here’s the post where Matt Cutts declared that guest-blogging is dead. Except that he really didn’t; he only said that spammy guest-blogging purely for the purpose of generating backlinks is dead. Note this post generated nearly 700 comments. That’s enormous power—whether used for good or evil.
Guest Blogging and SEO: Still a Match Made in Heaven by QuickSprout
Here is Neil Patel (again), this time reacting to Matt’s post above, essentially clarifying what type of behavior he believes Google will actually punish, and how bloggers can still get value from guest-posting (e.g., “Focus on writing high quality content that actually educates the reader”). Fortunately for Neil, Google still doesn’t punish blogs for pop-ups.
The Ultimate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Guide by Firepole Marketing
Observing that (as noted above) achieving higher search rank is “simple, but it isn’t easy,” Ahmed Safwan walks through a dozen SEO “sins” to avoid (including lack of proper keyword research, poor site speed, and creating URLs without keywords) along with a nine-step guide to optimizing a blog (or website) for search, from conducting keyword research the right way through ongoing measurement and adjustments.
SEO Checklist: 60 essential checks before launching a website by Web SEO Analytics
***** 5 STARS
Vasilis Vryniotis provides a detailed pre-launch SEO checklist for new websites, with 60 questions to ask in categories ranging from keyword optimization (“Did I choose the targeted keywords wisely? Have I made sure that I can compete for the selected terms?”) to technical website development, link structure, URL optimization and more.
Expert Guides to Google Algorithm Updates (Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and Pigeon)
5 SEO Trends From 2014: What We Learned by NewsCred
Jayson DeMers looks back at five key developments in Google search from 2014 (including the “diminished impact of Google+…Social media marketers are still using Google+, to some degree, but search engine marketers are no longer viewing it as the significant platform they once projected” and the Pigeon update) as well as forward, with predictions regarding key optimization factors in 2015 and beyond.
An Introduction To Google’s Algorithm Updates by MediaPost
For those who aren’t immersed in SEO on a daily basis but still need a general understanding of how the field is continually evolving, Jeremy Walker provides “a quick primer on the most notable algorithm updates of the past five years and why they’re significant to marketers,” from Panda (first launched in February 2011) through Pigeon in July 2014 (which primarily affected local search results).
Marie Haynes provides a comprehensive summary of Google’s three most recent major algorithm updates, explaining the focus of each as well as how to recover from related penalties. Panda, for example, focused on thin, duplicate, and low-quality content; recovering from a Panda hit requires “removing thin and duplicate content” and then waiting “sometimes take several months for Google to revisit all of your pages and recognize the changes that you have made.”
5 Reasons a Site Hit by Google Penguin Won’t Recover by Search Engine Watch
Writing that “When Google launched the Penguin algorithm April 24, 2012, many sites who had relied strongly on low-quality link building were severely affected” and had difficulty recovering their former levels of search traffic, Marie Haynes (again) digs into a handful of common reasons for slow-or-no recovery, such as improper disavowing: “In almost every case, if you’re going to disavow a link, disavow it on the domain level.”
The Story of Google – a #DigitalHistory Infographic by Tamar
***** 5 STARS
From the launch of Google in 1998 through the beginning of AdWords and the first named updates in 2002 through Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, this outstanding infographic illustrates all the major (and many of the minor) milestones in Google’s journey from startup to the world’s largest search engine.
No longer news, but helpful as a reference, this post from Pratik Dholakiya “takes readers through 11 of the most important Google search engine algorithm updates/changes of 2013,” from link devaluation and Panda (content quality) updates through increased emphasis on long-form, “evergreen” content and Hummingbird.
Expert Guides to Semantic Markup, Schema.org and the Google Knowledge Graph
6 Ways to Make Your Search Results Shine by Search Engine Watch
P.J. Fusco says “your content can leap off page-one results – if you are willing to invest a little time learning how to understand” the Google Knowledge Graph and how to use Schema.org structured markup. Fortunately, she writes, “adding structured markup is particularly easy” using Google Structured Data Markup Helper or WordPress plugins.
5 options for semantic markup to improve SEO by Smart Insights
For those on the technical side of SEO, Yusuf Bhana details “useful semantic HTML elements for SEO” including authorship, local business schema, product details (“Ecommerce businesses should consider product mark-up to incorporate product data such as colour, manufacturer, weight, height and price”), and breadcrumbs, with examples of each.
How Rich Snippets Add Spice to Your Online Content’s Search Results by Content Marketing Institute
Amanda DiSilvestro demonstrates how rich snippets can enhance a site’s appearance in search results, and how to get started with the most popular types of rich snippets including authorship and video: “When I want to use a video rich snippet, I use this link and enter in the URL or YouTube ID of my video. It automatically generates a source code for me to use, so I don’t need to know much about coding.”
Updates to SEO by MediaPost
Lauren Kade discusses how the Google Knowledge Graph works, what rich snippets are and how to use them, and “how to add (rich snippet) markup yourself using the data highlighter feature in Google Webmaster Tools” to make your site’s organic search listings look better.
How To Rank Above 25 In Search Queries by MediaPost
Laurie Sullivan (again) reports that “The Schema.org markup code aims to help Web sites rank better in search results, but only 36.6% of Google’s search results contain at least one Schema.org rich snippet and just 0.3% of the 50 million domains analyzed by Searchmetrics make use of Google’s Schema tools.” Consumer-oriented sites in particular can increase their probability of ranking higher by incorporating Schema markup language.
Google Sends Manual Penalty for “Spammy Structured Markup” by TrueLogic Online Solutions
Elrica Gosiengfiao reports that Google is “cracking down on rich snippet spam more actively,” exactly what this means, and how web developers can avoid problems of this type with Google; for example, follow Google’s rich snippet guidelines and “make sure the markups used are correct and use Google’s structured data testing tool to preview your snippets.”