Panda, Penguin, Phantom, Hummingbird. Disappearing keyword data. Personal / universal / local / mobile search. These are indeed “interesting times” for SEO professionals, with rapid and wide-ranging changes to the search landscape being announced at an accelerating pace.
Given all of this change, what are the best practices for SEO as we head into 2014? Which SEO strategies, tactics, and ranking factors still apply? How have SEO techniques changed in the post-Penguin world? How do you recover rankings if your site is hit by a penalty?
Find the answers to these questions and more here in more than two dozen of the best SEO guides of 2013 so far.
SEO Guide, Tips and Best Practices
The Latest and Greatest SEO Strategies by Bad Rhino Rumblings
Amanda DiSilvestro and Nick LaRosa outline new SEO strategies, tools and resources. Among the strategies recommended are taking advantage of local search (e.g., by completely filling out profiles on Yelp, Bing Places, Yahoo Local, and Google+ Local) and posting frequently (“The more you post, the better chance you have for link building, sharing, and engagement opportunities—all important when it comes to SEO”).
Brian Rauschenbach outlines three broad areas important to focus on post-Panda, and three types of activities to avoid, such as complicated sitemaps and navigation: “With Panda, Google has pretty consistently made it clear that simple navigation is best; websites that require too much digging to find desired content could be negatively affected.”
Matt Peters breaks down the latest study into high-correlation factors for website rank. While there is a great deal of data here, at a high level: backlinks remain the most important part of the algorithm (though quality matters more than quantity; on-page keyword usage is still fundamental; and social factors may be more correlational than causational with high rankings.
Following up on the post above, Rand Fishkin presents the weighting of categories of ranking factors in Google, based on a survey of 128 SEO professionals. More than half of all the factors that determine a page’s rank are based on backlinks (e.g., quality of sites linking to the domain, anchor text distribution) or page-level keyword usage (content quality, relevance, meta tags, etc.).
The 10 New Rules for SEO by Business2Community
Rekha Mohan outlines a process for SEO in the post-Panda and Penguin world. The English is a bit rough but the information is useful. Most of what’s covered is well-trod ground, but the detail behind developing searcher personas and considering buyer intent are interesting.
SEO Reporting & Metrics: How to Prove Progress by Search Engine Watch
Krista LaRiviere steps through a process for reporting on SEO efforts to a client, starting wih five key questions such reporting should answer for clients (among them: “What impact did these efforts have on the web presence for organic search?”), and proceeding through setting expectations, goals, and benchmarks, and driving action items.
SEO Best Practices – 5 Tips to Get You Noticed by Masterful Marketing
The always engaging Debra Murphy details five tactics for optimizing rankings on Google, such as using responsive design to optimize cross-device user experiences: “This saves resources for your website and for Google’s crawlers. A responsive design makes it easier for your users to interact with, share, and link to your content while also helping Google’s algorithms assign the most relevant indexing properties for the content.”
How to Think Like Google by QuickSprout
Once you get past the annoying pop-ups on this site, you’ll find a detailed and valuable post from Neil Patel highlighting attributes that Google frowns upon in determining search rank (e.g., spam (comment and otherwise), malware, duplicate content, low quality inbound links) as well as things Google likes: authoritative content, social signals, and adapting your website to user needs.
7 Awesome Competitive Niche SEO Strategies by Search Engine People
Writing that “(in) SEO strategy for competitive niches…you need to win each of the small battles before you even think about declaring yourself the winner of the war,” Dennis Miedema recommends content marketing, local SEO, and industry networking among other strategies in industries with a high degree of SEO competition.
3 SEO Tactics We’re Easing Up On in 2013 by The WordStream Blog
Elisa Gabbert suggests that over-optimized anchor text, anchor text through infographic links, and guest posting are SEO tactics to ease up on. The first is obvious; the second two are more controversial, as exhibited in the large number of comments generated by this post.
SEO Audit Tips and Techniques
Rebecca Churt details a process for performing a competitive SEO analysis, beginning with identifying key competitors (in both search and the real world) and proceeding through taking action on your findings: “Think about how you will use this information — whether it be for your content strategy, product or service positioning, social engagement tactics, etc. — all of which help with your SEO in the long run.”
How to Do an SEO Audit of Your Website by Entrepreneur
AJ Kumar outlines a five-step process for performing an SEO audit on an existing website, from checking on-page optimization title tag content and length to comparing the site’s backlink profile to that of competitive sites in order to “uncover link-building patterns in your industry that you should be paying attention to.”
10 Insights from a Lite SEO Audit That Any Small Business Can Benefit From by Search Engine Watch
Glenn Gabe explains how even on a small website, a “lite” SEO audit can expose issues such as missing 301 redirects, broken links, site speed issues, and backlink problems (or simply a lack of relevant backlinks).
Infographic: How up-to-date are your SEO practices? by leaderswest Digital Marketing Journal
Jim Dougherty shares an infographic comparing “old” to “new” SEO practices, for example, the shift in importance from technical knowledge to marketing knowledge (unquestionable), from optimizing for search engines to optimizing for users, and from link building to link earning.
Infographic: 2013 SEO Ranking Factors, From SearchMetrics by Search Engine Land
This beautifully crafted infographic covers social, backlinking, technical and content-related factors in SEO. Among the key takeaways are that keyword domains and links have lost relevance, and that brands are the exception to many rules. Be cautious about placing too much faith in the accuracy of every factor, however, as advised in the (copius) comments generated by this post.
How Google Ranks Your Website – 200 Google Ranking Factors by Digital Information World
***** 5 STARS
This phenomenal infographic aggregates “the best information (available) about how Google ranks pages and websites,” with ranking elements divided in groups like domain factors, page-level factors, backlink factors, and user interaction among others.
Another excellent infographic illustrating the diference between “old” SEO (e.g., targeting a specific, narrow set of keywords based on search volume) and new SEO tactics for the post-Panda world (e.g., targeting a wider range of keywords based on intent and conversion data).
Post-Penguin SEO Guides
Google Penguin 2.0 vs. Black Hat SEO by SteamFeed
Brien Shanahan reports on high-traffic websites hit with Penguin penalties, including among several truly spammy sites unfortunately SalvationArmy.com, one of the most reputable and highly-rated charitable organzations, noting that “While Salvationarmy.com has many valuable links, it also appears to have thousands of links from low-quality websites.” He goes on to explain why these sites are penalized and how to recover from a Penguin penalty.
Winning with White Hat SEO in the Post-Penguin Era by SteamFeed
Brien Shanahan (again) contrasts black-hat SEO tactics (e.g., content spinning, link building, doorway pages) with whitehat tactics (creating useful content, social sharing) and details 10 white-hat techniques for achieving SEO success.
The Myth of Content Marketing, the New SEO & Penguin 2.0 by Search Engine Watch
Contending that “Content marketing isn’t new. It’s just a new buzzword picked up by other industries that suddenly found out they could to ‘do SEO,’, but they didn’t want to ‘do SEO,’ so they tried to make it more special. It isn’t,” Kristine Schachinger positions content marketing as just another SEO tactics, albeit one that’s always been very important, along with on-page optimization, legitimate link building, optimizing site load speed, and avoiding or fixing crawl errors.
Penguin 2.0: PANIIIIIIIIC!!!…(or not) by Search Engine Journal
Matt Burns explains seven changes to link-building tactics and their effects in the post-Panda environment: tiered linking and excessive keyword-match links are out, high authority and social links are, and guest blogging is in…for now.
It’s Time to Change the SEO Mindset by Search Engine Watch
***** 5 STARS
The brilliant David Harry argues that SEO today is not about link building but rather about “Content + Outreach + Social + Promotion + Brand reach,” which incorporates content development, PR, social media, and online advertising. Sounds just like web presence optimization (WPO), though he doesn’t use that term.
How to Recover from a Search Engine Penalty
How to Recover from Panda Dance by Kaiser the Sage
Jason Acidre supplies seven tips for recovering from “Panda dance” penalties in search rankings, including improving low-performing landing pages (“Start with the pages that you believe are important and optimize these landing pages to mainly increase user dwell time”) and making updates to evergreen landing pages, such as lists of industry resources.
Phanteguin: A Phantom & Penguin One-Two Punch From Google by Search Engine Watch
Glenn Gabe (again) explains how to recover from penalties resulting from “Phanteguin,” the “one-two punch from Google” on sites hit by both Phantom and Penguin. He explains not just the differences between the two algorithmic changes, but also between Penguin 1.0 and Penguin 2.0, how to identify a Phanteguin penalty, and steps to take to recover lost rankings and traffic.
Google Panda, Penguin & Phantom: 3 Recovery Examples by Search Engine Watch
Glann Gabe (once more) presents three real-world case studies highlighting recovery from tanking rankings due to each of Google’s three most recent major algorithmic changes.
David Mercer provides a detailed, step-by-step account of a real-world recovery from a Panda penalty, from improving site speed and fixing broken links to redesigning the page template and disavowing low0-quality backlinks. Some of his advice will be hard to swallow, however, such as “stop syndicating content.” And anyway, isn’t Google Authorship supposed to take care of that issue?
Speeding Up Your WordPress Blog’s Load Times by Find My Blog Way
Matthew Barby demonstrates how to measure page load time and then minimize it (focused on WordPress sites) using a variety of techniques, from compressing images and caching “everything” to setting up a content delivery network.
Reclaim Lost Link Juice by Capturing 404 URLs by Search Engine Journal
Noting that changing URLs to a more search-friendly structure can cause 404 errors, traffic loss and even reduced site authority, James Parsons details two methods for identifying 404 errors and correcting them, in this helpful technical post.